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"Who's Lo Tek?"
"Not us, boss." She climbed a shivering aluminium ladder and vanished through a hole in a sheet of corrugated plastic. "Low technique, low technology." The plastic muffled her voice. I followed her up, nursing an aching wrist. "Lo Teks, they'd think that shotgun trick of yours was effete."

In Gibson's early sprawl work, Johnny Mnemonic (a precursor to Neuromancer featuring Molly Millions from that later novel), the Lo Teks are an underclass within the underclass of Nighttown - or rather an underclass that lurks above Nighttown, the lowest reaches of the Pit due to its inversion, a place where no-one else will even leave their graffiti tag, a construction "jury-rigged and jerry-built from scraps that even Nighttown didn't want".

The Lo Tek's congregate around what they call the Killing Floor, a battleground that seems to Johnny to be no more or less lethal than the rest of Nighttown- but it has a ritual significance as a combat place, built up over generations and lit by tapped electricity. It is on the 'Floor that Molly defeats the Yakuza assassin sent for Johnny- but she defeats him in Lo Tek style: rather than using her own, high tech modifications, she simply turns the assassin's tech against him by expertly riding the killing floor until his weapon strikes him and he falls to his death- killed by Culture shock, unable to believe that what had happened to him was even possible.

The Lo Tek's are not simply the poor. They may be low, but they still have access to significant technology - the first Lo Tek Johnny encounters sports Doberman Tooth-bud transplants in a face so bestial that it could only be produced by conscious design rather than actual violence. Their fashion encompasses scars, tattoos and teeth - a deliberate recreation of something more primitive than they could be.

Thus the Lo Tek's are a perfect illustration of a theme that makes Gibson's writing so compelling and believable - the future he envisaged in the sprawl series teetered between social dystopia and an approximation of the high tech futures predicted by earlier, optimistic futurologists. Whilst these earlier authors had foreseen the universal availability of high technology, they saw this as a good thing- Gibson provides the wake-up call. Although even the lowest inhabitants of his future have access to what would be incredible technology by present standards, this does nothing to help them - gaining the technology does not in any way elevate the Lo Tek's from their position of the low, but just gives them an additional qualifier.

It is this grim vision, exemplified by the Lo Tek's, that makes Gibson's work seem so realistic - he manages to avoid the extremes of both the utopian futurists and the often cliché post-apocalyptic authors to create a world recognisably like our own, where things can be a force for both good and bad, with social status being the determinant of how your life proceeds, rather than the level of technology available to you.


CST Approved

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