Statistically speaking, we feel safe in assuming that the vast majority of you reading this site will have, at one point or another, read Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Alongside William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Snow Crash codified the core concepts of the “cyberpunk” subgenre and in hindsight, many of the ideas discussed as fiction in Stephenson’s book seem utterly prophetic. Stephenson wrote of vast online virtual worlds populated by massively stylized avatars long before the first modern MMO, and his “Earth” software seems like a blueprint for nearly every global mapping program in use today.
Additionally, the novel was a huge success, selling millions of copies and earning nominations for both an Arthur C. Clarke Award and a British Science Fiction Award. As one would expect this made Hollywood very keen to adapt the book for film, yet after Paramount tried (and failed) to mount a production shortly after the book’s publication, it has languished in Tinsel Town limbo, with most fans and Hollywood types describing the tale as unfilmably dense.
Apparently Paramount has developed a renewed interest in the story however, as Deadline reports that the studio has hired Joe Cornish to helm a new adaptation of Stephenson’s novel. Though relatively new to the filmmaking business, Cornish recently saw massive accolades for directing Attack The Block, a film that pitted a group of young British toughs against invaders from space. Roger Ebert described the film as “an entertaining thriller in the tradition of 1970s B-action films, with an unknown cast, energetic special effects and great energy,” and Rotten Tomatoes currently displays a 90 percent cumulative critical score for the flick.
Still, it remains to be seen if Cornish can build a movie based on Stephenson’s intensely detailed sci-fi world, both due to the density of crucial plot information, and the wildly creative environments the novel is set in. In the two decades since Snow Crash debuted, many sci-fi properties have lifted concepts wholesale from the book that, in our modern era, have attained cliche status. Most prominently, Neo from the Matrix trilogy is an aesthetic carbon copy of Stephenson’s Snow Crash protagonist (the aptly named “Hiro Protagonist”), and as we mentioned above, things like vast, interconnected virtual worlds (which seemed utterly futuristic in 1992) are almost taken for granted in 2012.
The project is still very early in production so there’s no word on when Snow Crash might hit theaters, but as fans of the novel we’re going to err toward cautious optimism. Cornish has yet to utterly fail the viewing public, and more crucially we adore the source material so much that we’re desperately hoping the movie adaptation lives up to its inventive, thought-provoking pedigree. Done correctly, this could be a modern day Blade Runner, and we’d rather not imagine the myriad ways in which it could fail.