Book Review By: Mr. Roboto

Authors: St. Jude, R.U. Sirius, Bart Nagel

Year: 1995

Category: Cyberpunk Influenced Books

Cyberpunk Handbook:  The Real Cyberpunk Fakebook

You can tell when a particular movement, genre, or meme has reached mainstream status; They do parodies, and write books on how to make it (or fake it) in the group. It should come as no surprise that cyberpunk had its turn in 1995. With movies like Hackers, Johnny Mnemonic, Strange Days, and Virtuosity in theaters that year, there was no question that cyberpunk had arrived.

And with it, this book.

The Cyberpunk Handbook was written primarily as a spoof; A way for newbies and the clueless to become familiar with the genre without having to actually immerse themselves in the nuances. In other words, how to fake it until one makes it, assuming one wishes to risk his/her life by faking it around real cyberpunks (Some at the time were not hip to cyberpunk suddenly being mainstream).

One way the book does this is by rating media and tech like we do on Cyberpunk Review, only they use shuriken (one to four of them) instead of a scale of ten stars, plus they also use one to four beanies to indicate “nerdly interests.” The required stuff is here; Neuromancer (four shuriken), Snow Crash (also four shuriken), Blade Runner (another four), Johnny Mnemonic (only two, plus one beanie), and others. They also rate certain tech of the times a cyberpunk would need like a laptop, heads up display, and personal communicator.

The Cyberpunk Handbook also gives some overview as to how cyberpunks dress (black leather jacket, boots, mirrorshades, laser pointer.) with details for certain sub-genres like ravers and goths. It also reveals certain character traits like the subdued swashbuckling, quiet assurance, and a touch of menace. There’s some info on comics, music, and food (Ramen noodles and Jolt) that cyberpunks would be interested in. Also revealed are the real reasons why cyberpunks attend cons and the “secret” hierarchy of the cyberpunk ranks from newbie to elite. There’s even a special “Parental discretion section” featuring politics, religion, SEX, and a couple of recipes. Finally, a couple of crossword puzzles, just to see what you’ve learned.


Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? The book’s information seems relevant enough… for 1995, but for 2007, it doesn’t quite hold up and it’s age does show. For one thing, the book tends to assume that cyberpunk and hacking are the same. That might have been true then (may still be today), but now there’s more to hack besides computers. Personal devices like iPods, multi-function cellphones, and Blackberries are now the cool toys, cybernetic implants are available as RFID chips, advances in nanotechnology are almost daily, and while you can’t reprogram your genes to become an X-Man, biotechnology is making strides to make better medicine… and electronics.


The Cyberpunk Handbook hasn’t withstood the test of time, but the authors could hardly be faulted for that; They could only work with the tech of the time. After all, the book was released four years before The Matrix, when nanotechnolgy was still a science-fiction concept, the technology for brain-computer interfacing was primitive at best, and the human genome was still being mapped out. If a person wants to be a cyberpunk today, they can take an English literature course in college (maybe they offer it as non-credit extended education), or save a few thousand by perusing sites like Cyberpunk Review. It would be interesting to see an updated version for post-Matrix cyberpunks. Still, The Cyberpunk Handbook is an interesting look into our 8-bit past as it offers a glimpse into our mid-90s breakout.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Influenced Books by Mr. Roboto.

Boing Boing posted a link to a rare Philip K. Dick interview from 1977 on YouTube that was released as part of the Scanner Darkly movie hype. PKD talks about break-ins to his house by government officials, and the relative low-standing of science fiction in the literary community.



He particularly hates the “box” that SciFi was put in, in that it could only do things like space operas, or westerns set in the future, without sex, drama, etc. Clearly the cyberpunk movement of the 80s dramatically changed the rules. Since then, the entire genre has opened up. No longer are the SciFi/Fantasy shelves filled with mindless “Gonad the Barbarian” books, and literally everyone was forced to raise their game. Clearly, PKD was a precursor of this.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Influenced Books, Documentary by SFAM.

July 9, 2006


Author: Jeff Noon

Year: 1996

Category: Cyberpunk Books

Vurt Book Cover


Overview: Vurt is the story of Scribble, a serious drug addict who lost his sister to drugs and his desparate attempt to get her back. Desdemona acts as a handy MacGuffin to drive Scribble’s exploration of himself and the readers exploration of a kind of weird future fantasy of Manchester (England).

Noon doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the Science component of his Science Fiction. The main element of Sci Fi that he uses here is the idea of creating a particular technology with particular rules and then extrapolating the way that society integrates those technologies into itself and, ultimately, takes them for granted. It’s that final element, societies ambivalance towards tech, that, along with a kind of virtual reality, qualifies this for consideration as cyberpunk. But the tech itself is completely implausable and the rules (as layed out by the GameCat in small, zine style, chapters), though consistantly adheared to, don’t make a great deal of sense. That’s not a criticism (at least, not to me). It all seems like a deliberate attempt to distance the book from the kind of tech fetishism (not to mention the quasi military motifs) that is common in traditional science fiction. Scribble’s world is a messed up, poverty strewn mess peopled with various inventive and atmposheric characters.

All of the five main classes of being (human, robo, dog, shadow and Vurt) mate with each other in unions that bear fruit. Mongrel Alsation-scouse popstars walk around on their hind legs as though they’re actually men.

Cops stalk the streets with a desparate corruption defined by disappointment and terrible pacts made with the best of intentions. Scribble escapes his world in a way that should be familar to any society anywhere in the world at any time in history; the use of the best drugs available. In Scribble’s world these are Vurt feathers. Using them transports your mind to a dreamworld in order to experience whatever dream is contained in that particular feather. The twist being that the world of the Vurt would seem to be in some ways a persistant alternate dimension in which things (and people) can be lost. The plot of the novel is simply the search for the various components necessry to get Desdemona back from the Vurt but it’s the journey and the things that are shown to you on the way that matter.

The Bottom Line: I don’t want to live in the world of Noon’s future Manchester, although I am aware that something very similar (at least in terms of poverty) already exists in our own time. I do recomend reading the book. You may not have read anything like it.

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

June 19, 2006


Author: Samuel R. Delany

Year: 1973

Category: Cyberpunk Books: Cyberpunk Influenced

Publisher: Vintage

Into The Saprophytic City


screen capture


…transitions are repeated but in different places.

Bellona is a city where something happened. Nobody knows exactly what is going on but everyone knows that nothing really works and that nothing can be done to change anything. Everyone who had a better place to go has left. Many curious persons with nowhere else to go have arrived.

The Kid has no idea what his name is. He arrives in Bellano and finds people doing what people do (having sex, arguing, forming gangs and trying to hang on to what little they have left). Nothing much happens. Gangs style themselves as Scorpions and use weird technology to terrorise those residents of Bellona who are willing to be terrorised. Bad things happen to good people.

Samuel Delany was born and raised in Harlem. His first published works were Science fiction but he has written a great deal of fantasy and erotica since then. All three genres can be found in Dhalgren in greater or lesser amounts.

The prose style is stream of consciousness. None of the characters actually seem to do much. There’s a lot of sitting around talking:

“Bet you don’t read the new, good stuff. Lets see: the Three Conventions of science fiction-” Tak wiped his forehead with his leather sleeve. (Kid thought, inanely: he’s polishing his brain.) “First: A single man can change the course of a whole world: Look at Calkins, look at George-look at you! Second: the only measure of intelligence or genius is its linear and practical application: In a landscape like this, what other kind do we even allow to visit? Three: The Universe is an essentially hospitable place, full of earth-type planets where you can crash-land your spaceship and survive long enough to have an adventure. Here in Bellona-”

“Maybe that’s why I don’t read more of the stuff than I do,” Kid said.

But the big wheels are turning in the background. All the best epics work on a small scale human level and set petty human traits against whatever huge global events are going on around them.

This focus on the cruddy details of human life strikes me as one of the fundamental aspects of Cyberpunk, even though the term hadn’t been thought of at the time Dhalgren was written and, as if to prove its an influence, my edition [Vintage books 2001] features an intro by William Gibson himself.

Dhalgren is also one of the few books to be genuinely cyclical. Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” is the most famous of these books that feature a last line that links into the first line.

Dhalgren is about many elements of humanity but speaks most particularly of an experience of life in which different cities blend into one. Different people with different names but the same traits. As you travel the world it all starts to look the same.

A world where the same transitions…

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

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