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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.