A Sci-Fi Fan’s Wet Dream: Neuromancer Finally to be a Film

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." - 1st line of Neuromancer

It is FINALLY happening!  This may be the best news a science fiction fan will hear this year (for me, possibly this decade).  After more than twenty years of waiting, rumors, speculation, and pre-production limbo, someone is finally going to put Neuromancer on film.  In 1984, William Gibson wrote his seminal science fiction novel Neuromancer, and kicked-off the cyberpunk genre.  This novel, is about many things, but the basic plot (without giving too much away) is this:

Henry Case was a talented hacker until his employer burned him, damaging his central nervous system with a mycotoxin so that he can no longer connect to his brain-computer interface and enter cyberspace.  In Japan, desperate, drug-addicted, and more than a little suicidal, Case searched the “black clinics” for a cure, until he is contacted by Molly Millions, an augmented “street samurai” or “razorgirl” who offers to cure him in exchange for his services as a hacker.  Of course, Case is too desperate to say no.

And so Case finds himself working for Molly’s employer, an ex-soldier named Armitage, who will not reveal what he really wants, what the plan is, or who he works for.  The first thing they must do is steal the “saved consciousness” of McCoy Pauley, the legendary cyber-cowboy who once mentored Case and who’s mind was downloaded into a ROM construct upon his death.  Next, the must recruit Peter Riviera, an artist, drug addict, thief, and socio-path, who can project holographic illusions using cybernetic implants.

As Case and Molly accomplish each goal Armitage sets for them, they also decide to find out who Armitage really is, and who he’s working for.  Eventually, they discover that Armitage is really Colonel Willis Corto, the only survivor of a secret operation to infiltrate and disrupt Russian computer systems.  The only discover that their real employer is in fact an AI named Wintermute, who has constructed the Armitage personality out of Willis Corto’s broken mind for its own purposes.  However, what Wintermute really wants, and why it sends Case and the others to Villa Straylight, a mansion on a space station in orbit of Earth, remains to be seen.

I cannot stress the importance of this novel enough.  It was not the very first cyberpunk story, but it quickly became one of (perhaps the) definitive example.  It coined the phrase cyberspace, as well as matrix, which the Wachowski Brothers later borrowed for their cyberpunk movie The Matrix.  Gibson’s ideas about hackers (also called console-cowboys or cyber-cowboys), cyberspace, interconnected computer systems, AIs, cybernetic augmentations, etc. lead the way for many, many science fictions movies and novels to come.  It was the first novel ever to win the “science fiction triple crown” – The Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards.  And Time magazine included it in the 100 best novels written in the English language since 1923.  (It also happens to be one of my all-time favorite books EVER.)

For years and years, people have been trying to get this book made into a movie.  There have been all sorts of rumors floating around about this production company or that director buying the rights, being signed on, etc.  But for years nothing has come of it.  Finally, however, on Thursday, May 19th, the official announcement was made that the sales rights were secured at the Cannes Film Festival, and pre-production has, in fact, already begun.  Vincenzo Natali, who directed Splice and Cube, has been signed on to direct.  The film will reportedly be co-produced by Seven Arts Pictures and GFM Films.  Filming is slated to begin in 2012 in Canada, London, Instanbul, and Tokyo.

I’ll admit I have some concerns.  I haven’t seen either Splice or Cube, so I can’t speak to Vincenzo Natali’s fitness as a director (though, as some others have said, I think Chris Nolan would have been an inspired choice, if they could have gotten him).  And I know that Seven Arts Pictures is an independent production company based in the UK, who haven’t produced any particularly well-known films (as far as I know), so Neuromancer might not get the big budget it deserves and needs to really translate Gibson’s vision to film.  However, at this point, I will take anything I can get, and I intend to remain cautiously optimistic until I see the first trailer.

This novel has been a huge influence on me.  While I mainly write fantasy, I have a few science fiction WIPs sitting on my computer and percolating in the back of my brain.  I’ve always wanted to write a cyberpunk novel, thanks mainly to the influence of Neuromancer and Terminator.  I think everyone should read this novel.  And I hope that the movie does the book justice.  But now, all I can do is wait.

Some Useful Links:

Amazon page for Neuromancer

Neuromancer wikipedia page

Los Angeles Times article announcing the deal with Natali