"What is cyberpunk exactly?"
October 5, 2012 10:14 AM   Subscribe

I EXPLAIN CYBERPUNK TO THE MASSES by writer/film critic Anne Billson "Believe it or not, there was a time when people didn't know what "cyberpunk" was, and indeed had probably never even heard the word before this three-minute clip, in which I explain it to them. Sort of. Don't blame me if I got it wrong - you're looking at this with the benefit of hindsight, while I was making it up as I went along..." [Via: Multiglom - The Anne Billson Blog]
posted by Fizz (29 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Incredible. It's almost impossible to tell that it's actually Dana Carvey doing a bit. That man is a genius. I am particularly impressed with his decision not to have Mike Myers show up at the end and announce that this is the time on Sprockets when we dance. That's some serious restraint.
posted by The World Famous at 10:20 AM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

I would like to visit this "Croydon."
posted by Apocryphon at 10:24 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

The "robots" reference seemed odd, until I remembered she's a film critic. There doesn't seem to be as many in literary cyberpunk.

Anyway, worth it for the "Sony Walman as totem of the future" bit.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:30 AM on October 5, 2012

posted by mintcake! at 10:32 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I keep waiting for her to tell me, "You are the weakest link. Goodbye!"
posted by jonp72 at 10:33 AM on October 5, 2012

I'm pretty sure most folks still have no idea what cyberpunk is, but I'm ok with that.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:34 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anne is also on twitter(@annebillson) for anyone who is interested in interacting with her.
posted by Fizz at 10:36 AM on October 5, 2012

Rudy Rucker defined it thus (.pdf: original definition, then a postscript)

Shorter: "So what I’m talking about with 'cyberpunk' is something like this: literate SF
that’s easy to read, has a lot of information, and talks about the new thoughtforms that are
coming out of the computer revolution."
posted by exlotuseater at 10:37 AM on October 5, 2012

(William Gibson with a British accent in drag joke)
posted by gwint at 10:39 AM on October 5, 2012

Anne Billson describes cyberpunk while channelling steampunk. Awesome.
posted by howfar at 11:02 AM on October 5, 2012

I honestly wish the term cyberpunk had never been coined. It's so...80's...It only serves to date and pigeonhole an entire genre. I know more than a couple of rabid SF readers who use cyberpunk as almost an insult, and a way to dismiss an entire range of authors as sort of the Dan Browns of SF.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:08 AM on October 5, 2012

Preface to Mirrorshades

This book showcases writers who have come to prominence within this decade. Their allegiance to Eighties culture has marked them as a group as a new movement in science fiction.

This movement was quickly recognized and given many labels: Radical Hard SF, the Outlaw Technologists, the Eighties Wave, the Neuromantics, the Mirrorshades Group.

But of all the labels pasted on and peeled throughout the early Eighties, one has stuck: cyberpunk.

Suprising, because Sterling is a dude who loves literary manifestos, this seems to be the closest he;s come to a Cyperpunk one. Also I think the contents of Mirroshades are for the most part suprisingly un-cyberpunk by todays standards - without a lot of the cliche tropes a lot of what they were doing just kind of fades into the flow of mainstream over time.
posted by Artw at 11:09 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thorzdad, Better than "Mirrorshades," you've got to admit.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:10 AM on October 5, 2012

"The Mirrorshades Group" would be quite possibly the most dated sounding literary movement ever by now.
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on October 5, 2012

Though, actually, better than Neuromatics.
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on October 5, 2012

This video is about an ICA exhibition in '91. I lived in London for a few years in the early 90's and the ICA was almost the only thing I liked about the place. It's an oasis in that dull city. They had a great installation there in '93 demonstrating Macs networked across the world and other early internet applications. It's where I bought the 1st edition of Wired magazine. I was online a few months later.

I also love the way she looks. That was an androgynous style that was in fashion then, the schoolboy haircut and the NHS round glasses.
posted by bhnyc at 11:13 AM on October 5, 2012


The first time cyberpunk was explained to me was at the Victoria & Albert Museum, in an exhibit on fashion trends over the past hundred years or so (up to 1994, anyway) and based the description around Billy Idol.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:19 AM on October 5, 2012

Oh dear.
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on October 5, 2012

Mozart in Mirrorshades - from Mirrorshades. Barely, if at all, Cyberpunk bar the titular reflective eye where and yet a fucking awesome story. It's cross-time colonialism may even be the root of a bit of a mini subgenre - see Cowboy Angels, various Stross stories, etc... etc...
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on October 5, 2012

eye where

Is this a Bladerunner reference?
posted by howfar at 11:37 AM on October 5, 2012

Heh. Autocorrect closed edit window blah blah etc.
posted by Artw at 11:39 AM on October 5, 2012

Mozart in Mirrorshades was also the acknowledged parent of Corrupting Dr. Nice (in which MiM was crossbred with Bringing up Baby) . I would say it's a subgenre.
posted by fings at 12:03 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cyberpunk is speculative fiction about the future of the information superhighway.
posted by Nomyte at 12:14 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

In 1991 I interviewed a half-dozen of Bruce Sterling's favorite authors who were in Austin for ArmadilloCon. This was for a Literature paper and the authors were both comfortable and uncomfortable discussing Cyberpunk with a fan who was also writing something about their work for academia. Most took heart in the fact that I was an undergrad and it probably wasn't going anywhere. :)

The big takeaway from Sterling was "Cyberpunk was like the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. By the time anyone had heard of it, it was over." The other big takeaway was that cyberpunk writers are fascinating people who do a really good job talking about the other cyberpunk writers but not themselves.

What's missing from the description above is the clear feeling amongst these writers that in the mid-late 1980s there was something in SF to rebel against, and that they were mostly banded together by mutual opposition to more Heinlein.

Cyberpunk was the MTV of SF.
posted by Mad_Carew at 12:49 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

MTV was the CyCyCyberpunkkkkk of TV. /Max Headroom
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:08 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

off topic: I am currently reading Dan Simmons "Flashback" powerful book with most of the cyberpunk tropes.
also, the reviews are very hateful, just delve into the book, dont read the reviews.
posted by xcasex at 8:43 AM on October 6, 2012

"The Mirrorshades Group" sounds like an investment firm that focuses on cyberlimbs, soy food, and three-dimensional computer software.

Also Japan. Just anything from Japan.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:38 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I remember when Cyberpunk was new and exciting.
Those were some great minutes,
until I found Shadowrun.
posted by Mezentian at 7:21 AM on October 7, 2012

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