Information Saturation in Delany

28 Mar

While Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand screams for discussion of sexuality in Delany’s universe, the other readings assigned this week cover so much that my blog post could never do the topic justice. Therefore, I’ll discuss information and the influence of GI and the Web on the worlds we encounter in Stars in My Pocket instead.

Besides the obvious prescience in choosing to name the intergalactic information highway the “Web,” Delany describes cultural effects of the information saturation that are eerily familiar as well. Though we don’t call website developers “spiders,” we do share some of the anxiety about sites and services that we entrust with personal information to allow us to monitor or control how that information is used. I’m thinking of namely Facebook and online directories that can give sometimes surprising results when in a moment of curiosity you Google your own name. Even access to your browser history and purchase history are used by sites like Amazon to recommend products. I don’t want to dwell on paranoia because I think both our own culture and the worlds in Stars in My Pocket don’t quite reach that level, but the shoe size of our digital footprint is at least a concern. The Thants’ reaction in the novel to Japril’s presence at the formal dinner illustrates their similar concern. George Thant confronts Marq Dyeth to accuse him of giving information to the Web: “you report our takeover to the Web; we come to confront you and receive your accusation directly—tonight the place is crawling with Web officials!” (315). The Thants deeply resent their information being shared without their consent.

Another similarity between our own web and the General Information or GI that exists on many worlds in Stars in My Pocket is the unreliability or outdated-ness that serves as comic relief for characters in world-to-world travel. When entering the run, Korga assumes they must enter through the vent because he was told this probably by the Web officials orienting him before coming to Velm. Marq says in response, “’The problem with information you get from someone who got it from GI—is that it’s often ten years out of date—if not a hundred’” (224). There is a door right next to the vent added since GI’s last update that humans use to enter the run. Again at the formal dinner at the end of the novel, Egri hands off a dish to Japril to present; GI prescribes an intricate pattern of steps to follow that have since fallen out of style and use, but Marq finds it amusing and lets her continue (291). Plenty of up-to-date information is available on our own web, but every once in a while, as it happens on Velm, a puzzling relic of old information is good for a laugh.

I have to wonder about the significance of Rat Korga’s inability to connect to GI. His Radical Anxiety Termination procedure leaves him permanently neurologically damaged, though with the help of Okk’s rings he is able to live somewhat normally. The only experiences we see of Korga’s outside of his awakening he is with Marq, a sympathetic and understanding human. Being without GI though, would put him at a significant disadvantage in traveling to new worlds, and he would likely be at the mercy of companions to fill him in on local customs, languages, etc. As someone who only recently acquired a smartphone, I can somewhat relate to lacking the portable information hook-up.

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