It’s everywhere now. It’s downloaded into your cortex. Drips off the neon katakana of your tube hotel vacancy sign. It’s hidden in the channel tuned to static on your peripheral, cyphered, cybernetic headset. It provides the foundation as well as the motivation for things high above its paygrade, but it is still only a literary genre–beyond video games. “Cyberpunk.” I’m talking sim stim, black mesa stuff here, not Grand Theft Hovercar.
It’s very surreal to me some of the things which have happened since my primordial soup sleuthing sci-fi books as a teen on IRC. I went back and read one of my old works where I had written about a character who travels the world via superjets as a freelance social science graduate with an array of dialects. I’ve thought about that book so much as a metric for how things have changed since the old days. Then when Ready Player One came out, I started idolizing the future of immersive digital reality simulations. And then this year, 2020, well, I don’t want to talk about that, not all at once at least. But I will.
I feel motivated to write this in a really relevant personal way. It seems like one of my most influential pools of inspiration is being glossed over by the digital masterpiece known as Cyberpunk 2077. I don’t mind exactly, but you plug the word “cyberpunk” into a search engine and it’s all about this new game and nothing about the bold literary genre that inspired it or even much about the tabletop RPG it is based on. The literary genre is what I’m here to talk about though.
Cyberpunk: My History With the Future
A little-known fact about Dave Pizza, he used to be a BIG nerd. Okay, that’s not new, but I used to be fascinated by whatever technology I could get my hands on. I liked computers, telephones, and radios, and I just wanted to know how they work. A few of the people in my social circles, which were almost entirely online and also interested in these things, talked about books occasionally. I’m grateful for that, because books triumph above all really, even games really.
As you can imagine, Sci-Fi was the primary genre for my friends. They got me going on an author named William Gibson, who wrote a book called Neuromancer. Some might argue this was the first cyberpunk novel, which I would allow, although I later found out that there was a lineage to this genre preceded by much of the work by the author Phillip K. Dick (prolific Sci-Fi author) as well as much of the science fiction work before him, especially Isaac Asimov.
I’m not going to give a rundown on the entire sentiment or aesthetic of Cyberpunk, but it’s explanatory by name,”cybernetic (cyber) rebellion (or punk.)” I had no clue what I was as I rushed my way through that gritty bizarre eBook and electronica mp3 form Circular playing in the background on a loop. I knew I was onto something important, it sincerely opened up my world though. Imagine fantasizing about a humbling technological behemoth before smartphones even existed. Yet, cyberpunk isn’t about the conveniences of the future, it’s about the consequences of runaway industrial capitalism.
Just a side note: most cyberpunk content is not family-friendly. I have prided myself on having fairly wholesome topics, which I intend to continue, but this genre is practically the horror genre of literary sci-fi genres. Don’t worry though, despite our massive problems, we’re not doing too terribly in the category of potential dystopic realities we could exist in. Yet…
A Couple Brief Thoughts on 2077
Okay, don’t get me wrong, I love Keanu! He is an ambassador of awesomeness, and although I haven’t played this game, it looks really really cool. I know that Sony recently pulled it due to some serious development issues, but when it comes back, and it will if you had been anticipating it, totally go for it. Woah. Just be aware that it is going to be really violent and undoubtedly confrontational. Sorry to say that, but that’s just the way it is and you probably didn’t come here to look for that kind of stuff. I’m still working my way back up to when I can on a personal level play a game like this again, but it certainly looks incredible, and I definitely will be trying it out for my own personal curiosity at some point.
There is one strange thing I wanted to say about it though, which is I have been following this game since the only hint of what it was was a JPEG on Facebook. Now it’s like an international household name, how exactly did that even happen? And what do I do now that everybody knows what cyberpunk is, and also what do I do now that nobody will know what cyberpunk was.
Some of the Aesthetics of Cyberpunk
The origin of the future is not necessary, it trickles down from the past. If you ever read an interview with William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer, you’ll realize that these stories are not about neat cutting-edge technology but rather the effects of technology on society and individual psychology.
A lot of people when they think about sci-fi or the future often have a dream of interstellar lightships and hoverboards. Unfortunately, those things are impossible. Sorry, if that hurts, it hurt me. I had a really sad but grounding experience recently watching a creative figure explaining how space travel efforts are totally pointless. The speed limit of everything is the speed of light according to Einstein. We will never build something that fast and if we do it will be ages from our own lifespans, which unfortunately are mortal. And I’m not a doomsayer but we’ve got so many other problems as it is. That’s kind of where cyberpunk is at. That’s one thing I like about it.
Another great story from cyberpunk is BladeRunner, the film, based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. The Harrison Ford original which came out in the 80s with a follow-up sequel in the last couple of years was really ahead of the game even to this day. They are both SO good and show how our perception of sci-fi has evolved over the past 40 years. Wait, FOURTY years? !#@&
That’s kind of what I mean though. We’ve got a long way to go. If you tune into that futuristic imagining, however, you may realize it is already here. You watch live YouTube streams of a train station in Tokyo in the Midwest during a pandemic. Or you order tasteful graffiti stickers from New York on your phone. Maybe you are part of a research project that works for a marketing project that’s actually the subject of a different research project watching customers through cameras in-store mannequins. Or maybe you go to the mall.
This is Really Happening Now
The corporate conspiracy is just a fact of life anymore. We don’t need to theorize what it will be like. Your identity is compromised and sold. It’s really nothing new. As we continue our cruise into the rest of the 21st century, I think things are going to be pretty interesting.
Gee, I inadvertently turned this into a 2020 recap, but oh well. Years ago I was captivated by the potential for spontaneous inter-global passenger and cargo traffic as technology advances. I had hardly traveled and longed for the opportunity to be available to everyone. This year though, we can’t even go to Canada from the USA. Tourism is crashing down and I really don’t know what’s next. Everybody is poor, so there’s that too. The economy isn’t taking advantage of us anymore, it’s sputtering to a halt. But some things are just changing and even getting better. The political stuff terrifies me. But it’s all documented and cataloged, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and remember what happens.
Cyberpunk: Now You Know Kung-Fu
P.S. If you want to read some of my favorite cyberpunk titles, the top 5 are, without contest: Neuromancer, Pattern Recognition, Snow Crash, Jennifer Government and, I’m serious, Ready Player One. Ready Player One is cyberpunk, I refuse to deny it that.
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