2021 and the Conspiracies of ‘Johnny Mnemonic’

Keanu Reeves has by no means been worse—which, in his distinctive scenario, is understood to imply better—than he was in Johnny Mnemonic. The 1995 cyberpunk nearly-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,” very considerably says it all: I am listed here, in bed with a hooker, so yeah, let’s do this. The movie has by no means been viewed as elegant cinema, but many thanks to the interoperability of keep-at-dwelling orders, streaming, and the Keanaissance, nerd-dom revived it in 2020, and not a second far too before long. Due to the fact 2021—welcome!—is the 12 months in which Johnny Mnemonic, the story of a mysterious epidemic and the 1 male who may set an stop to it, is established.

So, yeah.

Does science fiction forecast the future? The concern, notably that verb, forecast, 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 us see about that subsequent 12 months, if/when the 2022 of his Fahrenheit 451 will come to move.) In 1981, a then-unknown William Gibson, elevated on writers like Bradbury, released a incredibly hot small neon-noir in Omni named “Johnny Mnemonic.” Lots of many years afterwards, enthroned as the father of cyberpunk, he’d say of his get the job done that “it’s not prescient.” Seem close to, nevertheless. Prediction may not be the intent of science fiction, but humanity looks to go through a desperate, ever-darkening desire to see as considerably of it as attainable appear accurate.

Johnny is a digital-era shipping and delivery person. If you want some facts transported hypersecurely, merely load it into his head and off he goes: your really own walking—more normally jogging, from terrible guys—USB air-gapped meatstick. So what if the gig will come with memory lacunae and the chance, in the event of data overload, of mind-burst, to say almost nothing of the Yakuza at your back again, who are extra than pleased to have out a file transfer by way of decapitation? It pays well, and you appear cyber-amazing performing it.

Of study course, the Yakuza are not the actual villains. Neither is the random psychotic bionic street preacher performed by Dolph Lundgren, whom Gibson and first-time/last-time director Robert Longo, when they went to transform the quick story into a movie, experienced to make space for. (Blame the studio.) Turns out there is an evil shadow corporation driving it all, Pharmakom. They’re the types who sic the Yakuza on Johnny, simply because they know what’s inside Johnny’s computerbrain: the treatment to a mass plague named NAS. That is nerve attenuation syndrome, aka the black shakes. If it stays incurable, Pharmakom can keep managing it 50 percent-assedly. They do not want Johnny spoiling their earnings.

So it’s a major Massive Pharma deal with-up. In our 2021, in our global pandemic, could these a plotline be construed as, in simple fact, prophetic? Pfizer, Moderna, et al. are not withholding any cures. Rather the reverse: They’re hurrying out efficacious Covid vaccines, in lockstep with federal suggestions, to the persons who want them most. Nonetheless Pharmakomish suspicions nevertheless keep on being. Even a compact, deep-down part of you may possibly want to think them, these major, out-there seductions. Microchips in the medications. Less costly therapies “they” are actively suppressing. Paranoia has coursed via this Covid disaster like h2o (which fluoridation has definitely produced stupidifying). In the first week of 2021, New York magazine released a deal with story by a novelist proclaiming SARS-CoV-two was born in a lab. Not as a weapon, no no this is not science fiction. Just some US-funded Chinese virologists incredibly hot-swapping mutant spike proteins in the identify of research and in the method production a human-infecting virus that accidentally receives out and spreads globally. Sort of like what transpires in 28 Days Afterwards, or Increase of the Planet of the Apes. And, you know, not contrary to the technopharmacological fuckups at the center of Splice, Mission: Difficult II, The Boys, etc. etc.