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The Sprawl
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The Sprawl

In William Gibson's fiction, the Sprawl is a name for the BAMA, Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis, and it is the urban environment taken to the extreme. It holds enclaves where the rich live, but the majority of the supercity is covered with geodesic domes (Bucky ball domes), and the population is quite poor.

The novels Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive take place in this environment, as well as the short stories collected in Burning Chrome.

The Sprawl arose due to increasing urbanisation on the eastern USA coast, and by the time of the novels it is one immense city, virtually a world of its own. Gibson's characters such as Molly Millions and Johnny Mnemonic are examples of the more technologically inclined inhabitants, while the old hacker Case and Count Zero are more lowtech examples. However, almost everyone in the Sprawl is using advanced technology on a daily basis. Millions of people are addicted to simstims: soap operas which are witnessed through a neural interface, where the 'viewer' becomes one of the characters, experiencing their feelings, thoughts, etc., through simulated stimuli. Many others connect to the Matrix on a daily basis for work or pleasure. For Sprawl inhabitants, technology is a commodity as normal as air.

The Matrix in Gibson's fiction is the next generation of the internet: an abstract three-dimensional matrix, representing every thing and every one connected by arbitrary icons of their choosing. People working in the Matrix or connecting to it for leasure or illegal purposes connect with a neural interface to a deck, a base station connected to the Matrix which handles the electronics. Movement in the Matrix occurs by thought, and feedback is directly given into the brain by electronic signals. Many systems are protected by security measures called ICE, for Intrusion countermeasure electronics, strong, and in some cases even lethal firewalls. Hackers use software called Icebreakers to circumvent these security measures. Especially the ICE protecting major corporations and millitary systems is strong enough to kill hackers through the neural interface with their decks.

Because of the Bucky ball domes covering most of the Sprawl it has its own climate, and no real day-night cycle: instead it has an endless grey day, where the actors change but the play stays the same.

Related places visited in Gibson's fiction include Chiba City, a high-tech district near Tokyo, and Freeside, an orbital complex which includes the family estate of the rich Tessier-Ashpool clan, as well as the Rastafarian colony New Zion.

The Sprawl is a typical example of a cyberpunk setting.

See also: sprawl