As part of their obligatory stuck-on-fast-forward depiction of a future techno-society, certain cyberpunk stories succeed in conjuring memorable images of virtual worlds. Stuck in my mind for more than a decade now, from the beginning of Chapter 3 in William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer:


Home was BAMA, the Sprawl, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis.

Program a map to display frequency of data exchange, every thousand megabytes a single pixel on a very large screen. Manhattan and Atlanta burn solid white. Then they start to pulse, the rate of traffic threatening to overload your simulation. Your map is about to go nova. Cool it down. Up your scale. Each pixel a million megabytes. At a hundred million megabytes per second, you begin to make out certain blocks in midtown Manhattan, outlines of hundred-year-old industrial parks ringing the old core of Atlanta ...

... and later in that same chapter, a graphic depiction of the infosphere itself:

A gray disk, the color of Chiba sky.


Disk beginning to rotate, faster, becoming a sphere of paler gray. Expanding—

And flowed, flowered for him, fluid origami trick, the unfolding of his distanceless home, his country, transparent 3D chessboard extending to infinity. Inner eye opening to the stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority burning beyond the green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of America, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arms of military systems, forever beyond his reach.

Sure, Vernor Vinge sang the same song a few years earlier in True Names, albeit in a cooler, more intellectual, less knife-edgy style. And several science-fictional generations before that, Keith Laumer, Roger Zelazny, et al. played variations of the tune as they traveled sideways into alternate universes. Maybe it's human neuro-nature to map the abstract into the visible this way ...

(cf. GlobalWisdom (22 Jul 1999), VernorVinge (17 Sep 2001), DreamData (22 Mar 2002), TrueNames (16 Oct 2003), CrossTimeTravel (9 Apr 2004), CountermeasureAndGodshatter (30 Oct 2004), CalligraphicImperative (28 Nov 2005), ...)

TopicLiterature - TopicLanguage - 2005-12-31

(correlates: SituationalStrategy, GhostWritten, PaulHolbrook, ...)