I bought a new pair of sunglasses on Friday. 
Not just any sunglasses though, these were mirrorshades. 
Sunglasses with mirrored lenses were one of the fetishes of the Cyberpunk movement when I discovered it back in the late 1980's, to such an extent that the seminal short-story collection was entitled "Mirrorshades", and featured a story called "Mozart in..." well, you get the picture. 

"What was cyberpunk?" I hear you ask. Well pull up a chair, youngster, and I'll tell you. Mostly, it was a reaction. A reaction to the type of Science Fiction that, if it were a Rock Star, would have flown around in a personal 747 and written 30 minute drum solos. A reaction to Space Operas set in Chris Foss landscapes, with starships that were sexier and more believable than any of the protagonists. A reaction to books that were heavy enough to give you a hernia picking them up, and could kill at 50 paces when you eventually threw them away. The fact that we all secretly read and loved Space Opera, that we had been weaned on Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke, and that many of us returned to writing them when the fuss died down, means nothing at all. 

Cyberpunk was brash and noisy. It was noire and it was smashed out of its head, and it was fun. As a genre it set aside SF's burden of prediction in favour of sleazy crime stories with addicts for heroes and guns for love interest.

It was set in a garish world, where wars were fought by private mercenary firms, where corporations were more powerful than nation states, where drugs were designer highs, invented, distributed and retired too quickly for the law to track and, most importantly, were everyone would be plugged in to some degree to a globe-spanning network of computers where they would work, buy, sell and fuck. 

Looks like you can take the SF out of prediction, but you can't take prediction out of SF. 

For me, coming out of my mid-20s as the 80's wound up, I found my first tribe in Cyberpunk. It was a very limited identity, within what was already an out-group. In the days before the Geek inherited the Earth, SF fans were pretty much the lowest beast in anyone's pecking order. And they looked down on the Cyberpunks. Do you know what it feels like to be condescended to by a man in an Entfest t-shirt?

That didn't stop me and the pride of the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers Circle from wearing dark clothes, drinking heavily, and writing distopian tales with extremely high production values. I think I survived a dozen SF conventions without sleeping, jacked up from chewing coffee beans and downing Jack and Cokes, talking for hours in smokey rooms, until my contact lenses lit up in fluorescent light, shining as if my pupils had been buffed. 

Striding through Edinburgh tonight, mirrorshades in place and cyberpunk attitude creeping back, I wondered what my 1988 self would have made of the place. He'd have been a little sad (but approving) that Princes Street was being disrupted as they tore up the tram tracks to make way for a more modern transport system (a mono-rail? a mag-lev? a mag-lev mono-rail?), he would have wondered how a Battle Star Galactica character came to have a horde of coffee-shops named after him, and, most of all, he'd have been surprised how many people seemed to be obsessed with their pocket calculators, keeping them in fancy covers, tapping at them relentlessly, and even seeming to talk to them from time to time. And then he'd have noticed the Apple logo on most of them, and not been surprised at all.



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