Thursday, 21 October 2010

Cyberpunk and all that

Well, the Writer's Toolkit brief this week is to look at technology, and its effect on creativity, literature and a sense of self. So I had the choice of looking at illuminated manuscripts (about which I do know quite a lot), the history of the printing press(ditto), the Futurist movement or cyberpunk. Well, cyberpunk was the most interesting to me, so I had a look into it. The term was cobbled together by Bruce Bethke and the first real cyberpunk novel with Neuromancer by William Gibson in 1984. As Bruce writes, he has to share the early glory with others:
Then again, Gibson shouldn't get sole credit either. Pat Cadigan ("Pretty Boy Crossover"), Rudy Rucker (Software), W.T. Quick (Dreams of Flesh and Sand), Greg Bear (Blood Music), Walter Jon Williams (Hardwired), Michael Swanwick (Vacuum Flowers)...the list of early '80s writers who made important contributions towards defining the trope defies my ability to remember their names. Nor was it an immaculate conception: John Brunner (Shockwave Rider), Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange), and perhaps even Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination) all were important antecedents of the thing that became known as cyberpunk fiction.
Then I thought back to one of my absolute favourite books as a teenager, The Stainless Steel Rat (1961) by Harry Harrison. There is the overly technologised world, the menial position of most humans in their world of big corporations and the 'rat', cheating the system and surfing over the technology with his cyber savvy. You can coin a new word if you like, but the precedent was set long ago.

I'm now seeing if a creative piece floats up, but I may have to go back and read the 'Rat' series again...

Meanwhile, for theories, we're reading Walter Benjamin. Now I have read bits before, and didn't mind last weeks chapters (though Theses on the Philosophy of History' left me cold - and confused. The tutor makes it all seem interesting even while I try and work out where it's all going (and how it relates to my writing). The toolkit so far has inspired me more.

Fiction has made me very insecure about the 4000 work piece I put in - and it suddenly seems childish and badly conceived. To be honest, it's not the sort of thing I would normally write, but I am struggling to get off the ground with the other novel, it's so intense, so painful. I think it's going to be a tricky novel to read, really. I'm a straight down the centre, realistic writer normally, but this book won't write itself like that. I shall console myself with polishing the short I wrote the other day (well, flash really, six hundred words but lots of leads). And working on that poetry (so much work!). Reading White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi and for lighter reading, Kelly Armstrong's Walking the Witch. It must be Hallowe'en coming up...   

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