by Hereford Humpff
In Henry Hoisells's cyber-epicurean masterpiece Ninette, we
get the following: "Deep inside her cyber-soul, ticking at 1000
megahertz, there appeared a tiny something. A warm breath, a meaning
beyond knowing. Here, Ninette herself was born" (48).
We know from this passage that we've hit upon a pretty much standard
cyber-Genesis story: electro-biological being is created in the lab
of mad scientist X; electro-biological being grows up, demonstrates
super abilities, becomes human, falls in love, goes on a mass killing
rampage sacrificing itself for its loved one in a selfless act proving
its ultimate humanity. But here we see a little something different,
modest as it is: "there appeared a tiny something"
(emphasis added). With this, a nanotech theory may be applied to the
character of Ninette and, by extension, to the novel itself.
It bears mentioning at this point that this nanotech theory may be
applied across genres: the late invention of nanotech novels are obvious
applications, but what is suggested here is a pan-Drexlerian model,
superceding the basic nanotech novel or nano-driven plotline. The idea
is to see within the text--any text--the molecular-level goings on of
plot, setting, characterization. It's a very short leap indeed from
this theory to a quantum application to literature, but this brief introduction
will not allow for an exploration of that.
More specifically, and more to the point, nanotechnologies, according
to Gary Stix, are those that "have at least one dimension of about
one to 100 nanometers, they are designed through processes that exhibit
fundamental control over the physical and chemical attributes of molecular-scale
structures, and they can be combined to form larger structures"
(34). We can see here that even within the brief passage quoted above,
Ninette exhibits the qualities of a nanotheory character: this thing,
this "tiny" thing inside of her, can be presumed, because
of her already cybernetic nature, to be really, really small--smaller
even than her normal detection circuitry would be capable of revealing.
Otherwise, the novel reveals, Ninette would simply be aware of it, in
the same way that a human is aware of a pain in his groin but unaware
of the cellular damage that has taken place within the muscles themselves
However, and in accordance with Stix's definition, Ninette is able
to control these properties. As she becomes human, Ninette is offered
the same power over her urges as all human beings. Without the constraints
of adherence to strict programming, Ninette is now able to choose. Choice
is implicitly control, whereas fulfilling predetermined directives is
no more than that. Desire replaces the unthinking computer instinct
of "garbage in, garbage out" (Hoisell 93). Ninette could not
become a truly nanotheoretical character without free will.
Likewise, Ninette's nanotheoretical aspects control larger aspects
of her existence; they are "combined to form other structures,"
in this case, the larger structures of personality--indeed larger aspects
of "personhood." Hoisell writes: "At this point, Ninette
could feel herself seething. How dare he call that wench Wendy instead
of her? How dare he put his probing unit into Wendy, requiting her every
lustful subroutine? It was Ninette Roscoe really loved: even a hyper-rationalistic
cyborg could see that!" (492) Here Ninette's personality, begun
and formed by a nano-scale bit of errant programming, is allowed to
take over her entire body. The freewill aspects of love she allows to
run like a prairie fire through all of her circuitry. She simultaneously
discovers the pain of jealousy and the satisfaction of rage in one macro-scale
rant of infernal self-coding.
Ninette's rage, in turn, leads her to massive destruction, turned,
thankfully, into constructive destruction of the criminal element in
The Pewter Punk gasped as Ninette punched her titanium fist
through his ribcage and into his chest. She grasped his beating heart,
squeezing it until it popped like a ripe zit. Her virtual memory recalled
Roscoe's picture, and she imagined his heart as she imagined her own
electromechanical fluid pump crushed and battered by his words. 'How
can I love you?' he'd said, `You're just a machine!'
Ninette's emptiness at the end of her rampage shows the reader her full
humanness: not even extreme, pointless violence can console a broken heart.
Not even the satisfaction of demolishing M-Soft City's most dangerous
Hacker Lords could bring her to let go of her lost longing (Hoisell 997)
The Pewter Punk's blood oozed down her arm, warming her temperature
receptors. She knew she'd regret it--that new feeling she had so quickly
become familiar with-- but at this moment, infinitesimal in sidereal
time, she enjoyed it. (992) (emphasis Hoisell's)
Eventually, Ninette is put down by the Illegal Operations Force as
they pop up in a window unexpectedly ("It's just our way")
on their grey and red hyper-scooter (Hoisell 1012). Here, she commits
the ultimate of human acts, self sacrifice. But Hoisell's conclusion
is telling. As she dissolves into the street, blasted to bytes by the
IOF, she "dissipates a strange, faint energy, which becomes (is
it a particle? a wave?) out across the cosmos, a miniature scrap of
the personhood that had corrupted her circuitry" (1032), a nanoself,
flying into the realm "where quantum mechanics rules" (Stix
34). She exudes the basic building blocks of who we are.
Hoisell, Henry. Ninette. Newton: Phantom Books, 1981.
Stix, Gary. "Little Big Science" Scientific American
Sept. 2001: 32-7.