Illusive Mind posted in the Meatspace Forums Tech News of the Day thread a cool Youtube video of MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld who is interested breaking down the “false” barrier between physical science and computer science. We’ve been using computing for harnessing information when Gershenfeld argues that we need to move “from progamming bits to programming atoms.” The projection of digital fabrication is in the here and now. Digital fabrication involves where the output of computations affects the physical world - meaning it arranges material (atoms), not information (bits). In this sense the materials themselves actually contain the information. This is wholly different from current computer aided manufacturing where we have a mind (computer) working with dumb machines and raw material to create things. In this new approach, the computer IS the tool, and the output of the computation programs the physical world.

Gershenfeld claims that the message coming from his ever growing “fab labs” is that it allows people to locally design and produce solutions to local problems. In a sense, this gives us the ability to easily create products for a market of one person. Similar to the burst in social computing, Gershenfeld sees the use of computing for personal fabrication to be just as powerful. Personal Star Trek Replicators are in our future, ladies and gents. If there was ever an idea that could take power away from the multi-national corps, this is it!

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

Blame screen capture


Kovacs in a thread in the Meatspace Forums pointed to Twitch’s find that at the Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF), it was announced that a plan to adapt Tsutomu Nihei’s cyberpunk manga BLAME! into a CG animated movie is already underway.


The production will be handled by Micott and Basara, the same company responsible for the making of Appleseed Ex Machina. Production I.G is also involved for working on the background. Only a small picture is revealed as shown at the left of this post.

A promotional DVD will be release this summer. No word yet on the release date.


While the CG was generally top quality, hopefully more care is spent on the story for Blame! than was spent on the 2004 Appleseed movie.

This post has been filed under Upcoming Movies by SFAM.

March 26, 2007

85% Is Still Sheep!

Sheep screen capture


Similar to the tagline Albert Pyun’s movie, Nemisis (~86.5% is still human~), apparently we’re now saying similar things about sheep. But at least we’re not talking sheep cyborgs here. Instead, as reported in The Mail, we’re witnessing the first human-sheep chimeras.


Scientists have created the world’s first human-sheep chimera - which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells - and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and £5million perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep’s fetus.

He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.


The idea for increasing the number of available transplants is an interesting one. It does give yet another dimension to our upcoming post-human future. One wonders what the market dynamics will do with this. Perhaps the hospital systems will use this as a nice money generator - “Well, a full human liver costs an extra 15K, but I have this genetically modified sheep liver for a song!” Truly, at first glance, this sounds like something out of Transmetropolitan. Apparently others have similar thoughts, given their worries:


But the development is likely to revive criticisms about scientists playing God, with the possibility of silent viruses, which are harmless in animals, being introduced into the human race.

Dr Patrick Dixon, an international lecturer on biological trends, warned: “Many silent viruses could create a biological nightmare in humans. Mutant animal viruses are a real threat, as we have seen with HIV.”

Animal rights activists fear that if the cells get mixed together, they could end up with cellular fusion, creating a hybrid which would have the features and characteristics of both man and sheep. But Prof Zanjani said: “Transplanting the cells into foetal sheep at this early stage does not result in fusion at all.”


Hmm, sheep fusion, ey? Gives a whole new slant to the whole sex with farm animals thing!

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living, News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

March 25, 2007

Voice of the Whirlwind

Book Review By: David Gentle

Author: Walter Jon Williams

Year: 1987

Category: Cyberpunk Books

Voice of the Whirlwind Book screen capture


After writing Hardwired Walter Jon Williams wrote this novel, set 100 years on. Perhaps it’s a comment on the possibility of a plateau in technological development but nothing much new has come along. Many more people live in space and a larger number of planets have been colonized. Interstellar travel has also been developed but it is only used by a small number of people. A certain amount of genetic engineering has taken place, though not with any great success. In Hardwired there were a couple of characters whose minds had been recorded and transfered into new bodies when their old ones died. This is still going on 100 years later and Ettienne Steward bought clone insurance just before leaving to fight in a war. He’d been a gang member in the urban hell of Marseilles and was looking for some rigidity in his life so he signed up with Coherent Light as an “Icehawk”, a sort of SAS style special ops unit. Obviously when the clone insurance kicks in after you die they make you a new body and, by some appalling means, overwrite whatever nascent consciousness is in it with your last recorded scan but Steward never updated. When he dies and his Beta is born his memories are 15 years old. It’s at this point, the birth of the “Beta”, that the novel starts.

Steward finds that his Alpha has been murdered and that the war on Sheol had been a Vietnam style disaster that ended with the arrival of the planet’s original inhabitants, the aliens referred to as “the Powers”. Then in quick succession his therapist, Dr. Ashraff, is murdered and he receives a mysterious video message from his Alpha, giving Steward tantalising details of his fatal last mission. This is the murder mystery that, in part, sustains the novel.

Then Steward meets Griffith, a friend of the alpha from the Icehawk days, who offers him a convenient way to get into space and find some answers to his questions.

“The Competent Man” is one of the major bugbears of the 1980’s Cyberpunk authors. Seeing themselves as literary and avant garde they rebelled against the military and paramilitary figures who dominated precyberpunk novels in the 1960’s and 70s’ who would save the world while the thankful common man (and/or lady) looked on helplessly in awe. The underlying idea (never actually lying that far underneath of anything) was one of obeyence to a sort of unquestioning and invulnerable facist military elite.

The typical Cyberpunk response to this was a character like Deckard in Bladerunner, an apparently faded cop, brought back for one more case straight out of film noir. A complex guy (or android perhaps) in a morally complex world. Case and Molly Millions, not out to save the world but to survive and maybe make some cash along the way. Turner in Count Zero was William Gibson’s attempt to write a “competent man” and push him to pieces. Morally complex people living in difficult, complex worlds where it was hard enough to know where the next meal would be coming from let alone what “right” and “wrong” might mean.

Steward is the “Competent Man as lunatic obsessive”. His belief in the purity of his own actions has made him totally corrupt. He has been indoctrinated into believing that anything is justified in the cause of achieving his objectives, that his “mission” is more important than lives or property or friendship. His attitude is that of the terrorist, indeed he is actually used in the book as a paramilitary terrorist to further one policorp’s goals but, perhaps because it is written from his point of view, the book treats him as a hero. This brings me to an impossible question:

…are we supposed to admire Steward?

Voice of the Whirlwind Book screen capture


When I read the book as a 17 year old I did. I guess this is the appeal of extremist causes to the young, the admiration for living without compromise. I only realized recently, while rereading the novel, what an asshole Steward is. There are small cracks in the narrative through which we get a glimpse from the other side. Dr. Ashraff, Steward’s therapist immediately after he is born has this to say about him:

“You fell for their program.” Steward felt surprise at the apparent feeling in Dr. Ashraf’s voice. It was hard to remember Ashraf ever being emotional about anything.

“Coherent Light taught you martial arts and zen,” Ashraf said. “Zen of a certain kind.”

“Mind like water,” Steward quoted. “The unmeaning of action. Union of arrow and target. The perfection of action, detached from anything except the spirit.”

“They were programming you,” Ashraf said, “with things that were useful to them. They taught you to divorce action from consequence, from context. They were turning you into a moral imbecile. A robot programmed for corporate espionage and sabotage. Theft, bomb throwing, blackmail.”

Steward was surprised by the harshness in Ashraf’s voice. He turned from the window and looked at him. The doctor’s fingers were steepled in front of his mouth, but Steward saw the anger in his eyes. “Let’s not forget murder,” Steward said.

“No,” Ashraf said. “Let’s not.”

“I’ve never pretended to be anything but what I was,” Steward said. “I’ve always been honest about what I’ve been.”

“What’s honesty got to do with my point?” Steward felt himself tense at the attack on Coherent Light, at the things that still provoked his loyalty. He forced himself to relax.; Coherent Light was dead, dead in the long past. Mind like water, he told himself.

“You’ve been programmed to divorce corporate morality from personal morality,” Ashraf said. “You’re a zombie.”

Steward frowned at him. “Perhaps,” he said, “morality is simply latent within me. You’re awfully combative for an analyst, you know.”

“I’m not here to analyze you. I’m here to give you a crash course in reality and then kick you out into the world,” Ashraf carefully flattened his hands on his desk. He looked up at Steward.

Mind like water, Steward told himself. Trying to stay calm.

It didn’t work.

There’s also the relationship with the Alpha’s ex-wife Natalie, who see’s through him. Whether it’s Alpha, Beta or even Gamma she knows what Steward is.

Voice of the Whirlwind Book screen capture


The reason that I focus on morality at all is that it’s one of the key issues in Cyberpunk. Science fiction is always much more a reflection of the time in which it’s written than the future. The 1980’s were a time of moral disinterest and one of the key concepts of Cyberpunk is the idea that if a thing can be done it will be done whether it’s humane or not. It’s one of the things that dates stereotypical Cyberpunk fiction because people in general are much more aware of, and resistant to, the potential horrors of new technology now. Not many people believe that the future is inevitable anymore. Voice of the Whirlwind is set in a morally ambiguous universe but the above passage humanises it.

Like Hardwired before it Voice of the Whirlwind is a piece of first class commercial writing in the Cyberpunk genre. Where it’s predecessor replaced the film noir stylings of William Gibson with a western theme this is a murder mystery espionage thriller in space. A damn good one in fact.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Books by David Gentle.

March 22, 2007

Spotlight - The Art of Dan Ouellette

Dan Ouellette Art image - Copyright by Dan Ouellette

Titled: “Separation of Lovers”


Background: Just a while ago I had the pleasure of receiving a book of erotic cyberpunk fiction by very successful erotic fiction author, M. Christian. By way of thansk, I wrote a post to highlight M. Christian and his book, which gave me the opportunity to conduct a very interesting online interview through the blog. Since then, artist and director, Dan Ouellette sent me a terrific set of prints of his artwork. He’s a frequent commenter here on CPR, and wanted to show his appreciation for the work I’ve put into his site. I really dig him sending me the prints (more than a few of these prints will be hanging in my office once I get them framed). And again, I don’t do any advertising here at CPR (I tend to find ad placements at odds with the whole idea of celebrating cyberpunk), but I’m more than willing to be happily bribed by artists, authors, film makers or musicians who want to show their appreciation to the site by sending me cool stuff like M. Christian and Dan have done. That’s enough of an intro - on to the art of Dan Ouellette!

Dan Ouellette Art image - Copyright by Dan Ouellette

Titled: “What Little Girls are Made Of?”. Dan’s artwork has a number of interesting shots were it the spinal cord is either removed or is protruding from the body.


Dan Ouellette Bio: Dan Ouellette is an established artist and production designer in NYC. He has designed many independent feature films, commercials and music videos. As an artist he has exhibited widely. He has been published in numerous anthology art books including Bio-Mannerism which also features work by H.R. Giger and Beksinski, and he has been featured in magazines internationally.


Music Video: Android Lust - Stained


More recently he has branched off into directing as well. His music videos for Android Lust (see “Stained” video above) and The Birthday Massacre have been very favorably received and have aired internationally on TV as well as getting heavy play on websites like Youtube. He has numerous sci-fi and horror projects in development.

Dan Ouellette Art image - Copyright by Dan Ouellette

Titled: “The Mewler”. I just love the face on this. It captures an interesting surrealistic punk sentiment. And the hoofed feet plus the dual sex organs provide a pretty interesting devil/gluttony vibe.


Dan’s aesthetic leans heavily toward the biomechanical and psychosexual. He is equally influenced by both mediums, film and fine art, often with elements of both blending into one another. His website is

Dan Ouellette Art image - Copyright by Dan Ouellette

Titled: “Cephalic Infection”


What Others Have Said About Dan’s Work: David Bowie commented while looking at Dan’s art that he has noticed a strong influence of sci-fi on contemporary art… this from The Man Who Fell To Earth! Giger saw a different aspect, saying simply “Very bony.”

Dan Ouellette Art image - Copyright by Dan Ouellette

Titled: “Circuitry”. Dan has also done some 3D work. This one has interesting depth.


Final Thoughts: A number of Dan’s shots are significantly more psychosexual than those chosen here (all images here are obviously copyrighted by Dan Ouellette ). I definitely see a Giger influence in his work. More importantly, his artwork prompts a nice, if somewhat disturbing cyberpunk contemplation. Definitely good stuff! I intend to use the comment feature below to ask Dan questions on his artwork and movie making. PLEASE feel free to join in - if you have questions for Dan on the artwork here or of other shots on his site, please ask!

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Art by SFAM.

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2004

Directed by: Hiroki Yamaguchi

Written by: Hiroki Yamaguchi

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Luchino: Luchino Fujisaki
  • Elevator Operator: Ninalada Mochiduki
  • Business Man: Viblio Sawatsukumori
  • Housewife: Alamocia Nakaji
  • Headphone Guy: Nocosh Utsunomiya
  • Serial Rapist (prisoner): Zitacock Obitani
  • Bomber (prisonor): Calpico Teranouchi
Rating: 7 out of 10


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


Overview: One thing I love about Indie movies is the opportunity for complete originality. Indie director Hiroki Yamaguchi delivers a strange, but very well made micro-budget movie that is truly unique. From viewing the extras, virtually every part of the set was designed by searching through junkyards for throw-offs. Similar to the Cube, Hellevator: The Bottled Fools largely takes place on a single set. Similar to Brazil, the world of Hellevator is a bizarrely dystopic surveillance society where things just don’t seem to work right. Nobody got paid who worked on this, but you wouldn’t know it from the quality. Hellevator definitely has its own feel.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


The Setting: Hellevator takes place in a non-specific dystopic near future, where a colony of people have long ago decided to move underground. While some aspects of life clearly involve advanced technologies, there is a strong analog, mechanistic component to society. Now, all life takes place in a very large megalopolis comprised of a set of very large levels and tunnels. Life is fully governed by an omnipresent security force, who have cameras in all key locations. Over 130 levels in all, each has a specific purpose. Some have hospitals or schools, others are power centers, and Level 99 is the prison ward. Because everything is underground, issues related to air quality are at a premium. Smoking is illegal, and merits a death sentence. To get from each level, people use these very large, mechanical elevators.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


The Story: The beginning of Hellevator starts off with a television report of a set of explosions on Level 138, which ends up killing over 100 people. The police have pegged a few suspects of causing this crime, both of which ended up stuck on an elevator which malfunctioned during the explosion. Flashback to Luchino (played by Luchino Fujisaki) who is a troubled teen-age girl living on Level 138 who is on her way to school, which is on Level 4. She has a penchant for rebelling against the system and starts her day by illegally purchasing cigarettes from a drug dealer. Unfortunately, she almost gets caught, and ends up leaving her still burning cigarette butt at the power center near a set of flammable fluid containers.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


Luchino gets on the elevator to take her to level 4, which is where the rest of the story takes place. On each floor, new people get on while others leave. Eventually when the elevator gets past 110, the elevator operator announces that they have entered the “express mode” – no more stops should occur for a long time. At this point, the elevator is holding the white-gloved elevator operator (Ninalada Mochiduki), a business man (Viblio Sawatsukumori), a woman with a baby carriage (Alamocia Nakaji), a quite guy with headphones (Nocosh Utsunomiya) and Luchino. Unfortunately, the elevator is force-stopped at level 99, the prison level. Two prisoners, one a bomber (Calpico Teranouchi), and the other a serial rapist (played wonderfully by Zitacock Obitani) get on with a very unstable young prison guard. Shortly afterwards, the explosion on Level 138 occurs. This causes the elevator to malfunction, and the small group is now stranded.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


The malfunctioned elevator becomes a powder keg for runaway paranoia. The prison guard starts to lose it, and through a strange sequence of events, causes the prisoners to become free. The rapist quickly beats the guard to a pulp, which ends with a sequence where he takes a bite out of the guard’s neck. From there the prisoners sadistically start to impose their will on the beleaguered elevator participants. The rapist starts to do his thing on the elevator operator and eventually starts kicking Luchino. Luchino starts to have flashbacks of times when her father abused her similarly - Luchino eventually snaps. She picks up the gun and starts to repeatedly shoot the bomber prisoner.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


From there, the story devolves into a repetitive set of sequential events which cause various people on the elevator to lose control. Some result in murders while others result in interesting character expositions. Throughout, the mood is high tension paranoia. Eventually, the THX-1138-like guards break the remaining few left alive. The story then connects back to the police detective, who is in the process of interviewing those that survived the elevator trip. The ending, not discussed here, provides a different take on the world which this future takes place.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


The Acting: The acting in Hellevator is far better than one would expect in a movie where nobody was getting paid. Luchino Fujisaki turns in a solid performance as a person devolving back into psychosis. Zitacock Obitani is terrific as an extremely bizarre serial rapist, and almost makes the movie a must-watch all by himself. The rest of the cast works. The only stand-out lousy performance is turned in by the blond haired prisoner guard, but he doesn’t last long enough to matter.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


The Cinematography: Hellevator, uses two omnipresent color schemes: within the elevator, everything is dingy yellows and greens. For the police interrogation scenes, everything is dark blue. Yamaguchi makes liberal use of perspective shots, sometimes involving fish-eye lenses, and frequently looking down or up at the participants. In short, Yamaguchi makes the most of a very limited budget and set. He even throws in a Matrix slo-mo shot that was apparently filmed with a single camera.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


System Service Staff as Robots: In Hellevator, the elevator lady acts completely robotic until the convicts break things. Her overt disposition is of a person who never gets rattled, never intimates a personal connection, and never changes her demeanor regardless of the surroundings. In a sense, she is the perfect employee for the underground megalopolis. Similar to movies like Brazil or 1984, the elevator lady represents the humans as machines metaphor. In this view, we are nothing more than a single redundant part – a cog in a massive machine. For the ideal system employee, individualism has been quashed in favor of ritualized, repeatable routines.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


Telepathy: Hellevator does a good job of integrating telepaths into its strange world. The majority of the people are normal, and do not recognize the telepaths. In Hellevator, the Telepaths are able to notice when another uses their sensory perception. What makes Yamaguchi’s view of telepath’s somewhat interesting is he also touches on their ability to see others’ memories. This leads to some interesting flashbacks of others’ experiences on the elevator. More interesting though is the fact that Luchino’s personal psychosis colors her views of the others’ memories. This turns reading thoughts into something far less precise, and in the end makes it more believable.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


Repression Exposed by Extreme Psychological Pressure: Hellevator explores extreme psychological pressures on a group of already unstable people. Everyone stuck on the elevator is hiding something significant about themselves. The businessman is potentially a bioterrorist; the woman with the crib is hiding groceries instead of a baby, and the quiet guy in the corner is masquerading as a cop. Luchino had been abused by her father to the point that she eventually flipped and killed him. She has since repressed her issues but when placed in a similar circumstance, Luchino responds similarly and goes on to murder one of the convicts. Her perception of reality starts to bear little resemblance to the rest. The robotic elevator woman turns into an emotional basket case. Although this is a fully reasonable reaction to an attempted rape, the contrast shown is with her earlier robotic persona. In fact, everyone, when thrown into this circumstance acts in wholly strange ways.


Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap


The Bottom Line: If you like Extreme Japanese Cyberpunk movies, Hellevator: The Bottled Fools is well worth a watch. There’s quite a bit of blood and gore, but not when compared to some of the more extreme straight Japanese horrors. The plot is pretty straightforward once the movie gets moving – I would have wished for a bit more interplay between the plot points. Also, there are a number of plot points which were touched on as significant, but were never completed. But overall, the movie is original and interesting. Little throwaways like the child’s pet brain only add to the fun. Yamaguchi and crew really make the most of their set and the overall shoot. This one will stay with you for a few days.


Page 2: More Screencaps –>>


This post has been filed under Dystopic Future Movies, Security-Surveillance State, Horror, 7 Star Movies, Japanese Cyberpunk, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Good low-budget movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.

March 16, 2007


Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 1992

Directed by: Phil Alden Robinson

Written by: Phil Alden Robinson, Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Key Cast Members:

  • Martin Bishop (”Marty”): Robert Redford
  • Donald Crease: Sidney Poitier
  • Erwin Emory (”Whistler”): David Strathairn
  • “Mother”: Dan Akroyd
  • Carl Arbegast: River Phoenix
  • Liz: Mary McDonnell
  • Cosmo: Ben Kingsley
Rating: 8 out of 10

Sneakers opening

December 1969: Marty and Cosmo just helped the Republicans make a donation to the Black Panthers. Right on!


OVERVIEW: Martin Bryce is a fugitive since December 1969 when he left for pizza while his friend, Cosmo, was arrested for their hacking activities. Now living as Martin Bishop, he leads a “tiger team” that tests security systems. Two men claiming to be from the NSA want to hire Marty’s team to retrieve a “black box” developed by a brilliant mathematician for a project called “SETEC Astronomy.” They succeed in retrieving the box, but when they discover what it is, that’s when the real danger begins…


Note: Not an actual screen shot. Animation of key Scrabble moment in movie.

Remember: When playing Scrabble on Monterey’s Coast, keep score on My Socrates Note or you’ll end up with Cootys Rat Semen!


Sneakers is an intellectual cyber-caper movie that features an all-star cast with a slick production. There’s little question about this being a great movie to watch…


… But is it cyberpunk?: Some might question whether Sneakers qualifies as a cyberpunk movie. Other cyberpunk sites do list it as such, but does it make the grade here? Let’s compare it to SFAM’s idea of what makes a movie cyberpunk:

  • Negative impact of technology on humanity: The “black box” is capable of breaking the most secure encryption codes without the need for a key. Whoever has this device can essentially read any e-mail, site, or whatever they want, without needing a decryption key. Sound pretty negative to me.
  • Fusion of man and machine: In literal terms, no such fusion occurs here. The closest would be Whistler using his braille terminal, though one might say that Marty’s team does work like a well-tuned machine.
  • Corporate control over society: Things are a bit hazy here. While there’s no such control apparent, one can imagine what the wrong people can do with the “black box.”
  • Story focuses on the underground: Mary and Cosmo are hackers from the 60s. Cosmo works with organized crime (”Don’t kid yourself. It’s not that organized.”), and Marty’s team is mostly made from people who got into trouble with some type of technical activity.
  • Ubiquitous access to information: The ability to decrypt and read any site or message. ‘Nuff said.
  • Visuals and style: Being set in modern San Francisco (circa 1992) makes it impossible to depict a near future, but there are scenes where single colors and contrasting schemes are apparent: The red brick of the team’s office during the Scrabble scene, the darkness of Marty’s ride in the trunk of a car, Cosmo’s bluish office with the bright white “soundproof” room.

    The movie itself has an intelligent style that often make viewers think about the consequences of the “black box” decrypter, politics, privacy, and the role of the NSA.


The Bottom Line: This is definitely one that needs to be in your collection alongside WarGames. It’s a fun, intelligent, and even humorous (sometimes darkly humorous) adventure into our privacy at stake. As to whether it can be called cyberpunk…


You’ll definitely like watching Sneakers and trying to decide for yourself

And while you watch this gem, keep this almost Matrix-like observation in mind:

“… I learned that everything in this world, including money, operates not on reality. — But the perception of reality.”


Page 2: More Screencaps –>>


This post has been filed under Security-Surveillance State, 8 Star Movies, Hacker Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 - 1999 by Mr. Roboto.

March 14, 2007


Book Review By: David Gentle

Author: Walter Jon Williams

Year: 1986

Category: Cyberpunk Books

Hardwired Book Cover


Hardwired was born in the aftermath of Neuromancer and shares that novels idea of a central relationship between a man and a woman in which the man is a techie and the woman the hardass. Fortunately it doesn’t share much else, it’s tone being less film noir and more dime store western. That’s not necessarily a criticism because Cowboy, the central male, clearly sees himself as a product of the dream of the American west. He used to be a pilot flying home-built deltas to make sure the mail got through but when that business got destroyed by the orbital Soviet he and others like him switched over to driving tricked out hovercraft called “Panzers” with which they try to smuggle cargo across “the line”, the border between the real west and the midwest.

You’ll notice the reference to an “Orbital Soviet”, the idea being that the communist Soviet block survives into the middle of the 21st century and prospers in space leaving the foolish and impoverished capitalist nations to wallow in the mud at the bottom of the gravity well. We forget just how unassailable the soviets looked up until the end of the ’80s and it’s not uncommon in CP literature of the time to find a depiction of a futuristic Communist state because everyone in the world of Cyberpunk literature just assumed they’d keep on being an important Superpower forever and that therefore they had to be depicted.

At one point Cowboy, flying in a delta (a kind of futuristic jet fighter built in a garage out of carbon fibre and epoxy resins) shoots down an unarmed private jet because one of the people on it has been trying to kill him. At no point does he try to find out who else is on the ‘plane. He has no moral qualms about it either, he just wishes it had been a more satisfying fight, yet elsewhere we find him worrying about the welfare of children who live (apparently as sex slaves) with his benefactor Rune.

While Cowboy sees himself as a man of principle (despite his unacknowledged lapses) “in it for the ride, not the cargo” Sarah is a prostitute and assassin (tricked out with a bizarre throat mounted cyberweapon) willing to do pretty much anything (undergo extensive plastic surgery to get close enough to an aging man who’s been cloned into a young Asian woman’s body to kill him/her) to get herself and her appalling brother Daud off of Earth and into orbit where everyone important seems to live. She strikes me as more of a cipher than Cowboy. I don’t believe that anyone in her position would be quite as resolute as she is.

The two protagonists come together in the context of a botched delivery, go on the run together and then separately until there appears to be a way to to fight against the particular block of the orbital Soviet that is trying to kill them. There is no commitment romance and economics and a perverted/happy ending. Like a lot of other ’80s Cyberpunk it’s an extrapolation of then current morals into the future. There’s almost moral vacuum where the novel’s soul would normally be.

While it’s hard to get excited about the tech on display in the novel at our point in the 21st century The handling of Cowboys enhanced sensorium (as when he plugs himself into the Panzer and Delta) are well handled and the idea of people prolonging their “lives” by downloading recordings of their brains into clones of themselves was newish at the time. Also the way economics is used as the most dangerous weapon in the endgame is clever.

Hardwired is several notches above journeyman cyberpunk. Walter Jon Williams may have written space opera and an earthquake novel since he wrote Hardwired but he seems to have grasped most of the essential elements of ’80s CP.

It may be coat-tail riding but it’s a really good ride.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Books by David Gentle.

Bruce Sterling No Map for These Territories Screencap


Last week, cyberpunk legend and current futurist, Bruce Sterling wrote a nice piece in the Washington Post about how the time of the Greens has finally arrived. While this was predicted some years back, it took a while before things kicked in high gear.

In 1998, I had it figured that the dot-com boom would become a dot-green boom. It took a while for others to get it. Some still don’t. They think I’m joking. They are still used to thinking of greenness as being “counter” and “alternative” — they don’t understand that 21st-century green is and must be about everything — the works. Sustainability is comprehensive. That which is not sustainable doesn’t go on. Glamorous green. I preached that stuff for years. I don’t have to preach it anymore, because it couldn’t be any louder. Green will never get any sexier than it is in 2007. Because, after this, brown will start going away.


Sounds like the world is finally starting to take notice. But the message isn’t so positive:

The time for action isn’t now. The time for action was 40 years ago. Today we live in a stricken world that bypassed its time for action. We have wreaked science-fiction levels of havoc on the unresisting carcass of Mother Nature. The real trouble is ahead of us.


Ah yes, yet another indication that our cyberpunked future is quickly merging with our present circumstances. One has to wonder what will happen when the impacts of our excesses start to truly affect the global economy. Sterling seems to view the Balkans as a bellweather for our global future:

Serbia may be the world’s single-greatest locale for a professional futurist. Awful things happen there faster than awful things happen anywhere else. The Balkans is a tragic region that denied stark reality, broke its economy, started multiple unnecessary wars, and basically finger-pointed and squabbled its way into a comprehensive train wreck. It suffered all kinds of pig-headed mayhem, all unnecessary.


But life isn’t all bad. Sterling ends things on a high note, where he gives us a glimpse of his wonderful ability to juxtapose circumstances:

So what’s the good part? They never gave up around here. On the contrary: There’s a certain vivid liveliness in the way they’re scrambling and clawing their way out of yawning abyss. The food is great, the women dress to kill, and sometimes they even laugh and dance.


For some reason, the last line reminds me of Edger Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death. We laugh and dance now, but lets just hope Prince Prospero chose his guests more wisely this time…

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living by SFAM.

Sixteen Tongues Screencap


In a recent post in the Meatspace forum, Stormtrooper of Death advocates the development of a new Cyberpunk Manifesto, ver 3.0. Stormtrooper of Death has started the process by creating a node in the Cyberpunk Wiki. The previous two version are reproduced here. In 2007, we’ve entered a world in which the power of mass collaboration is changing the mode of production (See Wikinomics for a good read on this subject). As a consequence, this process should also drive the development of a new cyberpunk manifesto. Please join us in writing this.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living by SFAM.

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