Tag Archives: cyberpunk

The Naked Lunch: Christmas and capitalism

Here’s a great opening ‘graph for a seasonal cyberpunk satire:

“I heard my first Christmas music of the year in District 1. It was the 1st of August, 27ºC outside and All I Want For Christmas was drifting out of a market stall dedicated to selling Santa hats.”

Only it’s not from a piece of fiction at all; it’s from the first installment of @iamdanw’s account of his travels across China with the Unknown Fields expedition. Having talked to others who were on the same adventure, the megamarket of Yiwu is likely the least weird part of the story.

Bill Burroughs used the phrase “naked lunch” to describe “[the] frozen moment where everyone sees what’s on the end of every fork”. Dan’s essay above, then, is Naked Christmas — where everyone sees what’s on the end of every supply chain.


Friday Photo Blogging: the meta-metaverse, and piercings

OK, so this opener isn’t strictly a photo, but it’s my blog, and I can break the rules any time I want to …

Cyberpunk Lit 101

Cyberpunk Lit class in the metaverse

That’s my alter-ego, Isambard Portsmouth (the scruffy bugger in the, er, cowboy hat), sitting in on a literature discussion class taking place in Second Life. The work being discussed was Neal Stephenson’s seminal Snow Crash … so we were stood in the metaverse talking about the text in which the concept of the metaverse was arguably first laid out. That appeals to my warped taste in philosophy; your mileage may vary.

It was an interesting discussion for one major reason; the kids on the course were US college age, so 18 or thereabouts. Which means that Snow Crash, or at least the bits that deal with technological change, doesn’t really shock them at all. The metaverse is just there, y’know? What’s the big fuss about?

Still, there was some interesting chat about burbclaves being a new way of couching sf’s traditional obsession with the (encounter with) / (fear of) the “other”, or the “alien”. And it’s interesting to see SL being used as a teaching platform, which I’m reliably informed is a real growth industry at the moment. More research required, methinks.

Self-mutilation for fun and fashion

The following is a special request from a reader who shall remain nameless. On finding out that I was booked in for a body piercing this week, they said “oh, well I hope you’re going to blog the evidence.” I wasn’t intending to, but for the cause of contemporary subcultural anthropology, how could I refuse?

However, because some folk read VCTB in their workplace, and some may simply be squeamish or uninterested, I will supply a link to follow rather than posting the pictures directly here.

Warning: the following link is possibly NSFW, and definitely not for trypanophobics – nor people who dislike the sight of the un-muscled torsos of 30-something blokes having pieces of metal stuck in them.

With the warning delivered, I can now present – a Flickr set of Paul Raven getting his nipple pierced.

We now return you to our regular programme.

Writing stuff: Alan Wilder interview, flash virginity lost

It’s been a slow week for writing jobs; nothing new to report. But I will point interested parties to the published version of my interview with Recoil’s Alan Wilder.

While no jobs have materialised this week, I have at least been out hunting for work. Why, only yesterday I applied for a writing position … albeit one doing interviews and similar for a, uh, “gentleman’s magazine” based in Second Life, but hey – if they’ll pay me, what the hell. It’s all portfolio.

And while not writing in the freelancing for money sense, I managed to complete and post “Downtime”, my first piece of Friday Flash Fiction, as per Gareth Powell’s new blogging meme. Whether it’s any good or not, I have no idea. I’m just pleased that I managed to finish and publish something I’m not utterly ashamed of. Go me!

Books and magazines seen this week

The use of the plural is a bit brash, really, as it’s only one of each. In the magazine intray, we have:

And a book I’ve long been looking forward to receiving:

Tobias Buckell – Ragamuffin (Tor Books, June 2007; ISBN-13: 9780765315076)

Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell

Tobias is a co-blogger at the recently resurrected Futurismic, but I’d have thoroughly enjoyed his first novel Crystal Rain even had I never heard of the guy before. I’m pretty confident that this sort-of-sequel is not going to disappoint. So, yet another gap to chisel into the reading schedule!


Well, thanks to a slow week (with two days out of action thanks to a cold), I find I’ve reported all but the most utterly insignificant events of my life in the past week in the material above – so, no miscellania. You must be gutted. 😉

Which means all that remains is for me to bid you all a good weekend (with better weather than the last one, hopefully) before I wander off to fetch The Friday Curry Of Justice.

So, have a good weekend! Hasta luego!

Neuromancer to hit the big screen?

Via Big Dumb Object comes word that someone has bought the film options for William Gibson’s seminal cyberpunk classic, Neuromancer:

“The project will get a $70 million budget with Joseph Kahn currently set to direct. Kahn has only directed one full length feature so far, the motorcycle film Torque, but he may be better known for directing Britney Spear’s music video for “Toxic”. I think all the excitement I just had flew out the window.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. I can’t think of one film-of-the-book made from a book I’ve cared about that hasn’t made me absolutely furious with its appallingness. Hell knows I’ll go and see it anyway, and I’m pleased that Gibson will get some good dollar out of the deal (hopefully), but … I don’t know, maybe I’m too cynical, but I can’t imagine this being done in any other way but butchery.

The future is already here – what is science fiction doing about it?

As a number of you have probably already noticed, sf author and critic Gwyneth Jones has an excellent article in the Guardian discussing how reality has caught up with science fiction:

“It was called “cyberpunk” […] The manifesto went like this: in the forseeable future there will be no aliens, and no trips to distant planets. Digital technology, however, will get better and better at an incredible rate, throwing up fantastic new gadgets that will not remain in the hands of the wealthy. They will immediately be adopted by “the street”. Every punk will have a supercomputer in his pocket (and this was before desktop PCs, mind you, when video-camera, Wi-Fi internet access phones weren’t even a twinkle in a Finnish eye). And everything else in the world will get much, much, worse.

Much of the science-fiction establishment hated the cyberpunks. Science fiction was supposed to be about progress, and how advances in technology will inevitably create a better world. But they were right, and the truth they told is highly relevant to this new century of sci-fi come true.”

Although clearly written for a lay audience, the points Jones makes are important ones for fans and writers of science fiction, because they highlight what is sometimes described as the genre’s existential crisis – in other words, how does one write insightfully about the future when the future is already here – albeit, as Bill Gibson said, not evenly distributed as of yet?

It’s a singularity of sorts – not like Vinge’s version (at least not entirely), but in the sense that there’s a very near point in time beyond which it is increasingly hard to speculate with any sense of plausibility.

Which is why, I would contend, that the stronger (and arguably more literary) works of science fiction are exactly those which look closer to home in a temporal sense. It’s increasingly hard to write old-fashioned space-opera without it coming across as hokey and dated, not to mention wilfully ignorant of technology, science, economics and politics – at least to an audience that demands more than pure escapism, which I’ll freely admit is not the whole audience by a long shot.

The stuff that is really staying true to the extrapolative agenda, the speculative roots of the genre that grew from the compost of the early pulp material, is the stuff that looks at the issues which we’re already facing – cloning, nanotech, life enhancement and extention, exponentially-increasing power and ubiquity of computing, climate change, resource shortages, socio-economic changes and crises – and looks at them as more than backdrops and props for tales of derring-do and dastardly deeds, treating them instead as characters, forces and players in their own right.

It’s also the only stuff that has a hope of keeping an audience among a cynical younger generation that, when given the chance and not patronised to, are more than smart enough to pick holes in the top layer of any story. They get plenty of practice from watching TV and browsing the web every day, after all.