Neuromancer Topic Essay
“In 2016, when common sense says that travel agencies stand prominent in a long line of industries crippled and mutilated by the advent of the internet, snuggled right between Yellow Pages and Blockbuster. Online booking agencies, such as Expedia and Priceline, proved able to cut out the middlemen and wrestled power back to the people, or so the story goes, while user-generated sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp provided the itinerary. But this wealth of knowledge comes from outsiders — you and me and your friend posting on Facebook — who are only observers in foreign cultures. Outsiders telling outsiders how to get inside. But if Ken Fish is any indication, this outsiderness can be cured, for a price.
“Look, unless you have a reliable source, it’s pretty hard to plan your own trip,” said Fish, at his offices in Manhattan. “Unless you’re really prepared to manage your trip from beginning to end…to get up in the morning and answer every question: Is that really the best hotel, or just by reputation? What’s the right room? Do you know anyone there? Will they give you a special experience, or just know you by name when you arrive?” That’s where Fish comes in.”
Some advanced subroutine for efficiency and simulated omnipotence leads Wintermute, broadcasting itself as the used-car-salesman-esque personality of The Finn, to unwittingly embody the spitting image of the modern luxury travel agent.
At the end of Part 2, The Finn, the mortal one, is first introduced. Less slick than he’ll appear in the future, he’s working on hardware, as directed by Armitage, who was of course directed by Wintermute. What he gives to Case, though, is the Simstim hookup – the ability to travel with Molly by seeing through her eyes and feeling what she feels, wherever she is. Even though Wintermute makes these arrangements remotely by directing others, the experience turns out to be very much like a well-organized vacation somewhere startling and exotic, put together by the sort of luxury travel agent that Ken Fish is described as: “Her body language was disorientating, her style foreign. She seemed continually on the verge of colliding with someone, but people melted out of her way, stepped sideways, and made room.” The foreign illusion is completed with the bouquet of metropolitan aromas; urine and fried krill. Perhaps Molly innately possesses the traits of an excellent Tour Guide through her acquired life skills and upgrades, even though she herself would be insulted to be called something like that. Though in the beginning of the Simstim experience Case wants desperately to literally be able to move his own limbs, he can’t do anything but sit back and observe where the vacation takes him to. The ‘foreign country’ he travels to is simply another person’s body. Although Molly is clearly the chief agent of physical action, it is always Wintermute’s thorough arrangements and preparations that cause everything to proceed as it does.
Humorously, like the flip-side of a coin bearing a visage of Wintermute’s Ken Finn, Molly can also be interpreted as the more standard Online Booking Agency in her relationship with Case – similarly to how websites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Hotels.com “know all about” you by the mundane act of collecting data, she “knows all about” Case because she “read his file”. This association-by-data inadvertently creates another level of alienation and power hierarchy between the customer and client; like that of a one-way mirrorshade. Just like the websites mentioned, Molly gives Case finite and very inflexible options, or at least the appearance of options, instead of Wintermute’s omnipresent guiding hand making everything “work”. She also gives Case, as well as the Reader, most of the necessary background information. Unfortunately for Molly, she is always informing and observing as an Outsider, a fellow traveler – whereas Wintermute, being involved in the intricate processes of naught but everything in the Inter-Galactic Cyber-Society Sprawl, can’t be anything BUT an insider in this system. Eventually he IS the System. Molly can’t be everywhere at once, but Wintermute virtually can. He’s connected. Molly is connected, too, but largely through Wintermute itself. Through the veritable Milky Way Galaxy of access points that the A.I. has available to it, Wintermute has only to tug on a few digital strings, needs only to make a few simple requests to other programs in order to get his travelers on their merry way — and whether it’s the Herculean task of docking spacecraft or the trivial subterfuge of escaping some pesky local authorities, it turns out nothing is impossible if you’re creative and clever enough; no place inaccessible to those who know of it. Oftentimes, Wintermute even has connections from the past with the locals who live there, who are immeasurably helpful.
Tragically, even though the Modern Luxury Travel Agent experience is much more tailored and composed than any automated online booking site could be, you may not always end up in the destination you had in mind for the price you were thinking of; ultimately being at the mercy of whoever it is that you chose to organize your path. Though surely all Travel Agents want their customers to be happy and get what they want out of their travels, and therefore experience repeated service, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that they have different ideas about what you’ve got to see, or the specific landmarks that are worthy of traveling thousands of miles to. No matter the status or rating of the Agent, it’s always clear-headed and rational to determine for yourself if you really “hadda do it”. If you’re careless in your planning, your savings can easily seem as though they’re flying out the window.