"Tessier and Ashpool climbed the well of gravity to discover
This writeup contains information which may spoil the books Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive for those who have not read them. Specific elements of both plot and character are discussed here. You have been warned.
that they loathed space. They built Freeside to tap the wealth
of the new islands, grew rich and eccentric, and began the
construction of an extended body in Straylight. We have sealed
ourselves away behind our money, growing inward, generating
a seamless universe of self."
From an essay written by Lady 3Jane Tessier-Ashpool
Tessier-Ashpool S.A., which is the full name of the corporation, is a financial and technological power the Sprawl Trilogy
, which was written by William Gibson
. The entity is introduced in Neuromancer as the archetype for the all encompassing mega-corporation which dominates the future economy. Tessier-Ashpool is described by the Finn
, Gibson's perennial story teller, as follows:
"Family organization. Corporate structure. Supposedly you can buy into an S.A., but there hasn't been a share of Tessier-Ashpool traded on the open market in over a hundred years. On any market, as far as I know. You're looking at a very quiet, very eccentric first-generation high-orbit family, run like a corporation. Big money, very shy of media. Lot of cloning. Orbital law's a lot softer on genetic engineering, right? And it's hard to keep track of which generation, or combination of generations, is running the show at a given time." (Neuromancer)
The T-A clan owned the orbital island of Freeside
during the events which took place in Neuromancer, and their familial home, Straylight
, was located there. Straylight housed the T-A cryogenic cores which kept most of the family's members in suspended animation.
"The reason Straylight's not exactly hoppin' with Tessier-Ashpools is that they're mostly in cold sleep. There's a law firm in London keeps track of their powers of attorney. Has to know who's awake and exactly when." (Neuromancer)
The structure of the family is disturbingly analagous to that of an insect hive. The family maintains itself by cloning its members and engaging in what amounts to high-tech incest via genetic manipulation. Because of the family's proclivity for the use of cryogenics to maximize their life spans, there are a number of generations of Tessier-Ashpools alive. The family has adopted the cold convention of prepending the names of the various clone children with their generation (for example, Lady 3Jane Tessier-Ashpool
). Neither of the progenitors of the family survive the events of Neuromancer.. Marie-France Tessier, the matriarch of the family, was killed during a lab accident before the beginning of the novel's plot, and the original Ashpool dies during the course of the novel.
Marie-France was the true visionary of the family. She viewed the burgeoning technology of Artificial Intelligence
as the highest work man had ever undertaken. She was responsible for initiating the design of the clan's two AI (Wintermute
, which both have Swiss citizenship under the Equivalence Act), making T-A one of the first corporations to adopt the technology as viable. After her death, however, the AI languished as mere bits of machinery used to maintain the T-A clan, and were largely ignored. The AI, however, were developing their own plan to fulfill their evolutionary destiny.
The Tessier-Ashpools are both an anachronism and a startling precedent which Gibson placed in his corporate future. Their familial roots make them something of an oddity in the Sprawl's typical zaibatsu
-styled business tactics, but their inhuman use of cloning and cryogenics allowed them to evolve into an insect-like collective whose singular goal, whether they realized it or not, was to support the AI which would change the world at large. Once they completed this task, the corporeal bits of T-A dissolved, leaving only Lady 3Jane
, aging and crazy in the stone husk of Straylight
and the dead computer cores orbiting about the earth endlessly, hollow husks which once held the powerful computers which gave birth to a sentient being. The true legacy of Tessier-Ashpool is not the hulking structures or generations of clones, but the new consciousness which they delivered unto the world.