Note — Dec 05, 2021

It’s Time to Reimagine the Future of Cyberpunk

Excellent piece by Madeline Ashby for WIRED where she considers the mainstays of cyberpunk and provides a well thought out reasoning, much beyond the common one-liner, on why we are basically living in a cyberpunk dystopia. One can’t really keep writing novels about the future if they’ve already come to pass, so it’s time time to go from a genre often centered on labor, bodily autonomy, and warnings about capitalism's cancerous late stages to ones about how we can “make ourselves a more survivable species.” As I’ve quipped on Twitter, quoting Octavia E. Butler is the new quoting William Gibson, and it’s probably also time to change topics and genre.

An aesthetic movement and a commentary on capitalism, it can be a genre, a subjectivity, an adjective, a political approach, a time period. […]

Some of the most influential texts in the genre are about labor and bodily autonomy. Blade Runner is a story about runaway slaves, and Blade Runner: 2049 is about the reproduction of slaves. Neuromancer is about a man selling his hacker skills to earn back the full function of his body's nervous system. Akira features government experimentation on children's bodies so they can better perform militarized work. Snow Crash presupposes a Los Angeles populated with precarious gig workers delivering pizza. Ghost in the Shell wonders who truly “owns” a cyborg body if an employer pays for its upkeep. The Matrix operates on the premise that all human bodies can be “grown” into batteries whose primary purpose is to keep artificial intelligence functioning. […]

“The struggle is to hold it together, keep it alive, and teach it to be and do its very best.” [Butler “summarizing Mother Olamina’s ongoing mission, but also describing the 21st century in searing detail.”]