The Girl Who Was Plugged In
|"The Girl Who Was Plugged In"|
|Author||James Tiptree, Jr.|
|Genre(s)||Science Fiction Novella|
|Published in||New Dimensions 3|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|Publication date||October 1973|
The story takes place in the future, where almost everything is controlled by corporate interests. Despite advertising being illegal ("ad" is, in fact, a dirty word), corporations control consumers through the celebrities they set up, and product placement. The protagonist, seventeen-year-old Philadelphia Burke (known as P. Burke throughout the story), is enlisted to become one of these celebrities. She is a cruelly deformed victim of pituitary dystrophy. A suicide attempt lands her in a hospital where she comes to the attention of corporate scouts and is chosen to become a "Remote". A series of modifications and electronic implants allow her to use a sophisticated computer to control another body by remote control. This beautiful female body, known as Delphi, was grown without a functioning brain from a modified embryo in an artificial womb. It appears to be (and is) a physically perfect fifteen-year-old girl. It is controlled through a satellite link by P. Burke's brain, which is still physically located in her original body.
After months of training, Delphi is strategically placed on the location of a minor documentary film, and becomes a media sensation overnight. Nominally an actress in a soap opera, her real job is to be a celebrity, seen traveling all over the world buying and using products, making sure they are seen by the masses. Remote people are used for these promotional jobs because ordinary media stars are too unpredictable and may make their own choices of what to buy that can ruin a company, while a Remote can be controlled -- a Remote's speech circuits are monitored and she can be censored or even punished if she doesn't follow orders.
P. Burke loves being Delphi, and her starry-eyed personality makes Delphi a sensation. Paul Isham, the rich, rebel son of a network executive, notices Delphi and falls in love with her. P. Burke falls in love with him too, but of course can't tell him the truth about Delphi. Paul finds out that Delphi is being remotely controlled by electronic implants, and is shocked and incensed. But he misunderstands, believing that Delphi is a normal girl who is being enslaved by pain implants, not realizing that "Delphi" has no mind of her own. He uses his contacts with the network to break into their laboratories, and storms into the control room where P. Burke is, ordering the techs to take their implants out of Delphi. Here he finds a flabby, ugly, deformed woman wired to a console, apparently exerting some kind of coercion over his girlfriend. As P. Burke cries out, "Paul, I love you!" he rips the wires out of her, killing her. Delphi, the body, without the complex computer links which keep it functioning, dies too.
The story is told by someone from the future, speaking to a modern person. The narrator cynically addresses the reader as "zombie" and "dead daddy", presuming that the reader does not know what's going on behind the scenes and accepts everything at face value. The book ends with "better believe it zombie, it's a great future out there". This device is intended to make the reader think about the ways one is controlled by what one buys, and how one views celebrities as role models.
Commonly cited as an example of proto-cyberpunk. As P. Burke starts on Delphi's first assignment, Tiptree explains the global satellite computer system and how it operates, so that P. Burke can operate Delphi when she's on the other side of the world.
- New Dimensions 3, ed. by Robert Silverberg. Doubleday, 1974. This volume in the New Dimensions series also includes Ursula K. Le Guin's The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.
- Warm Worlds and Otherwise, collection of stories by James Tiptree, Jr. Ballantine, 1975.
- Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, anthology of stories by James Tiptree, Jr. Tachyon, 2004.
- The James Tiptree Award Anthology 3 edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Debbie Notkin, and Jeffrey D. Smith. Tachyon, 2007.
- Tor Double #7: Screwtop (by Vonda N. McIntyre) and The Girl Who Was Plugged In (by James Tiptree, Jr.). Tor, 1989. ISBN 0-8125-4554-0.
- The story was adapted as a television film in 1998, for the Sci Fi Channel series Welcome to Paradox (episode 5).
- The story was adapted as a stage musical in 1992, as the first act of "Weird Romance: Two One-Act Musicals of Speculative Fiction". Music was by Alan Menken, Lyrics by David Spencer, Book by Alan Brennert and David Spencer. It starred Ellen Greene in its Off-Broadway premiere and the cast recording.
- The Girl Who Was Plugged In at the Internet Movie Database
- The Girl Who Was Plugged In title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- The Girl Who Was Plugged In on YouTube