'Neuromancer' Chapters 1 through 6: Chiba City Blues
Well, I've just started Neuromancer again, and we've been dropped into the Japanese underworld with hustler and former hacker Case. There's a lot to keep track of: a mix of real and imagined companies, a style of neologism-making that hints at the larger world ("French orbital fatigues"), and a cast of noir archetypes repurposed for science fiction. Its tone has become a genre in itself, but it's also in some ways a great deal like Blade Runner, which came out two years before Neuromancer was published (1982 v. 1984.)
William Gibson has said that he saw Blade Runner when he was about a third of the way through writing Neuromancer and actually walked out of the theater about 20 minutes in. "I figured my unfinished first novel was sunk, done for. Everyone would assume I'd copped my visual texture from this astonishingly fine-looking film. But that didn't happen. Mainly I think because BLADERUNNER seriously bombed in theatrical release, and films didn't pop right back out on DVD in those days." The two also share a view of Japan as the economic and cultural power of the future, something that has always struck me as an odd piece of historical specificity, as someone who grew up in the '90s and early '00s when China was more visible.
Narratively, Gibson has also listed Escape from New York as an influence. "I saw that movie, by the way, when I was starting 'Burning Chrome' and it had a real influence on Neuromancer. I was intrigued by the exchange in one of the opening scenes where the Warden says to Snake: 'You flew the wing-five over Leningrad, didn't you?' It turns out to be just a throwaway line, but for a moment it worked like the best SF, where a casual reference can imply a lot." That's one of the great strengths of Neuromancer to me: it implies a huge world by focusing on details.
That also means that the book is incredibly dense with references, something that I've always found rather beautiful. Reading the first few pages over again, I realized that a lot of the imagery and turns of phrase from Neuromancer have made it into my daily life — Linda Lee playing in the arcade, for example, is the semi-conscious prototype I use when imagining any arcade. Does it work for other people, or have the images and styles become so frequently used in pop culture since 1984 that they've become cliche?