Tag Archives: cyberpunk

A Bit of a Generation Gap

It’s NaNo time ago, and I’m almost half-way through. I’m on pace with my word count, and things are looking positive.

While on the forums, I came across a particularly interesting thread regarding steampunk – which is coincidental considering Paul’s most recent post. I came to realize that there is a significant difference in my particular mindset on the way in which genre works and the mindset of those who are writing what they deem to be genre. I don’t think it’s necessarily a difference of one’s definition of genre, but a difference in the generation gap that lies between us. To me, such things as steampunk, cyberpunk, and even space opera are things born out of ideology: there was a reactionary, responsive feel to the works that originated these particularly specific sub-genres of speculative fiction. All of that seems to be lost, and there are other who agree (read Jeff and Ann Vandermeer’s anthology Steampunk, which has a foreword by Jess Nevins).

Once you’ve been in the industry as a writer or editor for any length of time, you begin to understand that the industry is both fickle and evolving. Some of it is to preserve the species, and some of it is to appease the public. What I notice in the change of ideology, however, is that it isn’t so much about either of these things as it is a matter of how the writers themselves, begin to become removed of the ideology and more interested in the trappings and the appearance.

What, then, is the ideology of today? What is the theme, the motif, that runs through speculative fiction that very well could produce a new sub-genre in the vein of these greats? Is it New Weird in the style of China Meiville? Is it Mundane SF after Geoff Ryman’s vision? Or is there some beast yet to rise that we haven’t quite caught a glimpse of?

Turn on, jack in, zone out – the coming of the global computer hive-mind

Metaverse cyberpunkKevin Kelly admits he’s not the first person to postulate that “a superorganism is emerging from the cloak of wires, radio waves, and electronic nodes wrapping the surface of our planet. He also reckons that cloud computing is amplifying the effect:

The majority of the content of the web is created within this one virtual computer. Links are programmed, clicks are chosen, files are moved and code is installed from the dispersed, extended cloud created by consumers and enterprise – the tons of smart phones, Macbooks, Blackberries, and workstations we work in front of.

Nova Spivak agrees – which makes sense, as he’s trying to build Web3.0, a.k.a. the Semantic Web – but suggests that we’ll avoid a Terminator-esque ending because human consciousness may be the key to the whole thing:

What all this means to me is that human beings may form an important and potentially irreplaceable part of the OM — the One Machine — the emerging global superorganism. In particular today the humans are still the most intelligent parts. But in the future when machine intelligence may exceed human intelligence a billionfold, humans may still be the only or at least most conscious parts of the system. Because of the uniquely human capacity for consciousness (actually, animals and insects are conscious too), I think we have an important role to play in the emerging superorganism. We are it’s awareness. We are who watches, feels, and knows what it is thinking and doing ultimately.

Maybe that sounds a little bit Mondo-2000 techno-hippie nineties-retro to you, hmmm? OMGZ maybe Spivak is a victim of terrible brain changes wrought by teh ev1lz of teh intarwubz!!!1 OH NOES:

Researchers have found that the brains of ‘digital natives’ are developing to deal more efficiently with searching and filtering large amounts of information, and making quick decisions. On the down side, that behaviour is changing the brain’s neural patterns impairing the social skills of heavy web users (what’s new?) and even triggering an increase in conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder.

Well, it looks like the internet must have eroded the fundamentals of cause and effect, too… who knew? I guess there’s no point in delaying the inevitable, so I’m off to get my cerebral jack fitted so I can transcend the limitations of this stupid meat prison. The future is within our grasp, brothers and sisters! [image by Katiya Rhode]

Cybercrime isn’t all that bad…

…or at least as bowel-voidingly terrifying as people might think.

Prof David S. Wall from the University of Leeds has published a paper – Cybercrime and the Culture of Fear: Social science fiction(s) and the production of knowledge about cybercrime – which has been profiled on IO9 that claims that:

Cyberpunk effectively defined cybercrime as a harmful activity that takes place in virtual environments and made the ‘hi-tech low-life’ hacker narrative a norm in the entertainment industry. It is interesting to note at this point, that whilst social theorists were adopting the Barlovian model of cyberspace, it was the Gibsonian model that shaped the public imagination through the visual media.

Of “the Barlovian model of cyberspace,” to save you the trouble of Googling, after the IO9 article there is an extract from a lecture on Media and Cyberculture, which says that Barlovian refers to John Perry Barlow, the Grateful Dead lyricist, and one of the founders of the EFF. He declares in A Declaration on the Independence of Cyberspace :

“We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth, We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence of conformity. In our world, whatever human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts. We will create a civilization of the Mind in cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before”

Which is interesting, to say the least. Check out Professor Wall’s paper in full here (I doubt I could write a better profile than the one at IO9).

And if that was not enough, you too can immerse yourself in the reality of being a successful cyberpunk novelist and Zeitgeist-definer by listening to William Gibson’s playlist.

[story via Beyond the Beyond, William Gibson’s playlist via Boing Boing]

William Gibson interviewed at io9

William GibsonJust in case you hadn’t noticed, the good folks at io9 have an interview with the nigh-legendary William Gibson, who I’m sure needs no introduction to Futurismic readers. Here he is explaining why he thinks people describe his work as dystopian:

“None of us ever live in dystopia. That’s an imaginary extreme. They just live in shitty cultures. And these societies [in my books] seem dystopian to middle class white people in North America. They don’t seem dystopian if you live in Rio or anywhere in Africa. Most people in Africa would happily immigrate to the Sprawl.

Click on over; plenty of brain food in exchange for five minutes of your time. [image by fugin]