6

In the American Gods novel, the old and new gods meet in the motel located in the exact center of the USA. Mr Nancy says that this place is truly neutral and none of them can use their powers there.

Most of the people go through the night more or less peacefully, except for the Technical Boy (a new god of Internet and technology) who keeps complaining about everything ("Fifty miles away from the nearest McDonald? No Wi-Fi coverage?")

The fat kid was shivering. “No. You’re already dead meat,” he said. “You—you’re a fucking illuminated Gothic black-letter manuscript. You couldn’t be hypertext if you tried. I’m . . . I’m synaptic, while, while you’re synoptic . . .” He smelled strange, [..]

Town came in first, followed by Media and Mr. Nancy and Czernobog. Last of all came the fat kid: he had fresh red bruises on his face, and his lips were moving all the time, as if he were reciting some words to himself, but he was making no sound. Shadow found himself feeling sorry for him.

Was it self-harm caused by technology withdrawal? Or someone beat him up?

  • 3
    I've heard debates that it's being so far from his element (withdrawal, like you say, whether from tech, or in the neutral zone in the literal middle of nowhere, power), or that it's a curse because he killed Bilquis (Mr. Nancy has a comment that implies it's something more than their current location), but either way it was pretty clearly self-harm. Nothing rules out it being both. Don't have enough to put together an answer quickly though. – Radhil Jun 7 '17 at 1:45
  • That is possible, I am not 100% sure: he could be beaten up by Czernobog (who clearly disliked him) or by the "driver" (since later we can see that there was quite a bit of tension between him and Mr. World) – Yasskier Jun 7 '17 at 2:03
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He was feeling lonely.

I think Technical Boy was harming himself. From a passage after the one you quoted (emphasis mine):

“Just wanted to talk,” said the fat kid. There was a whine in his voice. “It’s creepy in my room. That’s all. It’s creepy in there. Fifty miles to a McDonald’s, can you believe that? Maybe I could stay in here with you.”

“What about your friends from the limo? The ones who hit me? Shouldn’t you ask them to stay with you?”

“The children wouldn’t operate out here. We’re in a dead zone.”

[. . .]

After a few moments the noise began. It took him a few moments to figure out what it had to be, then he unlocked his door and walked out into the hallway. It was the fat kid, now back in his own room. It sounded like he was throwing something huge against the walls of the room. From the sounds, Shadow guessed that what he was throwing was himself. “It’s just me!” he was sobbing. Or perhaps, “It’s just meat.” Shadow could not tell.
Author's preferred text, chapter 14.

"It's just me" can mean Technical Boy was reassuring other people that he's the only person in the room; or he could be saying that he's all alone. This interpretation can be reinforced with Mr. Nancy's words:

“Hey. Czernobog,” said Mr. Nancy, after a while. “You check out the technical boy back at the motel? He was not happy. He’s been screwin’ with something that screwed him right back. That’s the biggest trouble with the new kids—they figure they know everythin’, and you can’t teach them nothin’ but the hard way.”
Ibid

From the choice of words of Mr. Nancy, and from the fact that Czernobog was in his room at the moment ("“Quiet!” came a bellow from Czernobog’s room, down the hall."), I don't think he could be beaten by either of them. It couldn't be the driver either, because he was standing near the car only a short time after, when Shadow walked out of the motel.

I think this is the equivalent of drug abuse, but for gods - technical boy was too used to getting constant worship (when "connected"), and not used at all to not being worshipped (as Radhil mentions - similar to drug withdrawal). He couldn't imagine not being worshipped, as he couldn't imagine being in a place 50 miles away from a McDonald's:

Fifty miles from McDonald’s. I didn’t think there was anywhere in the world that was fifty miles from McDonald’s.
Ibid.

That, and him being possibly the youngest among the gods met in the novel, would mean he had to be taught that he depends on constant worship "the hard way". I would say that it looks like the symptoms of Internet withdrawal, but the novel was written in 2001, and I'm not sure how widespread Internet addiction was those days.


If one was to take into account another "youngest" from Neil Gaiman's works - Delirium - one would see that she has some problems with behaviour as well (no self-harm, though).

4

He appears to have self-harmed.

After a few moments the noise began. It took him a few moments to figure out what it had to be, then he unlocked his door and walked out into the hallway. It was the fat kid, now back in his own room. It sounded like he was throwing something huge against the walls of the room. From the sounds, Shadow guessed that what he was throwing was himself. “It's just me!” he was sobbing. Or perhaps, “It's just meat.” Shadow could not tell.

His discomfiture was evidently caused by being disconnected from his beloved internet and stuck in a human avatar.

3

I think that there were two things that were affecting him: 1) He was no longer connected to technology and was far from anyone/anything that worships him and 2) He was affected by Bilquis's death curse at this point.

Other answers have covered the part about his withdrawal symptoms and how that's likely what's hurting him.

I would like to focus on one of the major acts he performed before the death of Wednesday. He was the one who killed Bilquis and in doing so, she cursed him.

She begins to curse her killer: curse him silently, as she cannot move her lips. She curses him in waking and in sleeping, in living and in death. She curses him as only someone who is half-demon on her father's side can curse.

I feel like at this point the Technical boy starts to break down and suffer from the curse that was laid on him. Everything that happens to him during the Center of the USA segment seems like little itty bitty curses that have likely been piling up. His food is cold, he burns himself, he can't sleep.

After this occurs, the Technical Boy starts to break down rather quickly in each subsequent scene we see him in. Even at his end when he's talking to Mr. World and looking to find a better end of the war than the conflict they were about to have.

Further, when we see him later on he's doing even worse, as though he is "cursed in living". Even his death is cursed, in that it comes from a supposed friend and ally.

0

This scene has been playing on my mind for a while but I think, disconnected from wifi, he did sort of lose it and that's why he was nervous about staying alone in his own room because (if you imagine everything people say online to be the equivalent of prayers) he's never been alone in his own head before.

But this bit:

After a few moments the noise began. It took him a few moments to figure out what it had to be, then he unlocked his door and walked out into the hallway. It was the fat kid, now back in his own room. It sounded like he was throwing something huge against the walls of the room. From the sounds, Shadow guessed that what he was throwing was himself. “It's just me!” he was sobbing. Or perhaps, “It's just meat.” Shadow could not tell.

This has been intriguing me since I finished the novel, frustrated there was never clarification. But I have a theory that what he was saying was: It's just mead-- in reference to the drink Shadow took to make the deal with Wednesday. Which makes me wonder if, when Technical Boy was cut off from the internet, he was left so clear-headed that he realised Wednesday and Mr World/Loki's plan.

If so, that might mean he was desperate that Shadow break the deal, crying It's just mead! through the wall.

It's just a theory but I need closure from that scene, the unanswered questions are killing me.

  • 1
    This seems more like an unfounded fan-theory than a sensible answer to the question asked. – Valorum Aug 9 '18 at 22:22

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