Paracosms: Know Your Fiction
About This Show
Explore your favorite fictional worlds from unique perspectives and find new stories to enjoy with author Arthur McMahon. In each episode we explore a fantasy universe together and pull apart its building blocks. Every creation from Harry Potter to Star Wars will be put under the microscope. Creative influences, author intentions, and social impacts will be referenced. We will look at why these worlds were constructed and how they evolved over time.
Most Recent Episode
Ghost in the Shell is an American Horror Story
3 days ago
Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell franchise can be summed up in two words: fear and philosophy. The story became a success because it mirrored real American fears during a time when Cold War tensions were rising and the Internet was still a mystery to most.
In 1989 I was three years old. My experience with technology was limited to those old, boxy CRT televisions with knob dials and spiral-corded land-line phones. The most futuristic possession my family had was the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, but that was all I needed back then. It was hi-def enough for my imagination. I recall physically jumping in my room every time I made Super Mario leap over a goomba. I eventually stopped doing that after a friend’s mom laughed at me for it. And boy, for the rest of my life I will remember the time when I was too frightened to play a Sesame Street game because it had a scary numbers puzzle with Count von Count. My toddler-self was terrified by it.
This was my technological world, and I was experiencing it at the same time that Masamune Shirow first published his Ghost in the Shell comic.
My mind was being blown away by a televised pixelated plumber why Shirow was creating a world where people replaced their own body parts with mechanical substitutes, where a person’s consciousness could be stored in a cybernetic brain and transferred into another body, hence the title Ghost in the Shell.
He created this world in a time when the concept of the Internet was still a mystery to most, a time when smartphones did not exist and home computers didn’t even have web browsers. Shirow imagined a future far advanced beyond his own world. In his future humanity had evolved itself by merging with technology— the world had become interconnected by an all-encompassing electronic network that permeated every aspect of life.
As home computers became ubiquitous throughout countries like Japan and America in the 1980s, a new kind of anxiety spread across the globe. There was a fear of technology, a fear of becoming a slave to computers or being replaced by them.
These fears got the world thinking about humanity’s future in a new light, and the same fears are represented throughout Shi