Short Story #6: “Johnny Mnemonic” — William Gibson (1981)
While cyberpunk can now be seen as an evolution of style in science fiction — and a surprising prophetic one at that — it sure felt like a revolution at the time. And the first molotov cocktail thrown was William Gibson’s fusion of noir and sci-fi, “Johnny Mnemonic,” a tale of low-lifes using high-tech to blackmail the mob in a dirty neon future. Slipped into the pages of Ommi Magazine just like it was any other sci-fi story, this harbinger of hackers, human augmentation and endless urban sprawl came out a year before “Blade Runner,” and introduced William Gibson’s most famous character: Molly Millions. (Yes, the one we named our cat after. When I finally met Gibson a few years ago and told him this, he snorted and said, “Lot of cats named Molly Millions.” D’oh!)
Gibson’s short story — available here — is also the introduction to his seminal Sprawl trilogy (“Neuromancer“/”Count Zero”/”Mona Lisa Overdrive”) that would permanently weld “cyberspace” to the idea of the future. Oh, but whatever you do — Don’t. Watch. The. Movie. Just — Don’t.
(Molly’s image taken from Tom de Haven and Bruce Jensen’s brilliant but doomed 1989 graphic novel adaptation of Neuromancer. Oh yeah, she’s not even in the movie version of Johnny Mnemonic. Which is all 31 flavors of WTF. I’m serious. Don’t rent the move.)
[Late breaking update: Apparently someone is making another go at the story, this time as a TV show. Huh. Well, it couldn’t be worse than the movie. Which you shouldn’t ever see, not even out of curiosity.]