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It's 26 years later and the closest we've come is a little girl petting an imaginary tiger *sigh*
July 1, 2010 7:20 AM   Subscribe

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

So begins Neuromancer by William Gibson. On this day in 1984 Neuromancer was published. Neuromancer is the tale of a computer hacker, named Case, who has had his nervous system fried after a hack gone bad, and lost the ability to connect to the immersive "consensual hallucination" known as cyberspace. Drug addicted and circling the drain of Tokyo's criminal underworld, he's given another chance by a mysterious man named Armitage, who offers him his life back in exchange for pulling off the hack of a lifetime.

Neuromancer is a landmark of science fiction, and entered into common usage a lot of terms that we take for granted today

Neuromancer pictured a world where corporations are more powerful than nations, the internet rules every aspect of life, and out of control computer constructs have a mind of their own (among other themes). We've still got a ways to go on the 3D internet thing.

Neuromancer is Gibson's first novel, and has been followed up by three other books in the "sprawl" trilogy, as well as many other stand-alone and serial novels.

We've seen Gibson most recently on the Blue with this terrific conversation he held with his fans on his blog, where he shares his insights in a world that's increasingly approaching the one he imagined 26 years ago.

In recent Neuromancer news, it looks like a deal has been signed to have Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) direct a long (long, long, long) awaited Neuromancer movie. Will it finally happen? Is Neuromancer still relevant in film format? Gibson seems to have given his blessing, so that's a good sign at least.

Although previous adaptations of his work have been... sub-optimal.
posted by codacorolla (171 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm trying really hard not to make a comment about dead channels no longer showing static, and I think I've gotten managed to....

metafilter is the color of television tuned to a dead channel the blue get it the blue metafilter is the blue and so is a dead television channel is blue and i am the

* squerk *
posted by seanyboy at 7:28 AM on July 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


I read this for the first time a few years ago and became as entranced by it as I thought I would after hearing nothing but praise. Never could shake the imagery of it playing out like a Ghost in the Shell styled anime in my head.
posted by pyrex at 7:28 AM on July 1, 2010


I hope they do the Neuromancer movie with full retro-future 80s tech.
posted by empath at 7:32 AM on July 1, 2010 [16 favorites]


Wrote a paper about it for a Soc class in 1986, Technology and Society or something like that. Got a B+ if memory serves. Sent from my home in mid-BAMA.
posted by fixedgear at 7:32 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Never could shake the imagery of it playing out like a Ghost in the Shell styled anime in my head.

Heh. I had the reverse reaction when I first saw GitS.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:37 AM on July 1, 2010


Neuromancer is the not only my favorite sci-fi I've ever read, it's my favorite book in any genre.

When I read it in the 90's I was convinced it needed to be told in movie form. Now, especially after seeing how they completely ruined the uber-awesome Neuromancer character Molly in Johnny Mnemonic, not so much. If at all.

The Finn
The Panther Moderns
Molly's eyes
Molly's fingernails
Molly
Case
General Corto
Wintermute
The Sprawl

so many awesome ideas in that book. It may still be ahead of its time 26 years later. Whenever Gibson comes out with lesser books I give him a break because he wrote Neuromancer.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:37 AM on July 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


Neuromancer is Gibson's first novel, and has been followed up by three other books in the "sprawl" trilogy....

Um, that doesn't parse for me.

I love these books and used to read them annually.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:37 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Neuromancer is no longer relevant, unless they utterly change the story. AI is yesterday's fantasy, and the idea of "jacking" into virtual reality "decks" has been replaced by Foursquare on your iphone. I suppose you could almost completely change the story, by then it wouldn't really be Neuromancer, would it?

Neuromancer is very much a 1980's vision of the future the way flying cars and space ships were in the 1950's. Oh look, the data is arranged like buildings in a city. How quaint. Now let me just back to my google maps/SEC EDGAR/sex offender registry mashup...
posted by Pastabagel at 7:38 AM on July 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


Empath: I agree. I think that's the only way it could possibly work. Cube is pretty good. I haven't seen splice. But Natali is a huge step up from James Kahn (who directed a few music videos, Torque, and not much else).
posted by codacorolla at 7:38 AM on July 1, 2010


Codacorolla, although I love Neuromancer and the topic, I would like to compliment you on the structure of the post. Your presentation is awesome and I think that many other Metafilter threads could learn from this one. I like the detail and variety while leading up to the conclusion with some history.

Thanks~
posted by Knigel at 7:38 AM on July 1, 2010


Neuromancer is no longer relevant, unless they utterly change the story. AI is yesterday's fantasy, and the idea of "jacking" into virtual reality "decks" has been replaced by Foursquare on your iphone. I suppose you could almost completely change the story, by then it wouldn't really be Neuromancer, would it?

It's old enough now that it works as Jules Verne.
posted by empath at 7:41 AM on July 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm only slightly younger than Neuromancer.

I don't know how to feel about that, aside form the fact that I read the book in junior high and it broke my head (I was a SF nerd but everything so far had been various flavors of Star Trek Wars) and it introduced me to fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva the super rare bone disorder that is *great* for breaking the ice at cocktail parties.
posted by The Whelk at 7:41 AM on July 1, 2010


I was glad to see that Natali had signed on. He's a good fit. I was worried when Joseph Kahn and Chris Cunningham were connected to the project.
posted by brundlefly at 7:42 AM on July 1, 2010


I don't know why I never ended up reading Neuromancer, but this post and a skim of the links reminded me to add it to my list. Cheers!
posted by immlass at 7:42 AM on July 1, 2010


Neuromancer is no longer relevant, unless they utterly change the story. AI is yesterday's fantasy, and the idea of "jacking" into virtual reality "decks" has been replaced by Foursquare on your iphone.

The Matrix did ok with the whole "jacking in" thing.
posted by mecran01 at 7:43 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gibson certainly created a powerful image of the Tokyo/Chiba of the future: a romanticized vision that has influenced, I think, many people's conceptions of the Japanese megalopolis.

I certainly enjoyed the books when I read them back in the 80s.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:44 AM on July 1, 2010


Well, besides the technology, what is Neuromancer 'about'?

On a strictly 'plot' level, it's about a retired criminal forced to do one last job before the nanotech implants inside him kill him. That's pretty easy to make a movie out of.

On a thematic level, it's about the fuzzy nature of identity and human consciousness, explored through AI, uploaded brains, clones, and cybernetic implants. Again, all very relevant.

The matrix stuff needs to be drastically rethought if they want to update it, but I don't think that's really the core of what the book was about.

The outer space stuff can all still stay, I think. Man, I'd love to take a shot at adapting it, to be honest.
posted by empath at 7:44 AM on July 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


seanyboy, a certain Mr. Gaiman already pulled the ha-ha-dead-TV-channels-are-blue-now joke in Neverwhere, I think it was.
posted by kipmanley at 7:45 AM on July 1, 2010


An old Mefite who is no longer on the site wrote his, I believe, Master's thesis on Neuromancer.

What an amazing, fucked up, visionary piece of "fiction".
posted by notsnot at 7:45 AM on July 1, 2010


I liked Abel Ferrara's version of New Rose Hotel.
posted by grounded at 7:45 AM on July 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


One problem I see with a film adaptation of Neuromancer is that much of what was original and new in it 16 years ago has been borrowed and reused ad nauseam in other novels, comics, films, video games etc. The Guardian article discusses this a little bit, but if the film is made, some people may think that it's some sort of Matrix rip-off.
posted by elgilito at 7:47 AM on July 1, 2010


I'm glad that Natali is adapting it, too. He's a 'big idea' guy, so I think he'll be able to get at the core of what Neuromancer was exploring and figure out how to extract that properly into a story the explores those themes and philosophical concepts. The only question I'd have is how he handles the budget necessary to do the action sequences.
posted by empath at 7:48 AM on July 1, 2010


I read it for the first time a couple months ago after tearing through Stephenson's Anathem. I'm not sure why but Neuromancer's world seemed very remote and the characters uninteresting.
posted by yeti at 7:49 AM on July 1, 2010


"So we do some dipshit deal."

A quote from Count Zero (The Finn), not Neuromancer, but my favorite piece of dialogue in any genre.

Gibson can write dialogue with the best of them.
posted by Danf at 7:49 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Still one of my favourite opening lines of any book. Whenever I see augmented reality apps on phones or notice the ever encroaching influence of cyberspace the internet in the real world, I think of Gibson's work. Didn't think I'd get to see his predictions becoming a reality in my lifetime.

I love it.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:50 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's the only sentence I've ever read by Gibson. I find it such a turnoff that I can't imagine reading more. It's a throw-the-book-across-the-room line and I'm always amazed that people cite it as an excellent example of science fiction prose.

The only other thing I can recall giving up on after one sentence is Alan Moore's story that begins, "Half her face was porcelain," but I stopped there for the opposite reason.

I think it's silly for Hollywood to make a film out of this book (that I haven't read) as they'll surely fuck it up like they did other sf classics that were recently filmed: A Scanner Darkly and Watchmen. Of course, I understand that the bottom line is the only reason they'll do it--though it always troubles me when well-enough-off writers like Gibson and Moore sell the rights to their defining works. To quote another Hollywood writer, "How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can't already afford?" And yeah, I already know the answer.
posted by dobbs at 7:54 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


AI is yesterday's fantasy, and the idea of "jacking" into virtual reality "decks" has been replaced by Foursquare on your iphone.

AI fantasy is still alive and well, both among the techno-futurists and in the wider culture. Same for "jacking in" to a virtual world. The fact that a tiny slice of the population now has iPhones or Foursquare and thus finds themselves beyond "all that" doesn't mean everyone is. And Hollywood sells to the masses first and foremost.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:55 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Neuromancer is very much a 1980's vision of the future the way flying cars and space ships were in the 1950's.

Personally, I don't think they should adapt it, but since it's a well loved story, there is no chance of them letting it go. So, if they are going to do it, I'd love to see them do it right; exactly in the time described, all the cheesy clichés included. Do it as an alternative time line kind of thing rather than a look into our future.

It'd be much cooler.

As to the sky-was-the-color thing, I've remarked on this before, but I still sort of wonder if TV manufacturers decided to go to the blue-on-static specifically because of that line. The time frame is about right.
posted by quin at 7:58 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I saw the line above the jump, I thought, "I've seen that line before. Wait, don't tell me where!" and spent a minute or two trying to figure it out.
posted by LSK at 7:59 AM on July 1, 2010


Now, especially after seeing how they completely ruined the uber-awesome Neuromancer character Molly in Johnny Mnemonic, not so much.

ISTR that somehow the rights to Johnny Mnemonic the story didn't include the rights to Molly, hence no razorgirl.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:00 AM on July 1, 2010


That's the only sentence I've ever read by Gibson. I find it such a turnoff that I can't imagine reading more.

This is the only sentence I've ever read by Dobbs. I find it such a turnoff that I can't imagine reading more.
posted by empath at 8:01 AM on July 1, 2010 [24 favorites]


codacorolla: "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. "

God, another post about that stupid "worst first line" competition? I'm so sick of it.
posted by Plutor at 8:02 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


COUNT ZERO INTERRUPT -
On receiving and interrupt,
decrement the counter to zero
posted by slimepuppy at 8:04 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


It’s tragic how much bad cyberpunk has soured me on Gibson. I, unlike dobbs, like that first sentence a lot, but the paragraphs that follow:

"It's not like I'm using," Case heard someone say, as he shouldered his way through the crowd around the door of the Chat. "It's like my body's developed this massive drug deficiency." It was a Sprawl voice and a Sprawl joke. The Chatsubo was a bar for professional expatriates; you could drink there for a week and never hear two words in Japanese.

Ratz was tending bar, h is prosthetic arm jerking monotonously as he filled a tray of glasses with draft Kirin. He saw Case and smiled, his teeth a webwork of East European steel and brown decay. Case found a place at the bar, between the unlikely tan on one of Lonny Zone's whores and the crisp naval uniform of a tall African whose cheekbones were ridged with precise rows of tribal scars. "Wage was in here early, with two joeboys," Ratz said, shoving a draft across the bar with his good hand. "Maybe some business with you, Case?"


If I were reading this now, for the first time, I'd immediately write it off as awful cyberpunk fanwank. I mean, we've got all of this, frontloaded: I take it as more a sign of how much Gibson has been aped, and poorly, since the book was published than any real weakness per se. But if you gave me Neuromancer today to read, with no preamble and me with no prior knowledge of it, I'd probably read the first page and then throw it at you as hard as I could.
posted by Shepherd at 8:06 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Visually, I couldn't see Neuromancer as a movie made by anyone but Chris Cunningham.

That said, some of the narrative is a product of the 1980s. Banks of pay phones. Three megabytes of "hot RAM". Japanese culture and zaibatsus taking over the world.

The longer it takes to make this film, the more changes would be needed to the script, in order to divorce it from these antiquated technologies and cultural phenomena. But doing so would divorce the story further from the book's unique character. Part of the book's charm is that it has these (what are now) oddities.

But other parts of the story, of course, seem timeless — wealthy, crazy spiritual descendants of Howard Hughes, exerting corporate-level control over the physical human sphere and beyond, into outer space. Faceless quasi-government entities playing their spy games. The timeless antihero caught between these two powerful forces, and a third mysterious entity lying in wait. This story could be told at any point in history where there are fluid changes.

A great book, definitely. A classic. Not sure that it could successfully be translated to film without a number of compromises, though. Perhaps best to leave it in the past.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:07 AM on July 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Japanese culture and zaibatsus taking over the world.

This hasn't happened?
posted by empath at 8:09 AM on July 1, 2010


I don't see how you can call Molly an uber-awesome character, mcstayinskool. What is her motivation? Why does she even exist except to move Case forwards through the plot? Gibson just couldn't write a female character back then (although Cayse proves he can now).

Have people re-read Nueromancer recently? I have and, although I still liked the opening, I really don't think it holds up very well. The fact that it has been completely plundered by popular culture exposes the fact that the plot and characters are a bit weak.

I'm intrigued by what Natali will do with the film but I'm much more looking forward to his take on High Rise.
posted by ninebelow at 8:09 AM on July 1, 2010


By the way, has anyone read anything by Simon Logan? He still sets his cyberpunk in the 1980s which is kind of cool.
posted by ninebelow at 8:13 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


elgilito: One problem I see with a film adaptation of Neuromancer is that much of what was original and new in it 16 years ago has been borrowed and reused ad nauseam in other novels, comics, films, video games etc. The Guardian article discusses this a little bit, but if the film is made, some people may think that it's some sort of Matrix rip-off.

I wouldn't worry about it. You could have said the same thing about Watchmen (people will think it's a Spider-man rip-off!) or The Lord of the Rings (people will think it's a Legend of Zelda rip-off!), and those adaptations seemed to do just fine.
posted by oulipian at 8:18 AM on July 1, 2010


I read Neuromancer in 1999 and was just so entranced. I'm not sure how they would make a movie out of it...it might be like trying to film Naked Lunch (which I liked) but I wish them luck!
posted by Calzephyr at 8:24 AM on July 1, 2010


Well, Case wasn't about keeping track of his friends with his deck - civilian use of the deck and cyberspace was pretty vague and, to be frank, irrelevant to the story. Case was about the part of the net where people should not go: the big, heavy backend traffic between corporate systems. This is actually becoming a larger and larger part of internet traffic, as VPNs are cheaper, faster and more reliable than dedicated point-to-point data circuits. Companies are now doing things like backing up their data to a secondary site over the internet, where just a few years ago, this would be a sneaker-net-with-armed-guards sort of thing.

Meanwhile, visualization is becoming the next big thing in information security. While there are some seriously cool automated black-hat tools out there, the interface for them is either CLI gobbledeygook or Windows-95 level half-assed GUIs, and they all spit giant gobs of text at you that takes some doing to parse. Once the skript-kiddies get their hands on apps with iPhone ease of use, or Xbox Kinect subtlety of control, with modern visualization techniques - well...

At least we're still a ways off from direct brain interfaces.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:26 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


i first encountered Neuromancer in college in a class called Philosophy and Human Nature, where the prof was a real scifi freak...we also read Octavia Butler, and had lots of talk about Data from ST:TNG. (we also read other stuff - EO Wilson, Midgley, and i can't remember more.)


i absolutely freaking loved it. it is still a book that i read with more frequency than any other book. sure, it's dated but it was prescient when it came out. the right director could make some small adaptations that make it more relevant (i think there was just a discussion on the green or blue about how today there wouldn't be a bank of payphones ringing but rather the cell phones of passers-by ringing). altho i'm pretty sure there are still payphones at airports.


it's the only first line of a book i have memorized. provided they get a lot stuff very, very right (like someone listed above, The Finn, Molly's acoutrements, the Panther Moderns, etc) it could end up being very good.

i have a thing for gritty scifi stuff and there's no reason that Neuromancer would be any different than the grittiness of Firefly or The Matrix (when they were on the ship, obviously, not when they were IN the matrix), in fact, it needs that kind of grittiness to avoid it looking outdated. They don't have cell phones in Firefly or Star Trek either. Doesn't make them suck or seem irrelevant.
posted by sio42 at 8:28 AM on July 1, 2010


Neuromancer is no longer relevant, unless they utterly change the story.

The "cutting edge" tech is problematic. The world itself, not so, particularly on the level that its defining conflicts no longer break down along geo-political lines but corporate ones (more relevant now than then). Knowing a little about Vincenzo Natali (a friend of a friend), I wouldn't be surprised to find this is sort of a long hoped-for dream project for him ... so here's hoping.

The potential certainly exists for a cool and retro-relevant cinematic experience, particularly if they figure out a way to somehow approach it from the same stoned, lo-fi cultural angle that Gibson wrote it. Specifically, he used an old manual typewriter, and was living in a crumbling turn of the 20th Century Vancouver (Yaletown) warehouse ... with the local punk scene erupting and imploding all around him in various illegal venues, and BC Bud just starting to get a name for itself.

As for the soundtrack, Sonic Youth's THE SPRAWL would be a nice place to start.
posted by philip-random at 8:31 AM on July 1, 2010


count zero is a much better book and oh-so-very-much would make for a much better movie...
posted by sexyrobot at 8:31 AM on July 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Neuromancer is very much a 1980's vision of the future the way flying cars and space ships were in the 1950's. Oh look, the data is arranged like buildings in a city. How quaint. Now let me just back to my google maps/SEC EDGAR/sex offender registry mashup...

This is something Gibson has mentioned himself recently. His usual thing is to point out that there are no mobile phones in the book. None. At all. And so he wonders if teenagers reading it today immediately assume that it's really a mystery about where all the cell phones went.
posted by sparkletone at 8:32 AM on July 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


They don't have cell phones in Firefly or Star Trek either.

What do you think a communicator is?
posted by ninebelow at 8:32 AM on July 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


count zero is a much better book and oh-so-very-much would make for a much better movie...

shhhh!
posted by philip-random at 8:33 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn, Shepherd, you somehow managed to edit that quote and really fuck it up:

"The bartender's smile widened. His ugliness was the stuff of legend. In an age of affordable beauty, there was something heraldic about his lack of it."

Now that last sentence is a sentence.

That said, some of the narrative is a product of the 1980s. Banks of pay phones.

Yeah but, and I can't find it right this second, a heavily favorited recent comment to the effect of 'he landed his flying car and stepped into a phone booth.' Nobody bats one thousand, right?
posted by fixedgear at 8:33 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cube is pretty good. I haven't seen splice.

Splice was... odd. The basic premise was very interesting, but the movie as a whole suffered from both annoyingly stereotyped characters (who break their stereotypes for no discernible reason) and some severe structural flaws, as well as a gotcha! foreshadowing that pretty much tells you exactly how the movie would end. Sarah did a decent job, Brody was.. blergh.

It would be better on DVD I think, and would therefore hopefully include the obviously deleted scenes that would fix many of the problems.

On the whole, kind of disappointing after the awesomeness that was Cube.

I do, however, look forward to Natali doing Neuromancer, if and only if Gibson has significant input/control over the script.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:33 AM on July 1, 2010


Yeah but, and I can't find it right this second, a heavily favorited recent comment to the effect of 'he landed his flying car and stepped into a phone booth.' Nobody bats one thousand, right?

Definitely. But I think we're still in a world where payphones aren't entirely obsolete in modern cities, but they aren't exactly a ubiquitous cultural fixture the way, say, iPhones are. The use of a flying car or something like that would probably help distance the audience from familiarity with and expectations about what they're seeing. When you use a particular device to further the story in a very specific way, it may date it pretty quickly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:41 AM on July 1, 2010


One problem I see with a film adaptation of Neuromancer is...

It will be film and not animation.

As for inaccurate futurecasting I couldn't care less. For me that's entirely irrelevant.
posted by juiceCake at 8:44 AM on July 1, 2010


Back when I worked at ILM - 1991 - John Knoll (of Photoshop and FX fame) was working on test shots for a Neuromancer adaption that was being shopped around. The shots were pretty darned cool looking, but it wasn't front burner priority (even though there was obviously some money behind it, as ILM didn't - and doesn't - do work for free), and to hear that someone is still trying to get it made is just amazing.

But then again, the only version of A Wrinkle in Time that was ever put to screen sucked something awful. Why Spielberg (or Brad Bird, who has apparently been hired to direct - I'm trying not to puke - "Mission Impossible 4", oh fuck, I just hurled, my keyboard is screwed) hasn't taken those books and made the next big blockbusters, is totally beyond me, seems like I'll not live to see someone do L'Engle's work some justice. Sad.
posted by dbiedny at 8:46 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is something Gibson has mentioned himself recently. His usual thing is to point out that there are no mobile phones in the book. None. At all. And so he wonders if teenagers reading it today immediately assume that it's really a mystery about where all the cell phones went.

That's actually not quite right. I think he skipped right past mobile phones into directly transmitting voice via cyberspace into implants, yeah?
posted by empath at 8:47 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


sexyrobot: "count zero is a much better book and oh-so-very-much would make for a much better movie..."

Totally. I like Neuromancer, but I'm more excited about this because it raises the possibility of Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive being adapted.
posted by brundlefly at 8:50 AM on July 1, 2010


That said, some of the narrative is a product of the 1980s. Banks of pay phones.

Bank of pay phones:
Shinjuku station, 2009.
Tokyo station, 2009
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:51 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Spook Country might be Gibson's best novel to date. I've read through his entire oeuvre a few times now, and that latest one is tighter than the rest.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:55 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember having to wait ages if not years after first reading about Neuromancer (Probably in Dave Langfords book-review column in White Dwarf) before I could read a copy, when it was finally published in the UK. Read it several times over the years and it seems to age reasonably well. The last time, as I've mentioned on the blue before was a couple of years ago, on audio whislt walking down English country lanes which oddly seems to work really well. (There's also a pretty good BBC radio adaptation from a few years ago you can probably find floating around cyberspace somewhere). I've kept meaning to read it on a desktop for years but I have a hard time reading fiction that way... may be when I get around to getting an e-reader I'll read it on a 'puter then.

And I one of the those that thinks it's best left unflimed because it would require a visionary genious to do it justice - in a retro-future style that was still cool. I think only Chris Cunningham could have managed it - though there may be some young hotshot out there who could do it justice. I've heard the guy that holds the rights isn't actually serious about making it, which was why Cunningham walked.

And Molly is a cartoon femme fatale fembot but she's a fucking good femme fatale fembot.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:56 AM on July 1, 2010


I still want to see a Dr. Seuss version.

Here at the port now, just look at the sky!
It's a color--the sort that can make a man cry--
Like the awful gray static that muzzles your head
On a TV that's tuned to a channel that's dead.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:01 AM on July 1, 2010 [26 favorites]


because it raises the possibility of Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive being adapted.

And of course Mark Pauline and the SRL crew would have to do cameos, since Gibson has said they inspired the guy-building-robots-in-the-desert stuff in MLO.
posted by mrbill at 9:05 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


At least we're still a ways off from direct brain interfaces.

Getting closer, though.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:18 AM on July 1, 2010


And I one of the those that thinks it's best left unflimed because it would require a visionary genious to do it justice -

Worth noting. When Gibson saw Blade Runner, he thought he was hooped. That is, he felt Ridley Scott's channeling of Philip K Dick had basically beaten him to the punch in terms of imagining a fresh (albeit corroded) new vision for the not-so-distant future, and so nobody would care about his book. As it turns out, Blade Runner just whetted our appetites. Or more to the point, if this is what Gibson had in mind, I personally can't wait for a whole bunch more ... and probably in 3D.
posted by philip-random at 9:20 AM on July 1, 2010


Loved the book when I first read it way back in the last century. Back when Japan was the future. I ran one hell of a Cyberpunk 2020 campaign in college.

As long as Erol shows up with a sawed-off shotgun and answers "Who the fuck are you" with "Rastafarian Navy, mon!", I'm in.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:23 AM on July 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


The first time I read it was on audio, which worked really well, and helped me get into the book (my previous attempt at reading it only made it past the third page, I believe). I listened to this edition: http://www.worldcat.org/title/neuromancer/oclc/31233550&referer=brief_results

If you're having trouble getting into the story, it might be worth getting it on audio, as all of the fictional brands, devices, and slang can be a bit daunting at first.

Regarding the soundtrack: I'm really hoping they do an all-star dubstep/grime/garage layout for it. It matches the retro-futurism and grittiness of the novel.
posted by codacorolla at 9:24 AM on July 1, 2010


I liked Abel Ferrara's version of New Rose Hotel.

What was your favorite part, the horrid pacing, overall dreariness, the use of extended flashback to get pad out the ending, or the way he managed to waste not just Christopher Walken or Willem Dafoe more thoroughly than has any other filmmaker, but to waste both in the same film?

I'd sooner watch Puss In Boots again.
posted by cortex at 9:29 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never read Neuromancer. So is it worth it to try and pick up and read it these days? Or am I ruined by seeing everything that was influenced by it? A few years ago I thought I'd give it a try by listening to the audiobook version on a long car trip. It was read by Gibson himself, and I was utterly turned off by his "this is just the most awesome, baddest shit ever; No really, check out this totally badass setting I'm painting for you" narration style. It just seemed cheesy, and I had to stop after about 10 minutes.
posted by zsazsa at 9:35 AM on July 1, 2010


it looks like a deal has been signed to have Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) direct a long (long, long, long) awaited Neuromancer movie. Will it finally happen?

I'll get interested if and when they actually start filming.

Until then I'm just going to assume that Hollywood will inevitably end up turning any film adaptation of Neuromancer into a 3D summer action movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan that ends up hopelessly crippling the plot and cutting out any real dialog or substance in the characters. I'm sure they'll insist that Keanu Reeves be in there somewhere too.
posted by Avelwood at 9:38 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why Spielberg (or Brad Bird, who has apparently been hired to direct - I'm trying not to puke - "Mission Impossible 4", oh fuck, I just hurled, my keyboard is screwed) hasn't taken those books and made the next big blockbusters, is totally beyond me, seems like I'll not live to see someone do L'Engle's work some justice. Sad.

I think it's highly unlikely that anyone would do AWIT justice, because there's such a potential disconnect between the sci-fi aspects and the thematic aspects of the book. You know the movie would be all about flashy time travel and weird planets, while the book is really about love and non-conformity (with some awesome science stuff too).

Exhibit A: The Seeker, the adolescent bullshit farce they made out of the beauty that is Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising.
posted by missrachael at 9:40 AM on July 1, 2010


A few years ago I thought I'd give it a try by listening to the audiobook version on a long car trip. It was read by Gibson himself, and I was utterly turned off by his "this is just the most awesome, baddest shit ever; No really, check out this totally badass setting I'm painting for you" narration style.

Was there a different audio version? Because my copy with Bill and U2 was fodder for many 5+ hour car trips. I just wished there was a comparable version of Count Zero.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:41 AM on July 1, 2010


Ah, count on metafilter for a refreshingly contrarian take.

I'd love to hear some more criticism of say, '1984' as mobile phones were not included.

The whole bit about his vision of cyberspace failing in light of google mashups, et. al is cute- like when my nieces 'play computer.'

The novel isn't about technology literally, so much as the tensions residing around the human/machine interface. Which, in 1984- was an incredibly prescient vision.

Well, back to the grind at my day job- working with large scale corporate data structures and security design- which are most often visualized as interconnected geometric shapes. Now in 3-D even.
posted by mrdaneri at 9:42 AM on July 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


While I enjoyed Neuromancer, all this talk about getting the vision right makes me think of British sci-fi author John Brunner, who took on important themes from the 60s and 70s and got a lot right. In particular:

Shockwave Rider - The internet and privacy, and he predicted the computer virus or worm.

The Sheep Look Up - Mixes the issues of pollution, the organic food movement, and corruption

Stand on Zanzibar - A dystopia of corporatism and overpopulation.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:46 AM on July 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


I want us to all stop and appreciate this moment for future reference.
Because when I saw the title on the FPP I thought this was going to be about poorly (but humorously bad) written stories.

The text "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." just goes to show that context matters a great deal in people's judgment, as this seems like the kind of line that would induce chuckles and groans if if hadnt come from Gibson. And I rather like Gibson and read his stuff alot back in the day.

Anyway. It's a bit of a derail but I just wanted to file this in the "sometimes its the singer not the song" category.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:51 AM on July 1, 2010


[attachment: snow_crash_binary.sh]
posted by davejay at 9:55 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've never read Neuromancer. So is it worth it to try and pick up and read it these days? Or am I ruined by seeing everything that was influenced by it? A few years ago I thought I'd give it a try by listening to the audiobook version on a long car trip. It was read by Gibson himself, and I was utterly turned off by his "this is just the most awesome, baddest shit ever; No really, check out this totally badass setting I'm painting for you" narration style. It just seemed cheesy, and I had to stop after about 10 minutes.

YES. Read it. Get off the internet and go read it.

In all seriousness, I've seen other people decry Gibson's narrative style in other audiobook threads over on ask. I think if you approach it as a fun heist movie action story with occasional DEEP THOUGHTS, you will have yourself an enjoyable read. Half the fun of that book is piecing together how that world works and operates, because the characters operate on the periphery and edges of the society they inhabit. You never get the full picture from their perspective and unlike Stephenson he never just EXPOSITION HAMMER-s you.

Also whoever asked upthread about if any of us have read it recently. Yes, we have. It was still fucking awesome. Also whenever I mention Pattern Recognition to other humans they hate it, what's up with that?
posted by edbles at 9:58 AM on July 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


I like Pattern Recognition. Then again, I'm a big Bibendum fan.
posted by fixedgear at 10:09 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


overall dreariness

You're complaining about dreariness in a Gibson adaptation?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:13 AM on July 1, 2010


You're complaining about dreariness in a Gibson adaptation?

It's even dreary in context. That's how dreary it is. It is so dreary a film to watch that you can almost imagine William Gibson writing a story about near-future dystopian corporate wetworks agents being assigned to track it down as part of a complicated powerplay to assure their employers maintain a secure hold over advanced dreartech.
posted by cortex at 10:31 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


From a 2007 interview with Gibson in the 40th Anniversary of Rollingstone (which appears to no longer be online) . . .

RS:
You made your name as a science-fiction writer, but in your last two novels you've moved squarely into the present. Have you lost interest in the future?

Gibson:
It has to do with the nature of the present. If one had gone to talk to a publisher in 1977 with a scenario for a science-fiction novel that was in effect the scenario for the year 2007, nobody would buy anything like it. It's too complex, with too many huge sci-fi tropes: global warming; the lethal, sexually transmitted immune-system disease; the United States, attacked by crazy terrorists, invading the wrong country. Any one of these would have been more than adequate for a science-fiction novel. But if you suggested doing them all and presenting that as an imaginary future, they'd not only show you the door, they'd probably call security.
posted by donovan at 10:54 AM on July 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


Neuromancer, Blade Runner and early-1980s NYC do go well together.
posted by anthill at 10:57 AM on July 1, 2010


Count Zero might be a better book, depending on your metrics. All I know is that I read both books when they first came out. I remember a lot about Neuromancer (although, to be fair, I've re-read it a time or two since then). I don't remember anything about Count Zero. Literally, nothing; except that silly quotation from a processor manual.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:00 AM on July 1, 2010


Count Zero might be a better book, depending on your metrics. All I know is that I read both books when they first came out. I remember a lot about Neuromancer (although, to be fair, I've re-read it a time or two since then). I don't remember anything about Count Zero. Literally, nothing; except that silly quotation from a processor manual.

Bobby was annoying. I also remember having a much harder time following the plot in that one. Mona Lisa Overdrive, on the other hand, I liked all the characters in, even though I found the plot and the ending spoiler not that awesome. BUT, giant robot desert mechs, so you know gotta take the good with the bad.
posted by edbles at 11:15 AM on July 1, 2010


I continue to be amazed that people can read Neuromancer today for the first time, and find it a meaningful experience. The fact that it's even remotely relevant to today's readers astonishes me.

I re-read it now and wince, but when I read it for the first time in 1985 at the tender age of 13 it blew my fucking mind.

But that was 1985. Nagel prints ruled the land, just as "The Cosby Show" and "Family Ties" ruled the airwaves. The noir revival - of which Neuromancer was very much a part - was cutting edge. Super Mario Brothers was the king of video games. The internet did not exist, although a small network called ARPAnet connected 2,000 computers.

I do not want to see Neuromancer as a movie. It would only make me sad.
posted by ErikaB at 11:19 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm always amazed that people cite it as an excellent example of science fiction prose

Look, obviously anyone who'd hold Gibson up as a master prose stylist in the high-literary mode is clinically insane. But he really is fantastic as a pulp writer, and the astonishingly overwrought, always turned-up-to-11, hard-boiled purpleness of his prose is justly praised on pulp terms. Think of the praise as making him out to be not a sci-fi Henry James or Nabokov or Banville (since, again, that'd be nuts) but a sci-fi Chandler or Hammett.
posted by RogerB at 11:26 AM on July 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


From a 2007 interview with Gibson in the 40th Anniversary of Rollingstone (which appears to no longer be online) . . .

This is part of why Pattern Recognition is my favorite of Gibson's books. I don't know that it's his best, and as great as I think it is, I completely think that Neuromancer deserves to be the landmark/game-changing/most famous one.

I'd read everything before PR while I was in high school, and while I loved (or at least kinda liked) everything before then... But in a certain sense, I wasn't getting the full effect of reading those books when they were fresh. As others have noted, a lot of the stuff he was doing would end up bleeding out into other media, so even by the time I got to All Tomorrow's Parties, there wasn't too much that I hadn't first encountered elsewhere in terms of genre tropes, social commentary, blah blah blah.

Then I read Pattern Recognition when it was new and... This was the great-thriller-with-occasional-deep-thoughts (as someone put it) that the others seemed like they might've been, only it was describing (insightfully) a world that resembled the one I currently found myself in in 2002.

It's also one of the only books I've ever seen get completely right what it feels like to really know a group of people without having ever met them in person.

All this to say that I am 1000% on board with his "bringing science fiction tools to bear on the present world because the present is way stranger than many previously imagined futures" thing.
posted by sparkletone at 11:30 AM on July 1, 2010


I continue to be amazed that people can read Neuromancer today for the first time, and find it a meaningful experience. The fact that it's even remotely relevant to today's readers astonishes me.

Ignoring whether you can enjoy the plot or characters, at the very least, even if it was a piece of shit (and certainly it isn't)... There's something to be said for going back to the source for a lot of common pop-culture tropes. While it's possible to enjoy Snow Crash, I think it's impossible to properly appreciate what its playful/unserious tone, etc. was reacting against.

It's like going back and watching an old-but-still-somewhat-influential movie and seeing all the things that have been taken from it and used in 100000 other contexts.

It's interesting.

(It helps that it's a fun story, etc. even if the sociological stuff in it no longer applies, or seems charmingly quaint.)
posted by sparkletone at 11:43 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Attention Hollywood: Get this one right or you will burn.
posted by loquacious at 11:57 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read Pattern Recognition, the first time, in nearly a single sitting on a long transatlantic journey home to Seattle capping a couple weeks of relentless business travel through shifting timezones, jacked up on a cocktail of exhaustion and adrenaline. I immediately fell in love with Cayce Pollard from the opening page:


Five hours’ New York jet lag and Cayce Pollard wakes in Camden Town to the dire and ever-circling wolves of disrupted circadian rhythm.

It is that flat and spectral non-hour, awash in limbic tides, brainstem stiring fitfully, flashing inappropriate reptilian demands for sex, food, sedation, all of the above, and non really an option now.

Not even food, as Damien’s new kitchen is devoid of edible content as its designers’ display windows in Camden Street. Very hard, the upper cabinets faced in canary-yellow laminate, the lower with lacquered, unstained apple-ply. Very clean and almost entirely empty, save for a carton containing two dry pucks of Weetabix and some loose pack of herbal tea. Nothing at all in the German fridge, so new that it smells only of cold and long-chained monomers.

She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien’s theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the wake of the plane that brought her her, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can’t move quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.

posted by donovan at 12:02 PM on July 1, 2010


I'm trying really hard not to make a comment about dead channels no longer showing static, and I think I've gotten managed to....

Yes, well, Gaiman beat you by about 15 years. He already did that in Neverwhere.

I'm only slightly younger than Neuromancer.

I want to punch you in the face.

That's the only sentence I've ever read by Gibson. I find it such a turnoff that I can't imagine reading more. It's a throw-the-book-across-the-room line and I'm always amazed that people cite it as an excellent example of science fiction prose.

People in general have no idea what "excellent prose" means. Okay, that sentence is a little non-sensica given that 'excellent" is an opinion, but I think you get my drift. You can see this in every AskMe recommendation thread for novels, particularly SF or fantasy novels, where the OP asking for well-written books and then people go in and recommend the worst fucking dreck.

That's not limited to SF, of course. I bet a random sample of man-on-the-street types would say that Dan Brown writes good prose. Most people simply can't distinguish between "I enjoyed this book" and "this book had excellent prose".

All of that said, the Gibson line is the single most brilliantly perfect opening line for a Science Fiction novel ever written. It epitomizes everything that is brilliant and awful about the modern genre. It catches your attention. It sets the mood perfectly. It tells you exactly what kind of world you're reading about. It's a bit clunky. It's a bit wonderful. It quasi-futuristic when written. It was badly outdated inside a decade.

It isn't beautiful prose but it is great prose. For very specific values of great.
posted by Justinian at 12:17 PM on July 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Of course, I understand that the bottom line is the only reason they'll do it--though it always troubles me when well-enough-off writers like Gibson and Moore sell the rights to their defining works. To quote another Hollywood writer, "How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can't already afford?" And yeah, I already know the answer.

The situation around Watchmen is considerably more complex than "Moore just upped and sold the rights because he likes caviar."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:19 PM on July 1, 2010


I'm only slightly younger than Neuromancer. I want to punch you in the face.

I’m sorry, but you brought this on yourself. ONE YEAR YOUNGER THAN NEUROMANCER. Still relevant, still in my top 5. My dad told me to read it when I was 16. Sometimes Dad's are great!

I bet a random sample of man-on-the-street types would say that Dan Brown writes good prose.

Oh my god, yes. My rooommate had to prevent from becoming a stabbing robot after I read through Girl With A Hardy Boys Mystery Plus Weird Unnecessary Rape Scenes With No Interesting Characters Tattoo, after no less than 5 people recommended it to me as a Good Book. A phrase I reserve for things that are interesting, engaging and compelling to read rather than just easy to read.
posted by edbles at 12:28 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


WE'RE ALL ON OF YOUR LAWNS.
posted by The Whelk at 12:31 PM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


The original System Shock game by the (mostly MIT-staffed, if I recall) Looking Glass team quite effectively used *some* of the Sprawl Trilogy ideas, in some cases directly referencing them, and I'm still convinced it was way way ahead of its time (IIRC correctly it came out before Doom, and technically was more impressive).

One of the things I miss most is how both in that game and Terra Nova by the same guys, there were *surprises* in how things developed, without them telling you upfront in the manual or whathaveyou, e.g.:

- at a certain point in SS you find some sort-of-electric rollerblades and how you moved and controlled movement changed
- in TN there was a scene late in the game that again, changed your interface and experience pretty fundamentally.

They may also have invented the whole "stealth game" category with Thief, a POV "shooter" in which your character is too weak to run around shooting/killing everyone in sight at breakneck speeds. I'm just not that twitchy/fast, myself.
posted by cps at 12:31 PM on July 1, 2010


I liked Abel Ferrara's version of New Rose Hotel.

Wow, I had no idea this existed. I once worked with Kathryn Bigelow around 1986 or so, and saw a script of New Rose Hotel on her desk, but obviously she didn't proceed with the project. I told her, forget New Rose Hotel, make a movie out of Spacetime Donuts, that would be way more awesome. Maybe she took half of my advice.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:32 PM on July 1, 2010


All of that said, the Gibson line is the single most brilliantly perfect opening line for a Science Fiction novel ever written.

It always reminded me of "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen," only not good. Now that I know Gibson's stuff - style would probably be the better term - is supposed to be not good, maybe I will give it a go; for the longest time, I thought it was just a joke I wasn't in on.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:46 PM on July 1, 2010


The line itself, taken in isolation, is a little silly. Taken in the entirety of the oversaturated, brand defined world that Gibson creates in the ensuing ~300 pages it makes a lot more sense.
posted by codacorolla at 12:54 PM on July 1, 2010


The line itself, taken in isolation, is a little silly.

It's just a single sentence. Who gives a f***? We're not still talking about Neuromancer and William Gibson because he wrote a great opening line (or not). It certainly made no discernible impact on me the first time I read it, other than I carried on and read the next sentence which got me to the next ... and so on. Eventually, I read the whole damned book, all ten thousand sentences or 100 thousand words (or whatever), the cumulative effect of which was, for me, very positive, which, I submit is the whole point of the novel form.

Seriously. If you want to get all wound up about fifteen words (pro or con), read some poetry.
posted by philip-random at 1:18 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


There has been an interesting shift in the point of view in Gibson's books over the years. In all of them, big events are afoot. In his early books we see those big events from the point of view of people one person removed from the prime movers. As one moves later in the time line of his books ever less direct evidence of the event makers is presented. Instead the main characters are caught up in ripples of those events.

Case and Molly are one step removed from Neuromancer. They are prime actors in the events that Neuromancer sets in motion.

In Virtual Light Chevette is caught up in the wake of big events because the stole a guy's VL sunglasses for being a jackass. In All Tomorrow's Parties Rydell is a hired rent-a-cop who is hired by folks in the middle of big events to perform tasks whose purpose he doesn't comprehend.

Most recently in Spook Country Hollis is hired to write a magazine piece about virtual geo-cached art and as a side effect bumps up against the thinnest echoes of events related to a cargo container.

Those characters act as the readers' proxy and give us all the perception and explanation of the books' worlds that we get. In his earliest books we are directly along for a ride through events of great portent that we see directly. Over time his books have become more and more about the reader assembling a sketchy idea of the shape of those events from hints and scraps.

In his early books we'd see the cargo container being filled with black market bioware. In his most recent book we only see that a cargo container might have been here once because there is a dust-free rectangle about that size in the corner.
posted by Babblesort at 1:24 PM on July 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Case and Molly are one step removed from Neuromancer.

I agree with everything you said. I want to point out that, I think he's already starting to dabble with this in Neuromancer. Case and Molly although they are in the middle of events still exist on the borders of society, in the liminal space, which affords you an interesting perspective on the people squarely centered on terra firma.
posted by edbles at 1:35 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Agreed.

I think Gibson even started being literal about this intent in the titles of recent books. Pattern Recognition and Spook Country might as well be descriptions of the reader's experience as anything to do with the book's events.

Also, as his point of view has steadily pulled back to characters at increasing remove from the events, the books are taking place in times that have been getting closer and closer to present day normal life.
posted by Babblesort at 1:44 PM on July 1, 2010


I played Shadowrun from time to time in the 90s and I always thought it did a pretty good job of inventing a dystopian techno-future. Years later I read Neuromancer and had a lot of holy-shit moments at how much of an influence it really had.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:53 PM on July 1, 2010


All of that said, the Gibson line is the single most brilliantly perfect opening line for a Science Fiction novel ever written.

No, the best ever opening line to a science fiction novel is:

"A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now."
posted by vibrotronica at 2:18 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's two lines.
posted by philip-random at 2:37 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I never managed to get much farther than those two lines in Gravity's Rainbow.
posted by octothorpe at 2:44 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


One problem I see with a film adaptation of Neuromancer is...

It will be film and not animation.


In a way, Ghost in the Shell is a (loose) adaptation of Neuromancer.
I know GitS is not directly based off the book, but the theme of emerging AI consciousness, and a lot of the individual elements - the idea of The Sprawl, razorgirl, implants, etc - are identical.
posted by wundermint at 2:54 PM on July 1, 2010


I went through a cyberpunk phase, and now all these books blend together into one. Which book has the guy who carries a nuke around with him? Which book has the libertarian-Communists in their enclave, surrounded by the moral Christian suburbia? Not that I'm complaining, I just feel that individual books never made an impression, but the cyberpunk universe still has a lot of potential.

Personally, I want more Jeff Noon books. And I want to see Iain M. Banks Culture novels turned into movies. Or do I? I don't if they turn out awful. <end irrelevant rant>
posted by Jimbob at 3:56 PM on July 1, 2010


What would be ideal is if it were not made into a film but into a TV-DVD longer format video.

Adaptations of books are too constrained when they have to fit into 1-2 hours of film.

These days the quality of TV production has increased and the profits to be obtained from DVD sales and being shown again must be comparable to putting things out on film.

You could make 3 seasons of the Neuromancer/Count Zero/Mona Lisa Overdrive series. It could be superb.
posted by sien at 4:33 PM on July 1, 2010


yeti: I read it for the first time a couple months ago after tearing through Stephenson's Anathem. I'm not sure why but Neuromancer's world seemed very remote and the characters uninteresting.

I had the same experience in the opposite direction. I read Neuromancer in 1992 (in one night, for uni, was blown away) and everything else up to Virtual Light. Loved them, read them annually (especially the Sprawl Trilogy). Got into Stephenson, and that was pretty much the end of my intense love affair with Gibson (especially once I'd read Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy). I found Pattern Recognition unbearably pretentious and haven't been tempted read Spook Country (whereas previously, I was in the bookshop the day his new books came out). I still like Gibson's ealy stuff, but not with the same passion as before.

I think for the movie to work, they'll have to do something pretty outstanding with it. I think too much that was influenced by Neuromancer has come since (and recent viewings of the deadly assassin and the original Tron have me wondering what influenced Gibson in the first place!)
posted by prettypretty at 4:42 PM on July 1, 2010


I'm trying really hard not to make a comment about dead channels no longer showing static, and I think I've gotten managed to....

My television does.

In a way, Ghost in the Shell is a (loose) adaptation of Neuromancer.

Similar themes and is exactly what I was thinking of, for the right way to do a Neuromancer film, not live action but animated. Even the GiTS Gigs are brilliant and major works of art I'd say. Unfortunately, the live action film will be awful.
posted by juiceCake at 4:44 PM on July 1, 2010


Also, as his point of view has steadily pulled back to characters at increasing remove from the events, the books are taking place in times that have been getting closer and closer to present day normal life.

It has been said with some justification that Gibson sets all of his novels in roughly the year 2000. It's just that the year 2000 went from being decades in the future to near-future to contemporary to the recent past. It's not Gibson's fault that time stands still.

"A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now."

Pynchon? Nah. I mean, taken by itself it is a far more beautifully written line. On that level it's better. But I wasn't saying that Gibson wrote the most stylistically excellent or beautiful line; that would be absurd on its face. I was making a point about the strengths, weaknesses, and importance of science fiction. You could write a lengthy essay on Gibson's first line of Neuromancer and I sort of did a cliff notes version on RASFW back in the day. Pynchon's line, in isolation, is better in innumerable ways. But you can't take it in isolation.

For one thing Pynchon isn't firmly and incontestably inside the genre in the way Gibson is. Oh, certainly there are strong science fictional elements to his work. But it's science fiction in the same way that Orwell's 1984 is. Which is to say; yes, it's science fiction, but it's neither steeped in, informed by, reacting to, and influencing the genre in the way Gibson is.

The literary genre of science fiction exists in some senses as a conversation authors are participating in. Gibson was knowingly taking part in that conversation in ways Pynchon was not. That doesn't mean Pynchon wasn't influential on even books firmly in the genre, but it's not the same thing.

I hope I'm being clear about what I mean and thus don't appear to be in any way criticizing other authors or genres. Nabokov wrote perhaps the most beautiful prose I've ever encountered but he's not part of that conversation either. I'd love to see what an SF novel by Nabokov would look like but, hey, who wouldn't.
posted by Justinian at 4:47 PM on July 1, 2010


It's not Gibson's fault that time stands still.

Ugh. Doesn't. Does not stand still. Or so I am told.
posted by Justinian at 4:48 PM on July 1, 2010


My favourite William Gibson anecdote is that, after beginning writing Neuromancer, he went out to the theatre to see the movie Blade Runner, and then went home and cried because he had been scooped.

He then pulled himself together, and went on to create a genre.
posted by ovvl at 4:56 PM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I myself do not feel all of the hate for the movie version of Johnny Mnemonic. It did have a few unstable moments, but it was entertaining, and Henry Rollins was great in it.
posted by ovvl at 5:19 PM on July 1, 2010


ovvl, I haven't seen it since I was 14, but I remember enjoying it. I also had never heard of Gibson at that point.
posted by brundlefly at 5:22 PM on July 1, 2010


I would like to propose an actor/character list for this film.

Case ............... John Cusack (mostly for the sneer and "fuck all ya'll" attitude from War Inc)
Molly ................ Famke Jansen (Please... anyone but Angelina Jolie)
Armitage ........... Vin Diesel
The Finn ............ Simon Pegg
Erol ......... we would need to find a way to make Mos Def VERY muscular and not wiry


anyone got other suggestions?
posted by Severian at 5:42 PM on July 1, 2010


Well, now I have to go watch some more Max Headroom.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:50 PM on July 1, 2010


(Anyone who thinks there are not still banks of public telephones in major cities can meet me at Rudy's for a free hotdog and a tour of GCT where I'll disabuse them of that notion)
posted by digitalprimate at 6:46 PM on July 1, 2010


Case ............... John Cusack (mostly for the sneer and "fuck all ya'll" attitude from War Inc)
Molly ................ Famke Jansen (Please... anyone but Angelina Jolie)


As a child of the 80s it pains me to say this, but Jolie is 36, Cusack is 45, and Janssen is 47. They're way too old to play Case and Molly, particularly Cusack and Janssen. Way, way too old. Casting for Case should be no problem. How tough is it in Hollywood to find someone who can do scruffy drugged-out loser? But I'm having trouble thinking of a young actress with the hard edge you'd want for Molly. Janssen is an excellent choice except for the unfortunate age problem. Odette Yustman? Blake Lively with dyed hair? Minka Kelly? Guh. I'll shoot in the face anyone who says Megan Fox.

Go against type with Ellen Page? She actually probably looks too young even if she's actually 24 now. But she did menacing quite well in Hard Candy and she was only like 17 years old at the time.
posted by Justinian at 6:47 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mary Elizabeth Winstead? Based on Die Hard 4, I think she could play a hard ass if she tried.
posted by brundlefly at 6:56 PM on July 1, 2010


Haters gonna hate.
posted by zardoz at 7:00 PM on July 1, 2010


Are we talking all-time fantasy cast? Or only what's realistic?

If it's the former, my idea would be Thom Yorke (at any age) as Case, Enchanted April-era Polly Walker as Molly (or Pulp Fiction Uma Thurman or is that too obvious?), a young Tommy Lee Jones as Armitage and John Hurt or Timothy Spall as the Finn. Actually, John Hurt would be better as Julius (? the guy with the ginger sweets -- it's been a little while since I read it).
posted by prettypretty at 7:29 PM on July 1, 2010


Wish I could convey to the young'uns just what it was like reading Neuromancer in 1984. It was revelatory, brilliant, a complete game changer, a shift in ways to imagine the computer and computing and the world they would bring about. Between that and Blade Runner it was like witnessing a whole vision of what was not necessarily *the* future but an interpretation of one possible future that was dystopic, grimy, and where technology and biology fused in odd and illegitimate ways. And it drew on the contemporary zeitgeist, as well: it was instantly obvious that Molly was based on the photograph of Chrissie Hynde on the cover of the Pretenders' first album, for example; and living in Vancouver, I knew one of the people from the punk scene who gave Gibson permission to use his name for a minor character, and so on. Anyway. I'm sorry that it seems so outdated now to some of you, but it's lasted a hell of a lot better than the 1950s space opera type of thing, at least IMO.
posted by jokeefe at 7:37 PM on July 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Case is young, young, young - this is the profile for modern day black hats, and how Case is represented in the novel.

So, Case will need to be someone new, who can pull off a fresh face with an old soul. Think a young Giovani Ribisi... we need someone who can =act=, rather than look good reading his lines.

Molly - Also needs to be young, and since she's a more 2-dimensional character, Megan Fox works just fine. Any young brunette actress who seem more substantial than wispy will work here, really.

Armitage - Henry. Rollins. Controlled, cool, precise, a slick face to a terrible machine - and when the machine's control slips, something violent and angry and intense comes through.

Riviera - Crispin Glover - A charming, enticing sadist, an aging pretty face with more than a touch of evil.

Dixie Flatline - Hank Williams III - 'nuff said.

The Finn - Giovani Ribisi - Shady, shifty, and can portray the subtleties the character demands.

Julie - Anthony Hopkins, old son!

Maelcum - D'hani Jones - Big, buff, intelligent and has a =presence=... "I and I be the Rastafarian Navy. Believe it."

3Jane - Chiaki Kuriyama - She's just at the right age now, and she can do cruel and inhuman very, very well.

Wintermute - Seductive, compelling, reasonable in its unreasonableness - George Clooney

Neuromancer - The other half of the whole: reluctant, defensive, empathic, tragic, female - Oprah Winfrey. (Shocker! But I'm serious.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:52 PM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wish I could convey to the young'uns just what it was like reading Neuromancer in 1984...

This. All of it.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:55 PM on July 1, 2010


My very first encounter with Gibson came at play practice when I was a sophomore in high school. (1987 good god) My friend Ben was reading the seminal compilation of short stories Burning Chrome. After reading this bit where the guy chasing Johnny pulls the tip of his thumb off and starts swinging it around he turned to me, handed me the book, pointed at the page and quietly said read this.

Playback on full recall shows Ralfi stepping forward as the little tech sidles out of nowhere, smiling. Just a suggestion of a bow, and his left thumb falls off. It's a conjuring trick. The thumb hangs suspended. Mirrors? Wires? And Ralfi stops, his back to us, dark crescents of sweat under the armpits of his pale summer suit. He knows. He must have known. And then the joke-shop thumbtip, heavy as lead, arcs out in a lighting yo-yo trick, and the invisible thread connecting it to the killer's hand passes laterally through Ralfi's skull, just above his eyebrows, whips up, and descends, slicing the pear shaped torso diagonally from shoulder to rib cage. Cuts so fine that no blood flows until synapses misfire and the first tremors surrender the body to gravity.

Ralfi tumbled apart in a pink cloud of fluids, the three mismatched section rolling forward on the tiled pavement. In total silence.
Ben was so stunned by the concept expressed here he just had to stop and hand it to me to read. I bought Burning Chrome the next day.
posted by Babblesort at 8:05 PM on July 1, 2010


Probably more than ten years ago, I thought I had an a bunch of ideas about adapting Neuromancer for the screen that I thought would still make a pretty good movie. Probably the most important change I thought I of was to bring Armitage's story to the foreground. Even start with him in Siberia, as kind of prologue before leaping ahead to the Sprawl. To me it seemed, Case has the skills, Molly has the flash, but Armitage has almost all the mystery. In a movie adaptation, I thought that mystery would be what best carried the story in film.
posted by wobh at 8:10 PM on July 1, 2010


Yeah, Case needs to be young. He's like, what, 21? He needs to have a callow aspect too, because while Case is brilliant in the Matrix, he's pretty ignorant about everything else, like with the mispronouncing of the names and all. I just have no idea who to play him. Same with Molly, although I think a young Angela Basset would work in my dream reality.

I always pictured Powers Booth as Armitage.
posted by Snyder at 10:08 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Case was 23/24ish in Neuromancer. Somebody like Shia LaBoeuf would probably work. I'm trying to think if I've seen him in any meatier roles or if they've all been like Transformers and such.
posted by Justinian at 10:23 PM on July 1, 2010


Case was 21, and had already murdered a woman (one of his lovers?*) for money after his career as a console cowboy was ripped from him. Case isn't a good guy - none of the characters are good guys. They're all villains the author manipulates you into caring about at one stage or other, and this, too, is one of the objectives of the novel.


* Rudy Rucker played off this riff in Wetware.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:51 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


These actors are a bit older, a bit more Shakespeare, but I think it would work on for Neuromancer: On Broadway!

Case - Edward Norton

Molly - Carrie-Anne Moss, or maybe Asia Argento

Armitage - Peter Stormare. Or perhaps Ed Harris, with that dead stare he does

Riviera - John Malkovitch

Dixie Flatline - Kris Kristofferson

The Finn - Steve Buscemi

Julie - Rutger Hauer

Maelcum - Chiwetel Ejiofor

3Jane - Christina Ricci

John Ashpool - Christopher Walken

Wintermute - Justin Bond

Neuromancer - Tilda Swinton
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:57 AM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Case was 21

Is that stated somewhere and I'm misremembering? I'm still pretty sure he's a couple years older than that in Neuromancer.
posted by Justinian at 1:57 AM on July 2, 2010


I'd love to see what an SF novel by Nabokov would look like but, hey, who wouldn't.

Something like an Adam Roberts novel?
posted by ninebelow at 2:11 AM on July 2, 2010


I have to say Molly as Carrie Ann Moss made me go "ahahaha YES." Carrie Ann Moss would be an excellent Yours Truly in a Diamond Age adaption, just saying.


Casting for Case should be no problem. How tough is it in Hollywood to find someone who can do scruffy drugged-out loser? But I'm having trouble thinking of a young actress with the hard edge you'd want for Molly

Case - Joseph Gordon Levitt
Molly - Eva Green
posted by The Whelk at 5:22 AM on July 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually, is Case or Molly,s race ever specifically mentioned in the book? I can;t remember, which opens up a whole new wide world of casting and/or people with more mixed features (which would make sense in a sprawling future world?)
posted by The Whelk at 5:24 AM on July 2, 2010


Christina Ricci has to be 3Jane.

Also: Michael Cera for Case

I'm serious.
posted by empath at 5:37 AM on July 2, 2010


Molly - Also needs to be young, and since she's a more 2-dimensional character, Megan Fox works just fine. Any young brunette actress who seem more substantial than wispy will work here, really.

Megan Fox? Just no. Milla fucking Jovovitch, or that girl who plays Shane, Kathryn Moening? Molly's not that young really I'd say late twenties early 30's she had to have time to be a working girl, get those implants, make all those connections she has. She's just starting to professionalize her career instead of just wanting to tussle.

Also if you want to flesh Molly out combine Molly from Johnny Mnemonic, Neuromancer, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Molly's little monologue where she's talking to Case through the headset at the end of the book becomes much more emotional and relevant if you've read Mnemonic.
posted by edbles at 5:38 AM on July 2, 2010


I'm reading this thread from the oily Florida coast, looking up at a condo tower and wondering which one Mona will live in, standing on a rip of thermal paper to get dressed. We have your ecotastrophe and your econotastrophe. It's time. C'mon down!
posted by easement1 at 5:46 AM on July 2, 2010


Case — that guy that played Spock in the last Star Trek movie (not Nimoy, the other one); he sucked as Spock, but I think he could make a good Case...

Molly — Hayden Panettierre (OK, OK, I'm joking! Ouch! Stop!) OK:
Molly — Allison Baver (with some acting lessons) (Hey! That hurt!) OK, really:
Molly — Reese Witherspoon (Stop! No! OK! All right!) OK, seriously, for reals:
Molly — Natalie Portman

Armitage — Rutger Hauer

Riviera — Viggo Mortensen

Dixie Flatline — Billy Bob Thornton

The Finn — James Gandolfini

Julie — Sir Ian McKellen

Wintermute — Gilbert Gottfried (Ow! Cut it out!)
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:16 AM on July 2, 2010


Natalie Portman is too classy for Molly.

But I like Ian McKellen as Julie.
posted by edbles at 8:50 AM on July 2, 2010


Case — that guy that played Spock in the last Star Trek movie (not Nimoy, the other one); he sucked as Spock, but I think he could make a good Case..

Did you read the book? More like Michael Cera.

Molly — is a tough one. Somewhere between Summer Glau and Carrie-Anne Moss.

Armitage — Larry Fishburne. Maybe Sam Jackson. (Not that I pictured him as black, but both those guys can do authority-gone-crazy.)

Riviera — also tough. Johnny Depp could prolly pull it off.

Dixie — OK, I'll give you Thornton

The Finn — You want an old crusty white dude. Michael Gambon or somesuch. McKellen might work here, actually.

Julie — Heh. But seriously, Jewel Straite-ish. Someone who looks innocent as hell.

Wintermute — I'm thinking the Zavrox voice on a Mac. Why not?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:04 AM on July 2, 2010


Steve Buscemi is the only acceptable suggestion for the Finn thus far.

Where are you people getting Michael Cera? Is this some sort of Scott Pilgrim joke I'm not getting?
posted by edbles at 10:01 AM on July 2, 2010


Steve Buscemi is the only acceptable suggestion for the Finn thus far.

What? Riviera, maybe. But the Finn? No way. Not for another twenty years.

Where are you people getting Michael Cera? Is this some sort of Scott Pilgrim joke I'm not getting?

Well, that's why he's on people's minds, but Case is someone with a singular (computer-related) orientation who is otherwise clueless. He's way more Cera than Quinto.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:26 AM on July 2, 2010


or that girl who plays Shane, Kathryn Moening?

Oh holy fucking shitcocks on a jesus sandwich yes. She would be perfect.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:29 AM on July 2, 2010


Case - Joseph Gordon Levitt

God, yes. Perfect casting couch choice.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:39 AM on July 2, 2010


Molly = Noomi Rapace
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:01 AM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The complete book is online here, if you haven't read it.
posted by empath at 11:02 AM on July 2, 2010


Molly - Janelle Monae
posted by empath at 11:03 AM on July 2, 2010


Case - Joseph Gordon Levitt

God, yes. Perfect casting couch choice.


Dibs on being the casting director.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:26 AM on July 2, 2010


The complete book is online here, if you haven't read it.

I'd wager money William Gibson would be upset about that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:48 PM on July 2, 2010


Molly - Janelle Monae

I'm down with this.


(somehow I read Carrie Ann Moss as Leslie Anne Warren. I don't know either)
posted by The Whelk at 1:28 PM on July 2, 2010


I don't think Deborah Ann Woll would work either.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:33 PM on July 2, 2010


I'd wager money William Gibson would be upset about that.

Information wants to be free.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:00 PM on July 2, 2010


What about information that's into bondage?
posted by The Whelk at 2:03 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The safe word is "cash".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:09 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, is Case or Molly,s race ever specifically mentioned in the book? I can;t remember, which opens up a whole new wide world of casting and/or people with more mixed features (which would make sense in a sprawling future world?)

Julie could be played by Giancarlo Esposito. His Gus Fring in Breaking Bad is ice-cold.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:15 PM on July 2, 2010


Natalie Portman is too classy for Molly.

Beg to differ (NSFW, probably).
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:21 PM on July 2, 2010


Joseph Gordon Levitt would be perfect for Case. I SALUTE YOU, INTERNETS.

Actually, is Case or Molly,s race ever specifically mentioned in the book?

Both are white.
She shook her head. He realized that the glasses were surgically inset, sealing her sockets. The silver lenses seemed to grow from smooth pale skin above her cheekbones, framed by dark hair cut in a rough shag. The fingers curled around the fletcher were slender, white, tipped with polished burgundy. The nails looked artificial.
Oh, by the way: Case is definitely 24. It's in the first chapter.
Case was twenty-four. At twenty-two he'd been a cowboy, a rustler, one of the best in the Sprawl. He'd been trained by the best, by McCoy Pauley and Bobby Quine, legends in the biz. He'd operated on an almost permanent adrenaline high, a byproduct of youth and proficiency, jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix. A thief, he'd worked for other, wealthier thieves, employers who provided the exotic software required to penetrate the bright walls of corporate systems, opening windows into rich fields of data.
posted by Justinian at 5:17 PM on July 2, 2010


The complete book is online here, if you haven't read it.

Wow. The people who put that online are assholes. And linking to it is sort of dickish, too.
posted by Justinian at 5:19 PM on July 2, 2010


Oh, by the way: Case is definitely 24. It's in the first chapter.

Yeah, but he's not written like a 24 year-old. He comes across as eighteenish. (Not that there's a shortage of twenty-somethings that don't act their age.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:51 PM on July 2, 2010


I stand corrected - 24 it is, and yes, Joseph Gordon Levitt would work exceptionally well.

Molly could be Asian, Manchurian or Japanese - or "pale" could be a relative description, like Alicia Keys or Beyonce, but I'd be willing to bend Gibson's vision enough to cast Janelle Monae in the role.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:25 PM on July 2, 2010


Information wants to be free.

Isn't the reason Case's former employees disfigure his brain is that he stole valuable information and/or software from them?
posted by sparkletone at 9:23 PM on July 2, 2010


I dunno, Molly's appearance seems kind of fundamental and iconic to me. It just wouldn't be Molly Millions if she didn't have pale white skin framed by a black shag harcut. You might as well get rid of of the mirror lenses.
posted by Justinian at 9:26 PM on July 2, 2010


Isn't the reason Case's former employees disfigure his brain is that he stole valuable information and/or software from them?

Exactly; it was all a big misunderstanding. Everything would have been copacetic if someone from Metafilter had come on scene and explained rationally that copyright infringement isn't stealing and that they didn't actually lose anything. Problem solved!
posted by Justinian at 9:29 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but he's not written like a 24 year-old. He comes across as eighteenish.

That's an argument for how the actor plays the role, not for using a younger actor.
posted by Justinian at 9:30 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everything would have been copacetic if someone from Metafilter had come on scene and explained rationally that copyright infringement isn't stealing and that they didn't actually lose anything.

To be clear: I assumed BP was being ironic, but I was honestly trying to remember if we ever found out anything about the nature of what Case stole that got his brain zapped (or um... gooped ... or whatever).
posted by sparkletone at 2:06 AM on July 3, 2010


I dunno, Molly's appearance seems kind of fundamental and iconic to me. It just wouldn't be Molly Millions if she didn't have pale white skin framed by a black shag harcut. You might as well get rid of of the mirror lenses.

I still love Poppy Z Brite for, when asked to suggest a cast for a notional film adaptation of Lost Souls, a vampire novel full of pale, gothic people, came up with a cast comprised entirely of black people.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:30 AM on July 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


They both kind of struck me as white trash that escaped the trap of their socioeconomic origins by moving to the fringes, edges of society. I think you could play that as being any race or mixed race as long as they grew up poor. But yeah the lenses against the face is a distinct picture, you might could invert it, though dark skin with white silver lenses?
posted by edbles at 10:47 AM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


At which point, edbles, you'd hear the wailing and gnashing of a million fanboy teeth saying it is WRONG and you have fucked up MY WORLD.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:57 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. The people who put that online are assholes. And linking to it is sort of dickish, too.

Whatever. It's an important novel, and people should read it. Would it make you feel better if I told people it was available for free at your local library. Gibson gets paid the same amount either way.
posted by empath at 11:10 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I"m guessing you probably wouldn't blink at someone buying a used copy either. Same difference.
posted by empath at 11:11 AM on July 3, 2010


Wait, what? You're kidding, right?
posted by Justinian at 12:44 PM on July 3, 2010


No, I'm not, but its a derail, so nevermind.
posted by empath at 12:57 PM on July 3, 2010


Presentation for ‘Minority Report Interface’ That Blew People’s Minds at TED (video)
posted by homunculus at 4:29 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


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