Neuromancer: 25 years later

How close are we to William Gibson's bleak prophecies?

Neuromancer was made into a videogame by Interplay in 1988, which was lauded for its rich narrative and dazzling cyberspace combat. Agraphic novelwas published in 1989, but only covered the first part of the story and further issues were canceled. In the 90s, attempts at making films based on Gibson’s work were largely unsuccessful. Johnny Mnemonic and New Rose Hotel were based on popular short stories, but ended up feeling campy and inadequate as films. Johnny Mnemonic also had a largely forgettable CD-ROM interactive movie. Though his writing hasn’t had much luck in being directly adapted, Gibson’s cyberpunk memes spread virulently, influencing media, pop culture and the development of the internet.

Gibson is regarded as the architect who laid the groundwork for the budding cyberculture of the 80s and early 90s. Magazines likeBoing Boing,Mondo 2000andWiredespoused cyberpunk themes and giddily embraced new technologies and a “future is now” vibe. Cyberpunk 2013, a role-playing game published by R. Talsorian Games in 1988, did a fantastic job of capturing the attitude and style of the genre in an easy to learn system that required only a d6 and a d10. The Cyberpunk RPG was relentlessly dystopian, and explored the concepts of cyberpsychosis and technoshock.

The much-celebrated Japanese manga Akira (1982-90) was cyberpunk to the core, and was released as a feature film in 1988. Appleseed (1985-89) was another manga steeped in cyberpunk that spawned TV, videogame and film adaptations. In 1986, Lucasfilm and Quantum Link launched an early attempt at online role-playing called Habitat, in which players had an “avatar” that existed in a virtual world. Quantum Link was an early internet service that morphed into America Online. Second Life, PlayStation Home and the glut of MMOs available today are the direct descendents of Habitat, which in turn was informed by the notion of cyberspace laid out in Neuromancer. Throughout the 80s and 90s, though, cyberpunk’s influence was perhaps most visible in Hollywood.


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Above: A montage of film clips in the cyberpunk style

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