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clarence

Why does cyberpunk refuse to move on?

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A bit weird. The genre cyberpunk is defined by "cyber" - i.e. more or less invasive human-technology interfaces - and punk - powerless rebellion against the establishment. It thrives on the effects that amoral powers have on the lives of the protagonists, and how the protagonists sidestep imposed limitations, breaking the rules (which may be law or just consumer licence).

The Expanse offers a more modern dystopia for urban sprawls, with very few privileged people able to leave the planet (compared to the mass of planet-bound people). The portions of the books and the TV series playing on Earth are pretty spot on Cyberpunk in many of those regards, only the human-technology interface is the advanced smartphone rather than implants.

The movie Blade Runner (specifically the dying monologue of the last surviving replicant) implies an amount of space travel equal to what the Expanse offers after the opening of the portals, without the protagonist ever having a remote chance to leave earth, and neither do any other humans. The UN habitats in the Expanse do offer "Basic", which may be a small cut above what Cyberpunk usually offers the hopeless, but it also offers hopelessness for those failing inside that system, or preferring to stay outside of it.

To transcend the cyberpunk squalor of Earth Basic life, you need privilege. Every person outside of Earth's gravity well is privileged or descended from someone privileged in the past. Their current situation may have brought new and unforeseen difficulties and new forms of indenture and loss of privilege, but that reflects the Gold Rush equivalent of settling the Solar System. 

There is no real solution to the Cyberpunk dilemma other than "get privileged".

 

Edited by Joerg
removed additions from my office feline.
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This has been something on my mind thinking about a campaign. The question of if I really want to portray that disparity with my group. Most of them don’t really want to look at that I think, but then again, there is a whole fight for what is right that is easy to set up there. Knights in pink Mohawks, as it were. 

Huh... that phrasing just came to me. That’s very catchy and apt. Maybe they aren’t super privileged but they are better enough, and there are people that are needing them. 

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One quote from the article stands out:

“Perhaps there has been no need for [cyberpunk] to change: it continues to resonate with us because the world it depicts is the one we live in.”

That’s a bit sad to accept. But it’s even sadder, as the article points out, that the punk attitude is not the solution - and to regain its creative power sci-fi needs to find new approaches to the brutality of neo-liberalism on steoroids.

But would it still be cyberpunk then? Can cyberpunk house well-organised protesters that actually make a change - or is that a new genre?

 

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26 minutes ago, clarence said:

But would it still be cyberpunk then? Can cyberpunk house well-organised protesters that actually make a change - or is that a new genre?

 

Nah. There are numerous cyberpunk novels that cover that too. Of course, the "idealistic protestors" generally turn into the exact same thing they were fighting 20 years earlier...….

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Is there a reason why this discussion is in the Mythras section? If it's just a general discussion of dystopian SF, then perhaps Alastor's Skull Inn is better? If there's a connection with, say, Luther Arkwright, or After the Vampire Wars, then by all means continue... 

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That’s just me doing some background research on the rules for cybernetics in M-SPACE. It’s ok if you want to move it to Alastor’s Skull Inn. 

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I‘m going to be the one to claim that the Guardian has it wrong.

The thing is that Cyberpunk has moved on – to the point where most of its elements have become a staple of the greater science fiction genre. You‘ll elements typically associated with cyberpunk in the space opera novels of Iain Banks, Alastair Reynolds and Ann Leckie. You‘ll find them in near-future novels like Annalee Newitz‘ Autonomous. And if you‘re looking for that Cyberpunk novel that opens up to positive potential for social change, look no further than Cory Doctorow‘s Walkaway. For intense body modification, go and read Justina Robson‘s Natural History.

 

We don‘t call these texts Cyberpunk for two reasons:

 

First, there‘s nothing (or very little) that‘s „punk“ about them. Punk was a movement very closely tied to the 80s, to the idea of no future, to not fitting in in a f***-up world but still navigating it. Punk is an attack on the status quo, but always a cynical one – it say‘s „hey, world, you‘re beatifully f*** up, and I‘ll mirror that by being beautifully f*** up myself!“ (John Shirley and Jack Womack need to be mentioned here; although Shirley even promoted the idea of a succesful political struggle against the status quo in his Eclipse Trilogy.)

 

Second, and that‘s of course tied to the first reason, Cyberpunk has long become a nostalgic genre. At it‘s most recognizable, it describes neither a future that might come to pass nor the world we are living in, but the world we would be living in now if the visions of the 80s had come to pass. Yes, the notion of corporate power seems timely, but the way it is usually being depicted in Cyberpunk texts seems dated. And the whole Cyberpunk aesthetic is a deliberate throwback to the 80s – I mean, our present is not the age of big neon advertisements; it‘s the age of pop-up windows (interestingly, the novel Altered Carbon actually takes note of this – I don‘t remember any descriptions of big neon advertisements, but I remember advertisments popping up in Takeshi Kovacs‘ head as soon as his ad-block is inactive).

 

Cyberpunk has moved on – but it couldn‘t do so and remain cyberpunk. So now, we get nostalgic texts like Blade Runner 2049 or games like CP 2077; and we get science fiction that encompasses most of the elements of cyberpunk and does all kinds of new things with them.

 

By the way, I‘d say that Shadowrun is an interesting case, because it has slowly moved away from its cyberpunk roots; while many cyberpunk rpgs deal in 80s nostalgia, Shadowrun, by continually updating its setting and bringing it in line with the present, has very much become a near-future action rpg that has relatively little cyberpunk left in it. I‘ve heard it being called the „cyber hipster rpg.“

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Good points Jakob. So, several of the ideas in cyberpunk have merged with sci-fi in general, keeping them alive. The interest in the original cyberpunk genre waned over the past 15 or so years and the resurgence we’re seeing now is a nostalgic phase. 

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On ‎11‎/‎21‎/‎2018 at 3:20 AM, clarence said:

Good points Jakob. So, several of the ideas in cyberpunk have merged with sci-fi in general, keeping them alive. The interest in the original cyberpunk genre waned over the past 15 or so years and the resurgence we’re seeing now is a nostalgic phase. 

As the old saying goes, everything old is new again.

To the point the old Cyberpunk 2020 game got a name change to CP 2077......

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