Friday, September 4, 2015

[FROM THE ARCHIVES] Cyberpunk Is Dead, Long Live Cyberpunk

Like I did Wednesday, to celebrate the upcoming premiere of KAT AND MOUSE Season 3 on Monday 9/7, I'm reposting a guest post I did last year for fellow writer K. L. Townsend's blog.

Here ya go, Gang...

Cyberpunk is Dead, Long Live Cyberpunk

A few years ago I was listening to a podcast (sadly I can't recall which one) and heard one of the panelists say cyberpunk was a dead genre so don't submit anything cyberpunk.

Over the past couple of years I've noticed that many sci-fi/fantasy literary agents have listed almost all subgenres in their "wish lists" except cyberpunk.

And looking at the shelves at Barnes & Noble, the only cyberpunk books I see are the subgenre classics like Neuromancer or Snow Crash.

So is cyberpunk really dead?

There are those who posit cyberpunk has transformed into post-cyberpunk. According to this definition (via Wikipedia), post-cyberpunk stories
continue to focus on social implications within a post-third industrial-era society, such as a ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information and cybernetic augmentaion of the human body, but without the assumption of dystopia
Still others have said that we already live in a cyberpunk world so the genre, as speculative fiction, doesn't work.

I'm of the opinion that cyberpunk has morphed into what I'd call "near-future noir." It's basically our world, just fast forwarded two or three decades. We still drive cars. We still watch TV. We're still on the Internet. But maybe the cars drive themselves or they fly. Maybe we watch immersive, 3D TV. Maybe we connect directly to the Internet through a data plug in the side of our head. Maybe we can replace a bad leg with a robotic prosthesis or a new biological one cloned from our own cells.

Not yet Star Trek.

But not quite the present.

That's the "near-future" part.

The "noir" part comes from the focus on the underbelly of society. Those people who live and work in the darker places of the city. Thugs. Gangsters. Rogues. Con men. All portrayed in half-shadow. Some bad. Some not so bad. Morally gray.

We've seen movies like this: Minority Report. Dredd. Heck, even the recent reboot of Robocop.

And even television (briefly) gave us Almost Human.

This is the world I write about in the Kat and Mouse stories. Kat and Mouse are mercenaries operating outside the law, in that underbelly of society. They live in the typical near-future urban jungle of steel and glass towers, forests of neon signs, and perpetually rain-drenched streets.

And the sky is always the color of a television tuned to a dead channel.

See? Not dead.

Just morphed.

But when you really get down to it, when you strip away the label "near-future noir," I'm really writing good ol' cyberpunk. Cyberpunk with an adventure story flavor.

So the big question: why write in a seemingly "dead" genre?

Because it's fun.

Because I like blending modern and possible future tech. Because I like the idea of plugging your brain into the Internet. Because I like the idea of cybernetic body part replacement and augmentation. Because I can use my knowledge of contemporary weapons and weapons use.

And because I like adventure stories.

I see myself much in the same mold as someone who writes sword and sorcery. Taking elements of a fantasy world and crafting a fun adventure tale from it. In this case, I'm taking elements of cyberpunk--the look, the tech, the setting--and using it to write an adventure story.

At its core, I'm writing escapist fiction. There's no exploration of the social implications of technology typically inherent in cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk stories.

I'm writing about car chases, gun battles, and walking slowly away from that explosion behind you.

That's why I'm writing cyberpunk.

Dead genre?


Still alive, I say.

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