Cyberpunk, the word has moved into our everyday language and tons of movies have sprung up from the idea of it. It fills its own genre within the science fiction and fantasy spectrum. There is speculation (chicken and egg stuff) of where the origin of the word and parameters of the genre stem from. For the most part, I don’t know that it matters other than where we are going right now with the thoughts today. See, one of the more prominent theories is it all started with the writer William Gibson and his book Neuromancer (Ace Books 1984).
For all the acclaim, the book received when it first came out and then to spark a whole new genre based on its ideas, I only recently read the book (just finished it). The funny thing with that, I didn’t even know about the book itself even as I had been ripping through so many different variations of its existence. My foray into cyberpunk actually came from the game Cyberpunk (now more commonly known by its second edition title of Cyberpunk 2020). The game came out in 1988, the year before I went into the Marines.
It was during my time in the corps that I found more like-minded people and explored a bunch of different games as well as different sci fi and fantasy authors. From Cyberpunk we went into Shadowrun, the pure tech to the tech mixed with magic. Of course, then you add in the classic Dungeons and Dragons (2nd edition at the time) and the odd military games like Twilight 2000. Yeah, quite a bit of speculation of war at those times and society rebuilding from the ashes (hell, even the game of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a core game change called After the Bomb in 1986. Both of these were rpgs put out by Palladium Books).
Anyway, back to Mr. Gibson and his stories…
I had seen the movie Johnny Mneumonic as well as read the story well before I had gotten my hands on Neuromancer. The biggest issue with the ideas within them comes from the tech itself. We have seen so many advancements and changes that looking back on the specs in the stories we see that as a bit ridiculous. Neuromancer came out a while before the concept of the internet for everyone. Hell, the computers from those times were toys compared to what we have now. And I don’t mean like kids’ computer toys, I mean like a stuffed animal that can repeat the things you say kind of toys. This was the tech dark ages. And then we look at the worlds that Gibson created from the concepts of that tech and how it is grown into something well beyond what even he imagined back then.
But once you overcome the mental shock of just how little we knew back then, you come upon a story that draws you in deep to the world we lived in or could possibly grow into. A big theme running through the Gibson stories I have read has been the widespread drug use. For anyone that remembers the 80s (which says a lot about what you did back then) that was a big part of our everyday life. We step out of the cold war and into the drug wars. You can feel it all through Neuromancer. The message is, for mankind to have the total connection to computers and tech that we will achieve in the future, we will need to blitz ourselves out of our minds. I think he missed a central tenant in that thought though. Technology itself is a drug. We are all searching for that next hit of the latest and greatest.
But I digress…
This is the central problem that many of us run into with this kind of story now. Technology is advancing so fast it can be difficult to predict where it might be going. All around us, we see the advancements that are bringing us closer and closer to the boon of our early science fiction dreams. All while at the same time it isn’t fitting into the time frame once predicted and it isn’t following the patterns we once thought the process would take. It can be difficult to find out path into the next dreams of man because we are still chasing our older dreams. (dammit, I want my flying car)
So now we are left to wonder where exactly was I going with all of this? Back to the reading of Neuromancer and how it pertains to anything that might resemble life as we know it, or maybe not…
I enjoyed the book. Even as we see parts of the life he portrayed not coming to fruition, we can also see plenty of potential within the story of the way things can become. Aside from the idea of a street samurai, we have the total immersion into the internet. The ability to look around and feel the world within the digital landscape beyond what we have so far (even as we have deep immersion already without leaving the computer chair). Our technology is constantly changing, spurred on often times by people who have a similar vision of tech that we established even as far back as the 1950s.
Who knows where we may end up in the future, but there are a number of things we still have to look forward to. (Just give me my flying car in my lifetime dammit)
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.