The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Bruce Clarke joins Scott-Hawkins lecture series


Few students have heard of the rock and roll group Sha Na Na, and even fewer have heard of William Gibson’s sci-fi novel “Neuromancer”. On Thursday night, however, about 40 students, professors, and local Dallas residents came to hear former Sha Na Na bass guitarist Bruce Clarke give a lecture on the ecology behind Gibson’s debut novel.

Dr. Vicki Hill, Assistant Dean for the University Curriculum, has known Clarke for 38 years and joked about Clarke’s double life as a former member of Sha Na Na and his current position as Texas Tech’s Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Literature and Science.

“He also makes the best Tandoori chicken to be found between the Brazos and the Rio Grande,” Hill said.

Thursday night’s talk broke new ground for the Scott-Hawkins lecture series.

 “This is the first cyberpunk oriented lecture we’ve ever had,” Professor Dennis Foster said.

Clarke spent most of the lecture drawing links between 1984’s “Neuromancer” and various movements that occurred in the 60s’ and 70s’.

‘Neuromancer’ has these really significant roots into this counter-cultural discourse,” Clarke said.

Describing the novel as a “massive slow-release torpedo,” Clarke marked its influence over science fiction and our visions of technological potential.

“The notion of a computer-generated virtual world is not completely original at that moment,” Clarke said. “Gibson’s hip way of playing it straight, coupling cyberspace to a near future material world and rendering it available for digital construction, exploration, and exploitation, sets the paradigm for subsequent cyber-fiction and cyber-cinema,” Clarke said.

Clarke’s professor persona slipped for a few moments during the talk when he was discussing the bleak settings of “Neuromancer” and the characters’ apathy.

“Ecologically it’s kind of a bummer,” Clarke said. “Case is such a blank dude. He sees this stuff and doesn’t care. He doesn’t think about it.”

Clarke also spoke at length about the debate over hospitable space colonies, pushed by physicist Gerard O’Neill in the 1970’s, and how Gibson used decade-old wishful thinking to influence his novel.

“The evidences of the debate are in the novel,” Clarke said. “Gibson hides these ecological considerations in plain sight.”

Clarke primarily writes about topics that lie in the middle of science and literature. During his talk, Clarke explored how the current scientific impossibility of permanently living in space colonies led to laughable artistic representations.

“The artist has rendered an orbital San Francisco,” Clarke said.

Professor Foster explained how Clarke’s fascination with systems theory directed the focus of his talk and his explanation of Gibson’s work through the fantasy of permanently habitable orbital colonies.

“He explores how the introduction of technology into our physical environment has transformed the world that we live in,” Foster said.

Although Clarke joked about the lofty visions of orbital colonies proposed in the 70s’, he remained steadfast in his belief that the Earth and our attachments to it will remain a powerful thread – regardless of where humans are located.

“No matter where we roam, Gaia will remain the matrix of our possibility,” Clarke said. 

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