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1984 - Year in SF&F: January



THE WONDER TIMELINE: SF&F RETROSPECTIVE
Read other issues here

----------------------------------------------




William Gibson
"Neuromancer" (nv)
(Neuromancer / Sprawl #1)
© 1984, Ace SF Special / Gollancz
--novel : 1985 Hugo W
--novel : 1985 Nebula W
--third place : 1985 Campbell Award
--winner : 1985 Philip K. Dick W
--first novel : 1985 Locus /2
--sf novel : 1985 Locus /8
--outstanding work : 1985 Aurora
--novel : 1985 British SF
--international fiction : 1985 Ditmar W
--novel : 1985 SF Chronicle W
--foreign novel : 1987 Seiun W
--sf novel : 1998 Locus /15

--/ FIRST place sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ style award
--/ idea award
--/ adventure award
--/ emotion award


In 1984 the general reading public got the first view of Gibson’s world, where crossed men get magnificent revenge, where evil AIs manipulate humanity, where women throw more punches than the men (and wear skintight vinyl while doing it), and where questions of morality arise again and again – because there are no good answers.

High-technology, pre-internet networks, ass-kickery, drugs, space stations, mean guns and meaner chicks - dirty, violent and tightly written, this is the writing that changed popular space-ship political fiction into something personal, young, and rude. While it helps to remember the political climate of the Eighties when reading “Neuromancer,” I’m surprised at every fresh reading how timeless and sleek it is; it’s no wonder that it won nearly as many awards are there are to win. “Neuromancer” also has my favorite opening line of all time: “The sky over the port was the color of television tuned to a dead channel.” Much to my surprise, it’s the term “dead channel” that may soon mark “Neuromancer”’s age.

Inevitably it is brought up as the “first” cyberpunk novel, a fact that is neither true, nor, as the decades pass, particularly relevant. What is relevant is that 20-plus years later, popular culture is just now starting to catch on to what Gibson was dishing out.

Perhaps most famously, Gibson wrote “Neuromancer” without the aid of a computer, and indeed, without knowing much about computers at all. This ignorance led to a lesson that every scifi writer, fan and everybody else should learn: your knowledge might be crippling your imagination. Gibson was free to imagine virtual social networks and complex visual interfaces primarily because he had no reason to think otherwise. “Neuromancer” quietly managed to transcend the segregation of genre and become the kind of novel that influences the mind of a generation, and that, friends, is no dog-and-pony show.

It should also be made clear that it is not the futurism of “Neuromancer” that inspires such passion, it is in seeing the execution of such perfect balance. Many of us nerds imagine being able to write the next Great American (er, Canadian) Science Fiction Novel, but can anyone ever do it again? A man, a girl, a bad guy – sounds easy, right? Or clichéd? How about a web junky cut off from the net forever, a razorgirl named Molly Millions and a psychopathic Green Beret? Gibson assembles it all with heartbreaking ease while paying homage to Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delaney, Roger Zelazny and who knows who else.

Even if you’ve already read it, it’s imperative that you stop what ever you’re doing right now – don’t even put the toothbrush down – and begin reading. It is still that good.

Review by Sunday Williams
----------------------------------------------

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