"Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?"
- Kata Sutra
[Appearing before the Synth-Senate SubCommittee on Net Terrorism]
Welcome to Beyond Cyberpunk: The Update Stack, or "What happened to the future since last we talked."
So, what DID happen in the 18 months since we released the main BCP! stack? Well, almost all of the things talked about in Beyond Cyberpunk! (The net, VR, cyberculture, smart drugs, zines, and do-it-yourself reality hacking) seem to have become big news. Almost every major daily, plus Omni, Details, Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek, Utne, and many others, ran articles on one or all of these topics. 1992 end-of-the-year "In/Out" lists included such "in" things as "cyberpunk," "VR," and "industrial music" (thanks to Ministry's big splash at Lollapalooza).
What else?: Tetsuo (1 & 2) happened, Wild Palms (ick!) happened, a director's cut of Blade Runner was released, along with Lawnmower Man and Sneakers. Wired joined the ranks of computer culture rags and a new, supposedly techno-hip, administration brought a higher level of credibility to the Electronic Frontier Foundation who moved from Cambridge, MA to Washington. Even William Gibson and wiseguy Bruce Sterling became Washington darlings with appearances before several Federal committees and educational organizations. The Internet seemed to be the most widely covered cybercultural news item, with articles exploring every business, recreational, romantic, and human-interest angle of the global net of nets and the coming "information superhighways." Interactive multimedia, the perpetual "next revolution in computers," stopped just being hype and started to gain fevered Zaibatsu attention in the form of big bucks. San Francisco jumped on the bandwagon by declaring itself the "Multimedia Gulch."
Even Beyond Cyberpunk! turned out to be newsworthy, receiving critical acclaim from the New York Times, Newsweek, Mondo 2000, MacWorld, MacUser, MacWeek, and lots of other mags. We even roped in such celebrity macheads as HyperCard gurus Jerry Daniels and Danny Goodman, Robin Williams, film director John Badham, William Shatner, and Billy Idol. Some of the praise stunned us. Ric Ford of MacWeek said: "Beyond Cyberpunk! puts the Mac back on its revolutionary track." Brooks Landon, in an article to be published in the next issue of Science Fiction Studies calls Beyond Cyberpunk! "one of the first generation of canonical hypertexts," and says of the many authors who contributed: "...better Virgils to lead us through the zones of cyberculture will be hard to find." Yo, Baby! Who cares if these log rolls are true or not, they have certainly kept our chins above water and kept us at our CRTs, late into the night, hoping to live up to such lofty praise.
When we started this project, we named it BEYOND cyberpunk, because we felt that the c-word was already a moldy sponge in need of a good squeezing. We wanted to pay homage to the early mappers of cyberculture (the Mirrorshades group, their predecessors and their emulators) and then track the many directions that mid-80s cyberpunk and hacker culture had gone in the late '80s and early '90s. Now, the wave on the second c-word (cyberculture) seems to have crested as the mainstream media and Hollywood have swallowed the entire "cyber" meme. The release of Billy Idol's album Cyberpunk was met with a hail storm on controversy on the Net, as young cyber-Turks whined about how he had ripped them off and destroyed their secret club.
It seems that now, more than ever, we need to destroy the labels that limit us and continue to focus on the ideas, issues, and possibilities that caught our attention in the first place (and got soaked up in the "cyber" sponge). It's foolish (and very un-cybernetic) to stand in the way of the pop/commodity culture Tsunami wave. It's all just more noise to feed back into the system, more media material to hack for your own purposes. I like that bumper sticker that says: "Don't like abortions? Then don't have one!" The same can be said about the decidedly less controversial issue of "cyber" commodification. If you find it distasteful, then don't support it. Make your own culture and ignore what you can't directly change. That was the point of all this in the first place.
"Do-it-yourself," "hack the system," "surf the edge." While these have swiftly become clichŽs, the ideas behind them are as valid as they have always were. Beyond Cyberpunk!, and many of the ideas and resources presented here are dedicated to those basic ideals.
Kata Sutra sez:
"Keep moving, keep asking questions, and keep modeling difference."
- Gareth Branwyn