Disneyland with the death penalty


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William Gibson (that William Gibson who authored Necromancer, literally) chronicled his brief visit to Singapore – and described the shock upon learning some similarities between the city-state and one envisioned in his novels’ dystopian, cyberpunk future.

Read the full article, dating back to September 1993, in Wired.

Excerpt:

Singapore is a relentlessly G-rated experience, micromanaged by a state that has the look and feel of a very large corporation. If IBM had ever bothered to actually possess a physical country, that country might have had a lot in common with Singapore. There’s a certain white-shirted constraint, an absolute humorlessness in the way Singapore Ltd. operates; conformity here is the prime directive, and the fuzzier brands of creativity are in extremely short supply.

The physical past here has almost entirely vanished.

There is no slack in Singapore. Imagine an Asian version of Zurich operating as an offshore capsule at the foot of Malaysia; an affluent microcosm whose citizens inhabit something that feels like, well, Disneyland. Disneyland with the death penalty.

But Disneyland wasn’t built atop an equally peculiar 19th-century theme park – something constructed to meet both the romantic longings and purely mercantile needs of the British Empire. Modern Singapore was – bits of the Victorian construct, dressed in spanking-fresh paint, protrude at quaint angles from the white-flanked glitter of the neo-Gernsbackian metropolis. These few very deliberate fragments of historical texture serve as a reminder of just how deliciously odd an entrepot Singapore once was – a product of Empire kinkier even than Hong Kong.

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