Keanu Reeves a never been worse – which in his particular case means better – than he was in Johnny Mnemonic. The almost classic 1995 cyberpunk captures a pre-Matrix, pre-Cyberpunk 2077 Reeves in his most cartoonish button, all beautiful and monosyllabic monosyllabic. Her first line of dialogue, “Yeah,” pretty much says it all: I’m here in bed with a bitch, so yeah, let’s do that. The film was never considered classy cinema, but thanks to the interoperability of Focus, Streaming, and Keanaissance controls, nerd-dom relaunched it in 2020, and not a moment too soon. Because 2021 – welcome! – is the year in which Johnny Mnemonic, the story of a mysterious epidemic and of the only man who could put an end to it, is settled.
So here is.
Does science fiction predict the future? The question, in particular this verb, to predict, irritates all the big ones. Gender is not predictive, breathed Le Guin, it is descriptive. I am a shutter future, Bradbury asserted, not a predictor of them. (Let’s see this next year, if / when its 2022 Fahrenheit 451 In 1981 a then-unknown William Gibson, raised on writers like Bradbury, released a hot little neon-noir in Omni called “Johnny Mnemonic”. Many years later, inducted as the father of cyberpunk, he tell about his work that “it is not prescient.” Take a look around, however. The prediction may not be the intent of science fiction, but humanity seems to be suffering from a desperate and increasingly grim desire to see as much as possible come true.
Johnny is a delivery man in the digital age. If you need some data to be transported in a hypersecure way, just load it into her head and go: your own walk – more often running, from bad guys – a USB stick of meat. So what if the gig has memory gaps and the risk, information overload, brain burst, not to mention the Yakuza behind your back, who are more than happy to perform a file transfer by beheading? It pays well, and you seem cyber cool doing it.
Of course, the Yakuza aren’t the real bad guys. The random psychotic bionic street preacher no longer played by Dolph Lundgren, to whom Gibson and first / last director Robert Longo, when they went to turn the short story into a movie, had to make room. (Blame the studio.) Turns out there’s an evil ghost company behind it all, Pharmakom. They’re the ones hissing the Yakuza on Johnny, because they know what’s inside Johnny’s computer brain: the cure for a mass plague called NAS. This is nerve attenuation syndrome, aka black tremors. If he remains incurable, Pharmakom can continue to treat him halfway. They don’t want Johnny to waste their profits.
So this is a big cover-up from Big Pharma. In our 2021, in our global pandemic, could such a plot be interpreted as, in fact, prophetic? Pfizer, Moderna et al. do not withhold any treatment. Quite the contrary: they are launching effective Covid vaccines, in accordance with federal guidelines, to people who need them most. Still, suspicions of Pharmakomish remain. Even a little deep part of you may want to believe them, these big seductions. Microchips in drugs. Cheaper therapies “they” actively remove. Paranoia ran through this Covid disaster like water (which fluoridation definitely made stupid). In the first week of 2021, New York The magazine ran a novelist cover story claiming SARS-CoV-2 was born in a lab. Not as a weapon, no no; this is not science fiction. Only a few US-funded Chinese virologists are hot-swapping cutting edge mutant proteins in the name of research and in doing so make a human-infecting virus that accidentally comes out and spreads around the world. Kind of like what happens in 28 days later, or Rise of the Planet of the Monkeys. And, you know, kinda like the tech-pharmacological bullshit in the center of Splice, Mission: Impossible II, The boys, etc. etc.