Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Computer game #13: “Spectre Supreme” (1993)
Once LANs (Local Area Networks) became commonplace in the early ’90s, it was finally possible to link up computers in the same room and play live head-to-head. While the Macintosh suffered from a dearth of games compared to what was available for PCs, we did have one classic to ourselves: Spectre. Widely considered the grandson of “Battlezone,” Spectre was a sci-fi tank game played on a TRON-like grid. And when “Spectre Supreme” came out, you could play against your friends on the LAN.
Around this time I spent a year working for a tiny design firm. It was just the two of us, the owner and me, and at the end of the day, we’d boot up “Spectre Supreme,” he in his office and me in mine, and spend an hour or so hunting each other down in cyberspace. It was the most productive we were all day.
[Photo via amatecha … for about a decade, computer game companies put a lot of effort into designing the boxes the game came in, and the Spectre series (Sumpreme, VR, etc) were notable for how elaborate and beautiful they were. Strange but true.]
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
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.]