Looking back on cyberpunk1.0

Paul Raven @ 21-09-2010

An interesting personal-reflection post from Adam “Everyware” Greenfield on his formative experiences with cyberpunk. In a fresh refingering of the “we live in that fictional world now” riff, he wonders if anything could possibly strike such a powerful chord for him again:

[This graffiti’d Chinese shipping container] struck me as occupying an amazing position in material-semantic possibility space, the polemical-made-real. Running past it was something like listening to a digital file of Brazilian speedmetal, or having a woman you meet at a party nonchalantly introducing you to her wife, in that everyday life seemed to have more or less effortlessly remolded itself around tropes which once, and not so very long ago, dripped with futurity.

And a world filled with such objects is in some way almost beyond commentary, or critique. Maybe this is why William Gibson’s own last few books, delightful as they remain — the brand-new Zero History being the most recent case in point — read as yarns told about people we (quite literally) already know, capering through places, scenes and contexts we know all too well. It’s competently constructed entertainment, resonant enough of our moment, and is amusing as something to play the roman-à-clef game with. But it’s not (and cannot be?) revelatory. I’m having a hard time imagining anyone having their ass kicked by Zero History the way mine was by Neuromancer.

I know what Greenfield’s talking about here, but I suspect that personal subjectivity has a lot to do with it; Justin Pickard crops up in the comments to point out that, as a younger reader, he got something of the same gutpunch from Gibson’s Pattern Recognition reproducing the world he recognised from beyond the book’s covers. Just like the books we read, we’re products of our own milieu… atemporality is rarer than it might appear from inside our favoured goldfish bowl.

I can easily imagine the inquisitive teens of today seeing themselves and their world in Lauren Beukes’ Moxyland, or in the more recent works of Ian McDonald and (to a lesser extent, because as much as I feel he tries earnestly to capture the world as-is, he can’t help but Disney-fy it at the same time) Cory Doctorow. But thinking about sf from this angle, it feels to me like there’s a real paucity of works that seek to engage the world on political and economic terms in the way that cyberpunk grappled with the Eighties…

… or perhaps that’s what’s going on in the world of YA urban fantasy (or whatever we’re calling it this week). Which might possibly explain why I just don’t understand the appeal of that stuff whatsoever. *shrug*


Counting down to Zero History

Paul Raven @ 04-08-2010

There’s a book called Zero History coming out soon, written by some guy called William Gibson…

Kinda surprised that the first place I saw this was at Wired… but then the Bigend trilogy (of which this is the third instalment) has rather conspicuously not been marketed as (or should that be to?) science fiction. Maybe the publishers figure all us geeks are gonna buy it anyway?

They may have a point. 🙂


Wearable computing: the state of the art

Paul Raven @ 02-08-2010

Martin Magnusson got bored of waiting for the cyberpunk future we were promised in the mid-eighties, so he decided to build his own wearable cyberdeck rig. The version pictured [ganked from this Wired article] is a little crude, perhaps (I quite like the did-it-myself workbench aesthetic of exposed cables, personally, though it’d be a nightmare in a combat situation)), but he’s also managed to scrunch the bulk of it down into a little CD-case-shoulder-bag number for the more style-conscious geek-about-town.

Martin Magnusson's wearable computer

In case you’re wondering about battery life (which was my first question), Magnusson reckons he gets three hours of juice from four AA batteries, which is better than I’d have expected, though still not too awesome. Time to look at harvesting waste energy from the body, Mister Magnusson? 🙂


Rudy Rucker’s Ware Tetralogy available as a free download

Paul Raven @ 22-06-2010

The Ware Tetralogy - Rudy RuckerRegular readers will be aware that I’m a Rudy Rucker fan, and hence will understand how stoked I am that his Ware Tetralogy – heretofore hard to find in decent condition – is being republished as a single (immense) volume. It’s now sat on my wishlist, awaiting a moment when I have the money spare to buy a copy… but until then, there’s a free-to-download PDF version of the Ware Tetralogy available on Rucker’s website. There are commercial ebook versions in the pipeline, apparently, so that download may not be there forever – scoop it up now, and feel the gnarl!

(That said, the PDF and RTF versions are Creative Commons licensed, so they can be passed around with impunity. Send one to a friend!)


NEW FICTION: MIGUEL AND THE VIATURA by Eric Gregory

Paul Raven @ 01-06-2010

One of the best things about publishing new stories is seeing writers take old ideas and remake them afresh. A few months ago, we had Sandra McDonald remixing the post-apocalypse trope, and now Eric Gregory updates the urban vampire for a nanotech-infested near future in the favelas of the Global South.

“Miguel and the Viatura” mashes up religion, poverty, exploitative corporations and transcendant technology, but remains at its heart a powerful story of character, of a younger brother led astray. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have.

Miguel and the Viatura

by Eric Gregory

“We’re close,” said Joaõ. “Keep your eyes open.”

It was hard enough to watch the road. Foot traffic was heavy, and police in hardsuits patrolled the walks, faceless behind their faceplates. The air was usually fine in Pinheiros District, but Joaõ had insisted they both wear masks, and Miguel’s eyepieces fogged constantly. “Are we late?” he asked. The only thing worse than crossing the city to see his father would be doing it for no reason at all. If they missed him, Miguel would punch something.

Preferably Joaõ. Continue reading “NEW FICTION: MIGUEL AND THE VIATURA by Eric Gregory”


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