An ode to the Rue Jules Verne

Distorted Japanese neon signs, reflected in the pooling rain on a Shinjuku sidewalk. High tech low lives, mirror shades, cyberspace decks, smart drugs, riding on light, neural data jacks, androids, replicants & and the infinite possibilities of technology. This was the future I signed up for and it was glorious.

This is not however, the future I got, and refunds are not currently being considered.

When Nathan mentioned he was doing a Cyberpunk week, I thought I should get involved, having amassed a fair collection of tomes of the genre, comics, first editions, movies, anime. One of my cats is even named after a character from Neuromancer.  But the hard part is pinning down what Cyebrpunk is.

Meet Neuromancer.

When you boil it down to its bare bones, its an complete anachronism in todays hi tech world, its a nonsense, nothing more than a naive foray in to yesterday’s vision of tomorrow.

Cyberpunk is dead, irrelevant, obsolete.

A lot of the technology touted as the future within cyberpunk has been and gone, grown up and been assimilated in to modern day life. Multinational corporations really do have the power of governments and we’ve had augmented reality for a while now. The limitless possibilities & technicolour free for all of hyperspace in the 90’s has become the hum drum everyday internet where you buy fridges and t shirts. We can surf cyberspace from our telephones on the move without having to hardwire our brain in to anything, fax machines are already obsolete and have been for over a decade, we can communicate instantaneously with people across the globe at the touch of a finger.  I think the only major plot device were still struggling with is robotics and androids, we’ve only just passed the Turing test let alone created Wintermute but we do have heroes like Kevin Warwick who is continuously pushing the envelope on cybernetics, mostly by experimenting on himself so proper cyborgs cant be that far away. At the very least we’ll have wetware like Stephensons Snow Crash sooner rather than later.

This is the man who is going to bring about cybernetic augments.

So then, we’ve passed the cyberpunk age, that vision of tomorrow has, for the most part, happened, so that makes it a bit pointless right? I’d say not.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. So fucking hard.

One aspect that hasn’t changed and is unlikely to is the human aspect and just HOW humanity deals with technology and the situations it invariably puts them in. The emotional angle that runs throughout most cyberpunk themes is still as relevant today as it was in the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s. Whilst technology races on exponentially, WE haven’t changed, we haven’t evolved, and personally I don’t think we are able to cope with the world we’ve created but I digress.

Is an AI alive, Project 2501, the AI’s from Silver Screen, Neuromancer, they think, therefore are they am right? At what point does Motoko lose her humanity, how much of your physical self do you have to shed before you’re no longer considered human? Is Rachel alive, is she human, is there really much difference between her, Motoko and Wintermute when you examine them? Can an AI claim citizenship?

I love the idea of the Idoru’s projection canister, creating a mobile AI that can interact with external stimuli.

Where does Rei Toei fit in to the equation or Naomi Armitage? I don’t have the answers, but these are the big questions that permeate cyberpunk for me, and I don’t think they’ve become irrelevant at all.

Oft overlooked cyberpunk essentials, Armitage III.

Then you have the actual settings, they still captivate, still enthral audiences. Why? Because they’re within reach, they’re now seen through a somewhat smeared looking glass. Its not some far future with clean shiny surfaces, its an alley stacked with rubbish (literally in The Finns case), it’s the fringe element, the interstitial lives of people above, underneath and outside the system, its dusty lofts, dirty leather jackets and cheap alcohol, faded military surplus, broken clocks and black ops. Its accessible, there’s no leap of imagination with cyberpunk, you’re living it, right now, and its still as sharp, visceral and relevant as it ever was, perhaps more so, depending on who you ask.

The in between zones, neither here nor there, where cyberpunk exists.

So jack in, load your ice breakers, and track down some material, and immerse yourself in a world just like this one, only different.


2 thoughts on “An ode to the Rue Jules Verne

  1. It was all good until you brought captain cyborg into it, kevin warick is as vacuous as a kardashian, self obsessed over hyping bum dribble, an rfid chip masquerading as a flesh bead does not make you a cyborg any more than sticking the guts of an oyster card to a stick make you a wizard….

    Robots are everywhere now, just not anthropomorphic, as thats just silly in terms of engineering (would look cooler though), its just marketing fucks drop the word robot, parking assist (robot), roomba (robot), too many to name in industrial settings, androids and bionics though are sadly missing, could really do with hyper typey fingers from GitS with a looming deadline…..

  2. If nothing else, it’s an excuse to paint Delaque gangers and listen to some industrial. Actually, I re-read Neuromancer recently and it’s amazing how much it fits into such a short book (the BBC adaptation isn’t bad either). Count Zero’s even better to my mind. For me it’s that mixture of high tech and low life that’s appealing, the sense of sophisticated improvisation.

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