Even better than the real thing: Counterfeit realities and twentieth century dystopian fiction

Svante Lovén


In recent years, the theme of artificial and/or mediated reality has been recurrent in popular cinema (The Matrix, The Truman Show, The Cell, etc.). This trend reflects a growing awareness of how information technologies obfuscate traditional boundaries of what is real and what is not. The article draws a cultural background to these films, and, by extension, to our so-called age of information by examining a number of older fictional works in which technologies of representation and simulation are explored in more or less dystopian terms. In a trajectory including otherwise unrelated works, such as J. K. Huysmans’ Against Nature and William Gibson’s Neuromancer, we find a number of familiar themes and images presented with a striking degree of continuity: the neglect of the body, the deterioration of social and familial bonds, the loss of history and literary culture, the retreat from reality into a world of engineered hallucinations.

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