Earl Jackson, Jr.
University of California, Santa Cruz
fiction seems particularly well suited to certain kinds of inquiries
into the relations between how the notion of „person“ is imagined in any
given culture, and the technology prevalent in that culture. The concept
of the Cartesian cogito is certainly enmeshed in the technologies of Renaissance
geometrical realism, perspectivism,
etc. And it was further fortified through the camera obscura, and other
technologies of vision. The same homunuculus is shattered by stereoscope
and the cinema. And now what of cyberspace, virtual reality, artificial
intelligence, etc.? This is another reason why I distinguish between „self,“
which I consider basically a Renaissance concept, and „subject,“ a term
more malleable and useful in terms of contemporary thought, critical
practice, and modes of representation.
Among contemporary science fiction writers, I find
work particularly rewarding exploration of technosubjectivities – at once
provocative, engaging, and poetic. Here I will provide background information
and basic guides for two related novels, Mindplayers and Fools.
While I am chiefly concerned with Fools, I begin with Mindplayers
in order to introduce the world that Fools presumes.
of the Writing
Pat Cadigan worked as a writer for Hallmark’s Greeting
Cards in Overland Park, Kansas for ten years. „I also wrote key-chains,
paper plates, posters, coasters, cocktail mats. There were days when it
was like: I cannot do another Easter verse. I cannot.“ Meanwhile, she began
writing the kind of stories she enjoyed reading. „I’ve been playing around
all my life in the original virtual reality, the space between everyone’s
While reading an essay by Gardner Dozois on writing
sf, Cadigan came across a term he had coined: „neurosis peddler.“ Intrigued,
Cadigan she wanted to write a story with a neurosis peddler in it. She
had already been doing research on the brain, mental illness, dreams, and
mind control. In writing the story, she added other portmanteau categories
of her own. The story, „The Pathosfinder,“ was published in 1981 ( BERKLEY
SHOWCASE 4, ed. Victoria Schochet and John Silbersack, Berkley 1981). Schochet,
one of the editors of that volume, told Cadigan that the world and situation
of „The Pathosfinder“ were rich enough for more stories. Cadigan gradually
wrote and published more of them.
Cadigan was shopping around a novel she was planning,
and proposed it to Shawna Maccarthy. MacCarthey was not interested in that
novel but said would be interested in novel of the mindplayers. And this
became Mindplayers . It is set before the time of the first story,
so the world had to be codified.
is the story of „Deadpan Ally“. It begins when one of her friends,
Jerry Wirerammer, brings over a „borrowed“ madcap (a device which induces
temporary psychosis). But this one is defective and Ally’s induced psychosis
does not disappear when the madcap is shut off. Jerry drops Ally off at
a „drycleaner,“ a kind of clinic to treat mishaps during the various forms
of mind play (both licit and illicit) available in this future. Ally’s
sanity is restored but she is up on the charges of „mind crime“: in this
case of having a psychosis without a license.
Ally’s lawyer and reality affixer thinks that her brain
configurations make give her a special aptitude for training as a therapeutic
mindplayer. He persuades her by giving her a tour of her own mind.
It is built like a cathedral, its momentos centered around an oil painting
of her Great-grandmother. Allie is persuaded to enter the institute for
training as a Mindplayer. There are several specializations from which
to choose: Dreamfeeder; Pathosfinder; Thrillseeker; Belljarrer; Reality
Affixer; Neurosis Peddler.
The experiences during training and the first years
as a professional make up the rest of the novel.
Because Mindplayers and Fools share
the same world, I have extrapolated important elements of that world from
both novels and have them organized on a page you can reach by clicking
A guide to Fools is found by clicking here.
Luke Jackson’s [no relation] paper on Fools is here.