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GLITCH: Early Cyberpunk Fiction

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The first selection in the Glitch Cyberpunk Yarn & Book Club is Philip K. Dick's 1968 work, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

You may know it better as Blade Runner from the two film adaptations. But there's so much more to this tale - more on that in next month's post.

While Androids is often considered one of the starting points for cyberpunk science fiction, here's a little dive into some other early titles (in case you devoured your read of Androids as fast as I did!)

Before cyberpunk, we notice the roots of the genre in titles including:

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (1950) for early morality questions about robot and human interaction

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (1956) envisions a dark future full of cybernetic modifications, and a society ruled by megacorporations 

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison (1967) a Cold War mastercomputer gains awareness and seeks revenge on its creators

Nova by Samuel Delaney (1968) a space opera with hints of mythology, tarot cards as decision engines, economic instability - and notably a focus on cyborg technologies.

The Girl Who Was Plugged In (1974) by James Tiptree, Jr. (pen name of Alice Bradley Shelton) A dystopian world where satellite links between brains allow one person to remotely operate another person. Tiptree also sneaks in criticism of the perception of bodies, abilities, and gender.

And then...William Gibson really took the genre and ran:

Burning Chrome (short stories, 1986) and Neuromancer (1984) are two great places to start. Both share the quintessential themes of low-life hackers, AI, and corporate-ruled dystopias.  Gibson is credited with naming the concept of "cyberspace" in Burning Chrome and built an entire world on that foundation in Neuromancer. The Matrix film draws heavily on Neuromancer, so go check it out!

The Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow (1989-1990), a Japanese manga following a counter-cyberterrorist fighting ghost hackers in mid-21st century Japan. Adapted for film twice, the story also influenced The Matrix and many other films that explore the interaction of humans and technology.

Mindplayers (1987) by Pat Cadigan: "Madcap" neural devices allow minds to connect with each other via shared hallucinations - for fun. But what happens when one glitches? (also check out Synners by Pat Cadigan)

Our next book & yarn club selection for March & April is Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. Published during the height of popularity of the genre as sort of a parody, it's a really fun read, cues the term "metaverse" and pokes good fun at some of the stereotypes of the genre.

 

 

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