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Thread: Cyberpunk

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW kaylim's Avatar
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    Cyberpunk

    So I recently read 'Neuromancer' by William Gibson and I'm in the process of reading 'Count Zero' by the same author. I find it difficult to describe these books. To me, they're like science fiction but with a strong emphasis on a kind of pre-internet internet. Other than that, I've read Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in the past, which I know I have to re-read because the only thing I remember from the book is the guy walking in the matrix thing as a gigantic penis.

    I found Gibson's writing to be very difficult to understand, but I still finished it and enjoyed it. However, if you asked me to write a book report about it, I wouldn't have much to say in terms of his use of language or related matters. He seems to use a slang of his own invention which threw me off a lot. Also, he doesn't seem to describe anything at all. Neuromancer especially is a book I know I need to re-read.

    I've read that Gibson invented the term 'Cyberspace' and was hugely influential on tech types etc. but since these books were published, technology has advanced a lot further. Is cyberpunk still relevant?

  2. #2
    pretending to be awake onesecondglance's Avatar
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    Hi kaylim,

    for a start you have to remember that some of these books were pre-internet - definitely Neuromancer. Their influence can't be understated - a lot of real life tech developments were made by people who were fans of cyberpunk. So the books didn't just imagine the future, they helped shaped it, too.

    Cyberpunk is probably as relevant now as it was then, but the genre has evolved. The core themes are still there: the overlap between human consciousness and digital realms; the extension of human capabilities (particularly intellectual) through technology; corporate overreach and the corporatisation of the world. In many ways, we're now living in the cyberpunk future. Artificial limbs, VR, an ubiquitous and all-encompassing "cloud"... these are straight outta those 80s texts.

    Neuromancer shows a particularly dense prose style. I find the dreamlike opening section in the Sprawl is actually quite difficult to get through, because the imagery is so heavily layered. It's not necessarily a feature of the genre as a whole, more just Gibson's style. It does get easier on a second read, though.

    If you find you like cyberpunk, there are quite a few other authors you should check out. I'm a particular fan of George Alec Effinger - his MarÓd Audran series (When Gravity Fails, A Fire in the Sun, and The Exile Kiss) are great (and his prose style is very accessible).
    Λrchangel: near-future SF noir
    Perpetual Midnight: basically all those cool nightclub scenes from SF movies with some sort of plot, idk | [first draft underway!]
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW kaylim's Avatar
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    I think I do like cyberpunk but maybe I just don't like Gibson. I just finished reading Count Zero and I am at a loss as to what the plot to the story was actually about and the major events that happened in the novel. My reading comprehension is normally very good so I don't think it's necessarily my fault. Neuromancer, I think, was a little bit easier to grasp.

  4. #4
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    John M. Ford's 1980 Novel, "Web of Angels", is sometimes said to be the original cyberpunk novel.

    Ford anticipated the web and hackers eleven years before Al Gore tried to convince snickering and incredulous men and women of Congress that a connected network of computers available to everybody was a very useful thing.
    Last edited by Alessandra Kelley; 01-10-2017 at 02:11 AM.

  5. #5
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    A lot of cyberpunk creators and modern interpreters have moved on to the broader scope of transhumanism as a whole. Even Gibson's latest book, the Peripheral, had a lot to do with what we think of as simulation theory. We're seeing less punk fashions and plainly visible cybernetics, and more sleek, unobtrusive design for technology to reflect modern trends, with similar fashion choices; where not displaying strange geometries.

    Whether there's still relevancy in it, outside of nostalgia, is hard to say. But the cyberpunk of today, if done from a place other than imitation of past novels and media (evoking Neuromancer, Shadowrun, or Deus Ex), would more likely reflect modern counterculture instead of that of the 80s and late 70s.

  6. #6
    pretending to be awake onesecondglance's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SinisterMime View Post
    Whether there's still relevancy in it, outside of nostalgia, is hard to say. But the cyberpunk of today, if done from a place other than imitation of past novels and media (evoking Neuromancer, Shadowrun, or Deus Ex), would more likely reflect modern counterculture instead of that of the 80s and late 70s.
    Although it should be mentioned that a magpie-like tendency to "wear your influences on your sleeve" can be considered part of the original cyberpunk aesthetic:

    Quote Originally Posted by William Gibson speaking about The Matrix films
    Whatever of my work may be there, it seems to me to have gotten there by exactly the kind of creative cultural osmosis I’ve always depended on myself. If there’s NEUROMANCER in THE MATRIX, there’s THE STARS MY DESTINATION and DHALGREN in NEUROMANCER, and much else besides, down to and including actual bits of embarrassingly undigested gristle. And while I was drawing directly from those originals, and many others, the makers of THE MATRIX were drawing through a pre-existing “cyberpunk” esthetic, which constituted as much of a found object, for them, as “science fiction” did for me.
    http://www.williamgibsonbooks.com/ar...e.asp#90244012
    Λrchangel: near-future SF noir
    Perpetual Midnight: basically all those cool nightclub scenes from SF movies with some sort of plot, idk | [first draft underway!]
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  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by onesecondglance View Post
    Although it should be mentioned that a magpie-like tendency to "wear your influences on your sleeve" can be considered part of the original cyberpunk aesthetic:



    http://www.williamgibsonbooks.com/ar...e.asp#90244012
    I would argue that while the Matrix did contain features known to Cyberpunk, but no longer wholly belonging to it, such as cyberspace and issues of transhumanism, it also did as I suggested it might for today - in its time - and depicted what was a strictly nineties counterculture. The struggle of the counterculture is the same, but we no longer see it shown in the same manner (which is less about fighting government authority, and more about fighting the 9-5 life of the cubicle farm, metaphorically draining one's life away). It's shifted from beatnik, to hippie, to punk, to grunge, and to hipster and activist-anarchist, with so many points in between. The philosophy, fashion, and soundtrack all get modernized. And if it were adapted for today's audience, would likely be modernized again to reflect the struggle of one of today's countercultures.

    To note, I read the post that the quote you provided came from, and at the very end of the post found something else from Gibson that applies to the subject of this thread.

    AN END TO CYBERPUNK?

    Someone asks if I might please put an end to it.

    Would that I could, but it just doesn't work that way. "Cyberpunk", which you'll note I put in quotes or not, as the irony level in my bloodstream fluctuates, has a life of its own. Has in fact been possessed of a stubborn vitality since it first hove into view circa 1981. At this late stage of the game, though, my belief is that, outside of a certain narrow discourse in literary history, its best use today is as an indicator of a particular generic flavor in pop culture. In the way that "cowboy" functions in "cowboy boots", which generally has nothing to do with anyone, particularly the wearer of the boots in question, being any kind of cowboy. "That's kind of a cyberpunk video." We all know what the speaker means.

  8. #8
    pretending to be awake onesecondglance's Avatar
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    I don't think we're in disagreement? I'm just noting that "imitating the past" is totally fine, and to a degree expected in the genre.

    All SF is influenced by the time in which it's written.
    Λrchangel: near-future SF noir
    Perpetual Midnight: basically all those cool nightclub scenes from SF movies with some sort of plot, idk | [first draft underway!]
    I write music. | I gave in and joined twitter.

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    It is a tough question, determining if cyberpunk is still relevant. But, I think it has evolved into something a little more than its early imagination of what the internet would like and how everyone would be connected. Now, it has moved to questions of AI and body augmentation. I think you could look at Ex Machina as an updated Cyberpunk-like story. The movie deals with what AI is and how far we can go with it. It's not set in a future Tokyo type of big city, with everyone Jacking in. Yet, I'm guess that you finished Count Zero and hopefully moved on to Mona Lisa Overdrive, you'll see that Gibson moves toward AI as well. Then you have Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan. His series of books have people being able to switch bodies by downloading their conscience and plugging it into a new body. It's a new update to Cyberpunk, because it moves beyond the Internet and now focuses on how the body isn't as important as your mind. It does follow the detective type of story that Gibson used, it just moves it beyond console jockeys.

    Cyberpunk just needs to move along our timeline and then past it to see what is coming next.

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