Popdose Conceptual Theater: Neuromancer
Every so often here at Popdose we’re lucky enough to get an artist to list their Desert Island Discs for us – the five albums they’d take along if they were stuck on a deserted island. Logistically, I always figured it would be a lot easier to have five books. There’s no hesitation in my mind that one of the five books I’d bring would be William Gibson’s groundbreaking cyberpunk novel “Neuromancer.” For me, Neuromancer has always been the Die Hard of cyberpunk – the one that set the standard for all others to follow, until Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” came along ten years later to set the bar even higher (much as The Matrix did for action movies). Gibson’s vision for how humans would interact with technology in the future influenced not only other authors within the science and speculative fiction genre, but also software engineers and user interface designers.
While many familiar corporations and brands found their way into Neuromancer (such as Nikon, Honda, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, and Genentech), pop culture references from the time it was written (the early 1980’s) were effectively absent. One of the few exceptions was the mention of a song by an obscure Toronto punk band called The Viletones. The song – “Screaming Fist” – was used as the code name of a failed military operation that left one of its participants – Colonel Willie Corto – as an empty vessel into which an artificial intelligence called “Wintermute” poured the basics of a personality and a plan for its liberation from the hardwired shackles of the Turing Registry. This song, as well as William Gibson’s well-documented affinity for punk music formed the basis for this week’s Conceptual Theater mixtape. It’s not exactly what most folks would consider traditional Thanksgiving fare, but I think it will fill you up just fine.
“Dead Channel Overture” – Zachary Cale
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
“Goddam Iffy” – Monkey Paw
Night City was like a deranged experiment in social Darwinism, designed by a bored researcher who kept one thumb permanently on the fast-forward button. Stop hustling and you sank without a trace, but move a little too swiftly and you’d break the fragile surface tension of the black market; either way, you were gone…
“Steppin’ Razor” – Sublime
She held out her hands, palms up, the white fingers slightly spread, and with a barely audible click, ten double-edged, four-centimeter scalpel blades slid from their housings beneath the burgundy nails. She smiled. The blades slowly withdrew.
“Fix My Brain” – The Marked Men
“What would you say if I told you we could correct your neural damage, Case?”
“Reboot” – Ed Harrison
…and somewhere he was laughing, in a white-painted loft, distant fingers caressing the deck, tears of release streaking his face.
“The Sprawl” – Sonic Youth
Home was BAMA, the Sprawl, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis.
“Panther Moderns” – Panthers
It was the style that mattered and the style was the same. The Moderns were mercenaries, practical jokers, nihilistic technofetishists.
“Devil on my Shoulder” – Scrapy
Case hit the Simstim switch. And flipped into the agony of broken bone.
“Screaming Fist” – Pinups
“Your brass, Case, your Sprawlside brass in, where was it, McLean? In the bunkers, all of that…great scandal. Wasted a fair bit of patriotic young flesh in order to test some new technology.”
“The Illusionist” – Gravemachine
The sting came up, quivered, and sank into the skin above a bulging vein. The coral snake relaxed, and Riviera sighed slowly as the injection hit him.
“Wintermute” – Web Burrell
Faint harmonics, tiny inaudible voices rattling across some orbital link, and then a sound like wind.
“Jules Verne” – Peru
When Armitage was gone, he picked up one of the brochures. It was expensively printed, in French, English, and Turkish. FREESIDE – WHY WAIT?
“Zion Chapter 1″ – Jah Forest
“We monitor many frequencies. We listen always. Came a voice, out of the babel of tongues, speaking to us. It played us a mighty dub.”
“Tweaker” – Girls Against Boys
“Betaphenethylamine,” she said. “No sweat, but it’s on your chip.”
“The Puppet Motel” – Laurie Anderson
The girl sat up in bed and said something in German. Her eyes were soft and unblinking. Automatic pilot. A neural cutout. He backed out of the cubicle and closed the door.
“Good Cop, Bad Cop” – Prom Queen
“You killed ‘em,” Case panted, running. “Crazy motherfucker, you killed ‘em all…”
“Straylight” – Jan Cyrka
Straylight was crazy, was craziness grown in the resin concrete they’d mixed from pulverized lunar stone, grown in welded steel and tons of knick-knacks, all the bizarre impedimentia they’d shipped up the well to line their winding nest. But it wasn’t a craziness he understood.
“Break the Ice” – Youth Attack
“That’s the sting,” the construct said. “When Kuang’s good and bellytight with the Tessier-Ashpool core, we’re ridin’ that through.”
“Silicon Beach” – Milwaukee Wildmen
They were there by the edge of the sea, Linda Lee and the thin child who said his name was Neuromancer. His leather jacket dangled from her hand, catching the fringe of the surf.
“This Secret Ninja” – AFI
The ninja relaxed his pull on the fine, braided string, lowering the bow. He crossed the tiles to where the Remington lay and picked it up.
“Junkie Man” – Rancid
Riviera was backing away, into the dark beyond the pool. He brushed against a white chair; its feet rattled on the tile. Hideo’s arrow twitched.
“Cut it Loose” – The Bloody Hollies
Her eyes were calm now, distant. Then she gazed down at Case. “Take your word, thief.”
“Shackles and Chains” – Dan Reeder
“No,” he said, and spun, the star leaving his fingers, flash of silver, to bury itself in the face of the wall screen. The screen woke, random patterns flickering feebly from side to side, as though it were trying to rid itself of something that caused it pain.
“I don’t need you,” he said.
See you in two weeks with the second installment of Jack Feerick’s Harry Potter series!