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The Slipstream of Mixed Reality: Unstable Ontologies and Semiotic Markers in "The Thirteenth Floor, Dark City, and Mulholland Drive"

N. Katherine Hayles and Nicholas Gessler
PMLA
Vol. 119, No. 3, Special Topic: Science Fiction and Literary Studies: The Next Millennium (May, 2004), pp. 482-499
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25486063
Page Count: 18
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Slipstream of Mixed Reality: Unstable Ontologies and Semiotic Markers in "The Thirteenth Floor, Dark City, and Mulholland Drive"
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Abstract

Whereas first-generation theorists of virtual reality tended to regard simulated worlds as separate from real life, current trends in miniaturization, implants, wearable computers, and embedded sensors have shifted the emphasis to "mixed realities" mingling computationally intensive simulations with input from the real world. Contemporary films and novels have mirrored this trend, creating a blend of simulations mixed with everyday reality that Bruce Sterling has called "slipstream fiction." To explore this phenomenon, we analyze three films that mix simulation with reality: The Thirteenth Floor, Dark City, and Mulholland Drive. These films present themselves initially as murder mysteries, but this pose quickly gives way to even more serious concerns, about the ontological status of the represented worlds. The narrative configurations suggest that when death is no longer the plots' logical end point, storytelling techniques undergo significant transformation, subverting usual assumptions about chronology, subjectivity, and topology and requiring new interpretive techniques.

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