Cyberpunk’d

cover shot of Cyberpunk

Cover shot of Cyberpunk

Dear Sci-Fi Enthusiast,

A year ago, I went on a foraging walk. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when you follow a really smart survivalist around in the woods and he or she shows you all the things you can eat if you need to live off the land. I went because I love learning about native plants. Others went because they felt that it was only a matter of time before ‘bad things were going to happen’ and they would have to rely on themselves to survive. The idea of Survivalism is growing more popular: there is a glut of blogs about it, most people I know now store at least some water and essentials in their cold cellar, my neighbor knows how to make his own bullets [shudder], and there are even Pinterest boards dedicated to it. But I’ve never felt the need to prepare for an apocalypse until this week. Because after reading the new anthology of cyberpunk fiction aptly titled Cyberpunk, I really do fear for the future.

First, in case you have limited experience with cyberpunk (like me), it’s a specific type of Sci-Fi that [d]evolved in the early 80s. It showcased a future dystopian Earth from the view of those trapped in the seedy underbelly of society. It was dark and full of drugs and hi tech wizardry, clones, and characters out for whatever they could get. And halfway through the collection, I was seriously depressed. Not because of the greed that most characters showed, or the lengths they would go to get something, but because almost all of the stories featured a future very much like the one we’re beginning to see. In other words, the early cyberpunk writers were pretty bang-on. And that terrifies me. Because I fear a future where everything is automated, and we trade trees for gold, but we can live for longer than ever with fake body parts and drugs.

Today, my mother took a tour of the new superjail near(ish) my house and told me that all the inmates will talk to visitors via videoconferencing, and will start making their court appearances in the same way. And while that’s great for the taxpayers (less $ for legal fees and travel costs), it makes me feel uneasy. Uneasy in the same way I feel uneasy when I need to Google something right away or I will lose my mind, or someone contemplates micro-chipping as a means to pay bills, or be tracked. Or we will live underground or in burned out buildings. Cyberpunk is like that – a future I’m not sure I want to be a part of.

Remind me to read something more uplifting next time,

Libby

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6 Comments

Filed under Books, Science Fiction, Short Stories

6 responses to “Cyberpunk’d

  1. Aside from the omnipresent advertising, the spookiest trend of modern life towards cyberpunk is the constant surveillance. That security systems are growing increasingly deft at recognising illegal, say, violet, behaviour, may seem like a good thing. But when these systems are connected so that sending out fines and perhaps eventually arrest warrants is an entirely automated process, where human discretion no longer plays a part in the law… that’s scary. A loss of autonomy even amongst free, generally law-abiding members of society will make civilisation feel like one big prison, to which we freely subject ourselves.

    If you haven’t already, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy is a fantastic example of past insights becoming a future reality. In parts it’s depressing, but the overall tone is hopeful.

    Nice post! I love the idea of placing notes in book jackets. What a great way to tell a different story.

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    • Thanks for the awesome and detailed response, Anneque! My students and I constantly talk about this issue – even to the fact that no one reads terms of use anymore because if you disagree with the terms of use, you have no other option…so you just sign your privacy away in most cases.

      I just placed a hold on Red Mars at the library and will let you know what I think.

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  2. I have a soft spot for cyberpunk – though for me, I have the exact opposite reaction. Sure, the future is dark, but also incredible and powerful and the future full of all sorts of technology.

    Have you tried Neuromancer by William Gibson? If not, give that book a go before giving up on the genre!

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    • OK, I promise I won’t give it up!!! And I do like William Gibson, but I’ve only read his stories, so I’ll try Neuromancer (not making any promises). I think reading an entire anthology was a little overwhelming! I originally got hooked on Cory Doctorow’s essays and one of his stories was in this anthology – have you read any of his stuff?

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      • I tried Little Brother by Doctorow and it was a miserable experience – everything from the writing to the story to the characters was a revelation of misery!

        I read Neuromancer as a book, but really enjoyed a few other books as audiobooks.

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