Shadowrun General > General Discussion

"You flew the Gullfire over Leningrad..."


[Note: This was originally posted on the Collective Cyberpunk Community Forums many years ago. The text was written by me.]

"You flew the Gullfire over Leningrad..."

Hello fellow Hackers, Punks, and My Little Pony fans,

I'd like to share my thoughts on this line of dialogue, delivered by Police Commissioner Bob Hauk in the 1981 John Carpenter movie Escape from New York. It is just a blink-and-you'll-miss-it line and the event is not given any more exposition or explaination. However, for William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, this particular line was to have a profound impact.

"I was intrigued by the exchange in one of the opening scenes where the Warden says to Snake 'You flew the Gullfire over Leningrad, didn't you?' It turns out to be just a throwaway line, but for a moment it worked like the best SF where a casual reference can imply a lot." - William Gibson

But first, let's stay in the dystopian future of Escape. The novelization of the movie describes how Snake lost his eye in World War III's Battle of Leningrad, and while I haven't read the novel, I speculate that Snake was a member of some Black Ops outfit whose mission it was to fly over Leningrad to bomb an installation or maybe drop paratroops. The "Gullfire" was probably either a stealth plane or a glider, which would help to explain why Snake was chosen for the Escape mission; since he would be a crack glider pilot, he could take the glider to the top of the World Trade Center, not an easy task as evidenced by the fact that in the movie, he just barely manages to land the vehicle.

Either way, Gibson finished writing Neuromancer a few years later and what do we find in this "Cyberpunk Bible"? The character of Armitage alias Colonel Willis Corto, the former member of a Special Forces team who were to fly ultralight aircraft deep into Russian territory during World War III to disable important enemy computer systems. However, they were shot down but a surviving Corto managed to escape over the heavily fortified Finnish border, which could imply a mission theatre far in the northwestern part of Russia, next to Finland, and the general region where Leningrad (St. Petersburg)  is located.

Sound familiar? Wait, there's more...

In 1989's Pen & Paper roleplaying game Shadowrun, the timeline that leads to the game universe's future 2053 includes a decade-long conflict in middle and eastern Europe called the "Euro-Wars", involving most nations of that region including Russia, Germany and Poland. The conflict was ended rather apruptly when one night Swedish airspace monitors picked up what they believed were British "Nightwraith" bombers flying across the conflict zone and successfully destroying vital command centers of the warring factions, while at the same time unknown assassins killed key generals from both sides, forcing the belligerents to sign an armistice. So... another instance of stealthy airplanes conducting a covert operation during a major war in eastern Europe.

I found no sources that directly state if these occurences in literature were directly influenced by the Gulfire line from Escape, but I would think that it's not a coincidence, especially since it's all in the Cyberpunk subgenre (if you want to call Shadowrun Cyberpunk, that is!).

Anyone else got something like that, where story elements, plots, or just throwaway lines like the one discussed here, had obvious influences on later works?

One more that comes to mind are the Tychon Colony Massdrivers from Cyberpunk's backstory, which the Eurospace agency installed in space to enforce their will on earth by letting asteroids fall on or near U.S. cities (Colorado Springs and Washington, D.C. in this case). This concept was found earlier in Walter Jon Williams' 1986s Hardwired, where the earth's wealthy elites live in luxurious space stations that can drop rocks onto the planet's surface without any viable defence possible. Of course, Williams was one of the playtesters of the original Cyberpunk RPG and R. Talsorian Games also later published a sourcebook for Cyberpunk detailing the world of Hardwired.

The CP2020 mass driver attack wasn’t a reference to The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress?

Also, the Euro Wars are basically a ripoff of Red Storm Rising. It cannot be overstated how inevitable a land war in Europe between NATO and the Sovieta seemed when these games were developed. Although I still have no idea how the German authors came up with the second ottoman jihad or why FASA kept it in the translation of the Germany sourcebook.


--- Quote from: Crimsondude on (17:29:08/04-13-19) ---It cannot be overstated how inevitable a land war in Europe between NATO and the Sovieta seemed when these games were developed.
--- End quote ---

This is an exaggeration. Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika had been underway since 1986, and at the same time he was proposing policies to globaly abolish nuclear weapons by the end of the century.

I think the story of Shadowrun's inception was that Jordan Weisman had a (literal) dream about a magic + machines. He woke up, called Mike Mulvihill in the middle of the night, and rattled off half an hour of ideas. First Edition was released in 1989, and I'm not sure how long before that development started, but by the time the game was released the Soviets had withdrawn from Afghanistan and the Berlin Wall was soon to fall.

I think it was very easy to imagine an alternative reality where NATO and Russia went to war, especially in a timeline with the dramatic revisions that Shadowrun was introducing, but to say that a land war seemed inevitable in our reality would be a stretch for anyone but the most militant of hawks.


[0] Message Index

Go to full version