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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Things Cyberpunk

“The sky above the port was the color of television, turned to a dead channel.”

So begins William Gibson’s seminal cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer (1984).

Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction that features advanced technology vis-à-vis a dystopian society – a kind of high tech world juxtaposed with a broken-down social order. Or in other words, high tech/low life.

Think Star Trek suffused with the despair and helplessness of “The Grapes of Wrath,” then throw in the gang wars and mob bosses of the “The Godfather,” and instead of governments, mega corporations rule the world, each fighting for supremacy.

William Gibson is considered to be the founder of cyberpunk. However, many writers before him had written all sorts of proto-cyberpunk novels, most notably Philip K. Dick, he of the “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” fame, the novel that served as inspiration for the classic cyberpunk film (and one of my personal favorites), “Blade Runner.” (Read up on Philip K. Dick – many of his works were later adapted for the big screen, including “Total Recall”.)

Besides “Blade Runner,” (and “Total Recall”) other notable cyberpunk films are The Matrix, Johnny Mnemonic, Judge Dredd, Robocop, and Gattaca. In video games, Deus Ex: Human Revolution – incidentally one of the best video games out there of any genre – is the best example of this. Shadowrun: Dragonfall is also good – immersive, and with a very satisfying tactical combat gameplay.

The novel that brought me to cyberpunk, however, is Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, where the protagonist is a katana-wielding pizza delivery guy/hacker named Hiro Protagonist (get it? “Hero” and protagonist”).  

Recommendations: Diamond Age, another Stephenson novel; Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (technically, this novel belongs to biopunk, a subset of cyberpunk dominated by themes of biotechnology).

The future is already here - just not evenly distributed. 
                                                                                                         William Gibson

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