I think it has more of the stories to tell rather than the setting. When I hear the word “cyber-punk,” it’s a mental short cut for what the world is going to look like.
That setting though, is not the story. So I’d push back a bit on the title. We could say, “Why does High Fantasy or Grimdark or Steampunk or [insert Genre Fiction of Your Choice] refuse to move on?”
The novella Monster Slayer is essentially an action movie taking place (Die Hard…on the ocean…IN THE FUTURE) in the cyber punk setting. It’s a story that feels WAY DIFFERENT than the novella Monitor. Both are (obviously) cyberpunk, yet both feel like they are exploring vastly different parts of that future.
I think this is probably why the world designers (i.e. I remember Damon making this correction on some podcast) have pushed back on “cyberpunk” in favor of cyber-noir.
I think that the article is trying to say a couple different things and that dilutes the point. On one hand, it suggests cyberpunk writers write stories with either more proactive or satirical elements instead of fatalistically existing in what is now familiar window dressing. Then at the end it mentions that cynical speculative fiction could move in a new direction because the current international climate has seen a wave of nationalism and a backlash against neoliberal globalization.
These are both interesting things to consider. If I marshal some salient thoughts on either topic, I’ll be sure to share them.
I think that indeed Cyberpunk has evolved a bit in the ANR setting (as @tvaduva says). What can be considered the “standard Cyberpunk” is the dystopian view on the future from a mid-80s point of view. High tech, low life. Modern slavery by corporations, the alienating dangers of bodymodifications, an open capitalism that has a power level of national states and how a bad internet would be like. But I never understood the “Noir” term FFG liked to use - Film Noir used shadows, twilight characters, criminal elements. For me, ANR is to flashy, too colourful to be “Noir”.
Today, we have another vision of the future and I don’t think it’s more optimistic, but just different. Climate change, fake news, globalization fears leading to nationalism are problems of our time and no Cyberpunk, no Cyber Noir, no Cyber-whatever offers a new and dark vision of the future.
The Android board game has a lot more noir elements. It’s basically a cyber-noir story generator.
I’m going to bring up Autonomous again, because it definitely has plenty of climate change. It also has plenty of globalization, but not much backlash against it, so I’m going to give it half marks on that front. (I think it did hint at some historical backlash, but that was well before the time the novel was set.)
And it also has modern slavery, body modifications, and open capitalism. I do think the erosion of labour rights and the increased power of corporations still have a place in our less-optomistic visions of the future.
On the other hand, its internet and news aren’t that much worse than ours, and it is decidedly lacking in neon and rain.
Vurt by Jeff Noon is the absolute best in genre.
Looking at the cards from Kitara Cycle, I think FFG moved a bit from Cyber-Noir to the more optimistic Solarpunk. A genre that I did not know until I read this nice article:
A new type of science fiction, solarpunk takes as its premise the idea that climate change is unavoidable and probably will be severe, but demands optimism of its writers. A 2015 essay on the genre’s political ideals and inspirations by Andrew Dana Hudson refers to solarpunk as a “speculative movement, a collaborative effort to imagine and design a world of prosperity, peace, sustainability and beauty, achievable with what we have from where we are.” In practice, so far this has meant a bunch of short fiction and visual art, numerous explanatory essays, and a lot of enthusiastic conversation on social media and in online communities. But those associated with it tend to hold out hope that solarpunk could be a starting point for something bigger, something that could help propel a shift away from our contemporary sense of defeatism.
For those who did not watch “Extinction” on Netflix, give it a try. It’s not the prototype of super clever story telling, but has a nice spin and some good FX. It’s about a guy who is experiencing bizarre alien dreams which look like they are visions of an upcoming invasion. The invasion happens and he is trying to save his family from the alien soldiers.
While this summary does not sound like anything Cyberpunk- or ANR related, I do not want to spoil the second half of the movies. Really, anything I could come up with would ruin the experience.
Half-Way Done Book Report by Anthony Pearson (5th Grade Book Report Style)
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton is a wonderful anthology series that fans of science fiction and cyberpunk would enjoy for three reasons. First, each chapter tells a singular story making it easy for the reader to start enjoying the book from any chapter. Second, each story is focused on some type of body modification and that leads to interesting adventures and points of conflict. And third, it is interesting that each chapter goes further and further into the future, so the reader begins slightly in the future then proceeds to get into some very strange settings.
Readers will enjoy how Dayton is able to tell emotionally complex stories within the smaller word count of a short story. The chapter about the genetically modified 11 year old boy who lives underwater in a Manatee Paddock is sad and funny while highlighting what it means for powerful corporations to use children as laborers. Another chapter is about a girl who survived a car crash because of the power of science–but in her survival she is caused to suffer at high school because she has been modified via a mesh skin suit that keeps her alive. Each chapter takes a distinct look at human problems and layers on many interesting ideas.
Body modifications start of as simple and realistic but end up becoming more and more extreme. Tad Tadd, the one recurring character in the entire story begins by arguing that body modification takes away what it means to be human, though a few chapters and several decades later, he grows feathers, has a wide hue of skin colors, and had replaced his eyes with that of his deceased wife. While Tad Tadd is not the star of the anthology, readers will be pleasantly surprised to see how he grows and changes with each jump forward in time. As a point of conflict, these changes to humanity in create engaging points that will ask the reader to question what it means to be a person.
Finally, by knowing that each chapter goes further into the future, readers will be engaged and enticed to see how much has changed. Without knowing how much time will “jump,” there is a level of excitement to see how mankind has become Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful.
Thank you for reading this book report. If you enjoy genre fiction and are interested in strange ideas about the nature of mankind, you too will enjoy Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton.
Anyone else read Artemis by Andy Weir? Fun novel about heist on the Moon. The main passage to the Moon is in Congo (not New Angeles, and no beanstalk), but pretty interesting to get into the science of how life on the Moon would function.
I haven’t, but once I finish my book (Kindle says I’m at 93%), I’ll check it out!
Nice, I hope you enjoy it.
Just finished it! It was my first Weir novel and I found I kind of came away with two different thoughts. I really liked the main character, the setting, and the plot. Jazz was hilarious, she reminded me of…I dunno a mix of Kate and Noise? Well actually, she was more criminal than anything…I dunno…she had Shaper know-how, a humorous sense of destruction, and was motivated by her debt–so to me she was a mix of the three factions.
What I wasn’t crazy about (and after reading a bit of The Martian) was the “science pr0n.” There were parts where she discussed strategies and methods for making beveled cuts with her welding torch and all of the different calculations she had to take into account. After this happened a few times, it kind of checked me out of the action.
That said, I know that is Andy Weir’s style and he does an awesome job of putting the science in “science-fiction.” So while I appreciate what he’s doing, I also know that it probably wasn’t for me. I mean, I like that it’s not “hand-wavy” Star Trek technology (which is just “magic” more or less)–so my mileage definitely varied from others who will LOVE that Weir can get into the nitty-gritty about that stuff.
Next book I’m reading is Circe by Madeline Miller–which is about as far from Cyberpunk as you can get…but I’m looking for a palate cleanser before I try to find something grimy and neon and full of dudes in trench coats
I’m really glad you found Jazz so funny. I did so too. It made the story really enjoyable.
I think your opinion is totally fair. And, I think you’re right that there might be some kind of range for the science in SF (between science as magic and like a physics textbook) and it just comes down to preference. I like my SF a bit more science-y, but that comes from my background of getting into it by getting recommendations from passed down from science professors (and hearing complaints when the author didn’t get the science right).
I’m glad Weir does a good job of packaging his hard science novels with humor, it helps get through some of tedious detail. Although, he tends to make the consequences of the details surprising and/or hilarious.
Alright, after Circe (which was awesome, if you ever wondered how a goddess in exile living on an island for 3000 years would be interesting, you should read it), I’ve now moved onto Autonomous by Annalee Newitz.
In essense, Jinteki has created a medicine that rewards the pleasure centers of the brain when doing work. As a result, people are actually working to death by accidentally getting hooked on the drug, Zacuity.
Trying to stop the drug from wrecking havoc on society is a hacker pirate that spends a good amount of time in her submarine/laboratory, a former enslaved kid, an Sentient AI robot, and a Corporate Investigator.
adding Veniss Underground by Vandermeer to the list. That Annihilation trilogy was drivel, but this (his debut) is quite vivid and interesting.
I love this thread so much. I read Autonomous a few months ago and just finished Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful. Keep the recommendations coming!
Another recent read that I notice nobody’s mentioned is Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy. Unsurprisingly perhaps; it’s not at all cyberpunk, very straightforwardly space opera, but it’s got a really interesting take on ANR-adjacent topics involving AIs and distributed embodiment, plus gender and liberation and such.
The “learning about love” plotline between Paladin and it’s partner is really interesting. Paladin and Fang are right now discussing how humans anthropomorphize robots–assigning gender, even as they have none.
FWIW, as I was reading the “gun range” scene, I kept thinking, “Am I reading what I think I’m reading?”
What did you think of Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful?