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We started writing cyberpunk because we had a really strong discontent with the status quo in science fiction, and with the state of human society at large. I had some discontent. It seemed to me that midcentury mainstream American science fiction had often been triumphalist and militaristic, a sort of folk propaganda for American exceptionalism. I was tired of America-as-the-future, the world as a white monoculture, the protagonist as a good guy from the middle class or above. I wanted there to be more elbow room.
I wanted to make room for antiheroes. I also wanted science fiction to be more naturalistic. There had been a poverty of description in much of it. The technology depicted was so slick and clean that it was practically invisible. What would any given SF favorite look like if we could crank up the resolution? As it was then, much of it was like video games before the invention of fractal dirt.
I wanted to see dirt in the corners. You could go into a bookstore and find Arthur C. Robert Heinlein was still churning out sex and philosophy. But despite the efforts of a variety of literary insurgencies, science fiction felt very much like it did 20 or 30 years before.
It was a La-Z-Boy-recliner experience of the future. Competent men of science did competent things, aerospace was the coolest tech, and politics revolved around the conflicts of nation states. It was subversive and gritty, a poetry-kaleidoscope trip into the for-profit future.
Faceless corporations loomed over the ant-sized dramas of human endeavors, moving billions of dollars and yen around the globe while the human beings of the story scrapped it out on the streets.
It was cyberspace and console cowboys, leather jackets, Zeiss eye implants, modded Russian knockoff prostheses, extinct horses, mirrorshades. The future was bizarre and threatening—and also strangely real. And we really did it. Nobody could have foreseen the futures we imagined. Things have changed since the early days of cyberpunk and I, for one, am a lot more interested in the deep theoretical issues. I want to get to the stage of knowledge as power. It has lot of information.
Cyberpunk fiction went from being something unexpected, fresh, and original, to being a trendy fashion statement; to being a repeatable commercial formula; to being a hoary trope, complete with a set of stylistic markers and time-honored forms to which obeisance must be paid if one is to write True Cyberpunk…. The settings come closer and closer to the present day, losing the baroque curlicues of unleased fantasy: And this may be splendid, but it is not war. There is ecstasy, but there is also dread…This generation will have to watch a century of manic waste and carelessness hit home, and we know it.
We will be lucky not to suffer greatly from ecological blunders already committed; we will be extremely lucky not to see tens of millions of fellow human beings dying horribly on television as we Westerners sit in our living rooms munching our cheeseburgers.
And this is not some wacky Bohemian jeremiad; this is an objective statement about the condition of the world, easily confirmed by anyone with the courage to look at the facts. These prospects must and should effect our thoughts and expressions and, yes, our actions; and if writers close their eyes to this, they may be entertainers, but they are not fit to call themselves science fiction writers.
No more and no less. Bruce Sterling more or less declared it dead in , and he was right; as a movement within SF it had done its job by then. The world we live in is the future of the s cyberpunks.
This is not necessarily a good thing. Well, I work in supercomputing, and I can assure you that this industry is full of young geniuses who grew up reading Gibson, Vinge, and Rucker — and yes, me — and they went into this field to do the same thing. But we live in the world that the kids who grew up reading cyberpunk fiction built, and that is a very cool thing indeed. It was a desperately needed course correction. Science fiction had lost the thread of reality. Someone needed to grab the genre by the lapels and yank it around—force writers to look at the present moment and decipher its implications.
That future — envisioned by many as a sort of antidote to the gee-whiz chrome-plated futures of Star Trek and s rock-ribbed science fiction — is, in point of fact, entirely as ridiculous and unlikely as any of the technofetishistic Rapture-of-the-nerds bullshit that the transhumanists come up with.
Atemporality is the dominant condition of the early twenty-first century…Under manufactured normalcy nobody wins because everybody goes to sleep and reality never gets improved. All the theories of manufactured normalcy and zero history can be short-circuited by just one thing: If the future is dead, then we must summon it and learn how to see it properly again.
There are six people living in space right now. There are people printing prototypes of human organs and people printing nanowire tissue that will bond with human flesh. Explorers have just stood in the deepest unsubmerged ploace on Earth — a cave more than two kilometers under Abkhazia. NASA is getting ready to launch three satellites the size of coffee mugs that will be controllable by mobile phone apps.
Voyager One is more than eleven billion miles away and is still running off 64K of computing power and an eight-track tape deck. Understand that our present time is the furthest thing from banality. Reality as we know it is exploding with novelty every day. Not all of it is good. It is a strange and not entirely comfortable time to be alive. But I want you to feel the future as a presence…I want you to understand that the invisible thing in the room is the felt presence of living in a future time, and not in the years behind us.
To be a futurist is not to have your face continually turned upstream, waiting for the future to arrive. It is to clearly see where you are are right now and wonder how to make that better.
Act like you live in the science fiction condition, just for today. Yet conventional fiction very commonly shows us normal people in a normal world. As long as you labor under the feeling that you are the only weirdo, then you feel weak and apologetic. You are eager to go along with the establishment, and a bit frightened to make waves — lest you be found out. Actual people are weird and unpredictable, this is why it is so important to use them as characters instead of the impossibly good and bad paperdolls of mass-culture.
The idea of breaking down consensus reality is even more important. This is where the tools of SF are particularly useful. Each mind is a reality unto itself. As long as people can be tricked into believing the reality of the 6: The cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centers structuring any possibility of historical transformation.
In the tradition of Western science and politics. The stakes in the border war have been the territories of production, reproduction, and imagination.
Ian, this is a great selection of quotes. You can be sure that many of them will be incorporated into future versions of this article. Ian January 20, , 9: Will July 27, , 3: Tyler Durden July 3, , Chris Tong January 17, , 6: Pretty excited about where it will lead in the future.
I agree with you Chris. Cyberpunk is more popular every day. I am excited about the future of the genre. Chris Tong January 18, , 7: Ian January 19, , 8: March 9 , . Fuko, Sugihara Momoka, Isshiki Miyabi. March 16 , . Fuko Momoka Sugihara Miyabi Isshiki. May 25 , . June 25 , . Fuko Mayuka Okada Junne Okada. July 27 , . September 21 , . Fuko - Eight Vol. November 18 , . December 7 , .
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