The futuristic setting is of Neuromancer is obviously a different world than the one we inhabit, yet for me, the more interesting aspects lie in smaller details rather than the big picture disparities. I am fascinated by the intersection between aspects of modern culture that already exist and Gibson’s speculations about what will be commonplace in the future. Right from the start of the novel, we see several different types of weapons mentioned, ranging from knives and shurikens to modern and futuristic firearms. Knives and shurikens are old, rudimentary weapons, yet in Gibson’s world they still co-exist with weapons such as the “Smith & Wesson riot gun,” a firearm that uses “subsonic sandbag jellies” as ammunition. At one point, Case borrows a “fifty-year-old Vietnamese imitation of a South American copy of a Walther PPK”. Gibson’s choice to include older weapons alongside his new, speculative gun and other futuristic technologies helps characterize the seedy underworld of the city that he creates. The intersection between futuristic technology and crude urban crime sets the scene for the events of the cyberpunk novel.
Gibson treats drugs in a similar manner. He mentions familiar methods of taking drugs (pills and needles), as well as familiar drugs (speed). However, Gibson also mentions other unfamiliar drugs (“pituitaries” and others). In fact, the whole process of jacking-in to the matrix is essentially a drug in its own right. The DiVE experience was along those same lines, although to a lesser extent. When I was in the DiVE, I was always fully aware of my body and did not feel like it was affecting my brain state as much as a drug might (although it certainly interacted with my brain in interesting ways!). Within the novel, the presence of today’s street drugs along with other new drugs further adds to the atmosphere that Gibson creates. Gibson isn’t out to create a chrome utopia where society has solved all problems – he aims to create a believably grim haven for illicit activities of the future. The presence of crude weapons and current street drugs alongside new technologies of the future sets the tone right off the bat for the world in which Neuromancer’s events take place.
Citations from web version of Neuromancer:
Gibson, William. Neuromancer. 1984. Web.