I’m a tentative fan of cyberpunk as a genre.
For clarity, cyberpunk is described as a postmodern science-fiction genre. Usually it focuses on a high amount of technology that somehow hasn’t made life all that much better. You get worlds where you could get a new eye installed on a street corner, but the food you’re eating is a noodle paste, and if you lack the proper credentials you could be killed in the street and no one would blink an eye. So its like having the technological might of a future Japan, with the violence in the street of current Syria.
So it may seem odd that for the longest time, I never read a cyberpunk book. I played cyberpunk video games, Deus Ex being an amazing example where your character is progressively modified while standing in the center of a transhumanist revolution. I’ve even watched cyberpunk shows, like Ghost in the Shell. By far my favorite bit of cyberpunk is the cyberpunk fantasy RPG, Shadowrun. I enjoy the grit, the desperate lifestyles, and the questions it asks about what it means to be human, the boundaries between human beings, and the limits of technology.
But despite that, it took me forever to read a cyberpunk book, and I really only count myself as a tentative fan.
Why? I think the genre feels a little archaic. Likely, this is just because of the sources I tap, but it always feels like cyberpunk is a future that emerges from the same 1980s sensibilities that spawned it when William Gibson started the sprawl trilogy in 1980.
It is also circling the libertarian feed bowl, with futures that include personal armies, corporations having complete control, and individuals only having as much personal freedom as they can pay for.
These are great for a gritty setting, but it gets dry after you see it enough times.
My favorite parts have nothing to do with jazzercise, or Ron Paul wet dreams, I love the connecting points between advanced technology and base humanity. I love the idea of a human being trying to dominate technology with his mind, but finding a greater intelligence there ready to combat him. I love the expression of today’s ideas of decaying privacy, technology growing beyond the speed that we can control it, and information being in the hands of anyone who wants to look for it.
So I have to ask myself, when NaNoWriMo comes around this year, and I embark on another journey to write a novel, what am I going to do? I have this month to plan, and then I will have to write about 1,600 words per day, for 30 days. I’ve done it before, plenty of times now, but every experience is a little different.
I have my ideas of what to do with my cyberpunk setting, and I doubt they will be new or unique. As I did previously, I’ll touch on themes that I enjoy, like skepticism, privacy, and advanced AI. Wish me luck.