This essay argues that William Gibson's speculative "Bridge" trilogy (1993-1999) novels, and their characterization of shantytown spaces in particular, offer crucial insight into the way late capitalism produces—and then hides from view—vulnerable life. The novels are particularly useful for clarifying recent debates about precarity as imagined by Isabell Lorey and Judith Butler. As these sources explain, precariousness denotes the essential vulnerability and inter-dependency that defines social life; precarity, in contrast, describes the socio-economic stratification that leaves certain segments of the population more exposed to this vulnerability than others. Gibson's Bridge novels contribute to this discussion by providing a space, in the form of the massive shantytown, for imagining how we might begin to disentangle vulnerability from the weaponized form of precarity associated with late capitalism. Ultimately, this account offers a new reading of Gibson's fiction by stressing how it imagines an inclusive social model in the context of neoliberal dystopia. For scholars interested in how literature accounts for precarity, the Bridge series reflects speculative fiction's capacity for illustrating precarity's past, present, and future.


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pp. 39-69
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