Saturday Waffling (October 15th, 2016)

(57 comments)

Long time no waffle. Let's see. First off, promotional considerations, which is to say that Jed Blue's got a Kickstarter for an essay collection of his writings on anime. Jed's a longtime friend of Eruditorum Press and a hell of a good critic, and if anime's your bag I have zero doubt his book will be phenomenal, so please check it out.

I should also probably mention, since we're a week away from the premiere, that Class reviews are still $13 from happening on the Patreon. But if we fail to meet that goal, I'll still write short reviews of every episode for $2+ Patrons, so if you back the Patreon at $2 a week you're guaranteed reviews either way. If you need to cap your pledges at <5 a month (the most I'll ever end up charging you for) then that's cool too - if you can avoid capping at just one pledge a month I'd appreciate it, but all support is always welcome.

As for where I'm at... Getting towards the end of "Theses on Trump," which may end up having a different title at the end, but which I'll refer to that way until I publish. It's good stuff - I feel like I'm continuing to get a different read on the most oversignified topic in the world right now. Which is the key thing. And it's not a piece that's going to date instantly after the election, although I'll be getting it up before the election.

Once that's wrapped and I've got the Neoreaction a Basilisk books sent out (having a few hoop jumps with Lulu in pursuit of saving myself a couple hundred bucks, but looks like orders will go out next week) I'll finally put the last formatting touches on Last War in Albion and open pre-orders for that, with books shipping in time for the holidays. Safe to assume I'll release the long-embargoed next chapter around then, and probably start on chapter 7 too, as I'm starting to get itchy on that project again. Which is nice.

Blake annotations are delayed a bit, as my head's been turned by a different project that's more timely, but that also satisfies some of the "do something with a clear traditionalist streak" urges that I've been having in the wake of Neoreaction a Basilisk. Right now it's firmly in the long slow research phase as I watch/read a whole bunch of stuff. Including, for the first time in any substantial project I've done actually, a whole bunch of anime. So speaking of which, I should go back Jed's Kickstarter myself...

Actually, hell, I've been talking about it a fair amount on Tumblr, so let's just put the cards on the table: I'm leaning pretty hard towards my next bespoke project being a history of cyberpunk, specifically one that avoids getting bogged down in proto-cyberpunk and instead treats the genre as basically starting with the twin punch of Neuomancer and Blade Runner in the mid-80s (with a soft start in 1980 along with Gibson's career). Counterbalancing that is an interest in tracing cyberpunk past 1999 and to the present day. So basically a history of Cyberpunk from 1984-2017. 

Which brings us to the topic for comments - cyberpunk. Favorite works, unpopular opinions, random thoughts, et cetera.

See you all Monday.

Comments

Froborr 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Thank you kindly for the signal boost and backing, Phil!

Now to lurk in the rest of this thread, because over the next year or two my knowledge of cyberpunk needs to go from "vague knowledge of what it is, has seen/read some of the classics" to "can speak authoritatively about its influence on Batman Beyond." ;)

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homunculette 8 months, 2 weeks ago

One piece of cyberpunk I'll always happily beat the drum for is π by Darren Arronofsky. I like it because it takes the typical anti-corporate slant of cyberpunk and melds it with Kabbalah and mysticism in a way I find really neat.

I also think it's even more timely than it has been in a while, and actually probably specifically relevant to your interests, Phil, because it is so clearly one of the two or three biggest source texts for Mr. Robot, alongside Fight Club and a Clockwork Orange. The whole setup of the show - loner hacker who constantly narrates to the audience wanders around a desolate New York, with a particular focus on the subways - really comes straight from π.

It's also tied in to Cyberpunk's past by its strong connection to Tetsuo: the Iron Man.

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Evan Forman 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I can only really think of three explicitly cyberpunk works that I've seen / played / listened to off the top of my head. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which I thought was garbage; Blade Runner, which I thought was okay, and Meltdown.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiaWsgtJrNI

Which I *love*.

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arcbeatle 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Out of curiosity did you play the original version or the Directors cut of Deux Ex: Human Revolution?

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Evan Forman 8 months, 2 weeks ago

The original. The story and setting were interesting, despite the sloppy and heavy-handed themeing, but I thought the gameplay was just awful.

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arcbeatle 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm really excited about Cyberpunk: The Project!

I got into Cyberpunk through Decipher's WARS, which I've been obsessed with since I was a kid. Lots of fun, especially all the adventures in the RPG going into other people's heads and bodies and such. Neato times.

WARS also started my first attempt to do anything like Phil's projects (since usually I just do fiction) which well, I won't link it unless someone asks :P. I never finished it.

But still, I'm stoked!!!!

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arcbeatle 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Great now I'm just thinking about "WARS as Cyberpunk" a topic which I have lots to say about with very little public concern for XD.

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arcbeatle 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Oh, and of course, there is also the video game "Omicron: The Nomad Soul" and its spin off album "Hours" by David Bowie, which is a delightfully weird little side note in the history of Cyberpunk.

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Jacob 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I briefly got into Cyberpunk when I was 14 or 15 years old (this was in the mid 90s). For me (and my small group of friends), the genre was all about the various RPGS and video games that were out at the time. Shadowrun and GURPS Cyberpunk are the two that stick out in my memory. IIRC, we also played Shadowrun on the Genesis on SNES. Gibson's novels (of course) and Bowie's Outside were/are also favorites.

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Sean 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Unpopular opinion: 90% of what gets called cyberpunk is, at best, cybermallpunk, and at worst soulless corporate rock. Neal Stephenson is the Huey Lewis of the movement.

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arcbeatle 8 months, 2 weeks ago

IMHO the corporate takeover of Cyberpunk, which deals so much with overbearing corporate entites in the future, is in itself So Cyberpunk (TM), abet in a dark way.

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Devin 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Isn't that the joke, though?

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Sean Dillon 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I mean, the obvious one given this site would be Dirty Pair. Probably Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020 would be interesting, if only to look at cyberpunk as an aesthetic pushed away from traditional narrative. Transmetropolitain and at least two issues of Global Frequency are also obvious. System Shock 2, with a footnote about Bioshock. Ready Player One could also work, but I could see the argument against it. The Scanner Darkly movie, if that doesn't count as proto despite postdating it.

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Josh Marsfelder 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm not entirely sure Dirty Pair is, because I'm not actually sure what constitutes "cyberpunk" beyond "what western people thought the aesthetic of Japanese science fiction was fused with boring Raymond Chandler fluff". I mean it's superficially similar and I said as much when I wrote about it, but cyberpunk strikes me as a distinctly western phenomenon.

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Tymothi Loving 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I quite enjoyed Wilhelmina Baird's CrashCourse series back in the day.

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Anthony D Herrera 8 months, 2 weeks ago

My associations with cyberpunk are all the early 90's garbage that I used to watch particularly the strain of horror movie that was trying to make cyber Freddy Krueger's like in Lawnmower Man or Plughead from the Circuitry Man movies or The Trickster from the truly awful Brainscan.

Then of course there's Billy Idol's Shock To The System music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx2fZU5USus

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bombasticus 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Wild Palms
Wild Palms
Wild Palms

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Joe S. Walker 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Worst TV show of whatever year it came out. Proved that
Oliver Stone's forte was for ponderous social significance and naturalistic storytelling.

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bombasticus 8 months, 2 weeks ago

. . . but have you seen it LATELY?

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Kit 8 months, 2 weeks ago

But have you read the original comic?!!?!

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bombasticus 8 months, 2 weeks ago

+1
Then there's that wild artifact, the Reader from AMOK Press of all imprints.

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Austin Loomis 8 months, 2 weeks ago

How much attention are Shadowrun and other cyberpunk TRPGs going to get?

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arcbeatle 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Hopefully much: at least for me Tabletop RPGs like Shadowrun and WARS were my biggest exposure to Cyberpunk growing up.

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Phil Sandifer 8 months, 2 weeks ago

They're definitely on the list of stuff to cover. It's basically impossible to make any commitments on weight outside of the obvious tentpoles like Neuromancer, Snow Crash, Strange Days, and The Matrix while I'm still in the research phase.

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Eric Gimlin 8 months, 2 weeks ago

At least for me, I would have thought Shadowrun was just as obvious a tentpole as the others you list. That could just be the people I knew, though.

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Phil Sandifer 8 months, 2 weeks ago

The main issue is how much else it does or doesn't connect to. Shadowrun is obviously a cornerstone of the gaming thread, but how big that thread ends up being is a major question mark.

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Josh Marsfelder 8 months, 2 weeks ago

If The Matrix is quintessentially cyberpunk, it is so because it rips off Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell....which isn't cyberpunk. In fact, I've seen it called "post-cyberpunk".

Hence why I'm confused as to what cyberpunk actually *is*, and why I'm not sure it can be anything other then a fundamentally reactionary western movement.

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Sean 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Oh, and the anime Psycho Pass is worth checking out (the first season at least). It's very much in the style of Blade Runner/Ghost in the Shell, but it's mainly a takedown of the film Minority Report for having a cop-out ending that doesn't answer the central question -- if precrime actually worked as advertised, would it be moral.

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Daibhid C 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm never sure what's cyberpunk and what isn't, but I reckon I'm probably pretty safe in naming the only Gibson book I remember reading, which was Idoru. I liked it, although I'm not sure I completely understood it.

I read some Shadowrun novels, but I didn't think they were that great, and the ones I found okay seemed to be more "Urban fantasy, only near future" rather than "Cyberpunk, only with magic and elves".

Never played the game though. If we're talking RPGs, my main touchstone would be Toonpunk 2020½, I'm afraid. Everything I know about 2020 and GURPS Cyberworld I learned in order to get the jokes in Toonpunk. Sorry.

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Daibhid C 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Missed a close italics, oops.

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Daibhid C 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Oh, and Blue Box by Kate Orman, which struck me as a fun attempt to write a cyberpunk novel set in the actual 1980s, and then add the Doctor.

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Tom B 8 months, 1 week ago

Andrew Cartmel's first New Adventure, Cat's Cradle: Warhead, also was trying to put cyberpunk into Doctor Who.

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Aylwin 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Does Paranoia count? That was quite fun.

Sorry, not really a cyberpunk person.

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Jacob 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Oooh! I forgot about that game. I'd definitely count it as Cyberpunk-esque. I'd love to read Phil's thoughts on that one.

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darkspine10 8 months, 2 weeks ago

What about the Cultural Marxism series on Iain M Banks?

I was enjoying the posts, infrequent as they were, and you still have a number to talk about.

Also, any plans to talk about the other short Culture story in the State of The Art, A Gift from the Culture? It was short, but interesting.

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Phil Sandifer 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Excession will be going up Monday.

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Matt 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Phil - I wish you well on your many projects.

Cyberpunk. I read a couple of the key books as a teenager (Neuromancer) in the 80s and some more later in the 90s (Mirrorshades, Snow Crash).

Some comments:
- I suspect the rise of the internet in the late 90s lead to a backwards reading of these books as "prophetic" in a way that they might not have been interpreted at the time of their release - so I'd be interested in what the contemporary view of these books was.
- There were a whole bunch of authors that were big 20 years ago that have been forgotten. Pat Cadigan was mentioned a lot (never read her stuff). And I was a big fan of Jeff Noon in the mid-90s. Simon Ings' Hot Head was a memorable read when I tracked it down 10 years after publication after a recommendation by Steve Aylett in an interview. I had a brief, intense fascination with Steve Aylett's work that died off quickly when I realised how limited his range was.
- Is there a particular reason that you don't want to cover the precursors? Do you simply feel that this domain has been over-researched?
- I'm curious about the impact of the 2000 tech stock crash and 9/11 on reception to and future paths of Cyberpunk. The tech stock crash brought a temporary end to utopian discourses about the internet (which returned with the rise of Google then Facebook a few years later) - did this have any impact of Cyberpunk at all?
- What's the current place of Cyberpunk with both mainstream culture and the SF community? My impression that in both cases it is seen a 90s thing (with maybe a few years either side). Is that the case?

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Daibhid C 8 months, 2 weeks ago

"- I suspect the rise of the internet in the late 90s lead to a backwards reading of these books as "prophetic" in a way that they might not have been interpreted at the time of their release - so I'd be interested in what the contemporary view of these books was."

I could be way off-base here, but I'd rather suspect the reverse; a future of hypertalented netrunners who could travel through the cyberspace that baffled normals made perfect sense when reality was that the proto-internet was entirely the domain of geeky college kids and the military. Especially if you were a geeky college kid who wanted to see yourself as a hypertalented netrunner.

The current world, where almost everyone is online almost all the time, isn't one cyberpunk predicted at all.

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Matt 8 months, 1 week ago

"The current world, where almost everyone is online almost all the time, isn't one cyberpunk predicted at all."

Yes and no. In the most popular cyberspace stories, there are lots of "baffled normals" are in this world.

Neuromancer: "Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts"

I remember the late 90s being full of references to cyberpunk in people describing the internet (often cluelessly).

Altho I'd agree that the "cyberspace" we got was very different to the one described in the books from the 80s. Yes, we got a World Wide Web - but it was primarily textual and 2D. Very simple interfaces. The richest interfaces were saved for entertainment - i.e. gaming. VR is only just starting to get to the stage where it can provide anything like a cyber"space" that you can navigate.

Reflecting further, cyberpunk is dystopian genre - with its feudal capitalism and decaying infrastructure. It is ironic that it hit the mass market in the 90s - which was a ridiculously optimistic decade. Perhaps it felt thrillingly escapist then in a way that it no longer does now.

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Desdemona.GC 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Looking forward to the Cuberpunk work. Hoping that the original Robocop might make an appearance.

But the big question I have.... How long until we see the release of the rest of the TARDIS Eruditorum volumes? I'm almost finished my second reading of Vol 6 and need to move on to the really good stuff.

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Lambda 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Serial Experiments Lain is my favourite single story in the history of everything, ever, so since it gets called cyberpunk by people, (I'm not entirely sure what the word actually means, but classifications aren't very interesting to me,) I guess it would be my favourite piece of cyberpunk.

I like spreading the knowledge that it has a (virtually gameplay-less) PSX game version, which is supposed to be just as important as the anime is in being the thing called "Serial Experiments Lain", and the game even sort of has a translation. (Everything is translated, but it's not actually programmed in. Usable, but inconvenient.) So I just did that.

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Jane 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I should watch this again...

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Kiki Basco 8 months, 2 weeks ago

The main thing I'm looking forward to about your take on seminal pieces of cyberpunk is that you being you, you'll inevitably have a part where you tear Blade Runner for being a shitty racist-ass piece of shit.

And like, I don't mean the lazy "it sucks that most of the cast is white" criticism that's so en vogue nowadays, I mean this is literally a film where the hero goes about assassinating runaway slaves, all of whom are played by white people in funny makeup. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I call it sci-fi's The Birth of a Nation.

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Eric Gimlin 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Been thinking about this one a bit, as that's not a take on the film I've heard before. I'm still a little hesitant to say something, because I don't want to be the fan reflexively defending something that's actually a problem. With that said...

If you think Deckard is the hero you're not paying attention, and the fact that he isn't is a large part of what makes the movie interesting in the first place.

Very curious what others think.

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Kiki Basco 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm using hero to mean protagonist, not as an endorsement of his actions. Because yes, the film is ultimately critical of his actions and tries to position Batty as a more-or-less likable character with an arc and everything.

But it does a really shit job at that, because the film calibrates Batty's rage against his mortality rather than his slavery. This is clearest when he meets Tyrell and Tyrell is treated like a father figure instead of, you know, a slaver. And that final scene, where he does a total 180 and uses his dying breath to save Deckard's life and deliver an inspiring monologue about accepting his mortality is kind of icky when you remember that Deckard is literally a paid assassin.

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Kiki Basco 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Oh, and for cyberpunk that I personally wanna see you cover, while the cyberpunk aspects are probably the least interesting part of it I've always wanted to see someone cover Dollhouse on Eruditorum Press.

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Daniel Harper 8 months, 2 weeks ago

There's been some conversation around here about covering Dollhouse as a podcast thread at some point, although it'll probably have to wait until after the Firefly thread finishes up.

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hitmonkey 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Put me down as another who'd be interested in a Dollhouse podcast.

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Gilly Der Ratte 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I guess my main frame of reference regarding cyberpunk is the Ghost In The Shell franchise, specifically the series Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, though that's probably because it was what I was into as a teenager.

Some random thoughts:

- the setting in all versions of Ghost In The Shell is heavily influenced by the Japanese political situation post WW2: specifically that they were economically strong whilst at the same time being dependent on the US for military protection.

- in spite of the above, the franchise as a whole is actually more popular in the west than in Japan. I think this is probably due to tendencies towards technology fetishism in western nerd circles: between the general aesthetic and the really detailed designs for the various mechs/tanks/helicopters this would probably appeal. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the franchise actually had a large influence on these circles.

- though I've only read the first volume, I don't think the original manga is particularly great. To me, it sort of reads like a collage of stuff the artist/writer, Masamune Shirow, has already done before. The manga series he was working in before, Appleseed, was actually a lot more interesting, especially since it reads like an optimistic mirror held up to the Ghost in the Shell franchise. It's also about a special police unit and features a similar aesthetic and designs, except it is set in a utopia that has been created through genetic engineering. The series had four volumes, plus two volumes featuring Masamune Shirow's notes and artwork. The series was discontinued after he lost his notes for further volumes in an earthquake, which resulted in him creating Ghost in the Shell.

- the Mamoru Oshii films are probably the most influential parts of the franchise outside of anime circles, probably due to being part of the line of films (including Akira) and tv series that introduced anime to the west. Having watched both, I can tell you that they feature some of the most coldly beautiful animation of their time. That said, within anime circles they also have a mixed reputation: the first movie is considered a classic, but is also thought of as pretentious and having more philosophical speeches than the dark knight trilogy. The second film is thought of as everything from a masterpiece to pretentious rubbish. Personally I think of it as having very good components, but the whole is less than its components.

- the anime series, Stand Alone Complex, is considered the high water mark of the franchise within anime circles, containing the best parts of what came before (I'm inclined to agree, but that might be part nostalgia talking and part the sociology referenced in the series). It is easily the most optimistic of the various versions of Ghost in the Shell, to the point that tvtropes.org considers it post-cyberpunk instead of cyberpunk. It also creates the definitive version of Major Kusanagi for many Ghost in the Shell fans. This is interesting because in spite of being hyper competent in ways that would normally have fan boys complaining about "Mary Sues"... there are miraculously no complaints. And I'm pretty sure it's not because of anime fandom being misogyny free, the number of anime fans backing Trump speaks for itself. Weird.

- The most recent series, Ghost in the Shell: Arise, has again had a mixed reception, for reasons varying from dropping the philosophical themes from previous Ghost in the Shell stuff, to, well, not being Stand Alone Complex. It has a complicated history, originally being released as a series of 4 films before being reformatted as a TV series. 4 episodes in, and whilst I am enjoying it, I can't help but wonder if some of the backlash might be from interpreting Major Kusanagi's character differently. She's noticeably less hyper competent and a lot younger here, and whilst Stand Alone Complex Major Kusanagi was so distant that she gave me the impression of having transcended humanity on some level in Arise she is a lot more human.

- If I have a complaint about Arise, it's actually because it is stuck in the shadow of the rest of the franchise. It almost feels like a nostalgia run for fans of the franchise rather than something with an identity of its own as the previous entries were.

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Wood 8 months, 2 weeks ago

First, please look outside of English language sources. European comics, for example, which have a much farther reach in their native public mindsets than anything in the English language, are rich in it. The work of Moebius and Bilal especially. Moebius' strip The Long Tomorrow was a collaboration with Dan O'Bannon and gave the first visual steps towards Blade Runner.

And the Japanese sources too. But you knew that.

Walter Jon Williams' book Hardwired is important. Not because of it being exceptionally good, or original, but because it's author had a direct influence on the development on the original Cyberpunk rpg, that of course solidified the cyberpunk clichés we all know and love.

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Devin 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Hardwired is popcorn, but the semi-sequel, Voice of the Whirlwind, is very, very strong. It's definitely a bit post-, though: closer to Altered Carbon than Neuromancer.

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Wood 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Also, Judge Dredd. Early Judge Dredd.

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Devin 8 months, 2 weeks ago

If you're doing Ghost in the Shell, Oshii's live-action film Avalon is really worth a watch.

Richard K. Morgan has done a fair bit in a cyberpunkish vein: not just the obvious SF/noir Altered Carbon, but if you took your corporate-dystopia setting but then replaced the hacking with your big brother's copy of Car Wars, you pretty much get Market Forces.

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twicezero 8 months, 1 week ago

I'd be interested in a Cyberpunk series of posts. I can see how a book focused series could prove tough - as the NAs did, but that's what I'd be most interested in.

Wired (the magazine) published a series of ignored/out of print cyberpunk books in the 90s (including Rucker's white light) but I can't find reference to it online.

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Tom B 8 months, 1 week ago

Some cyberpunk works (aside from the obvious Gibson, Williams, etc) I recall enjoying were the When Gravity Fails series by George Alec Effinger, and the work of K.W. Jeter (Dr. Adder, Farewell Horizontal)

For games, Shadowrun was definitely one of the earliest, but was really more a blend of cyberpunk and D&D at the time. In the 90s I played Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. a lot. It might get more attention in a couple of years when Projekt Red puts out the computer game Cyberpunk 2077, based on that tabletop game.

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twicezero 8 months, 1 week ago

When Gravity Fails rocked my socks when I was younger, I don't know what I'd make of it now.

Pat Cadigan I'd probably enjoy even more.

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Andy H. 8 months, 1 week ago

I think this project would definitely benefit from Raphael Carter's The Fortunate Fall. It's not talked about that often, but it seems to be one of those books that is disproportionately loved by other science fiction authors. (Jo Walton has written in a few places that she thinks it's the only thing that redeems the existence of cyberpunk as a subgenre.)

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