Monday 25 June 2012

Getting yo' mirrorshades rewired

I've recently taken the time to meander through the thoughtfully compiled Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, which is meant to chronicle those steps being taken to move us away from the near future menagerie of zaibatsu assassins and keyboard cowboys that cyberpunk established in the early eighties.

Though its editors previously rolled out the Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology this book emerged from and stills stands ass deep in the reproductive juices of Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology, which was seminal in shaping the man who writes this blog.

Cyberpunk, as the name implies, is a species of postmodern science fiction that started to appear in the late seventies and began to find its feet in the early eighties. Like postmodernism it was a thing that was always going to happen. Its DNA was shaped and prepared in the opening salvos of the industrial revolution, and by the same token it was always going to produce its own progeny that carried with them the family resemblance in their tropes and the way that they swaggered.

There is a problem with what they are trying to establish here. While at its most axiomatic cyberpunk is about the keyboard rebellion, the traits and tropes that it has laid exclusive claim to can be found in less trendy science fiction as far back as the twenties, and in usage is a much broader term with a similar policy for rigidly acknowledging its borders as the People's Republic of China. There is no room for post-cyberpunk to lurk in its wake. The stories in Rewired are standing too close.

Kelly and Kessel are participating in an increasingly obsessive trend towards a fractal model when talking about genres and sub-genres in a fool's errand to hit the nail on the head. This is part of a bigger conversation about how and why we engage with all mediums of media and the degrees of meaningfulness of the categories we use to keep them separated. It is also part of a conversation about the contemporaneous use of categories that are defined by what they are not.

As a compilation of reasonably contemporary postmodern science fiction highlights covering a decade from 1996 to 2005 Rewired rolls with the big boys. It concisely packages the major tropes in chronological order, explored by only the most talented pens. It is especially interesting if you can get your hands on a copy of Mirrorshades.

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