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Hacking the Gibson
August 11, 2009 6:38 AM   Subscribe


 
As much as I like Gibson, I will admit his books are a bit like reading the best product descriptions in the best catalog ever ...from the NEAR FUTURE! (and possibly Japan)
posted by The Whelk at 6:49 AM on August 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


in the best catalog ever

they're all a bit like that, difilippo on sterling -

each woman boasts a unique personality
posted by doobiedoo at 6:52 AM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth, and with the requisite mention of my lawn, it's difficult to convey just how extraordinary an experience it was to read Neuromancer in 1984. There was certainly something in the wind which brought about both Blade Runner and Neuromancer, but I don't think I've read anything since which so skillfully drew from the current culture (for example, it was obvious that Molly was partly drawn from the image of Chrissie Hynde's on the cover of the first Pretenders album) and flung it so far and so accurately into the future.
posted by jokeefe at 6:54 AM on August 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


^^ ugh typo. No possessive on Hynde.
posted by jokeefe at 6:55 AM on August 11, 2009


I thought Molly was supposed to be a Debbie Harry riff. Never heard the Chrissie Hynde version.
posted by Naberius at 6:57 AM on August 11, 2009


And yah when you're 13 and everything SF you've had so far has been flavors of Star Trek and Star Wars And Star Children And Starmen and you read Neuromancer! and see Blade Runner and your mind is BLOWN and it's just the bestest book ever and you end up buying a copy of "Hackers" on VHS cause YES YOU WERE THAT KID and you disavow it all later but for those few few blushes it was like finding out a new genre could exist, which blows your kid mind cause it's like finding a new color or something.


I've had a theory that places like the Williamsburg Mini-Mall look the way they do cause they're being subconsciously designed by inner 12 year olds who thought teenagers just hung out in these awesome industrial tree-forts all day and had cool "handles" and shit.
posted by The Whelk at 7:06 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


My very use of Wikipedia to launch this article is...a thoroughly Gibsonian moment.

[citation needed]
posted by grobstein at 7:07 AM on August 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


it was obvious that Molly was partly drawn from the image of Chrissie Hynde's on the cover of the first Pretenders album

Funny, I thought she was inspired by this Patrick Nagel print.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:08 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the article:
"Music lovers welcomed new vinyl albums from Hall & Oates, Wham!, the Cars, and Culture Club.
[...]
The [...] and albums cited, while perhaps still watchable and listenable, have spawned no recent progeny or movements, have not become touchstones [...]"


This dude hasn't been listening to indie and electronic pop music as of late. Mid-eighties influences are all over the place. Every other new song on the Hype Machine has a little bit of this stuff in it.
But I guess i'm screwing with this guy's thesis, the classic "the stuff I was into in my teens/early twenties was the most important movement of it's time (and ever)".
posted by svenni at 7:09 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is the first time I have heard the word "cyberpunk". Dropping that one into my vocab.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 7:11 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"resembling Ursula LeGuin's famous "Nine Lives" retooled into a rap song by M.I.A., then condensed into a Twitter feed to amuse Somali pirates"

I have to say that this analogy brought tears of joy to my eyes.

Reading Gibson, Sterling and DiFilippo for the first time as a young teen in Iceland back in the early 90s was mindblowing. It was my first encounter with literature that was avant-garde in some way and it left me with a taste for the hard stuff that's never gone away. Gibson and Sterling were pretty easy to acquire even on an island on the northern edge of the Atlantic Ocean, but DiFilippo I had to special order.

This was a nice way to get a feel for what these guys are now up to. It reminded me of downloading Cheap Truth off FTP sites.
posted by Kattullus at 7:13 AM on August 11, 2009


svenni, yah that part makes absolutely no fucking sense. That particular sound has been so popular for so long it's not even a cliche' anyway, it's just how pop music sounds today. And the fashion? Hello last 15 years.

Wasn't the first Matrix movie just a big, long blowjob to the cyberpunk-fashion of the creator's youth? Wasn't the argument that it's not a separate genre cause it got so popular it was just absorbed into general SFness?
posted by The Whelk at 7:15 AM on August 11, 2009


Call me a slappy for Gibson's stuff, but his latest works aren't too shabby either. Pattern Recognition was a really well done book, and I'll freely admit that I went looking for one of these.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:19 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


> My very use of Wikipedia to launch this article is...a thoroughly Gibsonian moment.

I would have said Adamsian moment, myself.
posted by ardgedee at 7:19 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Neuromancer may seem a bit dated, but the Bridge couldn't be a better metaphor for our current culture if it was written yesterday.

Much like Hall and Oates :p
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:23 AM on August 11, 2009


Willam Gibson is my aunt's cousin!
posted by autodidact at 7:35 AM on August 11, 2009


My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious.

Sorry autodidact. Couldn't help it.
posted by nosila at 7:42 AM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is the first time I have heard the word "cyberpunk".

How is that possible? Did you connect to the internet for the first time this morning?
posted by PenDevil at 7:43 AM on August 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


WinnipegDragon: I loved that book, too, and that Buzz Rickson's bomber is amazing! I wish I were a dood, or that I could pull it off like Cayce. Did you end up buying one?
posted by nosila at 7:46 AM on August 11, 2009


I remember sitting cross-legged in my local library in North-West Edinburgh in, oh, 1994(?), reading The Hacker Crackdown and being utterly blown away by it. I promptly picked up Heavy Weather (holy shit super-awesome stormchasers using telepresence drones to surf tornadoes!), hopped from there to Neuromancer and spent the remainder of the Nineties catching up on this whole cyberpunk thing. By the time I was reading decade old Cheap Truths on my phone and watching the Matrix, I realised I'd totally missed the bandwagon, and quietly buried all of my sub-Sterling cyberpunk pastiches with which I'd been planning to bombard Interzone with.

Bruce Sterling was actually kind enough to respond to a couple of hopelessly clueless emails I sent him aged 17 or so asking how to become a sci-fi writer and would he maybe read some of my stories? (I know, I know, I shudder with embarrassment now, poor guy). He told me to keep writing, keep submitting and get the first million words of crap out of the way. He also packed me off on my way with a copy of the Turkey City Lexicon, which I still re-read whenever I want to get jazzed about writing again.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:49 AM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'll freely admit that I went looking for one of these.

You're not the only one. I couldn't bring myself to pay 400 bucks for the genuine Rickerson in the end.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:51 AM on August 11, 2009


Is there some reason this article doesn't have the more-obvious headline Graying Chrome?
posted by rokusan at 7:55 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


400 bucks for the genuine Rickerson in the end.

Same as in town?
posted by rokusan at 7:56 AM on August 11, 2009


My BF was once asked to scientifically vet the script for Mona Lisa Overdrive, I'll have to ask him about it tonight.
posted by The Whelk at 7:57 AM on August 11, 2009


I'm also someone who found Gibson and Shirley and others inspiring to read as a twelve year old and through my teens. I reread a lot of early Gibson (and read his recent stuff for the first time) a little while ago, however, and found it far less powerful this time around. He's a fine writer, and the books are fun, but they were a lot thinner (in terms of content, not pages) than I had found them as a teen. He's clearly an Important Writer, just not one I will be rereading.

I am planning to reread Shirley fairly soon, actually, so I'll be most curious as to how well it stood up. He was one of my favorites back in the day, and I will definitely be disappointed if it turns out to be total fluff.

As the article suggests, the early works by these writers came out of a particular time and out of particular places; twenty-five years on makes a lot of difference.
posted by Forktine at 8:01 AM on August 11, 2009


Gibson rocked my world in the early 90's...figuratively, sadly.
posted by sundri at 8:03 AM on August 11, 2009


I keep meaning to read Neuromancer on an actual computer... hopefully I'll stick around long enough that it'll be beamed into my brain or something. Or a clone/AI construct of Chris Cunningham makes a film/hologram/nuralviz of it...

And reading Neuromancer for the first time really was something... probably because it was something like 6 months after I first heard about it - from a review in Dave Langford's old column in White Dwarf that I finally got to read it. Living out in the sticks meant there was no chance of getting a US copy and I had to wait until it was published in the UK. And even then I had to get it from a the SF bookshop in another town. And of course my mind was blown.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:06 AM on August 11, 2009


Might be a kid.

New Rose Hotel is gonna blow their mind, and then they'll get all rivet-head for a few years before settling in as a programmer or sysadmin for a series of small start-ups. Worked for me.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:07 AM on August 11, 2009


(Errr, that was in response to the cyber-punk newbie)
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:07 AM on August 11, 2009


Actually a year or so ago I did listen to an audio version (well actually an audio version and radio play adaption) on an MP3 player... that's pretty cyberpunk. I got maximum cognitive dissonance whilst listening to it walking down British country lanes.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:09 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Neuromancer is one of the things I love my sister for (the other is 'Home of the Brave'). She went off to college a few years ahead of me and brought both back to me one return trip home to the backwater end of Virginia. I couldn't make it through the book at first, reading other things... Then one day I was sick and it was the only book I had, made it through the first couple of chapters... Ended up reading the whole thing while laying on the couch sick and out of school.

Molly is Nagel + Wolverine. I still want mirror shades implanted over my eyes. And I think of the part where Case is trying to find the right connectors to interface in the orbital every time I look in my network bag at the myriad of cables and connectors, (crap, I need a DB9 to RJ45 crossover to a proprietary DB25 with full hardware flow control, DAMN).

At work, somebody bought a tux droid that squawks out security alerts, I think of talking heads. And yes, my laptop is my "deck".
posted by zengargoyle at 8:09 AM on August 11, 2009


HumanComplex ...are those red shades?

Bravo show good man, bravo show.
posted by The Whelk at 8:10 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


How is that possible? Did you connect to the internet for the first time this morning?

Ssssh, if you're not careful, he'll stumble across "information superhighway" and wind up working in *shudder* ... MARKETING.
posted by cmonkey at 8:12 AM on August 11, 2009


What I love about Gibson's books and stories, and Spook Country is among my favorites, is that, by the end, nothing, pretty much has happened, or at least changed. Life goes on.
posted by Danf at 8:21 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Late 1992 or early 93, Harvard Square. I see this kid come up from the T wearing this black baseball cap with a metal plate that said "cyberpunk" on it. So I go over to him & strike up a conversation with him. He's a college student, technically minded but not being challenged by classes. He's heavily immersed in some RPG, Cyberpunk 2020 I think it was, but has no experience with the real thing. I gave him some pointers to some hardware hacking projects I'd recently been turned onto at a con as well as the phone number to a couple local BBSes. He went on to found 2 hacker spaces & join the Cult of the Dead Cow. All because of a word on a hat.
posted by scalefree at 8:39 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I loved that book, too, and that Buzz Rickson's bomber is amazing! I wish I were a dood, or that I could pull it off like Cayce. Did you end up buying one?

Nope. As mentioned the sticker shock was just a bit too much.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:49 AM on August 11, 2009


Also, fans should really fire up DosBox and somehow magically find a copy of the game that Interplay made in '88.

Despite the primitive graphics and very loose retelling of the story, I still don't know if I have ever found a game that makes me feel like as much like a hacker as this one did.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:56 AM on August 11, 2009


I reread a lot of early Gibson (and read his recent stuff for the first time) a little while ago, however, and found it far less powerful this time around. He's a fine writer, and the books are fun, but they were a lot thinner (in terms of content, not pages) than I had found them as a teen.

I just had a weird experience recently with re-reading Count Zero.

Got frustrated very early with the chapter-by-chapter shift from one of the three "apparently" disconnected characters and narratives to the next, so decided f*** it, I'll just read the kid's chapters. And it worked, very nicely (right up until the last couple of chapters where everything fuses together). So then I went back and read the other two narratives in much the same way. An excellent read, and far, far clearer and easier to keep track of. I highly recommend it if you've got a copy sitting around.

I don't know what this says about Gibson's talent, or lack thereof. Maybe just that he's capable of making a stylistic call that doesn't pay off. Human after all.
posted by philip-random at 8:56 AM on August 11, 2009


...get the first million words of crap out of the way...
posted by Happy Dave


Do my Metafilter contributions count toward this total?
posted by marxchivist at 9:04 AM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Back in the mid-to-late 80s, I was an avid BBSer, and founded more than one myself. Eventually, I hooked a BBS up to FIDOnet, which was pretty straightforward, given my proximity to a huge node (Iowa City). I used my reader to subscribe to a few channels, and began reading.

Soon, I was embroiled in a few discussions about science fiction in the fans group, and, as it turned out, more than a few (for that time) modern authors were also taking part in the discussions. Steven Brust even hosted his own node for all the Minneapolis Scribblies.

But nothing could prepare me for my first flame-fest. Joel Rosenberg, author of some pretty formulaic fantasy novels ("Oh, yea?!? What have you published?!?!") could not stand the term Cyberpunk, and derided anyone that described it as a "movement." Days would go by with screens filled with die-hard sf/fantasy fans arguing with him. It was like watching a ninja movie, where each sub-par combatant approaches the surrounded ninja one at a time, each being defeated. While I didn't agree with Joel or his methods, I couldn't help but watch the spectacle.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:16 AM on August 11, 2009


Some Cyberpunk hasn't aged very well at all.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:20 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


the classic "the stuff I was into in my teens/early twenties was the most important movement of it's time (and ever)".

Yeah, well, except in my case that's true. Early 80s represent!

The Molly/Hynde connection is referenced in an interview with Gibson which is cited here:

Gibson sees her as a composite of Clint Eastwood, Bruce Lee, Emma Peel, and Chrissie Hynde. (11)

11. Joseph Nicholas and Judith Hanna, "William Gibson," Interzone 1.13 (1985), 17.

posted by jokeefe at 9:27 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, also this-- I should have read on in the Google results before I posted above. From an AOL chat (remember those?) with Gibson in 1995:

Question: Where did you get the character for Molly

WilliamGib: Molly was inspired by the photo of Chrissy Hynde on the first pretenders album, and by the music of Patti Smith.

posted by jokeefe at 9:29 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


...get the first million words of crap out of the way...
posted by Happy Dave

Do my Metafilter contributions count toward this total?


Sadly not, a fact I have rued greatly since my last infodump showed I'd put about 65,000 words in here since 2006.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:40 AM on August 11, 2009


The reason I've belaboured the point about Molly is because it was important for me that imagery like the Nagel picture (that thing was everywhere) and Debbie Harry were not points of reference for Molly, because they are highly sexualized. Chrissie Hynde and Patti Smith were tough and generally awesome, and they weren't sexy blank screens. They were kickass women. I always visualized Molly as Hynde-- isn't she described as having those long bangs and a red leather jacket, or did I imagine that?--and was chuffed when Gibson confirmed that later on.

One of the other great things for me with reading Neuromancer was getting the Vancouver scene references, as well. I knew a guy who lent Gibson his stage name for a character, blah blah.
posted by jokeefe at 9:42 AM on August 11, 2009


What a sweet coincidence -- I just picked up Neuromancer for the first time this morning.
posted by gurple at 9:44 AM on August 11, 2009


each woman boasts a unique personality

Oh, but the whole quote is even more embarassing:

...each woman boasts a unique personality: criminal, soldier, artist, worker.

I hear in the sequel, he's adding necromancer, barbarian, and illusionist! 12 personalities in all!
posted by straight at 10:20 AM on August 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


The overall positive tone and relative lack of argument in this thread tells me that cyberpunk (the genre) is more moribund than we want to admit. The fact that rageagainsttherobots gets mildly dissed for daring to admit that he/she had never heard the term before says it all.
posted by philip-random at 10:50 AM on August 11, 2009


The reason I've belaboured the point about Molly is because it was important for me that imagery like the Nagel picture (that thing was everywhere) and Debbie Harry were not points of reference for Molly, because they are highly sexualized. Chrissie Hynde and Patti Smith were tough and generally awesome, and they weren't sexy blank screens. They were kickass women. I always visualized Molly as Hynde-- isn't she described as having those long bangs and a red leather jacket, or did I imagine that?--and was chuffed when Gibson confirmed that later on.

One of the other great things for me with reading Neuromancer was getting the Vancouver scene references, as well. I knew a guy who lent Gibson his stage name for a character, blah blah.


Don't know if you remember this, but Molly's first job is in a nervous-interrupt brothel, where her job is to mentally zone out while her body is animated by a "sexy blank" persona and put through its sexual paces. At the end of her employment, she apparently carved up one of the customers -- but I think it's futile to try and remember the sex out of Molly. Her sexuality is an important part of her definition. For example, her first encounter with Case leads right into (her) sexual aggression.
posted by grobstein at 11:00 AM on August 11, 2009


It's funny how you wait ages for a postcyberpunk novel in which multiple cloned versions of a single woman exhibit differing traits and then two come along at once.
posted by Artw at 11:19 AM on August 11, 2009


Just remembered that, slightly ironically, I heard earlier today that Second Life is dying on its arse now
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:47 AM on August 11, 2009


Don't know if you remember this, but Molly's first job is in a nervous-interrupt brothel, where her job is to mentally zone out while her body is animated by a "sexy blank" persona and put through its sexual paces. At the end of her employment, she apparently carved up one of the customers -- but I think it's futile to try and remember the sex out of Molly. Her sexuality is an important part of her definition. For example, her first encounter with Case leads right into (her) sexual aggression.

I don't "remember the sex out of Molly". On the contrary-- her self possession and sexual aggression is part of what makes her such a great character. But she's not an object, and her power isn't in being admired. It's in acting. Her seduction of Case, for example, when she reaches down in the dark to "circle his scrotum" with her fingers (I'm quoting from memory, so forgive this if it's imprecise), or how, when Case is accessing her "sensorium" through a temporary chip in her head, she runs her fingers over her nipple and makes him "gasp with the sensation." Molly's sexuality is essential to her persona; but she's an agent, not an object. I mean, she meets Case for the first time after hunting him down (and holding him at gunpoint, too).

Of course I remember the puppet house; that struck me as a grotesque kind of compromise which showed just how determined she was to get the money to pay for her modifications. She carves up the customer after becoming conscious during a scene (after a procedure when "they went really deep the last time"), and finding herself in the company of not only the john but a dead, bloody girl. So she gives him "what he really wanted."

I love Molly, still.
posted by jokeefe at 12:04 PM on August 11, 2009


All agreed.
posted by grobstein at 12:09 PM on August 11, 2009


Nice to see John Shirley gets a tip of the hat. He's often overlooked. The Eclipse Trilogy is a fabulous read.
posted by Skygazer at 12:44 PM on August 11, 2009


What I love about Gibson's books and stories, and Spook Country is among my favorites, is that, by the end, nothing, pretty much has happened, or at least changed. Life goes on.

I have mixed feelings about that tendency. I feel like Gibson is an absolute master of setting. He crafts majorly cool worlds, and a lot of his ideas have pretty much revolutionized contemporary sci-fi, but as far as actually telling a story is concerned, Gibson leaves something to be desired.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:15 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gibson has a tendency to drain his characters of affect other than the hyperdrive of speed or other stimulants, the "neurological death-march of wiz-crash" (Mona's in Mona Lisa Overdrive, simply Cayce's jet lag in Pattern Recognition),or bafflement and aesthetic or cultural dislocation, steeped in anxiety and growing dread. That's what gives the sense of "the best product description in the best catalog ever" or, contrarily, of a product or place you do not want (to have or be).

It can make his books emotionally unsatisfying. On the other hand, he is spot-on at recognizing an aesthetic/cultural pattern, such as the faux-Americana of a wealthy Republican operative's house in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. in Spook Country, down to the soft-focus wall picture of an eagle against a flag and the faux book spines that hide a cabinet.

Sometimes Gibson suggests what a person with Asperger Syndrome would be like if their area of hyperfocus was visual culture, how things look...
posted by bad grammar at 1:25 PM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


cyberpunk (the genre) is more moribund than we want to admit.

Than who likes to admit? Cybperpunk has been dead for years -- Snow Crash killed it.
posted by empath at 1:42 PM on August 11, 2009



Than who likes to admit? Cybperpunk has been dead for years -- Snow Crash killed it.


Actually, Diamond Age killed cyberpunk. Like literally. It's my favorite scene in the book, the comical cyberpunk-stereotype gets his ass handed to him within 5 pages by the much more efficient and much scarier Nanotec world. Granted, the book is all downhill from there, but I thought that was a clever touch.
posted by The Whelk at 2:41 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


And yes, maybe Gibson should just give up on the whole "narrative" thing and just write a travel guide for the future.

I'd read it.

(Voluptuous Panic was written kinda like that, but for the past)
posted by The Whelk at 2:45 PM on August 11, 2009


»I don't "remember the sex out of Molly". On the contrary-- her self possession and sexual aggression is part of what makes her such a great character. But she's not an object, and her power isn't in being admired. It's in acting. Her seduction of Case, for example, when she reaches down in the dark to "circle his scrotum" with her fingers (I'm quoting from memory, so forgive this if it's imprecise) ...
"How come you're not at the Hilton?"
She answered him by reaching back, between his thighs, and gently encircling his scrotum with thumb and forefinger.
I've always half-remembered another passage of that seduction (had to get the book for the exact quote):
He found the zip on the leather jeans and tugged it down.
"It's okay," she said, "I can see." Sound of the jeans peeling down. She struggled beside him until she could kick them away. She threw a leg across him and he touched her face. Unexpected hardness of the implanted lenses. "Don't," she said, "fingerprints."
How her distance, control, and most of all "combat readiness"—in the middle of seducing Case—was so remarkably expressed in that last line.

Damnit, now I'll waste hours of sleep re-reading this thing.
posted by Glee at 4:33 PM on August 11, 2009


This spring I re-read all of Gibson except the first three books (which I have re-read too many times already), and added on my first re-reading of The Difference Engine, which was better the second time around. All things considered, I think Spook Country is his best work...almost meta, especially considering some of the comments in this thread.

I'm old enough to have been almost 30 when Neuromancer first came out, and it changed my world like A Wrinkle In Time did in 4th grade, like the Lord of the Rings did in 7th grade, and the original Star Wars did between my junior and senior years in college. Each one of them opened my eyes in a new way, and in ways no other book or movie has done since.
posted by lhauser at 7:09 PM on August 11, 2009


One of the other great things for me with reading Neuromancer was getting the Vancouver scene references, as well. I knew a guy who lent Gibson his stage name for a character, blah blah.

Lupus Yonderboy was (and likely still is) a real live Vancouver human being, and a darned interesting one, known for showing up at early punk rock gigs in full Nazi SS regalia. But holy shit, the guy knew his history, and his current events.
posted by philip-random at 7:18 PM on August 11, 2009


When I read Spook Country, I was amused to discover that the future that Gibson had been writing about in Neuromancer was coming true bit by bit and showing up in his stories. I'm going to be lazy and quote what I wrote elsewhere:
…The most delicious update of all, in Spook Country:
“See-bare-espace,” Odile pronounced, gnomically, “it is everting.”

“Turns itself inside out,” offered Alberto, by way of clarification. “Cyberspace.”
Here Gibson gets to take a word he coined in Neuromancer, which was adopted wholeheartedly into the English language, and re-uses it here unironically. I have to wonder if he was consciously looking for an opportunity to work it in, or if it just flowed out naturally—as if he had re-learned the word as everyone else uses it—and then he rocked back and thought “How about that!”

Perhaps Gibson’s favorite character type—appearing in one form or another in Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and Pattern Recognition—is the idiot-savant bricoleur. That character makes no appearance in Spook Country. Perhaps the part is played by Gibson himself, cutting pieces out of his old books and reassembling them into something new.
It's missing the point to suggest that nothing big happens in Gibson's stories. Big things do happen. It's just that he's telling the stories that lead up to those events. Neuromancer and Difference Engine are about the emergence of artificial intelligences. The Bridge trilogy is about the emergence of an artificial mass-produced life form. But all that stuff is happening right at the edge of the frame.
posted by adamrice at 7:34 PM on August 11, 2009


Hey, you know what was a bad movie? Johnny Mnemonic.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:10 PM on August 11, 2009


Steampunks don't read
posted by Artw at 9:13 PM on August 11, 2009


Hey, you know what was a bad movie? Johnny Mnemonic.

In it's favour, this time Ice-T doesn't play a Kangaroo while ruining something.
posted by Artw at 9:15 PM on August 11, 2009


And in response to how well John Shirley holds up, he holds up quite well, because the best of his stuff is about exposing the ugliness of human nature, not the ugliness of modernity itself. One of my favorite of his stories, "You Hear What Buddy and Ray Did?" from the collection Black Butterflies, is only cyberpunk in that one of the plot devices is an electronic brain stimulator that plays a role in a sex and drug party that goes really, really wrong. Many of the other stories in the book aren't cyberpunk, per se, at all, but share the movement's pace and grit.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:24 PM on August 11, 2009


Lupus Yonderboy was (and likely still is) a real live Vancouver human being, and a darned interesting one, known for showing up at early punk rock gigs in full Nazi SS regalia. But holy shit, the guy knew his history, and his current events.

Yep, that's who I was referring to.
posted by jokeefe at 10:52 PM on August 11, 2009


From Count Zero:
"Bobby, do you know what a metaphor is?"
"A component? Like a capacitor?"
"No. Never mind metaphor, then.


This has always fascinated me. I have always wondered if this was all just a meaningless play on words by Gibson, some harmless riffing on metaphor or capacitor. But think about what a capacitor is: it's an electronic component that can receive, store and release a charge. What's a metaphor? A linguistic construct that we use to receive, store and discharge meaning. Was WG being merely clever, or brilliant.

His books are littered with moments like these. I will read and re-read them over and over again. They will date, and I will age, but I have rarely read an author who conveyed so much nuance with so few words.
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:39 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have you looked at Max Headroom clips recently? It's amazing in retrospect how much Jim Carrey's shtick derives from it.
posted by jfrancis at 2:26 AM on August 12, 2009


And to me cyberpunk started more like 1975 with 'The Long Tomorrow' written by Dan O'Bannon / illustrated by Moebius

By 1984, or whenever it was supposedly 'born,' it was nearly a decade old.

Time Magazine didn't notice Cyberpunk until Feb 8, 1993 - nearly a full generation later.
posted by jfrancis at 2:33 AM on August 12, 2009


You're using one word to mean multiple things. Cyberpunk the literary movement started around 1975, although I've always considered John Brunner's Shockwave Rider its seminal work & not just because I identify with its protagonist, although it does help. Cyberpunk the subculture didn't take off until the late 80s to early 90s, which again I also identify with but only because I'm the embodiment of one of its core archetypes.
posted by scalefree at 8:41 AM on August 12, 2009


Have you looked at Max Headroom clips recently? It's amazing in retrospect how much Jim Carrey's shtick derives from it.

Jim Carrey had been doing professional stand-up comedy since 1979. Max Headroom hit the airwaves in the late 80s.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:17 PM on August 12, 2009


I hit "Neuromancer" when I was 19, and it warped my writing style for several years thereafter. (Luckily I got over it. Slavish emulation is kind of sad ...)

Other stuff? Try "Schismatrix" and the Mechanist/Shaper stories by Bruce Sterling, if you want to see where Al Reynolds' space operatic roots sprang from. (That one novel and 12-odd short stories spawned the New Space Opera, probably the most influential movement in SF today.)

But really ... after Bruce stopped publishing Cheap Truth in 1986 (I gotcha FTP server right here, Bruce used to mail me copies printed on the mashed-up guts of hermaphroditic photoautotrophs), "Snow Crash" marked the beginning of the afterlife of cyberpunk; the mainstreaming and cultural commodification of what had started out as a literary sensibility. And now you can buy the stuff in American Apparel or wherever ...

It's high past time to move on; the near-future cyberpunk SF of the early 80s defined the cultural mire we squat in today, and anyone writing CP today (other than with postmodern ironic intent) is fucking the stone cold corpse of the 1980s.
posted by cstross at 3:51 PM on August 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Okay, so I asked my BF. He did the vetting for Burning Chrome script, not Mona Lisa Override, so apologies.


Ahem.

"I just did some minor sci stuff, like pointing out obvious computer science errors and physics stuff and adding ways around them. I put in a plausible "mobile clean room umbrella" to fix the main guy fixing an integrated circuit in the story, but really, the producer was a friend and he wasn't into it and the whole story seemed very "seen it before" and not very engrossing. I'm not surprised it didn't go anywhere. "

So, there.
posted by The Whelk at 5:14 PM on August 12, 2009


oh! and he says it was fun to vet a script and he did a few more afterward and then got bogged down in actual being a science guy stuff, but uh..is being a Science Consultant a viable job opportunity? Cause he really liked the brief blush of being asked to solve problems in cyberpunk movie scripts.


I would also like this job, but for plot and character and stupid jokes. We'd be a great team, E-mail in the profile.

ahahaha ha ha ha...ha?
posted by The Whelk at 5:46 PM on August 12, 2009


That one novel and 12-odd short stories spawned the New Space Opera, probably the most influential movement in SF today.

Quite a fun AskMe here which seems to be turning up a lot of Schismatrix descendants.
posted by Artw at 6:53 PM on August 12, 2009


is being a Science Consultant a viable job opportunity?

One of the later incarnations of Trek had a permanent Science Consultant type-guy... from some doc I once saw I got the impression directors etc just found him an annoyance to have feed various bits of techno-babble through and he wrote a lot of hand-waving stuff for those official techy guidebooks
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:32 AM on August 13, 2009


Have you looked at Max Headroom clips recently?

I honestly fear going back to Max Headroom because I've got an inkling it won't have aged well.

It's amazing in retrospect how much Jim Carrey's shtick derives from it.

The first time I saw Ze Frank I thought 'Max, you're back!'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:34 AM on August 13, 2009


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