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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?

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

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

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