It’s well documented that William Gibson started out writing science fiction, and book by book progressed towards the future he had once predicted. By Pattern Recognition in 2003 Gibson was writing about a London that seemed to come into existence even as the book was published. I know, I was living and working in the city of Gibson’s imagination.
So news of a film adaptation of Neuromancer, long speculated on, makes me wonder how fictional that story will seem today. It’s been 33 years since Neuromancer was published. The novel takes place at a non-specified date in what was, in 1984, the near future. Have we arrived at that future already?
In technological terms, not quite. We don’t jack into the net, yet. We don’t have a spindle in orbit over earth. We don’t even have fully operation cybernetic limbs. But Neuromancer remains the greatest science fiction novel ever written, because it was never about the tech. The tech is a metaphor, for a world Gibson saw coming, and that world is with us.
We are lost in cybernetic spaces, the strange screaming voids of social media, accessed by staring into dark glass mirrors. Our democratic systems have bought out by billionaire clans who wield power through technology. Replace Tessier-Ashpool with Alphabet and the picture doesn’t change that much. Some, like the philosopher Timothy Morton, argue that emergent AI is already with us, in the cybernetic systems of 21st century capitalism.
A talented movie maker, and I have a feeling Tim Miller is such, might realise that, instead of conjuring yet another cliche Hollywood “future” (remember how Minority Report was supposed to be the future?) Neuromancer can evoke far more power and emotion, simoly by looking like our here and now today.