beyond cyberpunk

a do-it-yourself guide to the future

Beyond Cyberpunk

Brooks Landon’s 1993 article Hypertext and science fiction, a review of Branwyn, Sugarman, et al.’s 1991 HyperCard classic “Beyond Cyberpunk! A Do-It-Yourself Guide to the Future” [ah yes, it’s available on the Web meanwhile] starts with a gorgeous rant I just have to quote almost in full:

Better add “hypertext” either to the list of words you’ve already heard waaaay too many times or to the list you know you’ll be hearing waaaay too many times in years to come. You know the list; top-heavy with “de-” and “post-” prefixes, it has recently grown fond of “hyper-” and “cyber-” anything. Former nosebleed theory words like “deconstruction,” “decenteredness.” “poststructuralism,” “postmodernism,” “posthumanism,” now have to compete in the buzzword marketplace with “hypertext,” “hypermedia,” “cyberarts,” “cybercrud,” “cyberculture,” [cyberanthropology ;-] and, yes, that golden-oldie—”cyberpunk.” These are words that have oozed down from the ivory tower or up from once marginal subcultures to pave the floor of our cultural consciousness—like the Ju Jus, Junior Mints, Sweet Tarts, and Twizzlers that stick to our feet at the local neighborhood theater. Yet these are all words of vital importance for the study and understanding of late science fiction, if not of contemporary culture, and it may turn out that “hypertext” is the most important of the lot. [emphasis and insertion mine]

Read the whole review, it’s very enlightening in respect to cyberpunk, and don’t miss the reviewed item itself, “Beyond Cyberpunk!, about which Landon says that it “is firmly grounded not just in cyberpunk, one mode of SF [science fiction] thinking, but in the basic attitude toward the world that makes SF an epistemology rather than just a genre.” It contains e.g. Bruce Sterling‘s “Cyberpunk in the nineties” [the link to the text I had provided earlier seems to be dead meanwhile]. But “the focus of this hypertext,” again according to Landon, “is on cyberculture. It does offer information about music, body editing, comics, graphic novels, anime, zines, techno-slang, performance art—all “strains of this curious cultural mutation” that was first clearly articulated in cyberpunk fiction.”

Another worthwhile piece at Science Fiction Studies is Russell Blackford’s “Reading the Ruined Cities”, a review of Sabine Heuser’s “Virtual Geographies: Cyberpunk at the Intersection of the Postmodern and Science Fiction” (2003). My favourite excerpts:

She [Sabine Heuser] identifies [cyberpunk’s] concern with damage and ruins—with the appropriation of buildings and living spaces for new and diverse purposes. It is as if cyberpunk is deliberately trashing the edifices of the international style of architecture, rejecting their corporate purposes in favor of a postmodernist pluralism. […] she demonstrates cyberpunk’s concern with ruins, damage to the natural and built environments, architectural grunge, and appropriated spaces. […]

The release of The Matrix was a defining moment in the cultural influence of cyberpunk. It achieved commercial success and a great deal of journalistic and academic attention, ultimately leading to the release, in 2003, of two sequels plus a series of short animated movies collectively known as The Animatrix.

Has the bug bitten? Then you’ll dig Rob Latham’s “Cyberpunk = Gibson = Neuromancer”, a thrashing of Slusser & Shippey’s collection of essays “Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative” (1992). Here’s the opening paragraph:

In the informal interview that closes Fiction 2000 (a collection of essays from “an international symposium on the nature of fiction at the end of the twentieth century…held in Leeds, England…between June 28 and July 1, 1989…[and focusing] specifically on the form of science fiction called cyberpunk”[279]), Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, responding to a remark that the conference had featured “an emphasis on [William] Gibson’s Neuromancer,” replies: “I think the impression that much of the conference centered on Neuromancer may actually just be an effect of the convergence in time of the talks. I don’t perceive this as having been a ‘Neuromancer conference’ at all” (280-81). Csicsery-Ronay is wrong. It was a Neuromancer conference, at least judging by the 17 essays gathered in this volume of proceedings. The overwhelming impression presented is that most of the conferees operated with the following equation implicitly in mind: cyberpunk = Gibson = Neuromancer. As a result, the movement, as a literary practice and a cultural ideology, gets forced into a straitjacket—a flashy one, true, patterned with intricate Orientalist flourishes, but confining nonetheless. [inserts by Latham]

Ah, to hell, if I am already at it, here is the rest of what I dug up today. Cheryl Laz’s article on using science fiction to teach sociology assures my idea of the anthropology & cyberpunk course:

LAZ, CHERYL. 1996. Science fiction and introductory Sociology: The “Handmaid” in the classroom. Teaching Sociology 24(1): 54-63.

abstract: Although there is a great deal of available material on using nontraditional resources for teaching sociology, the pedagogical uses of science fiction have not been examined for 20 years. This essay first asserts the need for an update based on changes in society and in science fiction over the past two decades. The paper then focuses on the uses of SF to teach sociology and critical thinking by describing how SF can help students to “make strange” (i.e., develop a skeptical, questioning stance), to “make believe” (i.e., develop critical and creative thinking), and to “make real” (i.e., use sociological concepts and theories). As illustration, the essay concludes with a detailed description of the use of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” in teaching introductory sociology.

In Douglas Kellner‘s 2002 article “Theorizing globalization” [.pdf | 450KB] (Sociological Theory 20(3): 285-305) I stumbled over this sentence: “Yet the events of September 11 may open a new era of Terror War that will lead to the kind of apocalyptic futurist world depicted by cyberpunk fiction.” See also his “9/11, Spectacles of terror, and media manipulation: A critique of Jihadist and Bush media politics” [.pdf | 248KB], and “Theorizing September 11: Social Theory, History, and Globalization” [.pdf | 297KB].

… and finally something for the aficionados ;-)

TOLEDANO REDONDO, JUAN CARLOS. 2005. From socialist realism to anarchist-capitalism: Cuban cyberpunk. Science Fiction Studies 32(3): 442-466.

Cuban cyberpunk developed during the Special Period in Time of Peace of the 1990s. After the fall of the USSR, Cuba went through its worst economic and social crisis since 1959. The Revolution seemed to be falling apart. At the same time, capitalism became the economic credo for the new globalized economy. Cuba was completely isolated. Among its youngest generation of sf writers, some adapted the cyberpunk style of the US in the 1980s to express their new reality. Yoss, Vladimir Hernández, and Michel Encinosa created a new hero, defiant of the late capitalist world and impregnated with a traditional anarchist view against the state. The new socialist man was replaced by the new anarchist hero/ine.

*zeph listens to dream warriors::my definition of a boombastic jazz style