2021 and the Conspiracies of ‘Johnny Mnemonic’

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Keanu Reeves has by no means been worse—which, in his particular case, is known to imply higher—than he was in Johnny Mnemonic. The 1995 cyberpunk almost-classic captures a pre-Matrix, pre-Cyberpunk 2077 Reeves at his most cartoonishly buttoned-up, all hunk and monosyllabic monomindedness. His first line of dialog, “Yeah,” just about says all of it: I’m right here, in mattress with a hooker, so yeah, let’s do that. The film has by no means been thought of elegant cinema, however because of the interoperability of stay-at-home orders, streaming, and the Keanaissance, nerd-dom revived it in 2020, and not a second too quickly. Because 2021—welcome!—is the 12 months during which Johnny Mnemonic, the story of a mysterious epidemic and the one man who would possibly put an finish to it, is ready.

So, yeah.

Does science fiction predict the future? The query, significantly that verb, predict, irritates all the greats. The style ain’t predictive, huffed Le Guin, it’s descriptive. I’m a preventer of futures, claimed Bradbury, not a predictor of them. (Let’s see about that subsequent 12 months, if/when the 2022 of his Fahrenheit 451 involves cross.) In 1981, a then-unknown William Gibson, raised on writers like Bradbury, revealed a scorching little neon-noir in Omni referred to as “Johnny Mnemonic.” Many years later, enthroned as the father of cyberpunk, he’d say of his work that “it’s not prescient.” Look round, although. Prediction may not be the intent of science fiction, however humanity appears to undergo a determined, ever-darkening want to see as a lot of it as doable come true.

Johnny is a digital-era supply man. If you want some information transported hypersecurely, merely load it into his head and off he goes: your very personal strolling—extra usually operating, from unhealthy guys—USB air-gapped meatstick. So what if the gig comes with reminiscence lacunae and the danger, in the occasion of data overload, of brain-burst, to say nothing of the Yakuza at your again, who’re very happy to hold out a file switch by method of decapitation? It pays effectively, and you look cyber-cool doing it.

Of course, the Yakuza aren’t the actual villains. Neither is the random psychotic bionic road preacher performed by Dolph Lundgren, whom Gibson and first-time/last-time director Robert Longo, once they went to show the quick story right into a film, needed to make room for. (Blame the studio.) Turns on the market’s an evil shadow company behind all of it, Pharmakom. They’re the ones who sic the Yakuza on Johnny, as a result of they know what’s inside Johnny’s computerbrain: the treatment to a mass plague referred to as NAS. That’s nerve attenuation syndrome, aka the black shakes. If it stays incurable, Pharmakom can preserve treating it half-assedly. They don’t need Johnny spoiling their income.

So it’s an enormous Big Pharma cover-up. In our 2021, in our international pandemic, might such a plotline be construed as, in actual fact, prophetic? Pfizer, Moderna, et al. aren’t withholding any cures. Quite the reverse: They’re speeding out efficacious Covid vaccines, in lockstep with federal tips, to the individuals who want them most. Yet Pharmakomish suspicions nonetheless stay. Even a small, deep-down half of you could need to consider them, these huge, out-there seductions. Microchips in the medicines. Cheaper therapies “they” are actively suppressing. Paranoia has coursed by way of this Covid disaster like water (which fluoridation has positively made stupidifying). In the first week of 2021, New York journal revealed a canopy story by a novelist claiming SARS-CoV-2 was born in a lab. Not as a weapon, no no; this isn’t science fiction. Just some US-funded Chinese virologists hot-swapping mutant spike proteins in the title of analysis and in the course of manufacturing a human-infecting virus that unintentionally will get out and spreads globally. Sort of like what occurs in 28 Days Later, or Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And, you realize, not not like the technopharmacological fuckups at the middle of Splice, Mission: Impossible II, The Boys, and many others. and many others.

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