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Where’s Our Cyberpunk Films, Hollywood?

Lately, I’ve been re-reading a couple of my favorite sci-fi novels, Neuromancer and Snowcrash. Above all others, these two novels really created the cyberpunk genre… a genre which regrettably looks more and more obsolete as technology rapidly catches up with the fever dreams of authors like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson.

But as I’ve been poring through these two novels, I find it more mystifying than ever that these films didn’t get spit out onto the screen in the mid-90’s… a brief splash of time where technology had not yet proved even weirder and more wonderful than the cyberpunk genre could imagine.

Neuromancer, admittedly, would be hard to adapt. Gibson is a novelist of ideas… with a tenuous grasp on real characters, pacing, and plot.  That’s okay, a lot of great genre writers are like this: Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft immediately jump to mind. But that doesn’t change the fact that Neuromancer, as much as I love it, plods along. This is probably the reason why Gibson has been ripped off by Hollywood since the "cyberspace" fad first hit Hollywood in the early 90’s without any strict adaptations of his novels being written.

But Snow Crash‘s absence from screens mystifies me, since it still reads like a calculated attempt by Neal Stephenson to adapt a lot of the concepts in Neuromancer in such a way that Hollywood would pay him a billion dollars to film it. I’d say it’s the far stronger novel: instead of the abstract spectrum of shapes and squiggles of Gibson’s Cyberspace, Snow Crash has a more Hollywood-friendly Hacker Space in the Metaverse. Unlike Neuromancer’s protagonist, Case, who spends most of the novel placidly being tugged along by forces greater than himself, Snow Crash’s aptly named Hiro is not only a hacker and adventurer but also the best sword fighter in the world… both in the Metaverse and elsewhere. This novel is so fast and frenetic, it’s simply unbelievable it didn’t jump to the screen the summer after The Matrix hit theaters.

Neuromancer is slowly creeping towards production: current rumor is a 2009 release, directed by the guy who did Torque. Snow Crash, on the other hand, appears unlikely to ever be made… the budget being far too outrageous for Hollywood. Too bad. If Hollywood were willing to take the risk, I think Snow Crash is possibly the most Hollywood-friendly sci-fi classic ever written.

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