The Girl Who Was Plugged In • 1973 • Proto-Cyberpunk novella by James Tiptree, Jr.

★★★★★

Main protagonist 17 y.o. Philadelphia Burke is engaged to become a celebrity in a corporation-run future where no ads are allowed. Celebrities have a kind of semi-god status and are used for product placement. She has to remote control through satellite links the beautiful body of artificially grown but brainless Delphi. This way she learns to live the jet-set and falls in love with rich rebel Paul.

Review

I grew up with the cyberpunk movement and couldn’t believe to have missed this early predecessor, incorporating most elements of the literary style: The question of personal identity interacting with virtual selfes, dystopian society governed by the economy of huge corporations. In retrospect, there are no tropes in it that you can’t find elsewhere, but at the time of writing, it must have been revolutionary. It seems to have influenced John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider and in the following Gibson’s, Sterling’s or Rucker’s works.

What makes it truly awesome is the contrast between ugly P. Burke and beautiful Delphi. The wikipedia article goes into details reviewing those characteristics and I found it to be a very good companion to this novella, similar to the elaborate thoughts at workingtropes. The carefully chosen male narrator speaking to the intended audience despectively as „zombies“ contrasts those two females.

It is a milestone of the genre and I loved it from the first to the last word.

As a side-note it happens to have been published along the famous „The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas“ short story by Ursula K. Le Guin

Meta: ISFDB. First published 1973 in New Dimensions 3. It won the 1974 Hugo award. I read it in the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.

 

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