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The Fiction Liberation Front
May 27, 2011 7:18 AM   Subscribe

The Fiction Liberation Front: cyberpunk/slipstream/transreal author Lewis Shiner has released his collected writings under a Creative Commons license, including his award novels Frontera, Deserted Cities of the Heart, and Glimpses. Shiner may be best known for his inclusion in the seminal 1986 cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades, alongside the likes of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Rudy Rucker. A few years later he was pronouncing the movement dead.
posted by unmake (27 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oops. please strike 'award'. One won a World Fantasy Award, the others were PKD and Nebula finalists.
posted by unmake at 7:25 AM on May 27, 2011


The funny thing about Mirrorshades is there's maybe two or three stories in it that people would label Cyberpunk now, tops, and they're the weakest stories of an admittedly strong bunch.
posted by Artw at 7:26 AM on May 27, 2011


Slipstream: dumbest subgenre name ever.

Daniel Suarez seems to answer his prayers in the "pronouncing the movement dead" link. Hope that guy writes more.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:27 AM on May 27, 2011


Mozart in Mirrorshades, Shiners contribution with Beuce Sterling, is probably the best thing in the book and is alround just awesome. It probably kicked off it's own trans-reality economic exploitation micro-subgenre (Cowboy Angels being the latest example of which).
posted by Artw at 7:29 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I loved cyberpunk, past tense, because outside of a collection of 80s works it has indeed grown state and somewhat... flaccid. I have to agree with Shiner's pronouncement, although usually statements about the death of some art or movement are usually a bit premature. It was clearly a product of its time, as surely so many other genres of SciFi were, whether an optimistic look forward to the stars and technology as a savior, or cold war era nuclear apocalype hysteria.

With all of that said, i think that my favorite book by Shiner was Glimpses. It had more heart, style, and passion than Frontera, although I've got a soft spot for that one too.

One Com Lit class on SciFi class in my undergrad with Mirrorshades as a required text, and I'm obsessed for years, and ache for genres that really are gone.

Well. There's always other things to read. Now what the hell is Slipstream?
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:38 AM on May 27, 2011


Vaguely magical realist edge-case science fiction.
posted by Artw at 7:40 AM on May 27, 2011


Oh that dreck. ;)
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:42 AM on May 27, 2011


I think the problem is that cyberpunk fiction actually became reality and so the fiction is outdated.
posted by fuq at 7:47 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


It probably kicked off it's own trans-reality economic exploitation micro-subgenre

I know it inspired a somewhat silly book, Corrupting Dr. Nice (the result of crossing Mozart in Mirrorshades with an homage to Bringing Up Baby)

In fact, there's even a direct reference to MiM in the book.
posted by fings at 7:48 AM on May 27, 2011




I think the problem is that cyberpunk fiction actually became reality and so the fiction is outdated.
posted by fuq at 7:47 AM on May 27 [+] [!]


If you subscribe to the model that says scifi is a projection of our society's anxieties and hopes, then the opposite is true. We moved on, and the things that motivated cyberpunk fell into the past.

At a guess, the popularity of the themes in Cyberpunk probably correlated directly to the hacker hysteria in the 90s and very early 90s, when people like Kevin Mitnick were being rounded up before they could use their leet computer hax0r skills to start nuclear holocausts and collapse all of America's infrastructure. Among other things.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:08 AM on May 27, 2011


(That should read "80s and very early 90s.")
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:09 AM on May 27, 2011


I'm almost embarrassed to say that I know Shiner's work almost exclusively from his work for the Wild Cards anthology series, plus "Stompin' at the Savoy" from Rev. Ivan Stang's Three-Fisted Tales of "Bob". Now, if I can figure out how to load these on the ol' iPhone...
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:38 AM on May 27, 2011


SL: Now what the hell is Slipstream?
AW: Vaguely magical realist edge-case science fiction.
SL: Oh that dreck. ;)


Maybe you're just tossing off a facetious comment, but that's a pretty dismissive description of a grouping that usually includes excellent novels by, let's see, folks like John Crowley, J.G. Ballard, Joanna Russ, David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami, Geoff Ryman, Karen Joy Fowler, Matt Ruff, Iain Banks (some of the "no M." books are pretty inventive for supposedly non-genre work), Jeffery Ford, Steve Erickson, Jose Saramago, Molly Gloss, Jonathan Lethem, and Samuel Delany's later novels. (I'm probably forgetting some key writers too; sorry.) The best of it combines the virtues of speculative and "literary" fiction.
posted by aught at 8:41 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


What's funny about the Shiner-cyberpunk connection is that Frontera is the only one of his books I've read that would lump him in with that sf sub-genre - I certainly don't think of him in that light, the Mirrorshades anthology and Shiner's story contribution to it notwithstanding. The rest of his work I've read (Deserted Cities, Slam, Glimpses) seemed more like slipstream to me. I see he's got a couple recent books I wasn't aware of (Say Goodbye, Black and White, and a story collection Love in Vain) that all sound worth hunting down.
posted by aught at 8:49 AM on May 27, 2011


Well, it was facetious and dismissive. I'd hoped the smiley would take some of the edge off.

I love Banks, Ballard, and others that you mentioned. And there is some very good stuff in the genre. Personally, I found most stuff in the genre to be fairly frustrating, but that's not to say that there aren't some greats there.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:50 AM on May 27, 2011


Also worth noting that I just finished praising Glimpses, which is pretty damn "Slipstream."

Anyway. Cheers.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:51 AM on May 27, 2011


I think the problem is that cyberpunk fiction actually became reality and so the fiction is outdated.

Well, I think the problem is that reality happened, it reflected enough of the cyberpunk vision to make it recognizable, but it ended up going in a much tamer, less interesting direction, so the fiction is now perceived as... well, just wrong.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 9:34 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love Banks, Ballard, and others that you mentioned. And there is some very good stuff in the genre. Personally, I found most stuff in the genre to be fairly frustrating, but that's not to say that there aren't some greats there.

I think that could define pretty much any grouping of writers.

All the great cyberpunk was pre-internet. Most of it was about how making computers talk to each other was going to blow everything wide apart.


...well, kinda.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2011


it reflected enough of the cyberpunk vision to make it recognizable, but it ended up going in a much tamer, less interesting direction

Really? I think the real world is a million times more fucked up and terrifying than anything the cyberpunk authors came up with. Sure, they wrote about virtual reality networks and jacking into terminals, but now as your gated-gardern-iphone tracks what augmented-reality apps you use and the last years of your movements and sends it to your overlords, but along the way the Playstation Network gets hacked and something about wikileaks.

P.S. "Twitterpunk".
posted by fuq at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I spent all day hacking gibsons in my mainframe.

ARE YOU CALLING ME A FUCKING LIAR?!?!
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:33 AM on May 27, 2011


Better deploy some ICE before thsmchnekllsfascists can breach yourfirewalls and fry you and your computer both with some kind of biometric feedback loop.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:35 AM on May 27, 2011


I got case rigged up and riding shotgun.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:42 AM on May 27, 2011


I dunno if I'd call the set of ideas that was Cyberpunk quite dead...

Neuromancer is finally getting it's movie version, and remains as solid read as you could want from something a quarter of a century old. Schismatrix and the associated Shaper/Mechanist stories remain great, and I think you know how I feel about George Alec Effinger. The proto-cyberpubnk works, Brunner's books and Bester's The Stars My Destination, are still as fresh as ever.

What looks cheesy as fuck is all the stuff that came after, the cash-in crap that accumulated once there was some kind of label, the hacking of the Gibson (though god help me I lover Hackers in it's own horrible way) - getting choked by that stuff pretty much killed the movement, as Shiner describes.

Andthe ideas still live on, they just got thoroughly infiltrated into mainstream SF.
posted by Artw at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2011


Artw, here's where I think that Shiner makes the strongest case for its death:

Today's cyberpunk doesn't answer these questions. Instead it offers power fantasies, the same dead-end thrills we get from video games and blockbuster movies like Rambo and Aliens. It gives Nature up for dead, accepts violence and greed as inevitable, and promotes the cult of the loner.

...

I don't see anything dangerous or threatening about cyberpunk in its current incarnation. But its newfound popularity is revealing. It shows our obsession with material goods, and technical, engineered solutions.


I'll probably watch the Neuromancer movie, but I expect it to be more like The Matrix than the original work. Which is to say, the tone will be inevitably dominated by loner power fantasy wish fulfillment .

But obviously, yeah, there will be a few works kicking around at the fringes that maintain the "spirit" of the original cyberpunk, even if the context of the original cyberpunk is long gone.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:32 PM on May 27, 2011


It's been almost twenty years since I read it, but I recall liking Deserted Cities of the Heart a great deal. Mind you, twenty years ago I was finishing high school, so. Anyway, it's not really SF at all. It's not cyberpunk. It's not even punk. It's just a book.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:05 PM on May 27, 2011


I played up the cyberpunk connection in order to distinguish Shiner from a random author who publishes online - but I agree it's not the most appropriate label. Partly because 'cyberpunk' as popularly imagined is more of a genre or set of stylistic trappings (mirrorshades and neural implants as opposed to steampunk's pipes and cogs), rather than the literary movement its founders conceived it as.

It's for this reason that when I read Mirrorshades a few years after it it was published, when I was probably 11 or 12 years old (and reading Mondo 2000 at the time), it was largely disappointing: it didn't consist entirely of high-tech dystopian futures, but included several quirky stories that seemed jarringly out of place.

'Slipstream' or 'Transreal' are much more descriptive of a writer like Shiner, I think. As kitten mentions, it's difficult to place a book like Deserted Cities in any one genre: it's a travel-adventure story that's mostly about music, mushrooms, and mayans, with bits of time-travel and magic for good measure, but I'd never call it Science Fiction or Fantasy.

Frontera was also a good read, but much more conventional. I stumbled across Shiner's FLF site while looking for an online copy of it, having forgotten I'd already read it a few months back. There are a lot of books set in troubledoffworld colonies, but not so many that use drug-induced time travel to connect ancient Mayans to Jimi Hendrix.

posted by unmake at 1:56 AM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Slipstream sounds like something I'd need to read.

Well, I think the problem is that reality happened, it reflected enough of the cyberpunk vision to make it recognizable, but it ended up going in a much tamer, less interesting direction, so the fiction is now perceived as... well, just wrong.

I disagree. I recently read All Tomorrow's Parties and the tech just seemed more annoying. Eyephones that you had to wear as glasses with very unreliable GPSes? The equivalent of crappy Flash interfaces requiring VR navigation? I was reading it while navigating around an unfamiliar city with just my iPhone.
The plotting was ok but the mundane tech made me cringe.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:33 AM on May 28, 2011


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