We don’t actually celebrate Halloween here in Greece. But, in a clear case of culture seepage from Hollywood, we do have Halloween parties!
Even though we don’t actually have a festival of the dead, the roots of such celebrations are from the ancient Anthesteria, which was a 3-day festival honouring Dionysos. On the third day, the Feast of Pots, cooked meat and fruit were left outside for the souls of the dead. No one dared touched them, they weren’t for the living. And when the day ended, they called out loud for the spirits to begone, that the Anthesteria was over.
In modern times, the only thing close to trick or treating is kids going for Christmas Carols. And we dress up in our Carnival, or Mardi Gras, which is another Dionysian leftover. People dress up in either silly or scary costumes during that celebration.
So yeah, we don’t actually have Halloween but there has been cultural cross-pollination, and we do have scary events and parties on October 31st. Any excuse for a party, really.
But the trick or treating is left to the ghosts.
Here’s a short story set in the God Complex Universe. It takes place on Halloween night, at a party, in Athens.
Wear the mask. It will come off in the morning
When a young man from a village comes to the big city to study, he finds himself overwhelmed by the urban lifestyle. But will he manage to blend in by going to a Halloween party, when his crush asks him to help decorate the place, when the abandoned villa becomes all too spooky for him and when the illusory masks everyone wears seem to never come off?
I mean, if someone had written that story in a novel somewhere, they’d have called it far-fetched. And this is real, it’s happening now.
Notice I didn’t say “a black man” on point 5. I said a person. Because that person was killed in front of a woman and a small child, and that just shouldn’t happen. But the dialogue on this is enormous, I don’t want to touch on that.
Yes, this photo is a chapter-break in our history. We have a full-scale dystopia posing as utopia, civil rights violated, technology both liberating and influencing ourselves, our minds, our decisions.
I worked a bit on a couple of news channels, and have a unique perspective on what things mass media want to show or not. I can’t actually write examples, but trust me on this: The media shows what it wants to. But you already knew that, deep down.
Also, with technologies like Live-U (multi carrier video broadcast from a mobile unit through any and all available cellphone companies) and Youtube, and Twitter and every person carrying a computer in his pocket, media has become more instantaneous. If the shot is there, the news channels will want it. A news crew carries top-of-the-line equipment worth easily 60-70 thousand euros, but if a kid on his iPhone got a better shot of the news-story, the news channel will broadcast the latter. Doesn’t matter if it’s shaky, doesn’t matter if it’s grainy, dark, out of focus. It will play, because it is valuable as news.
One day we had some faulty equipment and in our frenzy, we joked about having the weather guy just live-stream through Skype.
Then we got the go ahead, and we just put him through just like that. Fingers crossed and praying the line won’t drop.
A few decades ago the “cyberpunk” genre was purely fiction. Now, it is a reality that humanity struggles to navigate on a daily basis. Bodyhacking, information networks, megacorps… these concepts, borne from fiction, now shape our lives in very serious ways. And just as reality grows from forward-looking stories, so too does new fiction grow in response to the present day. What is a cyberpunk, or even “post-cyberpunk,” story when that is the world you live in?
That is prevalent in all our works, the idea that the future is now. Many of the things we do daily were considered science-fiction not so long ago. Access to information, anytime, anywhere? Real-time translation with augmented reality? Body-tracking, disposable drones, restaurant recommendations via an accurate algorithm? They’re all here, it’s not even shocking anymore.
In our exploration, three important aspects of cyberpunk become apparent:
Administration: Much of cyberpunk fiction drew inspiration from corporate structures that were only just beginning to solidify in the late 20th century, and what those stories extrapolated out towards isn’t too different from what we experience now in the early 21st century. Cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk fiction is uniquely suited to exploring the intricacies of the systems that govern us, whether those systems are controlled by corporations, governments, or the people themselves. Information is the currency of cyberpunk, and increasingly the currency of the present day. How can we use it to make something better? How should we use it?
Identity: Information technology is on the cusp of merging the biological and the mechanical into one seamless being, but what then does that being become? What is a person who can exist outside their body? Is there a purpose to gender and race classification? Especially when we are capable of creating programming that can think for itself, and does not require a gender or race? We live in an age where a person can fine-tune their appearance to a degree never before experienced, and cyberpunk fiction is at the forefront of imagining how a humanity consisting entirely of self-fashioned people works.
Culture and Commerce: We tell stories, regardless of form or circumstance, so what stories are told by those living in our world; a world imagined by cyberpunk fiction? What appeals to us?
The second point is well explored in science fiction, but I don’t like the political American debate on gender classification. Excuse me, but yes there is a biological reason for gender classification, it’s silly to presume otherwise. On race I agree, we’re all one species. Regarding the appearance, yes, I believe from the data points of body modification up till now, that it will become extreme. I truly believe that there will be people addicted to modifying their bodies, not cosmetically, like they do now, but with technology, horns, extra limbs and more unimaginable things.
Commerce seems to be the king. If something sells, the people behind it are willing to bend laws to their will, ignore morals, slave children to factories, fire family-men and replace them with robots, trademark common everyday words. There is literally no limit. Culture is slowly becoming one sloshy gray goo, with Asians celebrating Christmas (just because they like the holiday), American culture invading every other one with Hollywood and (apparently) superhero movies now. India is a strong counterpoint in this, spreading it’s culture all over the world but in a different light, it’s more of the same.
Anyway, this post isn’t meant to be a manifesto. These are just observations on the current state of things, plus some wishful thinking. Cause it’s not all bad. I recently had a conversation with some people of the earlier generation, and they claim that despite the Greek crisis here, we are still living relatively nice compared to the past. People didn’t used to have employee rights, air-conditioning or even shoes to wear.
There are medicines now for diseases that used to kill thousands. My father keeps a box of the pills that could have saved my grandfather on his desk. Just a stupid, tiny silly pill that if it had existed 50 years ago, my grandfather wouldn’t have to endure a lifetime of sickness and surgeries.
People can re-educate themselves in an open university if they like or through online courses. We have access to most of the books ever written with Project Gutenberg, and for the daily stuff, we have every shop we need just a short walk away. Mostly. Our cars are reliable, our homes are comfortable and travel is becoming faster and faster.
Corporations are making things nicer, easier and cheaper for us. But just because it helps with their sales.
It gets a bit academic, and I think the subject doesn’t need that much analysis but I like some of the points. I’ve even had a realization:
A kitsch self-parody
For all its outward cynicism, cyberpunk is often wilfully naive; conspiracies are unravelled, the lone maverick is redeemed, the lone aberration at the head of the system is taken out and all is well again. For all its gritty imagery, this dissonantly contradicts reality. Indeed it is questionable whether cyberpunk is an entirely dystopian genre. For the oligarch-villains occupying the luxury penthouses and boardrooms in which boss battles occur, this is utopia. The ubiquity of scaffolding in the genre’s platform games suggests there is even a building boom. It is a great time to be an engineer. Even for the average citizen, perhaps things aren’t that bad; there are plenty of exotic street-food outlets and sports to enjoy (you can follow the blood and chrome progress of Brutal Deluxe in the Bitmap Brothers’ 2007 Speedball series). Escape to off-world colonies, as we are told repeatedly by advertising neo-blimps, is an option for the rich and genetically sound. Some of the tyrannies are fairly relative. In X-Kaliber 2097 (1994), the reign of the warlord Raptor means “there are no more jobs to go to,” echoing the current fear that automation might render us all unemployable. “Well,” we might say, “thank god for that.” Even when the apocalypse beckons or has already happened (the release of the planet-decimating biochemical Lucifer-Alpha in 1988’s Snatcher, for example), it is survivable.
I like that. Yes, deep down cyberpunk is wish fulfillment, does have a happy ending, the corporations do lose. Vices are plentiful, humanity has far-out options for life extension and survival, heroes are cool and larger-than-life.
My kind of cyberpunk is rather light. All the tropes are there, but they are a backdrop to character and plot. Mega corporations crush people and effectively become worshiped, but we see the casual interactions and the family issues. Not the sweeping socio-economic ones, which frankly, would make a boring read.
Following the maxim of its baptist William Gibson that “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed,” cyberpunk has always been a scrapyard, with pieces of what is to come scattered through the past and present. Indeed, its saving grace is that it recognizes, as other futurology often fails to, that the future will be a collage and it will be considerably older than the present.
That scrapyard is what I try to put in my own stories. A bit of Greek mythology, a bit of plausible technology, a narrative that draws you in, and some action to keep it exciting. Because, make no mistake, violence is at the cybernetic heart of cyberpunk.
The fear and power of plugging in and losing our humanity in the process, continually evident in cyberpunk, is again not new; we find precedents in Descartes’ Demon and Plato’s Cave. There is also a certain guilty pleasure in immersing yourself in a videogame world that warns you of the dangers of immersing yourself in videogame worlds. The early game Interphase (1989), by The Assembly Line, deftly equates virtual reality with dream-space, a crossover we will no doubt increasingly see with advances in VR, AI and augmented reality. At that time such developments seemed the stuff of dreams, but they are incrementally becoming more real. In Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs (2014), the hacking abilities of the lead character Aiden Pearce suggest that the human brain, the city and cyberspace are now interwoven networks. To accumulate great power in the latter two is to potentially wield power over the first.
When the daughter of Greece’s premier singer fails to sing as expected, she finds out about a biker group of women. But will she manage to find the elusive Orosa, the bikers’ motovlogger, when all she has to go on are random street-sightings of criminal behaviour, when her family is opposed to her following this path and when her dad’s employer wants to keep her as she was for marketing purposes?
Do you want to know what’s next for the voiceless Aura? Do you wanna meet the Amazons? Then read this coming of age story in a world where fate is quite literal.
And alas, there was a really cool problem to go along with it!
Crystallized light had two inherent problems, one being leaking and two, due to quantum effects, being destroyed by the very act of observation. I don’t know of course if the real problem is at all solvable, but for my novella, it is. Yanni, the physicist is working on a solution to keep the light contained on its lattice.
Years pass with no end in sight, until he is dealt an ultimatum by the review board of his funding (Deimokritos is the National Centre of Scientific Research) and he needs to figure out the solution to his proof fast. Yanni is only 30 years old, but he has convinced himself that unless he manages to make a breakthrough before his birthday, he will never do so. 30 years old might seem too young but in academic age it borders on going senile. The mind simply cannot work at the same capacity it did, especially regarding theoretical physics and advanced mathematics. It is well known that academic brilliance takes a downturn after 25. Yanni, living in this institution used to be one of the young brilliant minds to mock the elders and is frightened by seeing himself turn into one.
His idea is that it is possible to use Maxwell’s light knots to solve the leaking light problem from light crystals, enabling quantum computing with previously unimaginable computing speeds. It is all years ahead of course, but it is easy to imagine a tech company willing to kill for such a breakthrough.
Where does the Muse fit into all of this?
Well, the muse is an android specially created to aid the inspiration of her charge. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just explain this with broad strokes: She is an android, a fantasy come true, the Muse and the wife and the companion who knows what to say, when to say it, who lets you work uninterrupted, who tends to your needs and eliminates all distractions.
Her form was dictated by common sci-fi imagery of gynoids, but her pose (and this is something I am quite happy discovering) comes from the following classic painting:
It is simply amazing to realize that every concept, every combination, every single slice of life you can possibly think of has already been visualized in classic art.
It is hard to discuss about anything more without spoiling the book, so I’ll just leave it at that and hope it piques your interest. It is available on Amazon.
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