“And down now, down…”: the Wildernesses of “Burning Chrome” and Inception

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The portrayal of cyberspace in William Gibson’s 1982 short story “Burning Chrome” reflects the American Gothic conception of the wilderness as both a space of nightmare and wonder. However, unlike the traditional American frontier wilderness, Gibson’s cyberspace is itself an extension of man, and functions as a connecting space that allows the personal wildernesses of the space’s creators to infiltrate both the shared technological space and those other individuals connected to it. This generates within the text a fear that mankind’s ready acceptance of this cyberspace technology is potentially dangerous. Christopher Nolan’s Gibson-indebted 2010 film Inception further explores these anxieties, and assumes that this infiltration is a given for anyone participating in a technologically-driven shared space. By exploring the disorientation that this participation can cause, the film expresses concern that society itself has become disoriented and lost within a technological wilderness of mankind’s own making.

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