sexta-feira, 6 de março de 2009

What Is Cyberpunk? - Rudy Rucker


Proximately, “cyberpunk” is a word coined by Gardner Dozois to describe the fiction of William Gibson. Gibson’s novel Neuromancer won the Science Fiction equivalent of the Triple Crown in 1985: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Phil Dick award.

Obviously, a lot of SF writers would like to be doing whatever Gibson is doing right. At the 1985 National SF Convention in Austin there was a panel called “Cyberpunk.” From left to right, the panelists were me, John Shirley, Bruce Sterling, a nameless “moderator,” Lew Shiner, Pat Cadigan, and Greg Bear. Gibson couldn’t make it; he was camping in Canada, and the audience was a bit disappointed to have to settle for pretenders to his crown. Sterling, author of the excellent Schismatrix, got a good laugh by announcing, “Gibson couldn’t make it today, he’s in Switzerland getting his blood changed.” Talking about cyberpunk without Gibson there made us all a little uncomfortable, and I thought of a passage in Gravity’s Rainbow, the quintessential cyberpunk masterpiece:

On Slothrop’s table is an old newspaper that appears to be in Spanish. It is open to a peculiar political cartoon of a line of middle-aged men wearing dresses and wigs, inside the police station where a cop is holding a loaf of white . . . no it’s a baby, with a label on its diaper sez LA REVOLUCION . . . oh, they’re all claiming the infant revolution as their own, all these politicians bickering like a bunch of putative mothers . . .

SF convention panels normally consist of a few professional writers and editors telling old stories and deflecting serious questions with one-liners. Usually the moderator is a semi-professional, overwrought at being in public with so many SF icons, but bent on
explaining his or her ideas about the panel topic which he or she has chosen. The pros try
to keep the mike away from the moderator. The audience watches with the raptness of
children gazing at television, and everyone has a good time. It’s a warm bath, a love-in.
The cyberpunk panel was different. The panelists were crayfishing, the subnormal
moderator came on like a raving jackal, and the audience, at least to my eyes, began
taking on the look of a lynch mob. Here I’m finally asked to join a literary movement and
everyone hates us before I can open my mouth?
What is it about punk?

Back in the ’60s — now safe and cozy under a twenty-year blanket of consensus history — the basic social division was straight vs. hip, right vs. left, pigs ’n’ freaks, feds ’n’ heads. Spiro Agnew vs. Timothy Leary. It was a clear, simple gap that sparked and sputtered like a high-voltage carbon arc. The country was as close to civil war as it’s been in modern times. News commentators sometimes speak of this as a negative thing — burning cities, correct revolutionary actions, police riots — but there was a lot of energy there. ’60s people think of the old tension as “good” in somewhat the same way that ’40s people look back on the energy of WWII as “good.”

A simple dichotomy. But during the ’70s times got tough, and all the ’60s people got older.

What Is Cyberpunk? -Rudy Rucker [ Download ]

Reprinted from Rudy Rucker, Seek! (Four Walls Eight Windows, NY 1999).
Originally appeared in REM, #3, February, 1986. REM was a zine published by Charles Platt. I
added the Postscript to my essay (included here) in response to a letter from a reader, so I suppose the Postscript must have appeared in issue #4. The Mondo 2000 editors latched onto my phrase “How fast are you? How dense?” and used it in their ad campaigns and on some of their T-shirts.