Is cyberpunk a dead genre?

I would also add Brazil, Freejack and Tank Girl to that list.

That’s because they didn’t have any revolutionary ideas. They were basically selling cool gadgets and sunglasses and a pissed off attitude.
The problem with the cyberpunk genre is that is starts to seem a whole less cool when all the theoretical gadgets that were awsome in 1984 - cellphones, digital cameras, PDAs, blackberrys - are now carried by every middle-aged housewife and businessman in the country.

Gotta admit, Wendell. I think David Brin once wrote that he had trouble with cyberpunk simply because he couldn’t buy it. To assert that the people leading the ‘cyber’ revolution would be hormone drenched post-adolescents is to deny some fundamental views of human nature…that is…to a 20 year old male getting laid will generally take precedence over spending 100 hours hacking a phone company to no real purpose (extra stuff mine).

In short, it was difficult to take the genre anywhere because A) anyone with an ounce of sense saw it was silly (though I still believe Neuromancer is brilliant) and B) hell, we passed what they were writing about in the 90s sometime.

It’s sort of like Joe Strummer. I once heard him remark that the reason punk rose and died so quickly was that anyone who could actually play music couldn’t keep themselves confined to the punk genre for very long as it was too limiting and immature. People who could play would realize this and move on to other things.

Oh, and I’ll also back up BG on the ‘science fiction’, ‘sci-fi’, ‘SF’ thing. The whole thing about one being ‘serious’ and one not is simply pretentious pseudo-intellectual crap. Spawned by people like Ellison who’s insecurities find them needing to put down people who disagree or simply have different views than their own. I like Ellison as a writer but his opinion columns tend to be well-thought-out lessons in vitriolic naysaying to little effect.

I mean, by the definitions I’ve heard of the three variants early Heinlein, Piper and Smith would be ‘sci fi’ rather than ‘science fiction’. But I’ll take them over Ellison or Disch 10 times out of 10.

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There are only so many times you can read about a near-future corporate dystopia peopled by system-scamming leather-jacketed mirror-shaded gun-toting uber-hackers equipped with aural implants to enable them to sub-cerebrally listen to the Velvet Underground while getting laid by uber-tough leather-jacketed mirror-shaded street-fighting femmes fatales equipped with deadly cybernetic prostheses before yawning and picking up Lord Of The Rings to head back to Hobbiton once more.

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Well, then. I suppose we can just inscribe those words on a large rock, and drop in on the body of Cyberpunk for a tombstone.
**SLK Grabs his copy of Count Zero, and stomps off to sulk. ** :wink:

BrainGlutton writes:

> True, but what’s that got to do with cyberpunk as a literary genre? William
> Gibson, Bruce Sterling, et al., are artists, not revolutionaries. I don’t think they
> ever pretended to have a political agenda.

Note that I said:

> Not only was it limited to a small set of tropes, but it wasn’t remotely a plausible
> view of the future.

I wasn’t commenting on cyberpunk as literature, I was talking about whether it made any sense as a vision of the future. Gibson and most of the other cyberpunk writers may have never taken it that seriously as a prediction of the future, but some of its fans did. (Sterling I’m not so sure about. He was the cyberpunk writer most willing to be its spokesman. At times he did seem to take it seriously as political action.) As literature, I think it was an interesting trend in science fiction. Its tropes were too limited to sustain over the long term, but it produced a small number of relatively good works. It just wasn’t a reasonable vision of the future. The real world of the Internet in 2005 (E-bay, Amazon, the Internet Movie Database, Google, blogs, online pornography, instant messaging, spam, the Straight Dope Message Board, etc.) was totally missed by the cyberpunks.

Total strawman. Absolutely nobody in the field ever calls Heinlein or Piper sci fi. Maybe Smith, but deservedly so and usually in a context where the distinction is made meaningful.

But your analogy to punk is a pretty good one.

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Hey, I ain’t dissing William Gibson, just his legions of hack imitators: Gibson himself always seemed quite bewildered by any theoretical, or God forbid, political extrapolations from his writing, or indeed any idea of cyberpunk as a genre.

I remember reading an interview with him in Wired after he’d just attended a cyberpunk “conference” in Europe, where the attendees seemed to see cyberpunk as some kind of political manifesto for revolution, and his bewildered and immortal comment was that “The Italians had the best T-shirts”.

I love his books - I have all of them, and like I wrote earlier, after he’d finished the Sprawl trilogy he wasn’t interested in flogging the genre to death, despite its possible money-spinning potential, and moved on to other books and new ideas, his style maturing as he went.

I’m going to quote the opening sentence of Neuromancer as an example of why I like Gibson {you’ll have to take my word that this is from memory}: “The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Take away all the tropes that swiftly became cliches, and the guy’s still a hell of a writer.

I’d say that it’s still alive and kicking, it’s just moved away from pen and paper to cyberspace, as is fitting. This game is of the cyberpunk genre. It’s pretty cool from what I’ve seen so far online, the core game is free right now. Here is a page that covers the FAQs about the game, here are some moreresources, AOvault, and AOstratics, also here is a site that hasmaps you can consult. Trust me, researching a bit is actually wise, and not “cheating” or “using spoilers”, there is a lot to figure out even with the resources.

This sentence also makes a great epitaph for cyberpunk as a discrete genre. It’s a great opening, and in 1984, a great image as well.

…But when was the last time you saw a television that would actually show you “snow” when you tuned it to a dead channel? Now all you’re likely to see is a bright, summery blue blankness, totally in opposition to the image the sentence is intended to summon.

This is the likely reaction to most cyberpunk nowadays, for the same reason that you no longer see science fiction about the little green men who live on the moon. Reality caught up to fiction too quickly, and surpassed it too easily.

A great comp of short stories (if you can find it) is Mozart in Mirrorshades. It’s got various authors contributing.

“Mozart in Mirrorshades,” by Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner, is a story that debuted in Sterling’s Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology, which was mentioned earlier by BrainGlutton. I’m not aware of any anthology with the name Mozart in Mirrorshades, however.

You would of course, be correct. My mistake.

Also I didn;t notice it up their earlier.

I have nothing else to add.

I like beets.

You know what? That’s a great observation, and one which totally passed me by. I fully intend to steal it and claim it as my own.

The Matrix was probably the most recent and perhaps damning word in Cyberpunk. It said it all, and left a bad taste in many people’s mouths.

I think it’s time for a return to steampunk, myself.

Not if I can beat you to it. That was quite a nice metaphor.


BTW, going all the way back to the OP, Chairman, since you can’t find a copy of Snow Crash, let me strongly recommend Cryptonomicon, also by Neal Stevenson, if you haven’t read it already.

This book is what I’d call post-cyberpunk - it still has the hallmarks of the genre, but rather defies genrefication itself (always a plus, in my books). And it features Stevenson’s first satisfying ending.

You know, I actually picked it up yesterday. I went to my favorite used bookstore, thinking they’d have either *SC * or *The Stars My Destination * (they have a very ususual collection of old sci fi) and they had neither, but I picked up *Cryptonomicon * because it was only $3 and looked like it had never been opened.

I have to admit that it looks a little too daunting for my trainride reading, but I don’t know that I’m willing to put off my other reading to plow through this.

It’s a great read. And importantly it portrays one hell of a lot of ‘true to life’ technophiles. Much higher on the verity than most of the genre.

Here’s a recent thread about Neal Stephenson:

Oh, I know, that’s why I winked after that mini-snit. My favorite genres are Hard boiled detective fiction and Sci-Fi, especially cyberpunk. I agree that commercialization and popularity has ruined much, I just wish it weren’t true. Punk is dead, Cyberpunk is on life support, existing in a virtual reality much better than ours. :wink: :wink: :wink:

Just like the Hard boiled detective fiction has never truly died out, I think that gritty, dystopian sci fi never truly will, either.

I loved Gibson’s comment concerning those conferences about his work. They convinced him of what he suspected during all the college english classes he took; that 90% of it is Bullshit.

I recently finished Harry Harrisons “The Turing Option” and really enjoyed how it was a sci-fi/AI novel set in a cyberpunk world (the protagonist is actually a victim of the system-scamming leather-jacketed mirror-shaded gun-toting uber-hackers). I think thats where the genre is gonna go - normal sci-fi plots in a corporate/dystopic world.