"Cyberpunk" is a 60-minute documentary, the ad for which states: "What started as a book became a literary movement. What was a literary movement became a subculture".
And that's one of the major flaws of this film. It perpetuates the general myth that everything "cyberpunk" expanded out of "Neuromancer" and Gibson's vision. In truth, most of the stuff covered here (virtual reality, hacking, industrial music, cybernetics, designer drugs, anarchy) was already developing quite nicely before Lord Gibson, Chairman Bruce, and the rest (Shirley, Rucker, Shiner) were kind enough to provide a fictional universe in which to fuse these disparate explorations.
The production of "Cyberpunk" is very inconsistent, too -- some parts are professional documentary, while other parts have the odor of quick-cash opportunism. The breathy women narrator is ultimately aggravating, oh-ing and ah-ing over all this stuff.
But there is some good material here, including interviews with Gibson, Leary, Scott Fisher (of NASA/Ames), Brenda Laurel, Vernon Reed (Living Color), Bill Leeb (Front Line Assembly) and others. There's also some cool computer graphics (circa 1989) and an industrial soundtrack with Front Line Assembly, Ministry, and Severed Heads.
"Cyberpunk" is still a must-see since it's the only documentary about cyberpunk that we have.
Produced and Directed by Marianne Trench and Peter von Brandenberg.
Intercon Productions, 1990.
PO Box 12
Massapequa Park, NY 11762
1990, 60 minute, color VHS, $49.95
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Cyberpunk (Documentary)
Information wants to be free.
Access to computers and anything which may teach you something about how the world works should be unlimited and total.
Always yield to the hands-on imperative.
I'm always a little amazed when I run into people who feel that technology is somehow outside the individual -- that one can either accept or reject. That's true in a sense, but at this stage of the game, we ARE technology. We've become something -- I think in some very real sense, part of the world's population is already "post-human." If you consider the heath options available to some millionaire in Beverly Hills as opposed to a man starving in the streets of Bangladesh. The man in Beverly Hills can in effect buy himself a new set of organs. When you look at that sort of gap. I mean, the man in Bangladesh is still human -- he's a human being from an agricultural planet. The man in Beverly Hills is something else. He may still be human, but in some ways I think he's also a post-human. The future has already happened.
- William Gibson
I think there are deep..fears. People are afraid that technology will make them less free, less powerful in a personal way. And, that's entirely possible, and in fact there are lots of good examples, the defense industry being a major one. But, technology CAN also empower -- I mean you could take that argument all the way back and say that the first ape-like humanoid who used a tool was the guy who put the nail in our coffin. Right? Because our TOOLS! I mean my God "It's not my arm it's a HAMMER!" Does that mean I've lost power -- to the hammer? Or does that mean I can build a Cathedral? Is it half empty or half full? The question is not whether the medium is intrinsically evil or scary, the question is whether we have a culture and a society and a group of artists who can rise to the occasion of using [technology] in a way that enhances us.
- Brenda Laurel
YOU'RE doing it. That's what cyberpunk means.
- Timothy Leary
Up until a couple of years ago, I wrote on a manual typewriter. When I started writing this stuff, I had never TOUCHED a computer.
- William Gibson (1989)
I was signing books in San Francisco in a bookstore downtown last year and two guys came roaring up on motorcycles, totally dressed in black leather, very short hair. They kind of came marching into the store and as they got closer and closer to the table, I could see the disappointment growing on their faces as they realized that yes, in fact, THAT'S him. And they sort of look at me very sadly as one of them got out his beat-up copy of the book and said "Well, you can sign it ANYWAY."
- William Gibson