Friday, March 1, 2024

Will a Neuromancer series be able to overcome the insurmountable challenge for books that are simultaneously super influential and super dated?

We're in a weird place with television and movie adaptations. On the one hand, I love what is happening. For example, the first two premiere episodes of Shogun on FX were nothing short of spectacular. Their adaptation is so faithful to the book material, and it all just looks so good. On the other hand, decades of people desiring to either get a side gig, become rich, or become famous by telling stories has resulted in a flood of material that is so deep, that the original (that may have kicked it off decades ago) seems derivative. actually have to tell people that Dune and Star Wars got their ideas from Asimov's Foundation. If you don't, then anyone who looks maybe at Apple TV's version of Foundation will declare it as a "Star Wars knockoff done poorly." It's very rare when writers of new ideas and the media (that we consume) go hand-in-hand. This happened for Rowling with her story of a wizarding school. But if she'd been just a decade or more late...The Magicians by Lev Grossman might have told the first wizarding school story that hit it big and then people would have declared that Harry Potter was just an English knockoff, when it's clear that The Magicians is the actual knockoff.

Now, we are set to have another such phenomenon land. A favorite book of mine that won both the Hugo and the Nebula is set to be adapted on Apple TV plus. And it's about time. This book, called Neuromancer is the singular book that started a ton of ideas. Neuromancer gave us the terms we use today for things like "the Web" and "Internet." It was the thing that inspired movies like The Matrix which has an incredibly original world. Neuromancer invented cyberpunk. But for one reason or another, William Gibson's incredible novel has been stuck in development or non-development hell for decades. Meanwhile, all of these other projects got greenlit around it while Neuromancer just floundered despite its enormous fanbase at the time. And that's crucial to understand. It has been almost forty years since that book was published. Millennials and GenZ for the most part will have no idea what Neuromancer even is. We've had Shadowrun tabletop games come and go. We've had hundreds of cyberpunk video games. And now that Neuromancer is finally getting a ten episode season, it will be hard...almost impossible not to succumb to the "John Carter Effect." I define this as an intellectual property that will seem derivative despite being the originator of so many tropes of the genre. It's a case of too little too late, I've already seen all that. This is 100% the insurmountable challenge for books that are simultaneously super influential and super dated.

All that being said, I'm pretty excited for this. Apple tends to actually spend money on their shows, which certainly helps, too. And they don't seem to want to cancel shows, unlike Netflix which frequently chops off 80% of the shows that it green lights for a season one. TV is also (probably) a better format for Neuromancer. It will give the novel the time to highlight the slow burn qualities that are present within the work. Still, I wish there had been a movie in the timeline between 1986 to 1994 or so, before the novel's influence started to percolate into popular culture via games and other media. There's definitely a cinematic, vivid quality to Gibson's prose that, in the hands of a skilled director, could translate into a stunning thing to watch.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on Neuromancer. Next week, I'm only blogging on Wednesday for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post. I'll resume my normal blogging schedule on Monday, March 11th.


  1. Other than "The Matrix" (and really only the first one of those) cyberpunk hasn't done that well at the box office. But it's an Apple TV show so at least this doesn't have to worry about that metric. They can just call it a success when it will probably have a quarter of the viewers of reruns of Friends or NCIS.

    1. I'm kind of glad that Apple TV doesn't seem to be beholden to absolute profits to make shows. It's a tragic irony (I think) that art must always be a successful business. This is especially true in modern times with a.i. garbage flooding the market.

  2. Should be an interesting adaptation.