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Pat Cadigan - Mindplayers

(This is repost from LJ, And this is just one of the first written by Queen of Cyberpunk)

Alexandra "Deadpan Allie" Haas, this world's equivalent to a drug junkie, is caught red-brained using an unlicensed psychosis and the Brain Police gives her a choice - train yourself to become a shrink or go to jail. So she goes to J. Walter Tech to become a professional.

This is a world where the visual representation technology is not used to rob corporate accounts and plunder their databases but peek into the people's minds. There is a whole professional culture and subcultures formed around this; professional belljarrers, thrillseekers, pathosfinders, neurosis peddlers, reality affixers and dreamfeeders that are the new versions of shrinks. "Everybody" has artificial eyes so they can be more easily removed to have a direct access to their optic nerves.

The market is full of mindplaying products; licensed neuroses; franchised imposed personalities; people selling their neuroses and memories, even their own whole personalities and identities to companies that franchise them to people who are not comfortable being what they are (including Allie's parents). And there is both legal and underground market for this. Sometimes mindplayers have to build new minds for victims of mindsucking.

Allie learns some of the truth in the mindplaying world in the hard way, like experiencing the death of a admirer who is mentally only couple of years old. Her marriage to one of her teachers ends in divorce within the same paragraph. And then Nelson Nelson (with a Bolshoi fetish) who has a mindplaying company hires her. She sort-of-settles down as a pathosfinder to hunt down inspiration of failing (or in one case, dead) artists for them (even if there is none). And sometimes they have already enhanced their supposed abilities with franchised psychoses. She cannot help but have imprinted pieces of their mind into her own memories.

Allie's old ally Jerry Wirehammer, an underground memory cloner, shows the other side of the brain - someone so desperate they both franchise and bootleg themselves - and remove the memories of bootlegging in order to not get caught. He just needs a little of her cash (and piece of her mind) to do so. So even if he narrowly escaped the Mental Strip Search, he effectively does that to himself selling the remains of his own memories.

Neurological basis of all this is not entirely realistic but it's not the point of this story. This version of a kind-of-cyberspace technology tries to visualize the mental processes of psychological space. The world of this story has some of bona fide telepaths as well but this time the mindplaying technology is the shortcut the telepathy often is in science fiction: It visualises mental problems, dramatically revealing things that otherwise could not be revealed without extensive prodding (or, in the text, explaining and infodumping).

And behind all this is the fact, with or without mindplaying, that we are what our past has made us, with pleasant and unpleasant memories and no particular choice about it. And even mental dry-cleaning has to keep something in place so that the self does not collapse.


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