Saturday 22 March 2014

The Days Ahead

To some degree, I find myself thinking about the work of William Gibson more frequently due to the work that I do and the way that I live. Not that I am a writer like he is, though I do and have written web copy, which is a kind of corporate, wired up sort of writing that lives in the worlds hewn with his own, but the vast majority of my professional life has been as a freelance ICT professional. Not that I ever call it that. That doesn't happen. There are other words that are often more specific. The technology bases covered are diverse and far reaching. I often think of the work that I have done, and the work that I do, and there is a relationship to the organisms that populate cyberpunk. I'm one of those. That's what I think.

I've had the speak wheeled at me in a variety of fashions, I've lied to printers to make them distribute ink in the manner for which they were originally designed, trawled through archaic data on dying systems at the behest of its owners, and coded towards functional artificial intelligence. That's not all of it, but it is some of it. I may not be the neuromancer, but I'm playing in the same parks. This is the world I live in. I'm pretty sure I've eaten synth-spaghetti, and probably slept on it. In reality it is the world we all live in, though your eating habits are your own.

The synth-spaghetti stained days of keyboard-for-hire are a part of something else. The journeyman years. They have a function. They built who I am, and the way that I learn.

These are important days.

The Prophets of Cyberspace: A Rough Guide to Cyberpunk v1.0.3

originally posted on 2010-04-26-0223
at Ray-guns and Spandex
migrated to Sci-Fi Snot Rash

In the late seventies a new flavour of science fiction began to take shape. It's earliest visible family characteristics had first appeared in both 'new age' sci-fi and the authors of the beat generation. In the intervening time it had slowely formed a new definition for itself through the works of J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick, until reaching a point in the early eighties when the cultural obsession with excess and mass media provided the perfect literary genesis pool for the emerging counter culture prophets of cyberpunk.

Abandoning galaxy spanning empires and laser toting aliens in favour of more familiar settings. Abandoned territories and near future cities became neon wombs breeding cybernetic street gangs, corporate warriors, and digital pop-stars. Cyberpunk takes us into worlds not that far beyond the horizon. Deeply entrenched in the mundane with elements just alien enough that they might be happening in another city, in another country somewhere, instead of on the other side of tomorrow. In the three decades since its first oredictions we can clearly see that the anticipation of the popularity of reality television and the total pervasion of the internet happened somewhere between Bruce Sterling's The Artificial Kid and William Gibson's Cyber Space Trilogy.

With much of the origianlly fictitious elements of cyberpunk having become parts of our everyday lives it comes as no surprise that many other brands of modern science fiction carry these same elements that were at one stage the calling cards of cyberpunk without fully submersing themselves into the stream. The Matrix is more thematically in sync with post-apocalyptic or machine war SF than it is with cyberpunk. Link all mimics of any punk movement, they wear the colours, but run in different circles.

It was never just a collection of hacker stories set in glass walled mega-cities and the suburban wastelands that surrounded them. It's a voice and an ethos defined by the very culture that birthed, where the corporate world has adopted the methods and tactics of the street, wrapped in a setting that is thrown at us. Chapters barely clock in at a page, and read more like scenes from a film. And the pacing of the books are measured in frames per second, with the charging mbps of the prose consisting predominantly of artificial street speak, and stream of consciousness.

If you are interested in running deep in the pure flavour, books like Snow Crash and Blood Music deliver in spades, but if you are a sci-fi film junkie, Cypher, New Rose Hotel, and Natural City are uncut, and measured from the source.

For me and my money, nothing sits closer to the heart of cyberpunk than the literary link hopping of MirrorshadesBurning Chrome and the erroneously named Rewired: The Post Cyberpunk Collection. Short story compilations straight from the aforementioned neon womb in portions that have been coded and optimised for the short attention span generation that shared its childhood.

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