The Sprawl

The Sprawl

In William Gibson's fiction, the Sprawl is a colloquial name for the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis (BAMA), an urban sprawl environment on a massive scale, and a fictional extension of the real BosWash megalopolis.

The novels "Neuromancer" (1984), "Count Zero" (1986), and "Mona Lisa Overdrive" (1988) (collectively known as the Sprawl trilogy) take place in this environment, as well as the short stories "Johnny Mnemonic", "New Rose Hotel" and "Burning Chrome".


The Sprawl is a dystopian visualization of a future where virtually the entire East Coast of the United States, from Boston to Atlanta, has melded into a single mass of urban sprawl. [cite news |first=John |last=Markoff |title=Ideas & Trends; Art Invents A Jarring New World From Technology |url= |work=The New York Times |publisher=The New York Times Company |date=November 25 1990 |accessdate=2008-07-30 ] It has been enclosed in several geodesic domes and merged into one megacity. The domes are depicted as leaky. The city has become a separate world with its own climate, no real day cycle, and a constant grey sky. It is said of the Sprawl that "the actors change but the play remains the same."

Although there are areas of rich people in the Sprawl, a vast majority of the people are poor. Regardless of wealth, however, advanced technology has become ubiquitous. People spend much of their time in the "matrix" for work or recreational purposes. A common technological addiction are "simstims" ("sim"ulated "stim"uli), a form of virtual reality that allows people to experience a television program, typically soap operas, from the point of view of one of their characters.

Comparative setting

The Sprawl is a typical example of a cyberpunk setting. 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. A notable non-fictional precursor to The Sprawl is BosWash, the present-day group of metropolitan areas extending from Boston to Washington, DC.

Cultural allusions

* "The Sprawl" is a song recorded by Sonic Youth for their album "Daydream Nation" and inspired by Gibson's creation.

See also

* Coruscant, the capital of the Galactic Republic and later Empire in Star Wars. It is an ecumenopolis, a city which takes up an entire planet.
* Trantor, capital of the galactic empire in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series. With the exception of the Imperial Palace, the city is entirely enclosed in artificial domes. Because the planet has no rural areas, it is entirely dependent upon spaceships to bring in food and remove waste. After the fall of the Empire, the survivors are forced to rip up the steel floors to expose the fertile soil underneath for growing food.
* Mega-City One in the Judge Dredd series.


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