Monday, December 17, 2012

Cyberpunk as Retro Arrives

I have been saying for years that cyberpunk has already come to seem retro. Now it seems we are starting to see writers of science fiction actually act on this idea. At, Karin L. Ross reviews Spanish author Rosa Montero's Tears in Rain, which to a considerable extent appears an homage to Blade Runner.

Of course, there are still limitations to what writers of retro-futuristic science fiction can do with cyberpunk. As of 2012 we have a sense of the ways in which the future will probably not look like cyberpunk fiction (certainly I think our expectations regarding computer and biotechnology are more moderate in key respects), but there is little sense of surprises that those writers failed to anticipate. (Our environmental consciousness preceded them, even if our fears of climate change have since given them a more distinctive shape.) And while cyberpunk had its flashes of optimism, it fell far short of the utopianism (a term I use here in its most positive sense) of much Golden Age science fiction. We are not really dismayed to find that the world does not look quite like William Gibson's Sprawl - and likely to be not just dismayed but unsurprised at our dismay when we recognize resemblances.

The upshot is that where cyberpunk looked back at Gernsbackian fiction with a sense both of its tameness next to their more radical scenarios (Singularity by 2030, Vernor Vinge predicted in Marooned in Realtime), and of cruel irony at the ways in which its dreams turned into nightmares (the space rocket first appearing as the ballistic missile, as Gibson notes in "The Gernsback Continuum"), newer science fiction simply lacks such substanative foundations for an approach to the work of the '80s. What we have therefore appears to be post-post-cyberpunk, rather than something more fully transcending it, and even that appears only nascent - if perhaps also overdue.

My Posts on Futurology
My Posts on Transhumanism, Posthumanism and the Singularity
Neuromancer, Coming to a Theater Near You? Looks Like It
New and Noteworthy (SF and Big Ideas, Future Fire, SFTV Ratings)
New and Noteworthy (Charlie's Diary, Syfy Programming)
Pat Cadigan Week at Strange Horizons
New and Noteworthy (SF TV Reruns, "The Boring Age," "For Stranger Maps," The Rarity of Bad Reviews, Hollywood Sequels, McCalmont on Wolfe)

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