A New Rose By Any Other Name

‘“A New Rose Hotel is a New Rose Hotel is a New Rose Hotel”: Non-Places in William Gibson’s Screen Adaptations’, William Gibson and the Futures of Contemporary Culture. Edited by Mitch R. Murray and Mathias Nilges. Iowa City: The University of Iowa Press, 2021, 97-109.

There is a moment in an interview with William Gibson when he says that “Being a screenwriter was never part of my game plan, and I never would have gone after it; it never occurred to me that it was something people did or that I would be asked to do it.” Inspired by watching teenagers play arcade video games, Gibson had been writing about the realm behind computer screens, of colors and space, claiming that he “Assembled [the] word cyberspace from small and readily available components of language […] Slick and hollow – awaiting received meaning.” Cyberspace has no fixed identity, relationships, or history and it lacks authentic height, width, depth, and mass and can be thought of as an addition to the catalog of “non-places” of supermodernity identified by the French anthropologist Marc Augé.

In 2017, I was invited to contribute to a book on William Gibson. I’ve written on Cyberpunk and Neuromancer, but I didn’t necessarily want to write about prose fictioon right now because I want to up my outputs on film (hollow laugh). But there’s been Johnny Mneumonic and New Rose Hotel, and there was that Alien III script…

… oh, and episodes for The X-Files, plus at some point I’d stumbled across the adaptation of “The Gernsback Continuum”, Tomorrow Calling, which wasn’t too bad, and was still on YouTube. That could be enough to cover in 6,000 words, if I could find a thread. At about the same time I was invited to write a chapter for The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture, and that seemed likely to overlap in research terms, as long as I kept the two projects distinct.

So, the usual work my way through the sources, find the secondary texts, and I think I’d already stumbled across Marc Augé, who offered a way into thinking through space in cyberounk in a distinct way from the ontology of Lévinas I’d defaulted to in the past. Whilst the pre-digital cyberpunk film chapter kept running into genre boundaries — that film is cyberpunk-flavoured, but is it cyberpunk enough? — and structural issues (the 2,000 word throat clear) and brilliant ideas that weren’t (a chunk from Mark Fisher that seemed like a good starting point) and too damn much secondary literature… this one seemed to slip together much better. I even found a source that discussed one or both of The X-Files episodes, no thanks to the library catalogue. An email to Tim Leandro cleared up some minor points — such as the title lyrics.

The Gertrude Stein allusion came early, by the way, a typical brain fart of the kind I can’t resist. At some point I cut the other Gertrude Stein quote, “there is no there there”, which is about (gak) Oakland, evebn though I’d spent ages trying to track down the source. Oakland brings us back to Philip K. Dick and Humpty Dumpty, therein, but that would be another article.

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