What is it that makes the literary fiction genre of cyberpunk so fascinating? Is it the creation of new governmental, economic and social models, is it the breathtaking and often frightening modern technologies, is it the interaction between humans, between humans and robots/AIs, is it the advancement of our society? Can’t be since we have all that covered in the standard science fiction already. If there is a standard at all. SciFi is such a vast genre it spans over various other genres, it may contain everything from a love story via a noir crime story to a fairy tale a la Star Wars. And of course the whole subset of cyberpunk is part of the greater science fiction universe. So what makes Cyberpunk so special, first of all what defines cyberpunk?
What makes cyberpunk so different is simple straightforward dirt. Cyberpunk stories are rarely located in shiny Star Trek spaceships but play most often on our old Earth. In the cyberpunk future the earth isn’t a squeaky clean planet, but a polluted, dirty place, populated by desperate, sarcastic people. The cyberpunk future is mostly a dystopia, a time after all the big dreams have failed and individuals as well as society at large are in a state of devolution and disorganisation.
Of course the borders between the genres in literature and cinema are not very well defined, particularly since cyberpunk is a subgenre of SciFi. All cyberpunk stories play in the future, so both conditions are fulfilled. Cyberpunk is always SciFi but not all SciFi is cyberpunk. Another point cyberpunk more often than not makes is that you don’t want to live in that particular version of a future. It’s mostly dark, cold and dangerous, people are asocial and nobody seems to have fun.
How did I get to this strange topic today? Because I just found a good Essential Cyberpunk Reading List on io9 and because I’m writing this blog for residents of Second Life. Let’s face it, if there are any people on earth right now living a kinda cyberpunkish lifestyle, it’s us.
»But Orca, I’m sitting in my old house, wearing pyjamas and eating unhealthy fat food. On the weekend I work in my real garden and get really dirty hands or I’m having fun by using such outdated methods of self-propulsion like sailing. With real wind, ugh. And I don’t even own any latex clothes or anything that resembles a space suit. How could I possibly be a cyberpunk?«
Because all that doesn’t matter. You’re cybering (not necessarily in the meaning of cybersex) when you log in world, when you engage into this futuristic technology of virtual worlds. You’re using your computer to do very strange things: SL ain’t work, and it ain’t a game … but you can make it so if you fancy that. What you’re doing is in fact some kinda cyberpunk; you’re using an avatar to communicate and interact with other people who are also having avatars in a virtual world. And virtual, virtual, is a term that already sounds as if particularly invented by cyberpunk writers. 😉
And if you are at least a little bit susceptible for the immersing effect of SL you are a really existing cyperbunk. I think it’s even our real-ness, our totally unglamorous RL existence (mine excepted LOL), the contrast to our beautiful lifestyles in virtual which makes us the perfect cyberpunks.