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Neuromancer: 25 years later

As more people got connected to the internet, cyberpunk’s evolution was thrown into fast-forward, or maybe it was already in fast-forward and went from 4x to 16x. New authors such as Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, 1992; The Diamond Age, 1995) emerged with new ideas incorporating avatars, nanotech, and infowar. Subgenres such as steampunk and biopunk splintered off, and post-cyberpunk was discussed. Many saw the transformative power of new tech as beneficial and abandoned Gibson’s dystopian worldview. Rave culture was one such example; by mixing house music with designer drugs, ravers programmed communal electro-bliss at all-night parties reminiscent of the 1960s’ Acid Tests. Technology was seen as a tool not of control, but of liberation. Not surprisingly, some 60s counterculture figures were early adopters of net culture (Timothy Leary, John Perry Barlow), but suffused their online realities with activism and optimism instead of hopelessness and despair. Countless subcultures continue to form around the mutations of electronic music, computer hacking, psychedelics and the search for new interfaces to new realities.


Above: Waaaay back when E was X

The lure of cyberpunk was/is especially strong in videogame circles, with games such as Snatcher (a Kojima joint from 1988), Flashback (1992), Syndicate (1993) and System Shock (1994) all exploring similar themes and settings. Later releases like Deus Ex (2000) and REZ (2001) are among the most fully realized cyberpunk games to date. Whether they take place in a gritty urban cityscape, a wireframed cyberspace or the Mushroom Kingdom, videogames as a medium are inherently linked to cyberpunk’s ideas about mind and software unifying to create a mesmerizing alternate reality.

Aside from the ever-expanding world of videogames, the film The Matrix (1999) represents the ultimate mainstreaming of cyberpunk culture. The film draws its name directly from Neuromancer, and pushes the idea of jacking in to the limit (Neo being unplugged from the matrix is one of the most memorable scenes in modern cinema.) While incorporating many textures and stylistic choices from Gibson, The Matrix differs in its fundamental assessment of human nature. Neo is a symbol of hope, capable of feeling empathy and love. Neuromancer’s hacker anti-hero Case, however, is a husk of a man driven by necessity and fear. He maintains a constant emotional distance, because he knows that any feelings he may have will only be used to manipulate him. Neo has a cause to believe in, people to fight for. Case simply moves from one hustle to the next, loyal only to himself. For all its doom and gloom, The Matrix is indicative of post-cyberpunk’s movement away from Gibson’s bleak cynicism and toward a view that humanity is worth saving.


Above: Trinity may look just like Molly, but inside she has a heart of gold

52 comments

  • 0over0 - August 19, 2009 3:54 p.m.

    Thanks for having this article--excellent!
  • TheWebSwinger - August 18, 2009 7 p.m.

    The Neuromancer film will star Hayden Christensen? Now that promises to be quality.
  • GamesRadarJoeMcNeilly - August 18, 2009 3:28 p.m.

    More cyberpunk-is-now video of BigDog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXJZVZFRFJc&NR=1&feature=fvwp
  • GamesRadarJoeMcNeilly - August 18, 2009 2:54 p.m.

    Thanks for all the great comments, I really enjoyed researching and writing this article. If you couldn't tell, I'm a huge fan of cyberpunk. I still cherish my Cyberpunk RPG, still in the original box with the original dice that I bought back in 1988. I wish I'd had more time to explore the sociological and philosophical aspects of our current technological scenario... know any book publishers who are interested in a Complete History of Cyberpunk?
  • HardlyBirdman - August 17, 2009 3:54 p.m.

    Another ballot cast for 'Best Researched GR Article' The topic is a little existential in comparison to the usual "this is what's going on in games now" vibe of GR, but I'm more than okay with that. I would be supremely happy to see more articles like this about bigger issues related to games. Great read; thank you!
  • rxb - August 17, 2009 11:40 a.m.

    Good article, felt like Ive be educated a bit. Will defo read the book at some time. I cant wait till next time I jack into cyberspace to play gears of wars too.
  • rebelx18 - August 17, 2009 1:01 a.m.

    i almost never comment but dam that was beautiful really bravo an utterly brilliant article i enjoyed the metropolis and Blade runner refrences XD
  • cosmolu - August 16, 2009 1:17 a.m.

    Absolutely brilliant article, guys! This is why this is always my first stop on the interwebs. Please keep the awesomeness coming!
  • noswar26 - August 15, 2009 7:04 p.m.

    Holy shit that article was deep. reCAPTCHA: kate fragments
  • Elessar - August 15, 2009 4:31 p.m.

    Best artice ever produced here, please, please PLEASE produce more similarly 'high-brow' articles in the future.
  • mbalexa - August 15, 2009 4:26 p.m.

    creeplytuna, as others have said, this is a GREAT book, it is one of my all time favorites. William Gibson is credited with coining the term "cyberspace" and for anyone that has not read Neuromancer, it is a must. The rest of his collection should not be overlooked either. GREAT ARTICLE!
  • awackslash - August 15, 2009 3:28 p.m.

    I agree with derigible...but seriously, @loonyman978 (and others with same view) how can you not understand this article? It's merely pointing out that while not as drastic as any of the cyberpunk universes, we're on the right track for creating such a downer society.
  • Doctalen - August 15, 2009 7:50 a.m.

    Such an eye opener. For the time till I fall asleep I am going to be paranoid but then forgot and become one with cyberspace again.
  • RickyV300 - August 15, 2009 4:46 a.m.

    IM AM CONFUSED
  • mman36 - August 15, 2009 4:18 a.m.

    This is easily the best article on the entire site! I immediately had to go look for change to buy Neuromancer, and I was flipping out at the video about the implants. MOAR! reCAPTCHA- Odetto dong
  • Derigible - August 15, 2009 3:49 a.m.

    Great article, why are you all so surprised that something like this is on GR. The guys are very capable of writing stuff without boobs. But I, am not. Boobs
  • CreeplyTuna - August 15, 2009 2:33 a.m.

    anyone know if this book is really good? cuz i can only read books that don't suck ass. always end up like 20 pages in and get bored.
  • uz_mike222 - August 15, 2009 1:40 a.m.

    @doomdoomdoom Dude, go read a book series that has 900pgs per book, and i dont mean Harry Potter or Lord of The Rings. but it was a good article, once im done with the book series im reading, ill probably go take a look at it.
  • sniper430 - August 14, 2009 11:26 p.m.

    ahhhh double post i shall forever be commissioned to shame! I apologize :P
  • sniper430 - August 14, 2009 11:25 p.m.

    GR, this is why i haven't abandoned you for N4G A~freaking~mazing article, keep it up please!

Showing 1-20 of 52 comments

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