William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer was incredibly prescient about what life would be like in the 21st century. Gibson popularized the idea of cyberspace, which he described as a “consensual hallucination,” and examined artificial intelligence’s dark side–a science fiction trope that’s quickly approaching reality.
So it’s appropriate that the redesigned book covers for a new reprinting of Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy–including Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive (along with Burning Chrome)–were made with code. Created by the artist and interactive designer Daniel Brown, the covers feature fractal patterns inspired by the urban fabric of London and generative architecture, or buildings created by computer code.
Brown initially began exploring generative architecture because he thought that building individual structures in virtual reality would be much too time-consuming. Instead, he developed a way to model entire cityscapes without having to code each building. He uploaded a sample of the images to his website, and overnight they went viral. “William Gibson happened to see them and thought that they were a perfect representation of a place he refers to as the Sprawl in his books,” Brown says. “So he contacted me through Twitter about doing the covers-–I didn’t believe it was really him at first!” Brown adds that Gibson told him the images were the closest anyone had come to representing the Sprawl, a giant unending cityscape that encompasses the entire east coast of the United States.
To create the images, Brown began with three-dimensional fractals–visual representations of recursive mathematical formulas–to which he applied a set of rules millions of times to achieve the detailed end result. He used the program to create three-dimensional shapes based on 30, 45, and 90-degree angles, giving them cubic forms. Finally, he applied images he’d taken of modern buildings around central London to the model he’d built. For the finished cover art with typography by Sinem Erkas, the book titles float hauntingly in the middle of the architectural forms.
“The actual Neuromancer series is a story about artificial intelligence, and whether computers could ever eventually become powerful enough to control humans and what such a future might be like,” Brown says. “For that reason, it seems beautifully fitting that what started out as a bit of computer programming research should end up finding its own purpose on the cover of Gibson’s books.”
[Images: Orion Books]