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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

57 Comments

  1. Froborr
    October 15, 2016 @ 3:17 pm

    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.” 😉

    Reply

  2. homunculette
    October 15, 2016 @ 3:29 pm

    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.

    Reply

  3. Evan Forman
    October 15, 2016 @ 3:30 pm

    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.

    Reply

    • arcbeatle
      October 15, 2016 @ 7:46 pm

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

      Reply

      • Evan Forman
        October 16, 2016 @ 1:24 pm

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

        Reply

  4. arcbeatle
    October 15, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

    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!!!!

    Reply

    • arcbeatle
      October 15, 2016 @ 7:38 pm

      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.

      Reply

  5. arcbeatle
    October 15, 2016 @ 3:52 pm

    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.

    Reply

  6. Jacob
    October 15, 2016 @ 3:57 pm

    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.

    Reply

  7. Sean
    October 15, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

    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.

    Reply

    • arcbeatle
      October 15, 2016 @ 7:52 pm

      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.

      Reply

    • Devin
      October 17, 2016 @ 5:53 am

      Isn’t that the joke, though?

      Reply

  8. Sean Dillon
    October 15, 2016 @ 4:12 pm

    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.

    Reply

    • Josh Marsfelder
      October 17, 2016 @ 3:22 am

      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.

      Reply

  9. Tymothi Loving
    October 15, 2016 @ 5:20 pm

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

    Reply

  10. Anthony D Herrera
    October 15, 2016 @ 6:12 pm

    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

    Reply

  11. bombasticus
    October 15, 2016 @ 6:47 pm

    Wild Palms
    Wild Palms
    Wild Palms

    Reply

    • Joe S. Walker
      October 15, 2016 @ 7:39 pm

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

      Reply

      • bombasticus
        October 15, 2016 @ 9:12 pm

        . . . but have you seen it LATELY?

        Reply

      • Kit
        October 16, 2016 @ 1:38 am

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

        Reply

        • bombasticus
          October 16, 2016 @ 4:29 am

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

          Reply

  12. Austin Loomis
    October 15, 2016 @ 6:49 pm

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

    Reply

    • arcbeatle
      October 15, 2016 @ 7:44 pm

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

      Reply

    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      October 15, 2016 @ 9:59 pm

      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.

      Reply

      • Eric Gimlin
        October 15, 2016 @ 10:27 pm

        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.

        Reply

        • Elizabeth Sandifer
          October 15, 2016 @ 10:29 pm

          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.

          Reply

          • Josh Marsfelder
            October 17, 2016 @ 3:26 am

            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.

  13. Sean
    October 15, 2016 @ 7:33 pm

    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.

    Reply

  14. Daibhid C
    October 15, 2016 @ 7:48 pm

    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.

    Reply

    • Daibhid C
      October 15, 2016 @ 7:49 pm

      Missed a close italics, oops.

      Reply

    • Daibhid C
      October 15, 2016 @ 8:03 pm

      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.

      Reply

      • Tom B
        October 17, 2016 @ 2:19 pm

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

        Reply

  15. Aylwin
    October 15, 2016 @ 8:24 pm

    Does Paranoia count? That was quite fun.

    Sorry, not really a cyberpunk person.

    Reply

    • Jacob
      October 15, 2016 @ 9:10 pm

      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.

      Reply

  16. darkspine10
    October 15, 2016 @ 8:58 pm

    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.

    Reply

  17. Matt
    October 15, 2016 @ 10:56 pm

    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?

    Reply

    • Daibhid C
      October 16, 2016 @ 1:47 pm

      “- 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.

      Reply

      • Matt
        October 17, 2016 @ 7:46 am

        “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.

        Reply

  18. Desdemona.GC
    October 15, 2016 @ 11:35 pm

    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.

    Reply

  19. Lambda
    October 15, 2016 @ 11:47 pm

    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.

    Reply

    • Jane
      October 17, 2016 @ 3:56 am

      I should watch this again…

      Reply

  20. Kiki Basco
    October 16, 2016 @ 2:31 am

    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.

    Reply

    • Eric Gimlin
      October 16, 2016 @ 4:56 pm

      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.

      Reply

      • Kiki Basco
        October 16, 2016 @ 7:18 pm

        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.

        Reply

  21. Kiki Basco
    October 16, 2016 @ 2:32 am

    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.

    Reply

    • Daniel Harper
      October 16, 2016 @ 5:28 pm

      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.

      Reply

      • hitmonkey
        October 17, 2016 @ 5:04 am

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

        Reply

  22. Gilly Der Ratte
    October 16, 2016 @ 9:49 am

    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.

    Reply

  23. Wood
    October 16, 2016 @ 12:42 pm

    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.

    Reply

    • Devin
      October 17, 2016 @ 5:57 am

      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.

      Reply

  24. Wood
    October 16, 2016 @ 12:43 pm

    Also, Judge Dredd. Early Judge Dredd.

    Reply

  25. Devin
    October 17, 2016 @ 6:03 am

    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.

    Reply

  26. twicezero
    October 17, 2016 @ 1:14 pm

    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.

    Reply

  27. Tom B
    October 17, 2016 @ 2:29 pm

    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.

    Reply

    • twicezero
      October 19, 2016 @ 1:25 pm

      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.

      Reply

  28. Andy H.
    October 19, 2016 @ 4:05 pm

    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.)

    Reply

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