Considering Cyberpunk: A Look Back at William Gibson's Neuromancer

On opening Neuromancer, I was immediately reminded of xkcd’s Fictional Rule of Thumb.

Fictional Rule of ThumbPartway into the first chapter, the reader is hit with the following passage:

He stepped out of the way to let a dark-suited sarariman, by spotting the Mitsubishi-Genentech logo tattoed across the back of the man’s right hand … The sarariman had been Japanese, but the Ninsei crowd was a gaijin crowd.

After consulting a dictionary and the internet, it turns out that only two of the four words in bold above are fictional: Genentech and Ninsei. Apparently sarariman is the Japanese origin of the somewhat obscure English word salaryman, and gaijin is Japanese for foreigner. Ninsei is a fictional street in Chiba, a Japanese city near Tokyo, while Genentech is a fictional biotech company which merged with Mistubishi in the hazy past of Neuromancer.

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Midweek Fiction: Eugie Foster, "Requiem Duet, Concerto for Flute and Voodoo"

Eugie Foster is one of the best writers of speculative short fiction currently working. She has great facility for language and structure, an ability to see beauty and terror in equal measure, and consistently crafts stories that are both harrowing and satisfying. Her fiction lingers in the mind of the reader long after the story is finished.

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Fantastic Language: Helen Phillips' And Yet They Were Happy

And Yet They Were HappyI found And Yet They Were Happy on the "New Fantasy Fiction" shelf at the public library, and I was immediately drawn to how different it looked from the other books surrounding it.  In a sea of mass market paperback-sized novels, with covers of purple and black that feature wizards on the cover, Helen Phillips' lemon-yellow, simply illustrated cover stood out as something unique.

The same could be said of the text of the book itself.  And Yet They Were Happy is not a novel, it does not tell the story of a young hero on an epic quest, magic doesn't appear through spells and wizards, and I don't remember seeing a single elf.  Honestly, I'm a bit surprised that it was shelved with the other fantasy novels.

But I'm so glad that it was.

Because, you see, the magic in And Yet They Were Happy is in the language and imagery of the text itself.  It is the magic of crisp imagery, precise wording, and direct sentences.  And as such, this is a magic that has the power to travel outside of its story, into the books next to it on the shelves. 

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Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko DVD CoverI watched Donnie Darko once, in college (a long long time ago) and thought it was ok, but I would never say that really liked it, let alone loved it.  On the advice of a good friend, I recently re-watched it and found it fascinating.  

I can tell you that I definitely liked it.

I can also tell you that I definitely didn’t understand it.

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Theatre of the Fantastic

SpellcastFirst off, I want to thank Jen for reviewing my contemporary fantasy novel Spellcast and for giving me this opportunity to talk about what went into writing it. The short answer is: my life.

Originally, I was just going to sprinkle in a few memories to add “flavor.” Next thing I knew, Maggie Graham was morphing into Barbara Ashford (which resulted in more than a few moments of schizophrenia for me and the occasional reminder from my husband that I was writing a novel, not an autobiography). Maggie grows up in Wilmington, Delaware; so did I. She chucks her job in educational administration to try her luck as an actress…ditto. We both worked at telephone helplines. We both found love during a summer stock season. And we both believe in the transformational power of theatre.

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