William Gibson became one of very few modern authors to be considered more visionary prophet than literary artist. His novel Neuromancer, which won the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards, became the handbook of an odd kind of social movement, representing the perverse dreams and ambitions of a large number of alienated adolescents. The novel’s success achieved mythical proportions, its relevance seeming so great that it became the most extensively studied science-fiction text in the history of the genre. The role of cultural guru was one for which Gibson was somewhat ill fitted, but inevitably relished. He took good care in his subsequent fiction to represent and extrapolate contemporary social trends that caught his attention and warranted intelligent comment.
Neuromancer helped to rejuvenate generic science fiction, which had been weakened by a loss of faith in the mythical future of the space age. The space age had provided science fiction with a frontier for exploration. By the mid-1980’s, the belief that there was attainable extraterrestrial “real estate” in the future had faded to absurd optimism or utter desperation. Then, Gibson revealed that outer space was not, after all, the final frontier, and that there was a new frontier waiting, on the desktop rather than the doorstep. When asked what and where cyberspace was, he became accustomed to answering, “It’s where your money is.”
The rejuvenation of science fiction was brief—reality caught up with imagination so quickly that Bruce Sterling famously declared that cyberpunk was dead even before the term had been coined. However, the rejuvenation brought about by Neuromancer was spectacular, and it left an indelible imprint on contemporary images of the future.