“The future is already here — It’s just not evenly distributed.” – William Gibson
It was so much easier to write cyberpunk fiction in the days before laptops, iphones, and bluetooth. Or maybe easy isn’t quite the right word, since the authors of the 80’s & 90’s were making up the technology as they went, imagining it freshly in their minds as they forged the motherboard of a genre that was just as much about style as it was substance.
High Tech Low Life
It was glorious. I cannot say enough about how shaped I have been by the works of William Gibson, specifically Neuromancer, the Shadowrun and Netrunner pen & paper role playing games, the anime Ghost in the Shell, and of course our man Philip K. Dick with stories and resulting film adaptations like Minority Report and Blade Runner. I love the movie Johnny Mnemonic, and no gushing about cybepunk from decades past would be complete without mention of The Matrix.
To write cyberpunk now, in the year 2017, is a different endeavor. So much of the technological advancements that get imagined in the above works are now commonplace. The sorts of “oh wow” moments that used to hit hard in cyberpunk works just don’t hit quite the way they used to, at least for most of us. I know there are still some basic cable shows that try to present hacking as people typing Really Fast and Looking Stressed at cascading lines of gibberish while they say “someone is hacking our network”, and while that isn’t remotely what real hacking looks like (and no amount of fast edits and soundtrack could make it exciting to watch), those shows and their presentation illustrate the line we creators have to walk between real life and dynamic fiction.
For “Beautiful Resistance” we did our best to imagine a near future that moved along a similar path of technological advancement as we are now. We created our fictional “CodeSource” to be the more conventional ‘system’ that is what we basic users experience today, even if amped up for dramatic purposes, so that it would ring true to a contemporary audience. We created our fictional “MassNet” as our ‘full immersion’ system, the computer dream world of our story, which functions much like the simulations in The Matrix films, or the Neuromancer and Snowcrash novels. Throughout the story we work to present an engaging story with near-future technology that feels legitimate given where we are, as a contemporary society, today. We knew that we had to give you just enough tech-speak to make sense of everything happening, but we did not go so deep into it that A) readers poke holes in our science and B) the story doesn’t get slowed down. Though the hacker parts of the story were the most difficult, there was also the ‘combat operative’ element, where we had to present cyborg warriors who had upgrades and implants that felt realistic enough for a near future setting, but were still exciting to read about.
We also had to look at implications of near future technologies, and what they might do to the political, environmental, and economic landscape. For this we imagined a post-WWIII world, where the great superpowers finally went for blood, and our story picks up some years later. In our imagined near future corporations have taken the place of most world superpower governments (that’s a theme with me I know) and the inequality of the world has become more dramatically pronounced. In our story the mega-cities of the first world country are the neon spectacles one might see in films like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, while much of the rest of the world has experienced very little growth compared to where they are in our contemporary real world. Much of the setting, in fact the story itself, is based on the above William Gibson quote. While we don’t get preachy at all (we’re writers, not politicians, economists, or activists) we do address some of the unavoidable elements of setting a story about high powered agents pursuing first world agendas in the boardrooms and back alleys of what we call in our story ‘low grade regions’. In this way we were invited to present a rather poignant illustration of High Tech Low Life in a way that may conjure up images of Neil Blomkamp’s work from films such as Chappie, Elysium, and District 9.
As for the street shaman and the jungle island vampires, well, that’s another post all together.
This has been a project that I have wanted to create for some time, and am happy to finally be able to present it. Our goals are to give you a reading experience that feels less like science fantasy and more like science future, while still delivering on the style & substance promised by dubbing it a work of cyberpunk.
Naturally it is for you to decide if we accomplished any of this, and we are excited to get your feedback!