It Takes a Storyteller to Know a Storyteller

Global Capitalism in Post-millennial North American Fiction


If it is indeed impossible to think beyond capitalism, then capital has become reality. If global capitalism organizes reality through the stories it weaves, capital is (as strong as) its fictions. If capital is reality and capital is fiction, then reality as such is fiction as well. It is by reading this fiction for both patterns and inconsistencies that contemporary individuals can challenge global capital and unveil its hypocrisies; and it is by fighting fiction with fiction, i.e. projecting new realities – such as those in the post-millennial novels by William Gibson, Douglas Coupland, and Dave Eggers – that people can imagine the world anew.

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Julia Nikiel, Ph.D. (2021), works at Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin, Poland. She has published extensively on post-millennial North American literature. She co-coordinates the ExRe(y) Project ( and co-edits its biannual publications.

Introduction: “We Live in Financial Times”

1 The Fictions Capital Weaves: Theorizing the Global Contemporary and Its (Literary) Representations
 1.1 The New World
  1.1.1 Economy
  1.1.2 Sovereignty
  1.1.3 Geographies
  1.1.4 Spaces
  1.1.5 Society
  1.1.6 Ecologies
 1.2 Mapping the New
  1.2.1 Globalizing Human Imagination
  1.2.2 Fictions of Globalization

2 The Forever Now: Foretelling the Present in William Gibson’s Bigend Trilogy
  Plot Summaries
 2.1 Blue Ant, Hubertus Bigend, and the Global Interplay between Money, Information, and Power
  2.1.1 Brand Vision Transaction
  2.1.2 The Surfer of Global Flows
 2.2 Time-space, Virtual Ambiguity, and Networked Control
  2.2.1 Time Flies
  2.2.2 Spacing Out(wards)
  2.2.3 Inside Real Virtuality
  2.2.4 Networked Control
 2.3 Nodes, Local Color, and the Unhomely Edge of the Global Metropolis
  2.3.1 Facilitating Sameness
  2.3.2 The New Edge
 2.4 Instability, Oppressiveness, and the Activation of Paranoid Epistemology
  2.4.1 Feeling Out of Place
  2.4.2 The Terror! The Terror!
  2.4.3 Learning to Cope
  2.4.4 Paranoid Epistemology, or Navigating the Conspiracy
 2.5 The Talk of the Town: The Unique Lens of Speculative Fiction, or William Gibson as the Optician of Contemporaneity

3 Extreme Vertigo: Narrating the Information Age in Douglas Coupland’s Post-millennial Fiction
  Plot Summaries
 3.1 Trying to Keep Afloat in the Extreme Present (and failing)
  3.1.1 “I Miss Time”
  3.1.2 “You Know the Future Is Really Happening When You Start Feeling Scared”
 3.2 Knowledge, the Age of Latency, American Spam, and the Irrelevantization of the Periphery
  3.2.1 “Technology Favors Horrible People”
  3.2.2 “Getting People Stoked Is the New Power”
  3.2.3 “Fate Is for Losers”
 3.3 Narrative Drive, Non-particularity and the Death of Superman
  3.3.1 “Lives Are No Longer Feeling Like Stories”
  3.3.2 “No Face Detected”
  3.3.3 “Your Blog Is Futile”
  3.3.4 “It’s OK to Want to Stop Being an Individual”
  3.3.5 “Share”
 3.4 Anthropocentricity, Fear of Singularity, and Learning to “Story-Tell with”
  3.4.1 “Epic Fail”
  3.4.2 “Machines Are Talking Behind Our Back”
  3.4.3 “Everyone on Earth Is Feeling the Same Way You Do”
 3.5 Reading the Shiny Cabinet of Extreme Waste: The Digital Rabbit Hole and Coupland’s Curious Aesthetics of Surface and Abundance
  3.5.1 “You Won’t Believe!”
  3.5.2 “Shiny but Deep”
  3.5.3 “So. Much. Porn.”
  3.5.4 “Continue Watching?”

4 A Jack in the (Black) Box: Exorcising the Capitalist Spectacle in Dave Eggers’ A Hologram for the King, The Circle, and The Parade
  Plot Summaries
 4.1 America on the Wane, the Hologram of a New Frontier, and the One True Hegemon
 4.2 Opacity, Immateriality, Familialism, and Hunger
  4.2.1 The Black Box
  4.2.2 One Big Happy Family
  4.2.3 Sacred Hunger
 4.3 Financialization, Immateriality, and the (American) Self-made-man
  4.3.1 The Cannot
  4.3.2 The Self-failed-man
 4.4 Dataveillance, Gamification, Capitalist Parasitism, and the Ultimate Reification
  4.4.1 Game Time
  4.4.2 The Magic Circle
  4.4.3 Play It for All It’s Worth
 4.5 Immersion, Enclosures, Nature, and the quid pro quo of the Spectacle
  4.5.1 Inside (out)
  4.5.2 Outside the Box
  4.5.3 The Spectacle
 4.6 It Only Goes to Show: Dave Eggers’ Aesthetics of Engagement through Sparsity and Who-cares

Conclusion: “You’ve Been Framed…”

Works Cited
Literary and cultural scholars working in the field of North American studies; students of North American literature, sociology, and economics.
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