after its 1984 publication, William Gibson’s Neuromancer emerged as the
defining novel of the virtual age, not only by coining the term “cyberspace,” but by generating
enormous buzz around the still-nascent cyberculture. Gibson’s timing and tack were perfect: using
a sci-fi storyline in an ultravivid near future he managed, years before the emergence of the
World Wide Web, to crystallize an image of interface technology as a potentially traversable habitat,
thus establishing himself as both prophet and pundit of a techno-society in the first throes of a
But not only does Neuromancer have its thumb on the pulse of late-century
Zeitgeist, it is also one of the slickest books of science fiction ever. As Joey, our not unslick
designer, said, “When I read the first line — ‘The sky above the port was the color of television
tuned to a dead channel’ — I knew this book was for me.” And indeed it was a book for many,
winning the triple crown of sci-fi awards (the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick) and making
Gibson an instant household name. Not bad for a first novel.
* * *
The world Gibson creates in Neuromancer is an all-too convincing dystopia,
and not even sex remains unaffected. The steamy scene below involves Neuromancer‘s
two main characters: Case, a burned-out cyberspace hacker, and his bodyguard, Molly the
“razorgirl,” so-designated for the four-inch retractable blades concealed beneath her
fingernails. She’s a real bad-ass who beats people up for fun and sports sunglasses surgically
inset in her head, but she has a bit of a soft spot for Case (most convenient for film adaptation).
The selection is a nice example of Gibson’s precision with detail; in a coffin-motel in Chiba
City we will witness both the pitfalls of sex with cyborgs and a hallucinatory image of the
orgasm of the future.
From Neuromancer by William Gibson
He lay on his stomach, arms stretched forward, tips of his fingers against the walls of the
coffin. She settled over the small of his back, kneeling on the temperfoam, the leather jeans
cool against his skin. Her fingers brushed his neck.
“How come you’re not at the Hilton?”
She answered by reaching back, between his thighs, and gently encircling his scrotum
with thumb and forefinger. She rocked there for a minute in the dark, erect above him, her
other hand on his neck. The leather of her jeans creaked softly with the movement. Case
shifted, feeling himself harden against the temperfoam.
His head throbbed, but the brittleness in his neck seemed to retreat. He raised himself
on one elbow, rolled, sank back against the foam, pulling her down, licking her breasts, small
hard nipples sliding wet across his cheek. He found the zip on the leather jeans and tugged it
down . . . She struggled beside him until she could kick them away. She threw a leg across
him and he touched her face. Unexpected hardness of the implanted lenses. “Don’t,” she said,
Now she straddled him again, took his hand, and closed it over her, his thumb along
the cleft of her buttocks, his fingers spread across the labia. As she began to lower herself, the
images came pulsing back, the faces, fragments of neon arriving and receding. She slid down
around him and his back arched convulsively. She rode him that way, impaling herself,
slipping down on him again and again, until they both had come, his orgasm flaring blue in a
timeless space, a vastness like the matrix, where the faces were shredded and blown away
down hurricane corridors, and her inner thighs were strong and wet against his hips.
© William Gibson