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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. D.N.
    August 17, 2020 @ 1:01 pm

    “The iconic opening sequence of Blade Runner, on the other hand, was commonly described as the “Hades landscape”; a vast field of darkness illuminated only by the lights of the city and the exploding fires of chemical plants.”

    I’m not sure if it was intentional, but the opening sequence of Blade Runner is remarkably similar to the opening shots of The Blues Brothers a film released two years before. The Blues Brothers begins with aerial shots of an industrial complex of refineries and mills, with fire and smoke belching into the skies of night and dawn.

    Considering the two films together, it’s funny that one is foretelling a Los Angeles of 2019 that will be as run-down and hellish as the other film’s Chicago of 1980.


    • Austin George Loomis
      August 17, 2020 @ 9:59 pm

      Whereas I saw the words “Hades landscape” juxtaposed with El’s observation “the future that had grown over Los Angeles was choking it”, and thought of Sam Hamm’s description of the Gotham City of “1989 once removed” from the screenplay of the first Heisei Batman movie, which the late great Anton Furst realized so precisely:

      The city of Tomorrow: stark angles, creeping shadows, dense, crowded, airless, a random tangle of steel and concrete, self-generating, almost subterranean in its aspect… as if hell had erupted through the sidewalks and kept on growing.

      Because sometimes that’s just how I roll.


  2. Dazed and amazed
    August 17, 2020 @ 4:33 pm

    This is electrifying


  3. Doctor Memory
    August 18, 2020 @ 3:22 am

    Bethke is a sad and fascinating case, and perhaps deserving of a bit of direct attention as he turned out to be not only the coiner of the term but a living link to some of the uglier places that science fiction ended up going in the aftermath of cyberpunk.

    His first novel, “Headcrash” (1995) was probably the only functional parody of cyberpunk as a genre ever published, focussing in like a laser on the sexual insecurity howling behind the obsession with the “edge” and ice-cool antiheroes. It’s funny and brisk and well worth seeking out.

    And then he accepted what at the time probably appeared to be a guaranteed easy paycheck by signing on to write the novelization of the 1999 film “Wild Wild West”, which of course tanked and effectively took his career as a working author with it. Since then he’s emitted only one more novel, on the vanity press imprint of Theodore “Vox Day” Beale, who was apparently his neighbor and confident as his writing career collapsed…


  4. Douglas Muir
    August 18, 2020 @ 8:39 am

    Lois McMaster Bujold has made the point that much –most? — classic science fiction can be described as “fantasies of political agency”. Akira and Neuromancer both fit this description.

    Blade Runner firmly does not. What was truly weird about Philip K. Dick was not his fascination with extraterrestrial enlightenment, memory alteration, or competing realities — all of those things were well established SF tropes by the 1960s. No, it was that most PKD heroes were everyman schlubs who ended up making no difference to the worlds they inhabit. On the rare occasions when they get close to the center of political power, as in his disturbing short story “Faith of our Fathers”, they’re passive spectators (and probably doomed).

    “Can the world be changed, and if so, by whom?” is a question that’s central to science fiction as a cultural enterprise. Cyberpunk’s answer was, unsurprisingly, ambivalent but mostly negative.

    Doug M.


  5. Douglas Muir
    August 18, 2020 @ 9:19 am

    Also, Neuromancer should be considered together with its sequels, because despite their (very deliberate) differences of style and structure, they form a complete story. It’s a theogony. Man made God (Neuromancer) who then promptly shattered into dozens of lesser gods (Count Zero), but who were then able to uplift Man to enlightenment (Mona Lisa Overdrive).

    Does this sound familiar? It should; it’s basically modified Gnosticism. “Writers who have dabbled in Gnosticism without having their brains eaten by it” is a list, and not as long a list as one might think, but anyway Gibson is on it.

    Also, Count Zero is in its way as interesting and important a book as Neuromancer. It’s not quite a parody of cyberpunk, but it’s already subverting its tropes in a very self-aware way. Of the three POV characters in Count Zero, one is a Cool Mercenary Action Hero… but he literally gets castrated in the the first chapter of the book, and spends much of the rest of it one step behind the actual action. Which I’m pretty sure was deliberate on Gibson’s part, because it goes to the point that the central problem of the book — of the whole trilogy, really — can’t be solved by Action Heroing.

    The other two POV characters are a forlorn female art dealer and Bobby Newmark, a white boy loser wannabe hacker who lives with his religious mother. Bobby’s first appearance involves screwing up so badly that he has to be rescued from certain death by a girl. He is then rescued again some very religious black folks. He then spends much of the book being the kinda dopey character who has stuff explained to him by people who are more experienced, smarter, and/or more hip.

    Is it any surprise that SF fandom recoiled from this book? They wanted a Wicked Cool sequel to Neuromancer. Instead they got something that was intelligent, difficult…and to some extent written as a slap to them. “Yes, the Singularity happened! And you weren’t invited. Nobody even noticed, except for some black folks who are very religious. Hey, have you heard of Maya Deren? Joseph Cornell? No? Pity.”

    Oh, and the trilogy is heavily inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. This is most obvious in Neuromancer, but it’s a thing in the other two books as well. Case’s spiritual progress ends with getting out of Hell (which, hey, is no small thing). But it’s the younger Bobby Newmark who, because he starts with nothing (Count Zero!) is able to eventually make the climb to Heaven.

    IDK if you want to crosswire this with Last War in Albion, but cyberpunk is part of the terrain of the War. Morrison and Gibson were definitely drinking from the same well, and they both center major works around naive and somewhat boorish young white working class men who are — not in spite of their callowness but because of it — able to ascend to a higher plane.

    Doug M.


    • (Not That) Jack
      August 23, 2020 @ 10:38 pm

      This is the best summary of why I love Count Zero to bits I’ve ever read, even if it took reading the entire trilogy to get quite why I liked it. Hell Gibson even starts it off by essentially killing off the main character (or who Neuromancer primed us to see as the main character) in the first damn paragraph of the book, and really all the bad ass mercenary does is…drive one of the actual main characters across the country.

      It was a pretty brave move, given that Gibson could have just cranked out Neuromancer over and over again and had a hell of a career, but instead he made a career out of…never writing Neuromancer again. Still love his work to bits, even if Neuromancer is my favorite book of all time.


      • Douglas Muir
        August 27, 2020 @ 11:37 am

        “He made a career out of never writing Neuromancer again” yes yes! Exactly.

        Neuromancer is a heist novel. There’s nothing wrong with that! It’s a good heist novel. But like many heist novels, it’s about a group of lone wolves who are recruited to pull of a big job. And the heist novel is a pretty well defined subgenre, so the characters are instantly familiar: technical expert, killer (but with a heart), wise old mentor, unredeemable treacherous bastard, dude who ends up killed by his backstory.

        Gibson is on record as saying that he didn’t give these characters relationships because he hadn’t figured out how to write relationships yet. So Case and Molly could have sex, but they couldn’t actually talk. But that’s okay, because he chose to write a novel that judoed that weakness into a strength: these are atomized, alienated characters, problematic people with horrible pasts brought together by an inhuman manipulator. So it makes perfect sense that they never connect at any level beyond technical discussions, hostility, or sex.

        Count Zero is something else altogether. Gibson kills off a bunch of people here, and most of them are family members of the cast — Bobby’s mother, Turner’s brother, Angie’s father. Also, many awful things happen — Turner is castrated, Marly loses her career after her boyfriend betrays her, Virek kills Jackie without a second thought.

        But! Most of the cast manages to build and find new relationships. Turner ends up married to Sally, with a kid. Angie and Bobby pair off and they both get new careers. Marly heals and moves on.

        So, Count Zero is about (1) rebuilding after a catastrophe — green shoots after the storm; and it’s also (2) about building something new and beautiful out of random items thrown together. (1) is necessary to the progression of the trilogy; Neuromancer is about the end of the old world, _Count Zero_is about the beginning of the new one. And (2) of course is thematically mirrored in the Joseph Cornell inspired collage boxes, beauty created from found objects.

        Also, Gibson is now at the point where he can tentatively write relationships, so that’s what he does — tentatively writes them. We don’t get a lot of details of Turner/Sally or Angie/Bobby, but he puts a brushstroke here, a couple of lines there, and what he does is plausible and we can fill in the rest.

        Doug M.


  6. Major Kusanagi
    August 25, 2020 @ 8:33 pm

    I know this is just the first entry, but why the choice of Akira over Ghost in The Shell? I thought the manga for GitS came first?


    • El Sandifer
      August 25, 2020 @ 8:43 pm

      Nope. Ghost in the Shell started as a manga in 1989.


  7. Martin Porter
    September 6, 2020 @ 8:27 am


    One interesting point I got after rewatching Blade Runner for the nth time is how, for the replicants, the dark streets of earth represented freedom, whereas the shiny colonies are slavery. Similarly in the sprawl, the low lifes were free whereas everyone else was a corporate pawn.

    What a vison of the future! What a fall from the utopias of the past: poverty or slavery, that’s the choice.


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