It's probably better known than a lot of his other stories because it was turned into a relatively awful mid-90s movie, with Keanu lurching into his first beautifully wooden portrayal of a partially aspergic leet future hax0r. The movie's got an almost (but not) Tank Girl level os mid-90s-awful-charm.
In fact, and hilariously, they both feature Ice T in small roles. I'd forgotten for a while that it also features Dolph Lundgren AND Henry fucking Rollins (being, wonderfully, HENRY FUCKING ROLLINS - you know, like when you get a Dennis Leary cameo in which he's just DENNIS FUCKING LEARY for 30 seconds in the middle of Demolition Man).
Anyway. The film... not so good.
The short story, though, I loved that fucking thing.
I read Count Zero, then Neuromancer, then Burning Chrome, if I remember correctly. Between the ages of 16 and 18. Reading Neuromancer second made reading Count Zero a bitch, as Gibson didn't stop to explain a bunch of his terms the second time round. He barely explained them the first time round, preferring to let you grok things by context. As a young scrote from the Midlands who had heard about this interwebs, but couldn't dream of using it until university, this was heady stuff.
Thing is, when I read Neuromancer, there was so much to take in, I missed something.
When I read Johnny Mnemonic, that was pretty much the second anti-hero (the first hacker anti-hero) teenage Scott connected with.
I used to DJ as Neuromancer for a while. Made a really decent mix tape called the Neuromancer House Mix (original, no?) which did the rounds for a while. Lots of deep house, like I was into about '93-'94.
Then, I called my second album as DeathBoy 'a very technical boy'. Taken from the last line of Johnny Mnemonic...
"It's educational, too. With Jones to help me figure things out, I'm getting to be the most technical boy in town."
In the few places on the interwebs that I'm not known of as DeathBoy, one of the names I'm often called is JohnnyD / JohnnyDee. Johnny from Johnny Mnemonic (and D for, well, you know).
Even wrote a song called Johnny Dee... about a girl I once married. Long time ago.
Only remembered half these things this evening after having a stark whack in the face from a story from the past.
Because I'm re-reading Neuromancer now. First time since the first time (that I remember). I've re-read a few Gibson books (and indeed Johnny Mnemonic several times).
The first time I read Neuromancer, I missed something, remember?
There's a bit where Molly, in a rare moment, confides in Case something about her history.
"Hey, Case, you listening? Tell you a story.... Had me this boy once. You kinda remind me... Johnny, his name was."
"My Johnny, see, he was smart, real flash boy. Started out as a stash on Memory Lane, chips in his head and people paid to hide data there. Had the Yak after him, night I met him, and I did for their assassin. More luck than anything else, but I did for him. And after that, it was tight and sweet, Case."
"We had a set-up with a squid, so we could read the traces of everything he'd ever stored. Ran it all out on tape and started twisting selected clients, ex-clients. I was bagman, muscle, watchdog. I was real happy. You ever been happy, Case? He was my boy. We worked together. Partners. I was maybe eight weeks out of the puppet house when I met him...."
"Tight, sweet, just ticking along, we were. Like nobody could ever touch us. I wasn't going to let them. Yakuza, I guess, they still wanted Johnny's ass. 'Cause I'd killed their man. 'Cause Johnny'd burned them. And the Yak, they can afford to move so fucking slow, man, they'll wait years and years. Give you a whole life, just so you'll have more to lose when they come and take it away. Patient like a spider. Zen spiders."
"So that first one they'd sent, he'd been hot. Reflexes like you never saw, implants, enough style for ten ordinary hoods. But the second one, he was, I dunno, like a monk. Cloned. Stone killer from the cells on up. Had it in him, death, this silence, he gave it off in a cloud...."
"The second one, the one who came for Johnny, he was like that old man. Not old, but he was like that. He killed that way."
"I just saw him once. On my way into our place. He was coming out. We lived in a converted factory space, lots of young comers from Sense/Net, like that. Pretty good security to start with, and I'd put in some really heavy stuff to make it really tight. I knew Johnny was up there. But this little guy, he caught my eye, as he was coming out. Didn't say a word. We just looked at each other and I knew. Plain little guy, plain clothes, no pride in him, humble. He looked at me and got into a pedicab. I knew. Went upstairs and Johnny was sitting in a chair by the window, with his mouth a little open, like he'd just thought of something to say."
"Never much found anybody I gave a damn about, after that."
Johnny, one of the characters I grew up romanticising about when I'd be up late at night, hacking away, smashing out some bad-ass code, thinking in my vain little head YEAH! I'm a fucking technical boy now!
He didn't get his happy ending after all.
Weird thing about being bipolar. Sat on the bus, listening to the audiobook version because it's shit reading on a bus... living in the future, with my coding job, my pocket supercomputer phone, my racing red Sennheisers and racing red mirror shades. Cutting the world out like a good little cyberpunk on his way back to his techno-cave...
And I start fucking crying because a character from a short story never had the happy ending I always thought he'd had.
Same one I want.
Dickhead hacker chops his childhood out of his mind so he can fill it with data, manages to avoid getting killed, gets the girl (who kills the baddies), hides away in his techno-cave, finally happy.
Dies in his chair, on his own, probably not even knowing what hit him.
I could have done without knowing the end of that particular story, I can tell you.
Fucking glad I'm not drinking tonight. Really want to, though.
But I'm not. I suppose because I still want that future.
Still hunched over a screen in my techno-cave, smoking a cigarette.
Needed to get that off my mind and onto a screen somewhere. I'm doing better lately, writing things down helps.
Right, I'm off to play videogames for a bit and listen to some righteous dub.
Be good, motherfuckers. Stay clear of the black ice.