Archive for the ‘ Yesterday ’ Category

Interview with William Gibson on NPR

NPR recently had an interview with William Gibson. Although they mentioned his new book, Zero History, they didn’t talk much about it. Instead, it’s a great conversation about science fiction in general.

You can listen to a recording at:

(Thanks to my good friend Christine for pointing it out!)

Read on for some of my thoughts about the interview.

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Users the world over engage in a virtual, multi-user environment in which they, playing the protagonist, must work their way up an increasingly violent learning curve. They share their experiences, of the struggle and of the enemies which seek to destroy them. It is a finite experience, and their journey does have an end; once this endgame arrives, they will start the process afresh.

If you’ll forgive my cheesy comparison, this is not merely a summary of the World of Warcraft-style MMO grind; it is Mercerism, the semi-religious practise carried out in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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Cyberpunk movie blurbs

Sorry for the lack of posting recently. Real life has caught up to some of the writers and I was off to a conference across the country.

Anyway, here are some brief thoughts about three cyberpunk type movies: Blade Runner, Inception, and Ghost in the Shell.

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Cyberpunk geopolitics

I want to delve a bit into politics. I’d really appreciate having a mature conversation here even though political issues, especially in the U.S., tend to stir up a lot of strong feelings. But, this is a topic that I think is interesting to discuss. I will also warn that this is from a very U.S.-centric point of view, but I welcome discussions from other points of view in the comments below.

The the bad old days of the 1980s, there was a palpable feeling of economic dread covering the U.S. The 1970s saw an energy crisis and a recession hurting the U.S. economy (sounds familiar….) The country experienced “stagflation”, state of inflation where the economy remains stagnant. This lead to lot of speculation about how countries with stronger economies might take a position of dominance on the world stage, replacing the U.S.’s traditional role.

One common focus was the rapid increase in Japan’s economic power, which is reflected in a lot of cyberpunk stories. Let’s take a look at the geopolitical situation envisioned by cyberpunk writers and perhaps look at how that is reflected in current times.

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Man’s Best Friends

While Innocence deals us a ‘man-machine’ conundrum by comparing humans with dolls, its prequel, Masaki Yamada’s After the Long Goodbye, looks instead to dogs. Animals are often overlooked in the cyberpunk dystopia, but some stories have dealt with them in a metaphor, either as a link back to nature or a reminder of how artificial the world has become. Pets in particular offer a wealthy topic for discussion, as their bonds to mankind lend us further thought on reality and the notion of souls.

By the time a technological dystopia has arrived, it seems common for cyberpunk animals to have been cloned or remade with robotics. Man makes animal, man makes robot; they’re both examples of our creation, and yet animals are not bound by manufacture in man’s own image. Does this make them less of a threat? More of an asset? How does this affect a cyberpunk character’s relationship with artificial life?

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The “punk” in Cyberpunk

Being computer geeks, many of us tend to focus a lot on the “cyber” part of cyberpunk. Yet, there is that “punk” part, arguably the root of the word. What does it really mean in the context of the genre?

Punk was originally a genre of music that came about in 1970s. It was a progression of previous rock-n-roll music that came before, but it was also a challenge. Punk rockers felt the music of the 70s had become tame and boring and the label “rock-n-roll” had been appropriated by record executives to apply to a wide range of acts. Some fans were worried that the music was losing it’s authenticity, so the punk rockers came on the scene to take back the sound. They rebelled against staid musicians and a boring society to introduce a sound that was so loud and powerful it couldn’t easily be ignored. As with all good rebellions, the young people got interested and followed with enthusiasm.

This is the “punk” that helped form “cyberpunk” of the 1980s. Let’s take a closer look at other aspects that influenced the genre, even today.

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Indie Game: Decker

As many of you know, I’m a game developer. One of the occupational hazards of a game developer is that you play a lot of games. My heart is in indie development, so I play a lot of indie games.

It just so happens that one game happens to fit nicely within the theme of this site: Decker by Shawn Overcash.

Read on for a bit of discussion about the game.
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Reader “Dblade” sent in this post, a review of the anime Serial Experiments: Lain. Enjoy!

What does dying feel like?

It really hurts! :)

A junior-high school student commits suicide by throwing herself off of a building. The next day, her class gets emails from the student. They claim she isn‘t dead, but has merely abandoned her body. One of the students is a quiet girl called Lain Iwakura, who we quickly find out is much more than she seems. Why are there two Lains: one existing only on the internet-like Wired? Can you really find God there? Who are the Knights, and what prophecy are they trying to fulfill? As Lain explores the Wired, through her ever changing PC Navi, it becomes increasingly apparent that the barriers between our human world, and the world of the Wired are dissolving.

Serial Experiments: Lain is the creation of Yoshitoshi ABe, known for experimental anime like Haibane Renmei, NieA under 7, and Technolyze. Lain, the work that initially made him famous, was a 13 episode TV animated series. It’s dark and surreal, and a sharp contrast to the spectacular military style of cyberpunk you see in Ghost in the Shell.
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Innocence is Mamoru Oshii’s Golden Palm-nominated entry in the Ghost in the Shell series, which built upon Masamune Shirow’s original manga and Oshii’s classic film. Released to Western audiences as Ghost in the Shell 2, the film follows cyborg cop Batou soon after the disappearance of his former partner, Motoko Kusanagi. When she vanished into the Net, “the Major” left a void in Public Security Section 9 and in Batou’s life.

Innocence is possibly my favourite film of all time, and it just happens to be a cyberpunk opus. It covers so many themes relating to identity and the perils of a digital universe; it questions the ownership of human souls and untangles some deep-rooted issues in its characters. There’s a strong ‘neo-Asian’ aesthetic throughout, with forays into clockwork doll houses and Blade Runner-esque street scenes as well. Its plot, soundtrack and visuals all melt into an escapist’s paradise – an hour and a half of thought-provoking and immersive beauty.

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Cyberpunk classic: Strange Days

Cyberpunk exists in a lot of media, but it’s perhaps best represented in the medium of film. Even though cyberpunk is about computers and technology, there’s something about the visual appeal of movies that makes it a natural fit for cyberpunk themed stories.

In 1995, one of my favorite cyberpunk films was released in the theater: Strange Days. A friend of mine who ran our Shadowrun sessions had heard about the movie and wanted to see it on opening night. I remember the show because the theater added a bit extra to the movie by dropping balloons during the New Year’s celebration scene.

Let’s take a look at some of the interesting cyberpunk elements in the movie. Obviously, this is going to contain spoiler material, so consider yourself warned.

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