When Did ‚Neuromancer‘ Actually Take Place


An image of David Byrne in Neuromancer Mind Movie, an unrealized video game project based on the William Gibson novel
An image of David Byrne in Neuromancer Mind Movie, an unrealized video game project based on the William Gibson novel „Neuromancer.“Credit Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division
I’ve never read a novel that better anticipated the spirit of the early 21st century than Neuromancer, William Gibson’s foreboding 1984 new wave manifesto. Because of its uncanny prescience, it seems relevant to ask when it’s set. Are the terrible and wonderful things it predicts conceivable in ten years? In 50?

By Jon Christian | MOTHERBOARD

Neither the novel nor its sequels set a firm date, but Gibson has waded into the matter himself by declaring that in his mind, Neuromancer takes place around 2035.

This, unfortunately, is where I become unbearable. I’ve read Neuromancer an embarrassing number of times, and I’m not convinced Gibson has the textual evidence to locate his own work so near in the future.

I should pause here: If there exists a special circle of hell for insufferable hipsters who imagine themselves to know more about a novel than its author, I will surely be cast down into it.

That’s appropriate, I suppose, since eschatology is a recurring theme in Neuromancer, which swept the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick awards with its fever dream of flickering neon. In it, the glowing abyss of cyberspace—a term the novel is perhaps now best remembered for popularizing—is itself a sort of afterlife, balkanized into looming echelons of mega corporations and military-industrial spook country, haunted by scheming artificial intelligences that Gibson casts as ghosts and demons summoned up from the archives of humankind’s collective superstition into some final solitaire of global thanatos.

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