Johnny Mnemonic: An Antecedent and a Hawaiian

Before “Johnny Mnemonic,” the 1995 multi-million-dollar blockbuster motion picture, there was “Johnny Mnemonic,” the 1981 short story on which it is based. Though the SS is both very early in cyberpunk history and yet preceded by “Fragments of a Hologram Rose,” (1977), it lays out many of the foundational elements of cyberpunk as we now know it: data smuggling, industrial espionage, a powerful and intercontinental Yakuza, countercultures/subcultures, crime, high-tech assassins, urban decay, body modification, class conflict, and the dichotomy of traditionally high-tech SF elements in an aggressively low-rent setting.

I’m fond of both the film and the short story. The film is a largely faithful translation of the story, containing almost all of the major elements, plus a few extra characters to stretch it out to 90 minutes. One of the elements the film sadly does not contain, however, is a certain shirt:

“…He was outside, waiting. Looking like your standard tourist tech, in plastic zoris and a silly Hawaiian shirt printed with blowups of his firm’s most popular microprocessor…”

As a noted aficionado of Hawaiian shirts, and science fiction, and JM in particular, I want this. I am a professional graphic designer: I can create the art. And thanks to digital print-on-demand websites, I can have it printed on as many yards of fabric as I want. And thanks to my federal income tax refund, I can now afford it. As Gibson is my witness, I am going to do this:

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 9.39.20 PM

By my rough estimates, it’s going to cost me at least $200 US. This will be the single most expensive garment I will own (not counting a couple two-piece suits).

I was going to happily slap my Maas-Neotek logo on the shirt, but to my surprise, they are not mentioned in the story. Ono-Sendai, however is. They get a rather lackluster logo in the film, and I’m in the middle of working up a more stylish logo for them, as you can see in the preview above. Not finished yet.

After analyzing some of my favorite Hawaiian shirts, I’m probably going to have to cut down the number of elements in my background. Most of them have very plain 1 or 2 color, low-contrast, dark backgrounds. You can’t see it in the thumbnail above but I have 6 background and midground elements on my prototype fabric, not counting the obligatory microchip and eventual floral elements. I’m going to go with a dark royal blue + purple background for mine, but I did consider more garish and ‘futuristic’ colors.

I had a bit of fun designing the chip. It’s more inspired by the showy Pentium chips and their packaging than any current or period chip. Drew the shape, extruded and beveled it in AI’s 3D widget, extruded the gold pins, set some type for the face of it. The colors aren’t finalized yet, but it will be mostly gray and gold.

Further bulletins as events warrant.


Author: Staff Writer

Thirty-something graphic designer trapped in a boring part of Florida.

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