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Introduction to William Gibson’s Neuromancer and the Genre of Science Fiction. Guest Lecture by Lydia Balian. Neuromancer and Cyberpunk. Neuromancer is a science fiction novel

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introduction to william gibson s neuromancer and the genre of science fiction
Introduction to William Gibson’s Neuromancerandthe Genre of Science Fiction

Guest Lecture by Lydia Balian

neuromancer and cyberpunk
Neuromancer and Cyberpunk
  • Neuromancer is a science fiction novel
  • In the year it was published, Neuromancer won the Nebula, the Hugo, and the Philip K. Dick awards in science fiction
  • Has been translated into numerous languages, including Magyar, Japanese, and Danish
  • Spawned an entire subgenre of science fiction: Cyberpunk
  • But who is William Gibson and what exactly is science fiction?
william gibson
William Gibson
  • Brief Biography
    • Born 1948
    • Moved to Vancouver, British Columbia at 19 to avoid the draft for the Vietnam War
    • Became interested in Sci-Fi literature while working on a degree in English at the University of British Columbia
    • Published two short stories, “Johnny Mnemonic” and “Burning Chrome” before publishing his first novel, Neuromancer, in 1984 to popular and critical acclaim
    • Books by William Gibson: Official Website (1, 2)
what is science fiction how is it characterized
What is science fiction? How is it characterized?
  • Science fiction is notoriously difficult to define
  • Numerous sub-genres, such as fantasy or horror
  • General characteristics include:
    • Speculation based on current science or technology
    • Setting in the future or alternate reality
    • Setting in outer space
    • Discovery or application of new or futuristic scientific principles, i.e. time travel, nanotechnology, cyborgs, robots, etc.
      • Molly’s retractable nails (24-25) and other cyborg enhancements
contributing factors to the rise of science fiction
Contributing factors to the rise of science fiction
  • Pulp Publishing
    • Named for the cheap wood pulp paper it was printed on
    • Published from the 1920s-1950s
    • Characteristic of most genre fiction including detective/mystery, western, horror, fantasy/sword and sorcery, and science fiction
    • Pulp magazines often featured a variety of genres in the same publication (example)
        • How might Neuromancer qualify as a mixing of these genres?
contributing factors continued
Contributing factors continued. . .
  • The Paperback Revolution
    • The paperback novel actually dates back to the early 19th century
    • Paperback publishing techniques combined with pulp materials creates new publishing revolution
      • Book binding technique whereby pages are bound with glue rather than stitches or staples
      • Inexpensive to produce
      • Audience for pulp magazines diminishes as buyers purchase cheap books
    • Allowed publication of full length novels in genre fiction
    • 1940s-today
five eras of science fiction
Five Eras of Science Fiction
  • Pre-Science Fiction
  • Classic
  • Golden Age
  • New Wave and Feminist
  • Cyberpunk
pre science fiction to 1926
Pre-Science Fiction (to 1926)
  • Precursors to sci-fi
    • Mythology
    • The development of science in the Age of Reason and on through the nineteenth century
      • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
      • Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Unparalleled Adventures of one Hans Pfaal"
    • The rise of new technologies such as electricity, the telegraph, and new forms of powered transportation, began to influence writers such as:
      • Jules Verne (Journey to the Centre of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon , and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea )
      • H. G. Wells (The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds)
    • The phrase “scientific romance” is used in Britain during the late 19th century to describe this kind of fiction
classic 1926 1937
Classic (1926-1937)
  • Examples of classic science fiction:
    • Hugo Gernsback created Amazing Stories in 1926
      • Previously edited radio and electronics magazines
      • Began magazine of fiction specifically for popular science enthusiasts
      • He polls readers for title of genre, with the phrase “science fiction” chosen (other possible titles: “scientific romance” or “scientification”)
golden age 1937 1950s
Golden Age (1937-1950s)
  • Characteristics:
    • “Space Opera”
    • Artificial Intelligence and Mind/Body Split
  • Examples of “Golden Age” science fiction include:
    • John W. Campbell and Astounding Science Fiction
      • Campbell discovers writers who will define the field of science fiction, such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Theodore Sturgeon
    • Isaac Asimov
      • Foundation series and space opera
    • Ray Bradbury
      • Martian Chronicles
new wave and feminist 60s and 70s
New Wave and Feminist (60s and 70s)
  • Characteristics
    • New Wave focus on “inner space”
    • Experimentation in form and content
    • 70s sci-fi preoccupied with social themes such as race, gender, and sexuality
    • 70s sci-fi also concerned with investigating notions of “utopia” versus “dystopia”
  • Examples of New Wave science fiction include:
    • New Worlds, edited by Michael Moorcock
    • J.G. Ballard and inner space
cyberpunk 1980 1991
Cyberpunk (1980-1991)
  • Characteristics:
    • Term cyberpunk coined by Bruce Bethke in short story of the same name in 1980
    • Focus on cyberspace, a term coined by Gibson in 1982
    • Information technology as central preoccupation
    • Focus on the marginalized and dispossessed (“outlaw zones,” 11 and depiction of Zion, 103-104)
    • Punk as worldview and writing style: disenchantment with corporations, government corruption, surveillance technology
  • Examples of cyberpunk include:
    • Gibson’s “Johnny Mnemonic,” “Gernsback Continuum,” “Burning Chrome,” and Neuromancer
  • Cyberspace in Neuromancer
    • “A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace...”(4-5)
effects of science fiction
Effects of Science Fiction
  • Manovich’s new media principle of transcoding and the effects of science fiction on society and vice versa
  • Innovation and technology
  • Various media forms: literature, art, film (Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic), television (Star Trek 1, 2 and Firefly 1), computer games (Neuromancer video game)
  • Science fiction community
    • Conventions
    • Clubs
    • Organizations
    • Fan fiction
where do we go from here the future of science fiction
Where do we go from here?The future of science fiction…
  • If artistic creations are a response to our life and times, how do you think artists will respond in the future?
    • Environment
    • Biotechnology
    • Nanotechnology
  • How will science fiction continue to influence society?
references
References

“Science Fiction.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 20 May 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_fiction

“Neuromancer.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 20 May 2007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuromancer

Brouillette, Sarah. “Corporate Publishing and Canonization: Neuromancer and Science-Fiction Publishing in the 1970s and Early 1980s.” Book History 5 (2002): 187-208.

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