Every now and then I get to read, that cyberpunk is dead. It’s a janus-creature of prediction and conclusion that arises in more than one text committed to the topic. In some eery way that’s an oxymoron, because if you relate an entire text to a literary genre, just to declare it dead, you’re reviving it in the same time. At least kind of… To be honest, I was always oblivious to this declaration.
I made my first contact with cyberpunk in my mid-teens, something around summer 1990. Media reception was different back then, because the „old“ channels of communication and distribution never neared the ubiquity of contemporary social media. So, in a sense, we are in the cyberpunk age, although I must commit, it doesn’t look anything like what was described, for example, in the novels of William Gibson. Maybe it’s better that way.
What little of the true meaning, most people conceived of the wealth of social criticism in cyberpunk was by far overweighed by the impact, the visual descriptions could deliver, back in the time. Interpretations took their ways, and out of the ashes of a dystopia, full of downtrodden loosers amidst a new wonder age of technological advancement rose an image, that – also by far – missed the inherent sense of angst regarding the possibly impending wake of artificial intelligence. What most people saw, simply was a latex clad, neon bright clash of technologically enhanced protagonists/antagonists, who simply fought the same fights, as they did before, in the archetypical action movies of the 80s. The essence of cyberpunk was butchered for flashing imagery, the masses could relate to.
As always, when financial interest meets artistic affluence, the product is styled to meet the financiers desires, thus exchanging meaning for mass compatibility. To be truthfully honest, when I was a teen, I was captivated by the imagery, too. It was cool, it was different, it had style. And the style lived on, being copied, adapted and incorporated to be part of the main stream. Hell yeah, it got duplicated so often, that it became boring. If somebody, his or her mind just fixed on the aforementioned style at this moment says, cyberpunk is dead, I must confess, that’s right. Because hyperbole use of the style killed it’s attitude, as of lately.
But that’s not cyberpunk. It’s just part of the described imagery, that some greedy media ravengers exploited for so long, that it’s not really of use any more. Again being honest, I still use the flashy, flamboyant style, because, I’m somewhat old school. I use it telling my stories, still being a pen and paper gamemaster since summer 1989… damn, you might call me a professional. But speaking of the essence of cyberpunk, we must recognice it is to be found underneath that polished surface. And our world has become – in quite more than one way – that dystopia full of the downtrodden.
Maybe, technological advancement didn’t follow predicted paths, as that never was the case in any way. But globe-spanning mega-cons, massive social inequality and dwindling social coherence, strange subcultures and no-go-areas – it’s all there. I simply need to take a look at the daily news and can walk away with a billion ideas, as to what story to tell. But I need to add a little glitz, because it would get to dark an gritty, if I simply used the world as is.
And here kicks in the main idea of cyberpunk: the lo-teks and the depraved, the loosers and the maladjusted, they are all able to find ways to defeat the just seemingly allmighty system. Whatever power thrown at them, they cope, they adapt, they survive – and sometimes they even succeed to the very best. Hope is the cure for society’s illnesses; not chrome, not drugs, not tech, but simply hope. If you ever become able, to come to that conclusion, you have become a cyberpunk yourself. And thus, in a somewhat complicated, sometimes lonely and always awesome way, I became one myself…