The Winter Market

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"The Winter Market" is a science fiction story written by William Gibson. It was published in April 1986, as a part of the Burning Chrome collection of short stories dubbed by science fiction critic Darko Suvin to be "undoubtedly [cyberpunk's] best works."



Plot Summary

The Winter Market starts in media res as the narrator answers the phone, receiving a call from the agents of an unnamed "she" who had "merged with the net." The story suggests that there's money involved, but the source is not apparent at first.  Gibson's words hint at a music album, but he uses bizarre phrases such as "brain-map work" and "fast-wipe module." Much of the confusion in the story is later cleared up when the narrator explains his father's profession and how it pertains to a woman named Lise. He was an audio engineer who worked in the business at a time when "quasi-Victorian" vinyl records were still in use, the story suggest that the narrator is in similar line of work in the future. The story suggests that Lise is a "musician," and she created a music album that the narrator edited.

Disconnecting his phone for fear of receiving a call from the networked Lise, the narrator goes to bed after a self-destructive evening of alcohol. He wakes up several hours later and goes to visit a friend named Rubin. The narrator calls Rubin gomi no sensei, meaning "master of junk" in Japanese. Rubin is a sculptor of sorts, using junk and trash to create new machines which are considered art. The narrator also calls Rubin a child, albeit a very profitable one. Rubin and the narrator talk about Lise's album, Kings of Sleep, and Rubin agrees with the narrator that Lise will try to contact him, despite her physical death.

The story then presents the reader with past information of the narrator's initial meeting and interaction with Lise. At a party thrown by Rubin, the narrator (who we now know is named Casey) is approached by Lise for the first time. She more or less persuades him to take her to his condo, and they "jack straight across", giving Casey unfiltered access to her mental waveforms, which can be thought of as brain images. As a professional editor of these dreams, Casey is stunned by the impact and purity of Lise's imagination. Through his workplace, the Autonomic Pilot, Casey pitches a demo of Lise's dreams to his boss Max Bell, in what would eventually become the Kings of Sleep.

The narrator then thinks back to his conversation with Rubin on how Rubin found Lise. She was sitting near one of the trash heaps where he goes scavenging for materials (reinforcing how society views her as "junk"), and the first few times he passed her she refused his help. Only after she finally collapse, he carries her back to his home to care for her. By the time they are home, Lise is completely unconscious and her batteries are dead. The narrator comes to the conclusion she had crawled up there to die.

Max Bell finds agents who will represent Lise and they have a meeting which concludes with the agents signing her to a label. Lise tells Casey that she wants him to edit; however, reminiscing from his prior experience with Lise, he says no. This decision is quickly overturned by Max, who gave Casey the decision of either editing Lise's material or losing his job. The reader later sees Lise taking a hit of "wizz" (a popular drug in text) this is the first time the reader sees Lise's drug addiction. We also see another instance of the narrator saying to himself, "Lise always [knows] what she [wants]."

The recording of Kings of Sleep took 3 weeks. During the recording process, Casey avoided Rubin's place because Lise was staying there. Her staying at Rubin's concerns her agents, until Rubin threatens to bring it up with his. During the recording, Casey comments that "It was like she was born to form, even though the technology that made that form possible had not existed when she was born." Casey also learns incidental background information on Lise, such as her birthplace of Windsor, the truth about her condition, the origin of her sores, and her extreme drug addiction. Casey describes his work as the best he's ever done, and receives much praise from Max and Lise's agents, along with a raise in pay.

Then, one morning after a long session, Lise speaks to Casey personally for the first time in those 3 weeks. She apologizes for her actions on that first night long ago, where she hit Casey with all she had. Casey, however, cannot parse his feelings, and instead takes notice of Lise's rapidly deteriorating condition. Casey chooses to respond with a "Don't Do Drugs" speech to Lise, attempting to convince her to clean up her act and explains dangers such as apnea, when breathing stops during sleep. Lise responds simply with "I don't sleep, Casey", and the topic is dropped, never to be brought up again.

We then flash forward to the present with Rubin explaining Lise's motives to Casey. He talks about why the Kings of Sleep is important to the public, why the sense of hopelessness was such a big hit with the more unfortunate population. Rubin gives an example of a man he knows who owns a record store. The man reports that so many copies of Kings of Sleep get shoplifted every week he is actually losing money by stocking the album. The impoverished want the album badly, but do not have the money to buy it. We then get to the topic of how many people have "done it". This "it" is not directly told to the reader yet, but can be interpreted as the "going digital" that was discussed earlier in the story.

Character Summary

  • Casey, the narrator. By focusing less on his identity and more on the events surrounding Lise, he goes unnamed for a portion of the story. Casey is a dream editor employed by Barry. Before meeting Lise it seems that Casey was not well known or prosperous. This changed drastically after Casey started to work with Lise. After first meeting Lise at Rubin's party, Case went back to his apartment with Lise who demonstrated her artistic ability to him. This ability astonished him enough for him to agree to work with her.
  • Lise, an artist. She meets Casey at one of Rubin's parties. She wears a prosthetic exoskeleton to compensate for her physical frailness caused by a congenital ailment and by drugs, which resulted in her inability to feel and to rely on others, a fact which she resents.
  • Rubin, Gomi no sensei ("Master of Junk" in Japanese), Casey's friend. Rubin is a childish, but well renowned artist. Casey nicknames him the "Master of Junk" for his ability to re-purpose discarded items to art or new devices. Rubin finds all things to have near limitless uses and is disdainful of people who think of things as having only the function they are designed for. He states that these people live their life "by the manual."
  • Barry, Casey's employer, wishes to make the company more prosperous and well-known. After listening to Lise's demo, Barry immediately hires Lise to work for the company and pressures Casey to be Lise's editor, largely due to Lise's insistence. The narrator often hints that Barry is more of a figure head rather than an executive.
  • Max Bell- Owner of the Autonomic Pilot, the editing studio for which Casey works. After experiencing Lise's work, Max promptly begins marketing her to some unnamed company in Hollywood.

Literary Techniques

  • This story is told from a limited first person perspective.  That is, that the reader interprets language directly from the narrator in the story, without knowing any more than the narrator does.  In fact, the reader spends much of his time wondering about various details that the narrator could make clear, but does not until later in the story.  This literary technique is often used in an attempt to cause the reader to pay close attention to the details of the story and consider the many possible twists the plot could take.
  • The Winter Market also makes extensive use of flashbacks. The current setting is established at the beginning of the story when Casey receives a phone call from Lise's agents that she has been digitized. While this setting is long after the creation and subsequent popularity of Kings of Sleep, the majority of the story takes place as a recollection of Casey's interactions with Lise and Casey's discussions with Rubin about Lise. Most of these interactions occur during the creation of Kings of Sleep, including the discovery of Lise and her talent. When used in conjunction with a limited first person perspective, as in this story, flashbacks serve multiple purposes. These flashbacks are obviously important parts of Casey's memories, as he made conscious efforts to remember these moments in extensive detail. Also, these flashbacks serve to break this story into pieces. Without these breaks, this story might have dragged on with little emotion or outside interruption.  However, because of the breaks, it is possible for Rubin's opinions to be added in among Casey's attitude toward the situation.

Discussion for Reading Cyberpunk/Being Cyberpunk


  1. Who or what decides how technology will be used? Who or what should decide?  
  2. A line from this story, "the street finds its own uses for things," has become one of Gibson's most remembered phrases. What do you think it means? What evidence do you see for your interpretation in the story?  
  3. How do Rubin, Casey, and Lise make decisions about technology? How are decisions about technology made for them, by others? How are decisions made for them through technology?
  4. Casey calls Rubin "Gomi no Sensei, master of junk." Why is the stuff Rubin works with "junk?" What decisions have been made to give it this status? How does something being "junk" allow (or prevent) Rubin's decision to use it?
  5. Is Casey right to feel responsible for what happened to Lise?
  6. How did the introduction of this novel prepare the reader for the universe that he/she was about to be submerged in?


1. The quote “the street finds its own use for things” goes well with this story. For example, the Japanese used all of the trash, or junk, to build a new island, and a place to live on. Rubin then collects junk to make new inventions, and find new uses for the object he finds. The story mentions that when the trash was new it had some meaning, but now since it’s thrown away, Rubin is trying to give it a new meaning. This quote also has meaning in relation to how Kings of Sleep affects the "kids back down the Market," as Rubin put it. In the story, Rubin explains that Lise's work resonates well with a certain audience, namely homeless or otherwise destitute street-children, because it embodies their own hopelessness that they never had the means to express. Gibson effectively expressed this sentiment by having Rubin explain to Casey, "She knew, man. No dreams, no hope." However, it is understood from the text that Kings of Sleep is well-received by a wide audience, to the extent that it was going triple-platinum, and so one may assume that not everyone is relating to it as those kids are. In this way, the street - represented by the kids - is finding its own use for Lise's art; specifically, it is using it as a way of venting hopelessness. Quite literally, then, the street is finding its own use for things.

The quote from Gibson's text suggests that people can find other uses for certain objects other than their primary purpose. Like when Casey describes Rubin as the "Master of Junk". He does this because Rubin is world renowned for making art out of other people's "junk". Another example is when Rubin tells Casey that he does everything by the book or manual. He is basically telling Casey that he only knows how to use an object's primary purpose and doesn't have the creativity to think of a different function for the object.

"The street finds its own uses for things," means that it's the public/the people/individuals that will ultimately decide what something will be used for, whether that means the "thing" will be used for what it was made for or used for something completely different is in the hands of the streets. For instance Rubin takes things that has been deemed junk by other people and gives it another purpose or use, which in his case means taking something that is junk and turning it into art. On the other end of the spectrum is Casey. In the story he is said to be "the kind who always reads the handbook" meaning that he is an individual who uses things the way they have been designed for. While Gibson's quote applies in the strictest sense, Casey's unwillingness to use technology for anything but its intended use is ultimately an antithesis to the quote's meaning.

"The Winter Market" portrays the creator of a given piece of technology who decides how the technology is used through writing a manual, as Rubin Stark points out. According to Rubin's reasoning, people fixate a use for a given technology by reading a manual and when someone uses technology differently, people find it either wrong or brilliant. Therefore when society deems technology and other items as “junk,” Rubin finds himself free to do whatever he wants with the “junk.” The user of the technology should make the decision of how he or she should use technology – specifically whether or not to use the technology in its intended purpose or not. However, most people will not stray away from its intended purpose due to not wanting to break the device, that either leads to a waste of money or an undesired outcome.

In regards to one of Gibson's most remembered phrases, the line sums up the idea that things on the street eventually find a new home where the item gains a new purpose or resumes its previous purpose. Some examples of the idea would be Lise, the “junk” Rubin finds, and the shops. When Lise is found by Rubin, Rubin found her as someone with a piece of technology in need of fixing. Casey then finds Lise as a gem needing polishing for the entertainment industry. The junk Rubin finds is later transformed from what is considered trash to art or a “new” piece of technology. Lastly, Casey describes shops that come and go on the streets, which often refers to how stable the economy and places go when what is sold at a given shop is not necessary or affordable at the time.

The quote "the street finds its own uses for things" can be related to the junk mentioned in the story and with Rubin's belief that junk can be reused for several purposes. The quote could also suggest that people are allowed to make their own choices and not necessarily follow the trend or read the manual as mentioned by Rubin. Casey uses technology based on his career; Casey is a rule abiding person and always follows the book, such as editing music. His boss Max, on the other hand, makes decisions for him such as making him be the agent for Lise in order for Max to profit. Rubin, Casey's friend, is described as an artist who collects and finds a purpose in junk. He believes that the junk has limitless uses while claiming that manuals force items to be designated for a single purpose. Casey is not right for feeling responsible for what happened to Lise since she had made her own choices such as being on drugs which brought her downfall as she could not live longer. Casey described her as weak and appearing to be dying. Lise tried to reach her human side, but ended up choosing technology, even though she always held a human aspect within her. Lise made the final choice to go toward technology, despite Casey's efforts. The quote “the street finds its own uses for things,” is literally what is said. The street is the people and people are the ones who find the uses of things outside of its actual purpose. For example, Casey used the fast-wipe module to go inside of Lise and pull out her emotions and feelings throughout her life.

The line "the street finds its own uses for things" means that people are free to use a piece of technology (or any object for that matter) how they please and not necessarily how the object is meant to be used. The short story mentions the use of manuals. When one uses manuals one limits the utility of the object. It is Rubin who says that manuals limit the ways in which one can use something. He reflects this idea through his use of garbage to make art. Also, they use the machine to penetrate Lise's thoughts and dreams for their own personal gain. Not that this is not the machine's function, but it goes to show that one can use an object or technology as one pleases, which embodies the line "the street finds its own uses for things," where the street symbolizes society.

"The street finds its own uses for things" has various application within "The Winter Market". It can be used in a obvious / physical manner when describing the character of Rubin and his hobby of scavenging for "trash" and building it back together with modifications that breath into it new life. Rubin values what most people in his society do not, which are aged pieces of technological equipment that have been outdated and don't posses a relevant use, to the average persons' eye. The quote can also be used to describe the life and career of Lise who has been swept up from her lowly position as a hopeless soul and transformed into somewhat of a celebrity who people listen to because she has a certain tone. She appeals to the many other luck ridden people of her society who live in difficult times.

The quote used by Gibson, "the street finds its own uses for things" is shown through out the whole story in different ways. The quote may refer to the fact that once an item/technology is released to the public, what it can be used for may vary from what that object was intended for. Rubin, for example, used "junk" in ways that they weren't originally made for to create his inventions. In this case, Ruben would be considered "the street" and he ignores the original use of the item and tries to find a new way to use it. Another example was the album released by Lise and how it was popular with the kids on the street. The album, which was intended to be music, was looked at as a way to relieve their hopelessness and understand that Lise was once like them to. In a general point of view, "the street" can be considered the society in general or any person/ group from society and they find their own ways to utilize an object/ technology that differs from its main purpose. Once technology is released, people are free to use it as they see beneficial.

The phrase "The street finds its own uses for things," looks simple and easy to understand, however, it contains many different meanings or thoughts. Like we discussed in class, technology can be like a street that has several branches leading to other ways. Apple, a big electronic company, makes various products, such as the iPad, iPhone, and the iPod. Consumers love to buy and learn about new technical products without reading any manuals; They know how to figure out the installation and how to use the applications. In this century, people are now skilled enough yo use these technologies. In Beijing, China, the elders who live in szu-ho-yuan(old big house with four-section compound), are all known some unique skill. They can use some junk or worthless objects to make a basket or a flower vase and put them in their house. Although they are elderly, their thoughts and ideas are modern and technical. Technology exists everywhere in China. Shanghai held the World Expo last year in the fall. It demonstrated new technology to the world. Also, Beijing's Olympic buildings and gyms were the result of human ideas and technology. Teachers and professors teach students to be creative and technological. You can create your own answer for solving a problem, neither right nor wrong, and have more wonderful thoughts if you could think. That is a big change and significant step forward these days, and technology leads the way to the future.

The street finds its own use for things is an interesting line that has a lot of meaning to the story. The street can be translated as the people and the people have the ultimate choice in society on how things should be used. Technology could be used for its intended purpose or it can be used for a variety of different ways. In the story the two characters who seem to illustrate this line the best are Rubin and Casey. Rubin is the character that likes to find alternate uses for things. He takes junk form the trash heaps around the town and he makes works of art from things that are seemingly worthless. Casey is the character in the story that likes to stick to the book. Casey uses the technology for its intended purpose and sticks by the book.

The quote used by Gibson describes human nature to not necessarily use objects for their true purpose. As an example of this, Casey used a piece of studio equipment in order to connect with Lise emotionally. Here, Casey is not using the equipment for its intended purpose; he is taking it to another level and using it for a completely different task.

The phrase "The street finds its own uses of things" that Gibson is remembered for means that you can find new purposes for things that wasn't intended to or thought of when they were made. Also that things that some people consider as trash can be useful to other people with other needs. In the story Rubin says that manuals limit people to use certain things the way that the manual is telling them to. One of Rubin's ways of showing this is through making are out of garbage.

2. Within the story, it becomes apparent that particular decisions are made for people through technology. This becomes especially clear when it is gradually revealed throughout the text that science had progressed to the point where an individual's mind could be recreated as a digital facsimile with barely-questionable perfection. The existence of this virtualization technique implies that decisions about life and death have been greatly altered through the use of technology in the world Gibson created in his short story. When those on the verge of death can simply be "recreated," the gravity of dying is diminished. Subsequently, the experience of being alive is cheapened since a digitally-recreated person is effectively immortal, barring technical accidents. Through technology, then, the decision to live and die had been changed drastically.

The street may not necessarily refer directly to junk, it may symbolize the people as a whole who associate with the ‘‘street culture’’ -- a culture associated with remaking (Rubin, Casey), remixing (Rubin), editing/publicizing (Max), and producing (Lise). Consider the quote for example: “Where does the gomi stop and where does the world begin?” If we analyze Rubin for example, it seems that ‘reality’ can coexists in between the junk and the “world”, Rubin is able to manipulate the junk from his world to create innovation straight from his creativity. Lise is a master of her musical ability due to her creativity. Max’s interest in Lise’s music is directly related to his preference and subjective appeal therefore he starts to specifically market Lise’s world. To answer “Who or what decides how technology will be used? Who or what should decide?” it basically comes down to creativity and will. It seems people with passion and will power to utilize technology will inevitably decide on how to use that technology to their preference.

In this story, each character has different views and makes his or her own decisions about technology and how they use it. Casey always uses technology the way it is supposed to be used. He does things "by the manual" according to Rubin and cannot see other uses for it. Rubin is the "Master of Junk" and can find many different uses for technology. He is the type of guy that does not use the manual and uses technology in his own way. Lise's whole life depends on technology. Without the present of technology in her body she would not be able to live, so in some sense she is less than human but more than human as well.

Lise's life is dominated by the presence of machines, Lise's body is made up of machinery, her legs are artificial and her body barely resembles a human one. Her disease and addiction seem to dictate how she lives her life, preventing her from being normal or "natural." Throughout the bulk of the novel, Casey claims that Lise always knew what she wanted, and that she completely desired to transfer her mind digitally and finally be rid of her body. However, near the end after seeing Lise at the bar, Casey states that her motive to release herself from the flesh was not "pure," that she actually pined to be a normal human being and thus attempted one last time to act "normal," to say goodbye to the physical world, and have carnal relations with that guy at the bar. At the end of the story, Casey is confused because he doesn't have faith that becoming a computer program is what Lise truly wanted from life and he feels guilty because he was the one that essentially enabled her to reach that state.

Casey on the other hand is known to only use technology for its intended purpose. Rubin describes him as "the kind who always reads the handbook". Unlike Rubin, Casey does not have the imagination to create. His apartment room is described as a "basic accumulation of basic consumer goods," lacking any form of any creative or artistic expression. Because they were "aggressively normal," he takes a liking to his burritos because they "tasted like cardboard." His personality is further exemplified by his work in the movie industry. He is not the one who uses artistic expression to create the scenes or uses his imagination to make interesting plots; he merely cuts and pastes the film strips given to him. By cutting and pasting the film strips, he takes something wholly unique and breaks it down to something ordinary and digestible by everyone; he breaks down individuality. There is also allusion to this in the beginning of the story, when he dreams about his dad telling him how important the head on the lathe was, and without an accelerometer, it could break. As a result, Gibson paints Casey and Rubin as two dipoles in this issue: Casey embraces the society present in the story (and to an extent engulfed by it) and uses its technology as he finds it, while Rubin almost mocks his society by using technology for unintended purposes. This portrays that Casey is not open to using technology as it is not supposed to be, and this is shown when he talks with Lise. He tells Lise that she should stop overusing the "Wizz," and use it correctly and only for its intended purpose.  Problems between the two persist because Casey struggles in interacting with Lise's creative mindset, yet ironically Lise handpicks Casey to edit her raw output.

Unlike Casey, Lise uses technology for her own very specific purposes. Casey mentions several times that Lise always knows exactly what she wants and she utilizes technology to accomplish her goals. In order to escape her half-robotic body and hopeless life, she creates Kings of Sleep. She exploits the uses of technology not to create art, like Rubin does, but to enable her escape from reality. Lise has no intention of entertaining or enlightening others with her story. Her only purpose is to earn enough money so she can transform herself into a piece of software. Lise does not use technology to create something new nor does she use technology for its intended purposes. She clearly finds new applications for technology which already exists. However, Lise does inspire people because of her success; she manages to free herself from hard life and gains stardom and "immortality."

In some ways, each of the characters has a different kind of relationship to technology. Lise is a character who is dominated by technology and literally cannot live without it. She tries to use the technology to fulfill her life, but in the end she succumbs to the demands of the technology of the market. This is seen when she is discovered to be a source for entertainment, and then is later uploaded to a computer to continue her existence. In The Winter Market, Casey tries to be a normal person in the society that he lives in, which causes him to have normal experiences with technology. For the most part, he is affected little by the technology he uses in his everyday life and tries to stay cold and detached. This is disrupted when he uses technology to receive the brainwaves from Lise, however, this causes him to change in what appears to be described as a drastic manner, showing that he is not unaffected by the technology of his world when he is exposed to it. Rubin, though, is the opposite of these other two. Rubin immerses himself in the technology he finds in his "junk." He seeks to understand and control what he finds among the "junk," allowing him to become gomi no sensei. He truly is master of the story's technology and doesn't appear to let technology influence, evidenced by his lack of willingness to change in any way, such as his diet.

3. Rubin, Casey, and Lise all have different views on technology, and they make decisions differently, because of their views. Rubin chooses to use junk instead of modern day stuff, but doesn’t mind living in this technological world. Casey however, works for a company that embraces this technology. Although he never did it as a kid, he still participated in ‘jacking in’. He was responsible for King of Sleeps, which appears to be a strange advanced way of recorded music straight from the mind, and makes a lot of money from this technological device. So technology drives his life because he wants the money. Lise on the hand was born with a horrible disease that ravaged her body, and chooses to use an exoskeleton just to be able to move. Lise’s body movements are made by this exoskeleton, and if the skeleton’s batteries die out, then she can’t even move. Lise is also addicted to ‘Wizz’ a new drug, which has further deteriorated her already weak and frail body. She is addicted to this drug, and lets it run her life.

Rubin was open minded about technology; he saw different uses for things with a set purpose. Casey was a rule follower; he didn’t like to step out of the box and experiment with it on his own. Lise was a junkie; she just wanted to try something with technology. No one made decisions for Rubin. The people who created the technology made the decisions for Casey and Lise was a rebel who made her own decision.

The technological "artifacts" that Rubin works with are noted as junk because the majority of people during the time have outgrown and replaced them. They no longer have a relevant purpose in the society, except for as a form of art, which Rubin acknowledges and puts to good use. He is able to take these seemingly worthless items and monetize them by creating art that would sell for millions of dollars. We can only assume that Rubin is actually drawn to certain pieces of outdated technology because they are old and may hold some form of nostalgia to him or others. Rubin cares not whether others deem them as "junk" or not. He leaves his artistic choices solely to his own special taste.

Rubin uses technology in his own way by transforming garbage into art. Casey makes decisions about how to use the technology to read into Lise's dreams. Lise is addicted to the drug referred to as "wizz," which can be viewed as her technology. She uses it in an abusive way, but uses it how she chooses to nevertheless. Technology makes a decision for Lise through the use of her exoskeleton. Whenever the batteries die, she is good as dead and needs Casey to drag her around, making her dependent on that technology.

Lise and Rubin use technology is completely different ways. They both make decisions about how to use the technology themselves. Lise tries to use technology to escape her diseased body while Rubin used technology for a creative aspect. He loved to think in different ways and create art with technology. For Casey, however, I agree with the above post. Casey didn't seem to think outside the box and it felt like decisions about how to use technology were made for him. He followed the "rules" intended by the creator of the technology and didn't use it in any other way.

Casey’s lack of originality when it comes to technology results in his little control over it. He must take technology at face-value and cannot manipulate it whatsoever. Rubin, on the other hand, is able to use technology to create art, but he is subject to society’s definitions of what “junk” is. Lise attempts to control technology by creating a digital representation of herself, but this only serves to drastically limit her freedom by confining her to a fixed amount of computer memory.

In the story, Lise is a representation of our dependence on technology and how it can consume us.  The human Lise did have a desire to become successful and technology aided her in escaping her physical limitation.  However, by the end of the story human Lise is dead and the robot part of her has taken over.  She has willingly given over all her control to the technology and it is making her decisions for her. This leads Casey to pose the question, "Is it her?"  Even though the robot Lise still looks, acts, and sounds the same, it does not have the human ability to feel.  When Casey saw her last she was in a bar with a "kid's hand in hers, a hand she couldn't even feel".  The capacity to feel was the last thing he saw her trying to hold on to as symbolized by the simple gesture.  She also "liked to watch" showing that even though she could not feel physically, she could feel emotionally and try to imagine the physical. Rubin's statement "She knew, man. No dreams, no hope." might point out that although Lise "lives on" as a program, she herself could not escape the life she was confined to. Even if a machine that appears to be Lise in many ways escapes, she did not believe that she would fulfill her ambitions. In this case, it is likely that she would answer no to Casey's question mentioned earlier, "Is it her?"

Rubin had his own way of using technology, he made his own decisions when he transformed trash into art. I would say that Liz also made her own decisions and wanted to try something new with technology. I consider the drugs she was addicted to as her technology. Casey was a bit different and I felt like he didn't make his own decisions and instead he did what Rubin was talking about and followed the manuals.

4. "Junk" is a strange title to give to the materials that Rubin uses in his art installations, given the new life he breathes into the discarded medium. However, the label "junk" wasn't decided upon by him but by the society that he lives in. It's only "junk" because society at large sees it as obsolete and useless either because a newer, better version came along, it broke, or the people threw it out because they could not find any use for it other than its original purpose. The writer suggests that the materials Rubin works with are truly seen as junk by society because they are so uncommonly thought of as a different item.

Considering the difficulty to work with junk material, Rubin's art has become prized everywhere. His work would be hard to do without the use of technology. Dealing with broken articles involves some type of technology breakthrough. Rubin ‘messes around’ with the material which allows for a different technological movement. He expands his previous knowledge about technology and makes it his own. Without making his own path, his work would be worthless due to the lack of creativity and originality from his child-like personality.

However, their status as "junk" gives Rubin free reign to take any items he wants, and allows him much greater freedom in his art. Something being "junk" allows Rubin to use it since no one else would give a function to an object that is associated with junk, but Rubin makes it a point to prove that manuals do not need to be followed, and thus junk does not need to be discarded. The example of Rubin's art may also be seen as a critique on what constitutes as garbage in consumer culture. Rubin refuses to follow the manual for any piece of technology and instead, likes to find his own decisions about technology as demonstrated by his "messing around." He takes other people's "junk", and he makes his own creations, creations that have functions other than what the technology was originally designed to do. He feels the need to re-purpose his creations because new technology "[will] open areas nobody's thought of ever." Casey describes Rubin as being "like a child" but also "worth a lot of money". This shows that in an age when technology seems to be taking over human life both figuratively and literally, simple childlike imagination and originality are in demand and rewarded; this is why Rubin is a famous artist.

“[Rubin] brings home more gomi. Some of it still operative. Some of it, like Lise, human." This statement directly correlates his trash findings and Lise. He found Lise in an alley and took her in. This links to his general concept of turning junk into life. Lise was found at this site practically dead. He took the “junk” and made it useful. Lise had many intentions in dying, but Rubin put batteries back in her, reprogrammed her, and made a musical investment out of her.

Rubin is able to turn broken, unused items into a piece of art, and it’s amazing how he is able to accomplish this feat. His unique way of approaching art makes Rubin’s work valuable and desirable by society. Although people call the material he works with “junk,” they still respect him as an artist which explains the master aspect of Gomi no Sensei. The material Rubin works with can be endless because he works with so called “junk.” “It’s his medium, the air he breathes, something he’s swum in all his life.” Everyday trash is thrown out and new “junk” is created.

The demand for originality comes from the uniformity in the society, and the beauty in Rubin's art is that he takes something ordinary and dull and transforms it into something totally unique. This uniqueness results from Rubin having a different approach to art than most might expect, one that although unorthodox is still is inventive and new to society. Society embraced his new ways of art with "junk" because the current art in that era deals with non-broken and new articles. This can be considered as a breakthrough in technology: expanding previous technology to a further extent. Society is so focused on the present day style that the creativeness and inventiveness of others are portrayed with a negative response. In this instance, Rubin's work is portrayed as "junk" when truly it's just a new, out-of-the-box idea unique to society.

Rubin is referred to as the "Master of Junk" because he is world renowned for using junk and turning it into masterpieces of art. This stuff is referred to as "junk" because it is something people have found no more use for. Rubin uses this "junk" and brings out its true potential. He uses these items which people had once thought were of no use to anyone, and he has created meaningful artifacts out of it. Rubin is able to just look at something, and know what he can do to it in order to make it more useful, and when he thinks it is worth doing, he will do it. It is for this reason, where Rubin just creates something out of nothing that Rubin is called the "Master of Junk".

Rubin knows that all things were new at one point. Everything meant something to someone at one time. He is giving these items second chances by reviving them and making them better. His work shows that the forgotten is not worthless, but just lost. He finds the lost and makes people remember. Lise was a lost soul. Rubin gave it his best shot in making her human, returning her to her normal state again. Junk is his livelihood and he uses it in his everyday lifestyle. In reality, junk should be defined as something not given a second chance; a forgotten soul. No one can master junk like Rubin can and he certain shows it throughout the story.

5. Due to Casey's uncertainty, Casey shouldn't feel responsible for what became of Lise due to Lise practically forcing her will upon Casey. Lise's forceful nature can be observed on multiple occasions throughout the story. The first two and most crucial were Lise's demand for Casey to use his dry dreams machine on her and Casey to be her editor.

Casey's doubt about assisting Lise transform herself into a program is understandable at a point in time where this technology is still new and not completely accepted by society.  Case's job did not involve this level of personal responsibility and emotion before Lise's situation and he was not prepared to do this.  Directly contrasting this, the society in Neuromancer is accustomed to people entering and exiting the web, so Casey's anxiety is not felt by Case.

Casey shouldn't feel responsible for what happened to Lise, because she is the one that wanted to be famous in the end, become part of technology, and eventually die as a human. It has always been her ambition to be famous, and Casey shouldn't feel he is entirely responsible for what happened to Lise. In addition, Casey should not feel guilty because both characters possess opposite egos who handle technology in different ways. Casey uses technology the way that he believes it should be used, whereas Lise has little self-control and struggles to stop the manipulative machine within her, hence using technology in a way that it shouldn't be, such as the drugs she takes. This guilt, however, is assumed to be stemming from Lise shedding her physical body and her "transformation" into a virtual being. One may also consider the guilt Casey felt from what happened to Lise before that event: most poignantly, her congenital paralysis and inability to physically connect with the rest of humanity. From Casey's viewpoint, he may feel that the society that he is a part of has forced Lise into the tragic situation her life had become. As one of the few individuals who discovers the true sorrow of Lise's existence, he feels remorse as a participant. If Casey were indeed experiencing this type of guilt, it still seems unreasonable that he should feel responsible for Lise's circumstances. If a building collapses, a solitary brick-maker should not feel responsible; analogously, if society forces Lise's life down a rocky and sorrowful path, it should not be a single constituent of that society that is remorseful. This is not to say that Casey's perspective is not understandable, but rather that his guilt is unnecessary. Yet, one reason why he should feel guilty for Lise is that he was not truly active in helping her overcome her wizz addiction or making her realize that human life was worth living, and that she must make an effort to continue living in human society instead of becoming part of technology in order to be happy. His guilt stems from the fact that he idly watched her degrade herself from a human into a simple program with no attempt to cease her drug abuse. She ultimately became famous and successful, but her soul is gone; all that is left is her physical body. Yet, Casey shouldn't feel responsible for what has happened to Lise; there were past events in her life that led up to her death that Casey had no control over (like the congenital paralysis). Readers can see why Casey would feel guilty for what ultimately happened to Lise, but he should not feel completely responsible for it. Casey's feelings of guilt are completely understandable because they are innately human. Attempting to determine whether or not a single person is responsible for the course taken by another individual is, many times, nonsensical. It removes responsibility from one individual and places it onto another. This is not to say that we do not have influence over our fellow humans, but rather to say that this influence is not almighty. In the grand scheme of things, Casey was a mere cog in Lise's transition from "junk" to fame. Even though in Lise's eyes, she transformed from "junk" to fame, Casey may have felt the opposite and now views Lise as a piece of Junk. This is why, in this case, assigning responsibility to one person for the behavior of another is not particularly logical. Casey helped to fulfill the possible wishes of Lise, yet in his eyes these wishes were the opposite of what he desired or wanted to see happen. There is a fundamental disparity here; neither argument can ever be truly proved because there are two independent minds that (possibly) will never agree to the others' ideas.

Casey should not feel responsible for Lise's death because Lise lived the way she wanted to on her own terms and because of this her own fate was decided by her own actions. Yes, Casey was part of Lise's life but Casey had no where near the amount of influence that he believes he had on Lise. Casey's perspective is understandable that he would feel responsible but it is misplaced because he is actually just depressed due to the death of Lise which is clouding his logic.

Another interesting moral question is then raised: Who decides when/if they erase her from that mainframe? It is interesting because she lived her whole life in that exoskeleton and now she is trapped eternally in the mainframe where her ROM is loaded, but that was what she chose to do. Now if they erase her ROM is that person committing murder? Or just because it acts like her and contains her memories does it not count?

Casey should not feel responsible for the death of Lise. Lise had her own ambitions in life; she wanted to be famous in the end and also die as a human. Casey played a part in Lise's life but overall Lise knew what she wanted and Casey could not influence how she wanted her life to be. Casey did help Lise become part of this machine but, Lise was the one that wanted to follow through with the procedure and become part of the ROM.

Casey is to blame for what happened to Lise. Sometimes blame falls on people not just because of things that they do, but also because of the things that they do not do. The latter is true for Casey. Because he did not force her or lead her down the path to death, he could have said things and done things that what would have changed the course of events. For example the last night when they were together and she apologized for what she had done to him the first night, the author made clear that Lise did have a human side to her, and some might even argue that she was reaching out for Casey to help her. From Casey’s first person perspective we clearly see that he had the decision of whether or not to influence her path.

Casey is to blame for what happened to Lise. But is what happened to her a bad thing? If it hadn't been for Rubin finding her and taking her home, she would have died in an alley of starvation. Lise clearly had little respect for her body and having it live on any longer. That's why she had no problems getting addicted to 'wizz' or any other drugs. So no matter what, she was somehow going to get rid of her failure of a body because she knew exactly what she wanted. She knew that she wanted to be rid of her body, so that's what she was going to do. It was with the help of Casey that Lise was discovered by the agents from Hollywood. That led her to be able to upload herself onto the mainframe and let her mind live on while her body died. It's what she wanted, to not be limited by her crippled body. So while what happened to her is due to Casey, I don't think it's a bad thing that it happened.

Casey certainly feels a sense of responsibility, however this sense is confusing to both him and the reader. Casey is technically partially responsible for Lise's demise through a sense of indirect "enablement". It was Casey who essentially gave Lise the exposure she needed to be picked up by agents and put on the fast track to fame and fortune (and therefore she had the world's resources at her fingertips). However, Lise chose her fate on her own, Casey did not choose or even approve of her lifestyle. The real mess is defining if Casey feels responsible for Lise's "death" at all, mainly because we learn that Lise essentially converted herself into a computer program. This of course begs the question, although she may be free from her mortal body and its frailty, is she truly deceased? Should Casey feel a sense of responsibility for something of that gravity when the parameters of death become so blurred? Or is Lise's transcendence into a purely technological form an even greater ethical weight than death, and should Casey feel responsible for that? These questions left dangling by the author are intended to make us as the readers think about how technology can alter the parameters of life, and what it means to exist or be "healthy".

I feel that Casey is to blame for what happened to Lise but that is entirely different than feeling responsible. Even though Casey may be blamed, Lise forced Casey to tape her dreams. She also seemed to have a controlling tone. It is stated in the story that Lise knew what she wanted and followed through with using technology to "escape." For that reason, Casey shouldn't feel responsible for her "death." Some might even say that he should feel a sense of pride because it seemed like Lise was suffering as it was, and by helping her achieve her goal he might have helped her be "free."

Casey is somewhat right to feel responsible for what happened to Lise, but it isn’t all his fault. He could have stopped what was starting to happen from the beginning and even as things started happening, but he didn't.

Casey should feel responsible for helping Lise towards a possible dream of salvation that she had. He need not feel bad for the outcome of Lise for she most likely would have ended up perishing within a few months due to the living conditions that she was placing herself in. Lise was a stranger to the land surrounding her. Her radical actions were simply desperate attempts to cry for help or change. In uploading Lise to the mainframe, Casey should not feel much responsibility because he really only affected her initial few choices. After revitalizing her to good health and a good career, Lise should have been able to take over and control her destiny from there on out.

Casey shouldn't have the need to feel responsible for what happened to Lise because she inflicted it upon herself, but once he got himself involved with her, he kind of does become liable of what happens to her because one could ask "what would have happened had Casey not have picked her up that night at the party?" Perhaps she would have died either way, but then it truly would not have been Casey's responsibility.

It depends on which "what happened" to Lise (probably pronounced "Lease", to coincide with the idea that physical, sickly, drug-addicted Lise was merely in the end a ROM personality's borrowed meatbag) one is talking about. Obviously Lise would have died on her own due to her faulty body and drug addiction so clearly Casey shouldn't feel any guilt about her death. What eats away at Casey and has him contemplating suicide at the beginning of the story ("...concrete ledge two meters above midnight." - being the edge of the roof of a building) is not that Lise is dead, but that she may still be "alive", languishing in a cyberspatial existence as a ROM personality. Casey feels responsible for her state of being because he introduced her to stardom. Without Casey's interactions with Lise, she would have died a simple, natural death. But now Lise lives on in cyberspace, and Casey feels terrible because he believes she may not have wished for such a life.

Even though Casey obviously enabled Lise to become a Ghost in the machine, he shouldn't feel responsible, simply because Lise followed through with the procedure to "[merge] with the net" of her own volition. The story does not exactly elaborate on the procedure required to become a ROM personality, merely that such "technology is there" (141). However one can surmise that Lise consented to the operation because 1) she did not do something to herself to make such an operation impossible (i.e. killing herself in a remote location) and 2) the ROM personality is still creating music/dreams, implying that the "Lise" personality feels an obligation to the music company to pay for her operation. If Lise didn't want the operation, why would she feel the need to pay for it? Why would she "need money bad? (141)" Are there virtual mafioso's threatening to break her virtual kneecaps? No, ROM Lise wants money to pay for her operation because obviously, she wanted her procedure done.

Casey is haunted by his last interaction with Lise. He believes that because Lise is seeking interaction with someone, that she must prefer life as a meatbag as opposed to life in cyberspace. Casey is so quick to jump to this conclusion that he "practically [runs]" out of the bar, "horror and pity [on his] face" (140). Why does Casey pity Lise? Because he believes that she is going to hate being a ROM personality, as evidenced by her interactions with the man at the bar. He doesn't stop to consider, he's running away after all, the possibility Lise that "[kissing] herself goodbye" is just that, a goodbye to "bonds of polycarbon and hated flesh" (141).

Lise at the end I believe was actually trying to be human. She was angry at the way Casey saw her at Rubin's. She was angry with the way how her body was built. She might have felt that she could still be human by having her thoughts. She seemed to have a set mind at the start, but they human aspect of her is that she wanted to love Casey, but she was unable to.

Casey shouldn't feel guilty about what happened to Lise (her merging with the net) because she probably wanted it (still making music/dreams as a ROM personality).

Casey feels responsible for what happened to Lise but he should not. Lise chose her own way to live and she should not rely on others to make her choices. Although Casey may regret picking Lise up at the party, he was forced by Lise to make her "dead" the way she wanted.

Casey is responsible for the physical, human death of Lise because he lacked communication with Lise. This silence between the two characters caused Casey to become apathetic towards his potential lover. If Casey had expressed his affection for Lise, she would have never been depressed. Also, Lise would have been more human than machine. One of the significant focuses of The Winter Market was to illustrate the significance of communication in a relationship.

6. The introduction of this novel has prepared the reader for the cyberpunk/hacking universe he/she was about to be submerged in by showing the reader how different these science fiction stories will be. The subject of cyborgs and humans with technological additions to their bodies is definitely something most readers are not familiar with. Starting with this novel, the class has gotten introduced to the first theme of hacker mentality, doing things for the hell of it. For example, Rubin created these artifacts out of "junk," and one could ask, "Why did you make this?" Rubin's response could very well be "Well... I just felt like doing it." Doing things for the sake of doing them is just the tip of the iceberg. This is just the beginning of hacker culture, as the class progresses, more and more themes about hackers will reveal themselves to us.

Themes and Motifs

Punk Rock Movement

  • One of Gibson’s major sources of inspiration for his story is the "punk rock" scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s. This "punk rock" mentality serves as an intermediary term between two of The Winter Market's other main themes: one of pop culture, and another of postmodern waste. Punks used a garbage-based system to define themselves as "human waste," making adornments from objects conventionally designated as worthless or a nuisance: garbage bags, ragged clothing, flip-tops, safety pins, broken toys, and dysfunctional jewelry. Punk gear and clothing in and of itself parodies consumer society by displaying commodities that belong to the category of waste as though they were treasured, valuable objects. This also reaffirms the reality of class distinction in society. Just as garbage sits at the bottom of the hierarchy of objects (seemingly begging the question "How are you going to get rid of me?"), so too did punks pose the question of a class of youth who were simultaneously a product of the culture, and unwanted by it. Just like followers of punk, who are adorned in disreputable things, Lise is adorned in an exoskeleton immediately referred to by the narrator as "junk". This mentality defines the era, and youth and followers of the punk movement -- and, essentially, Lise from the story -- beg the same question as garbage objects: "How are you going to get rid of me?"

Waste in a Consumer Society

  • The references to gomi  and "junk" throughout this this text are a critique on the concept of waste in our post-modern society, both on the idea of human "junk" (such as shown by the Punk Rock culture defined here in this page) and of material waste (such as the old electronics that Rubin uses to create his art).  It is also a comment on society's definition of "junk".  As the old adage goes, 'One man's trash is another man's treasure'. This quote is summarized in, "The street finds its own uses for things." Which Rubin completely encompasses.  For example, "junk" to Casey is anything that is "outdated"--that is, anything that is not the newest technology or the newest version of an older technology.  To Casey, who is someone who "always reads the manual", there is no purpose for a technology if there is a newer technology that can do the exact same thing, except better/faster/more efficiently/etc.  From this point of view, therefore, society's concept of "junk" is constantly changing, as newer technologies make older ones obsolete.  Rubin, on the other hand, takes what other people consider "junk" and repurposes them.  It is not "junk" to Rubin; rather, it simply serves a different purpose than that which was originally intended for the object.  

Existence and the Human Mind

  • The concept of existence is also examined throughout this story.  Casey feels that Lise is slowly losing her existence to a computer's memory, which leads to the inner conflict he faces while trying to decide what it means "to be".  Casey is characterized as a 'rule-follower', and probably views existence with the standard idea that existence ends when the body dies, explaining his distress when watching Lise's deterioration.  To Lise, existence is seen in a new light, as she uses technology in an innovative way to ensure that she "exists" after her body fails.  In society, the debate behind existence is long-running and is still present, as evidenced by hundreds of takes on existence through different religions.  This story illustrates how manipulating technology can lead to alternative answers for difficult and debated questions, and for some people, such as Lise, it can offer an answer to these questions. 

CyberPunk Genre

  • Cyberpunk is a genre involving inverted or dysfunctional societies in high-tech futuristic time-frames and environments. This theme runs parallel to the themes of the Winter Market. The references to "softs", "jacks", and the upbringings of pop culture in combination with these technologies allude to a sense of futurism in that these concepts do not exist but are considered the future of pop media with its unique and post-modernistic form of content delivery . "Softs" enable a person to not only feel the sensations and emotions of the original subject, but to also become that subject and to be immersed in that subjects' experiences. In this case, Lise's experiences of despair and misery, was the "soft" that was deemed to be "triple platinum." This seemingly dysfunctional culture in which one's utter despair becomes a capitalistic commodity that is widely and openly accepted runs parallel to the cyberpunk genre. Furthermore, the concept of "junk" and its portrayed potential to become a commodity relates to the inverted social order that is involved with the cyberpunk genre. "Junk" can be seen as an object that has served its purpose and is no longer needed, an object that no longer lives up to the standards of a progressing society. However, the society portrayed in The Winter Marketseems to be inverted in that it thrives and indulges in "junk" that has been reprocessed.


  • The means through which the story conveys how Lise and the company that signed her is an allusion to what the music industry was like in the time the book was published. It alludes to the not average, but most remembered "rock stars" of that time and their extensive drug usage, desire for fame, and subsequent realization of it not being what they wanted.
  • There are constant and pervasive allusions to Japanese culture throughout the story. Casey's "glove-leather Ginza monkey boots", the dream island the Japanese built out of gomi in Tokyo bay in the 1960s, and the phrase "Gomi no sensei", which is used in the introduction of the word gomi, are all examples of Gibson using this far-off country's culture in his near-future society. Casey and Rubin even use the term gomi in passing, as if it were another English word to be used in everyday speaking.
  • The writing seems to be purposefully including elements of the writing of Hunter S. Thompson. Besides the overall similar writing style, there are several direct connections. Rubin's favorite drink is a Wild Turkey sour - Thompson's character Raoul Duke also drinks Wild Turkey to the exclusion of most other whiskeys. Furthermore, the story uses the phrase 'king hell' once, which is a common phrase in the writing of Thompson. The strongest connection is the use of the word adrenochrome, which is a fictional drug that Thompson created in the novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. [1]

Historical Influences

  • In the story, Casey talks of his father, who like Casey was an editor. The father used to work vinyl records. Casey's way of describing vinyls shows the amount of time that has passed since vinyl records, especially considering his description of the sound as "that quasi-Victorian quality you see in twentieth-century technology."[2] The means of using a lathe to cut grooves in a lacquered disc, the creation of a master press, and accelerometers to prevent burnouts all date his father's work to a pre-CD era. This confuses the time element of the short story. When The Winter Market was written in 1986, Compact Discs had been commercially available for several years. Gibson's lack of mentioning these newfound data storage devices, while only briefly discussing the new technology in the book, makes it hard to choose an acceptable time period for the story to take place in except that it is in the future.

  • Yumenoshima, or "Dream Island" is an actual district in Kōtō, Tokyo, Japan that consists of an artificial island whose construction began in the late 1950s as a potential solution to Tokyo's waste problem. Currently it has a layer of topsoil covering the trash, and even has a sports park and a museum (among other attractions).[3]
  • The story contains a large number of references to Japan or Japanese culture. This is probably a result of it being written in the 80s. At the time, Japan was going through an economic boom, and many people expected it to become a superpower. Examples include: Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos, where Japan and the US are the only two countries in the world whose currency survives the economic crisis and Michael Crichton's (a popular science-fiction author) Rising Sun, which tells the tale of a murder mystery among a backdrop of Japanese-American economic tension.


  1. Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; a Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream,. New York: Random House, 1971. Print.
  2. Gibson, William. "The Winter Market." Burning Chrome. New York: HarperCollins, 2003. Print.
  3. (Japanese)
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