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William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

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1 William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

2 William Gibson American-born, Canadian-based writer (has dual citizenship), b. 1948 Began writing SF during an English degree at UBC; published his first story in 1977 Influenced by the Beat Generation writers, esp. William S. Burroughs; and by punk music

3 Gibson’s Books The Sprawl Series: Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), Burning Chrome (short stories, 1986), Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) The Bridge Series: Virtual Light (1993), Idoru (1996), All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999) “Mainstream” Books: Pattern Recognition (2003), Spook Country (2007) The Difference Engine with Bruce Sterling (1990) Has also written screenplays, poetry, essays, and song lyrics

4 Cyberspace: From Fiction to Reality
First mentioned in Burning Chrome (1981), but popularized in Neuromancer Did Gibson’s fictional cyberspace influence the development of the real Internet? Viruses, antivirals (ICE / firewalls), jacking in (literal or metaphorical), gamer and hacker cultures, data as commodity

5 Cyberspace as Alternate Possible World
Similarities and differences between the cyberworld and the ‘real’ world? Gibson’s use of both cyberspace and outer space - transition between ‘traditional’ SF and cyberpunk? Dream/hallucination/simulation/reality scale Artificial stimulation: drugs, electronics, cybernetic implants (e.g. microsofts); cyberspace as addiction

6 Gibson and AI “How smart’s an AI, Case? Some aren’t much smarter than dogs The real smart ones are as smart as the Turing heat is willing to let ‘em get”

7 Human/AI interactions - suspicions of each by the other?
Communication through human agents Which is the superior intelligence, and why? Tessier’s plan for Wintermute and Neuromancer: “a symbiotic relationship with the AIs, our corporate decisions made for us....each of us units of a larger entity” The merger of Wintermute and Neuromancer Allusion to SETI on the Internet?

8 Other Technology Bionics Neurosurgery / organ replacement Cryogenics
Cloning Gibson’s relations to real-world technology

9 Gibson on Technology “The street finds its own uses for things - uses the manufacturers never imagined” “Other technological artifacts unexpectedly become means of communication, either through opportunity or necessity” “I’m sometimes asked whether or not I think the Net is a good thing. That’s like being asked if being human is a good thing” “While SF is sometimes good at predicting things, it’s seldom good at predicting what those things might actually do to us”

10 Urban Dystopia “Night City was like a deranged experiment in Social Darwinism, designed by a bored researcher who kept one thumb permanently on the fast-forward button” The Sprawl (eastern US); Chiba City; other settings cyberterrorism Post-apocalyptic society?

11 Gibson and Japan Gibson didn’t visit Japan until after the publication of Neuromancer “Japan is the global economy’s default setting for the future....The Japanese are the ultimate Early Adaptors” “The Japanese love futuristic things...because they’ve been living in the future for such a very long time” “The result of this catastrophic triple whammy - catastrophic industrialization, war, the American occupation - is the Japan that delights, disturbs, and fascinates us today: a mirror world, an alien planet we can actually do business with, a future”

12 “The otaku, the passionate obsessive, the information age's embodiment of the connoisseur, more concerned with the accumulation of data than of objects, seems a natural crossover figure in today's interface of British and Japanese cultures... There is something profoundly post-national about it, extra-geographic. We are all curators, in the post-modern world, whether we want to be or not.” “Tokyo [is]...sheer eye candy. You can see more chronological strata of futuristic design in a Tokyo streetscape than anywhere else in the world.” Gibson has said Tokyo reminds him of both Dick’s and Lem’s fictional worlds, or at least their film counterparts

13 Gibson and Corporate Culture
Gibson also popularized the term “megacorporation” (“zaibatsu” in Japanese) The Tessier-Ashpool family, and its attempts to attain “immortality” Corporations reflecting the whims of the founder? “ghosts in the corporate cores” Gibson on the society of Neuromancer: “there is no middle class. There are only very, very wealthy people and desperately poor, mostly criminal people. It's a very Victorian world.”

14 Molly and Case How do they challenge traditional gender roles?
Symbolism of Molly’s modifications Empathy / shared POV in cyberspace “It’s just the way I’m wired” Intertextuality: Johnny Mnemonic and Mona Lisa Overdrive

15 Gibson and Religion Gibson’s skepticism: “I don’t know because I can’t know. I am that which knoweth not the word” Role of Rastafarianism: reggae music, the Marcus Garvey (named for a founder of the movement), Zion/Babylon (references to the sacred/secular divide) Cyberspace as quasi-religious experience The Panther Moderns’ use of religion AI as new gods, esp. after the Wintermute/Neuromancer merger? “‘Wintermute,’ he mumbled to his knees…. ‘Jesus,’ he said.” Does Gibson’s society have a master narrative?

16 “Neuromancer…. The lane to the land of the dead. Neuro from the nerves
“Neuromancer…. The lane to the land of the dead.... Neuro from the nerves... Romancer. Necromancer. I call up the dead. I am the dead, and their land.” Also “new romancer” - suggesting a new twist on imaginative fiction

17 Gibson and Popular Culture
Depiction of subcultures, including their fleeting nature Influences: punk music, action movies, film noir, hardboiled mystery Gibson’s influence on musicians, artists, and filmmakers Gibson and gamer culture (e.g. Shadowrun, Cyberpunk 2020); influence of real-world gamers on Gibson’s cyberspace

18 Gibson on the Real Cyberspace
On visiting Second Life for the first time: “I didn't go as myself. I went as the guy that I cooked up when signed up, so nobody knew it was me. And actually it was like a cross between being in some suburban shopping mall on the outskirts of Edmonton in the middle of winter and the worst day you ever spent in high school It's deserted. It seems like functionally it has to be deserted. If it's not deserted it crashes. So there's all this empty, empty architecture. There's whole cities where there's only one other person and they don't even want to get close to you. And when you do succeed in finding a group of other avatars, people aren't very nice.”

19 Gibson and Art References to modern/surrealist artists (Kandinsky, Dali, Duchamp) Juxtapositions of ‘classic’ art and popular culture Riviera as performance artist – bringing his imagination to life

20 Derivative Works 1988 computer game 1989 graphic novel
Stage production; radio play; audiobook with music; planned film 2000 biographical film No Maps For These Territories

21 Illustrations taken from www.braid.com

22 Illustrations taken from www.antonraubenweiss.com/gibson/

23 Gibson and Other Writers
Gibson vs. Lem: use of “visitors”; role of skepticism; role of expository narrative Gibson vs. Dick: very similar fictional worlds and narrative tones (how much influence did Dick have on Gibson?); role of AI, esp. in relation to humans; dystopian/post-apocalyptic societies Gibson vs. Adams: diversity of adaptations; ironic use of expository dialogue Gibson vs. Banks: role of gamers


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