Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Is Cyberpunk Making a Comeback?

Posted on | August 23, 2010 | No Comments

    . . . I concocted cyberspace by sitting at a manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper and writing a bunch of words with I think. . . double-spaced capital letters. . hyperspace. . . other there. . . . you know horrible, like horrible things that would never stick and then I typed cyberspace, and I thought oh, you know.. that’s kind of sexy. . . . [1]
    – William Gibson interviewed in the Canadian documentary Cyberscribe (1993)

The word is that Splice (2009) director, Vincenzo Natali, is set to direct the classic cyberpunk novel Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson. Known also for the 1997 movie The Cube, Natali has picked up the rights to Neuromancer and is working with Gibson to bring it to the screen.

vincenzo natali to direct neuromancer

Before the Web, We had Cyberspace

By the late 1980’s, the notion of “cyberspace” began to circulate in discussions about the future of the world’s telecommunications networks. Its meaning was in some contention but it no doubt referred to both the new network technologies and accelerating computing abilities of the new electronic microprocessors that began to combine to form the world’s new telecommunications grid, a dynamic multitrillion dollar infrastructure opening up the electronic “frontier” as the railroads and telegraph opened up the American west.

Cyberspace was often connected with the new “virtual reality” technologies of the time, especially as they came to support diverse participants sharing an electronic computer-generated environment through the use of the new networks. This conception arose because author William Gibson produced the term to describe what he called the electronic “consensual hallucination” in which the characters immersed themselves in his award-winning novel Neuromancer. In his fictional narrative, “console cowboys” connect to the network by “jacking in,” linking into the electronic telecommunications “matrix” via electronic velcro-held “trodes” attached to their heads. Somewhat like a flight simulator, the user experiences a vast simulated space scattered with geometric shapes representing institutional databanks such as the “green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of America.”

Admittedly that sounds quite weak given the “virtual” reality of recent games like Halo or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 not to Second Life or or the military simulations used these days, but it helped sparked imaginations at the time and changed the culture of telecommunications from one dominated by telephone company engineers and Washington DC lawyers to the promise of the web and creative imaginations tech-savvy multimedia designers and entrepreneurs of the 1990s and the zeroes.

It will be interesting to see if Vincenzo Natali can pull off Neuromancer and if it will come out a bit better than Gibson’s other ideation, the Keanu Reeves vehicle, Johnny Mnemonic.



[1] Quote from Cyberscribe (1991) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Production. By Producer/Director Frances-Mary Morrison, Editor Jacques Milette.
[2] Image from




Anthony J. Pennings, PhD recently joined the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University in Austin TX, after ten years on the faculty of New York University.


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    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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