Cyberpunk Rarely Imagines That Its Dystopian Futures Might End


#1

Postscript is Cameron Kunzelman's weekly column about endings, apocalypses, deaths, bosses, and all sorts of other finalities.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/3kpz9v/cyberpunk-observer-ending

#2

With respect to Cameron’s point, that I think is well-made, I think part of cyberpunk is that it doesn’t end, that the society continues, zombie-like, lurching forward through its own capitalist excess essentially forever. I think about the more cyberpunk aspects of Star Wars, how the universe is so old that it becomes, essentially, ageless- technology simply piling on top of itself until no one can remember the last time any meaningful advances are made.

It’s honestly one of the most fascinating parts of cyberpunk as a genre, imo


#3

Cyberpunk, to me, has always been a genre about people living in a stagnant society brought upon them by mega-corporations, trained to display a performative apathy towards everyone and everything in order to easily and without question participate in a capitalist machine that really hasn’t made any remarkable advancements in recent memory, but that controls so much wealth theres no other way for anyone to function.

But eventually these people find little things. Relationships, work, a cause etc. to care for and hold on to in a world that hates them, and maybe (just maybe) they start to change it little by little, at the very least at a small scale. Maybe for their communities, or for their families and friends.

In a way, the genre kind of relies on that stagnant attitude towards society. It allows the characters living on the fringes to come forward and become the heroes, but maybe it also makes the genre stagnant, and I think when genre becomes stagnant people start losing it’s messages, and it becomes purely aesthetic. Which I think is where we get Post-Cyberpunk. If Cyberpunk is a genre about learning to care, we need stories that take that second step and are about learning to act.

Edit: it’s pretty late where I’m at and my thoughts are pretty muddled on the whole thing, so sorry that this kind of reads like rambling. But I really like Cyberpunk and I’m endlessly frustrated by people who seem to ignore a lot of it’s messages because they think neon or flying cars are cool or whatever and don’t try to ask any new questions with neon and flying cars.


#4

To be clear, I don’t know if this is a problem that I see exclusively in cyberpunk, but rather that the very edges of cyberpunk is where you might expect to find it and you don’t. It seems that our fictions are stuck between “neoliberalism goes on forever” or “magically, things changed, and here we are in the after.” I just wish that we had more about that specific moment of transition, so I guess I don’t even think of this as a critique so much as an open wish that we had more about those transitional moments.

That’s also not to say that there aren’t cyberpunk things about that. There’s a lot of Gibson about that, and Sterling’s Islands in the Net is a great example of it. Games haven’t gotten to replicating those narratives yet, though, and I wish that they would.