Tag Archives: cyberpunk

“The Future’s Disposable”

20 Jan

“Yeah, so are you, chombatta.”

I love cyberpunk the genre–I’ve read all of William Gibson’s books, I own the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG book, and love anything that’s even tangentially related to the aesthetic. So what is it about the dark future that attracts me?

The obvious answer is right place, right time. I grew up in the 80’s, went to high school in the early 90’s and Cyberpunk is very much a subgenre of its era. Johnny Mnemonic (the short story) and Neuromancer (the novel) that Gibson wrote came out in 1981 and 1984. We were still reeling from the 70’s: oil crisis, unemployment, disco. Then came the conservative ascendency, which for liberal writers was the ultimate sign the world was going to hell. (The comic book V for Vendetta was a response to Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power.) It was depressing. It didn’t take much to a consider a future that was even worse.

So growing up as a middle school teen, imagine the effect that something like the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG had on me back in 1987. Guns, chicks, tech–hell, yeah! Plus it was wrapped up in a sense of humor that told you that everyone was in on a joke. If the world’s crap, after all, you might as well have fun.

Of course, the authors didn’t get it quite right–you never do. He predicted the internet, but Gibson was sure it was going to be virtual reality. No flying cars, but I think we all realize what a clusterf#$* that would actually be. The drugs have changed, and if we don’t all have implants, we have prosthetics that are just as amazing.

I think it’s the aesthetic–the technopunk style. The emphasis is “style over substance.” Do you look cool while you’re go through your daily grind. Of course, the characters aren’t grinding… they’re petty criminals, they’re homeless, they’re the antiheros your English teachers talked about. Maybe that’s part of the appeal. Anyone can be a hero of the story–they’re in a worse situation than you and they’re having an adventure! Why not you?

So as I listen to the Cyberpunk 2077 soundtrack this morning, I’m feeling great, jamming through the dawn. I’d like to buy the video game–bugs and all–but I honestly don’t enjoy those type of games. I’d rather watch someone else play it. However, they’ve used all the details from the 2020 RPG that I played that I’m hit by a beautiful wave of nostalgia. It might be a while before “I’m chipping in.”

Do you like Cyberpunk? Do you find it silly? Is it just a different taste of dystopian literature? Let me know in the comments below!

How Much Tech is Too Much Tech?

19 Sep

Ultratech – going beyond traditional science-fiction, using technology that can’t be conceived for even three generations. The problem is… does the lack of a cultural context alienate your readers?

So I’m struggling with my next story idea. After watching the Cyberpunk 2077 game trailers, I really got excited for doing “_____punk” again. However, I don’t want to do steampunk, I can’t finish my atompunk story, and I don’t have a good cyberpunk story. So how do I play with the ideas of extreme technology and societal collapse?

I made the mistake of picking up Ann Leckie’s award winning series at Book 3. So I had no context for the world she created. There was a human who’s the main character, but she used to be a ship, but somehow she gained command… okay, that I can move past and enjoy the book. However, it was the culture and the terminology that was so alien that I couldn’t connect with it. I finished the book, but I was left with a *bleh* at the end.

I feel like she was trying to do something different and cool but I had no way of appreciating it because I had nothing in the modern world to attach it to. It had something to do with the verbage and how that indicated how they ranked in their slave/less slave society, but it made it difficult to appreciate the story.

Now the best way to handle that is usually to have your point-of-view character be a normal human from our time, but that’s not going to work unless I want to pull a Buck Rogers or Planet of the Apes idea. Another solution is to have the society not changed much, but with the tech insane (this is the Star Trek: TNG theory of “technology changes, but man does not”), but that seems disingenuous and not authentic.

I don’t have to have all the characters speaking in future English or cityspeak: “Monsieur, azonnal kövessen engem bitte!” As much as I love using alternative languages in my writing (my favorite is Oranje = Dutch/Afrikkans with English sentence structure), maybe just using some unusual words for slang can help without distorting my reader’s connection.

Have you got any ideas? If you have a solution – or a similar problem – let me know in the comments below!

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