a short storyby Bruce Bethke
In the early spring of 1980 I wrote a little story about a bunch of teenage hackers. From the very first draft this story had a name, and lo, the name was--
And you can bet any body part you'd care to name that, had I had even the slightest least inkling of a clue that I would still be answering questions about this word nearly 18 years later, I would have bloody well trademarked the damned thing!
Nonetheless, I didn't, and as you're probably aware, the c-word has gone on to have a fascinating career all its own. At this late date I am not trying to claim unwarranted credit or tarnish anyone else's glory. (Frankly, I'd much rather people were paying attention to what I'm writing now --e.g., my Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel, Headcrash, Orbit Books, �5.99 in paperback.) But for those folks who are obsessed with history, here, in tightly encapsulated form, is the story behind the story.
The invention of the c-word was a conscious and deliberate act of creation on my part. I wrote the story in the early spring of 1980, and from the very first draft, it was titled "Cyberpunk." In calling it that, I was actively trying to invent a new term that grokked the juxtaposition of punk attitudes and high technology. My reasons for doing so were purely selfish and market-driven: I wanted to give my story a snappy, one-word title that editors would remember.
Offhand, I'd say I succeeded.
How did I actually create the word? The way any new word comes into being, I guess: through synthesis. I took a handful of roots --cyber, techno, et al-- mixed them up with a bunch of terms for socially misdirected youth, and tried out the various combinations until one just plain sounded right.
IMPORTANT POINT! I never claimed to have invented cyberpunk fiction! That honor belongs primarily to William Gibson, whose 1984 novel, Neuromancer, was the real defining work of "The Movement." (At the time, Mike Swanwick argued that the movement writers should properly be termed neuromantics, since so much of what they were doing was clearly Imitation Neuromancer.)
Then again, Gibson shouldn't get sole credit either. Pat Cadigan ("Pretty Boy Crossover"), Rudy Rucker (Software), W.T. Quick (Dreams of Flesh and Sand), Greg Bear (Blood Music), Walter Jon Williams (Hardwired), Michael Swanwick (Vacuum Flowers)...the list of early '80s writers who made important contributions towards defining the trope defies my ability to remember their names. Nor was it an immaculate conception: John Brunner (Shockwave Rider), Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange), and perhaps even Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination) all were important antecedents of the thing that became known as cyberpunk fiction.
Me? I've been told that my main contribution was inventing the stereotype of the punk hacker with a mohawk. That, and I named the beast, of course.
[Note: If you want to find out more about the etymology of cyberpunk -- and quite a few other things, too -- take a look at Bruce's web page. Alternatively, why not just scroll down and read the story itself?]
The snoozer went off at seven and I was out of my sleepsack, powered up, and on-line in nanos. That's as far as I got. Soon's I booted and got--
--on the tube I shut down fast. Damn! Rayno had been on line before me, like always, and that message meant somebody else had gotten into our Net-- and that meant trouble by the busload! I couldn't do anything more on term, so I zipped into my jumper, combed my hair, and went downstairs.
Mom and Dad were at breakfast when I slid into the kitchen. "Good Morning, Mikey!" said Mom with a smile. "You were up so late last night I thought I wouldn't see you before you caught your bus."
"Had a tough program to crack," I said.
"Well," she said, "now you can sit down and have a decent breakfast." She turned around to pull some Sara Lees out of the microwave and plunk them down on the table.
"If you'd do your schoolwork when you're supposed to you wouldn't have to stay up all night," growled Dad from behind his caffix and faxsheet. I sloshed some juice in a glass and poured it down, stuffed a Sara Lee into my mouth, and stood to go.
"What?" asked Mom. "That's all the breakfast you're going to have?"
"Haven't got time," I said. "I gotta get to school early to see if the program checks." Dad growled something more and Mom spoke to quiet him, but I didn't hear much 'cause I was out the door.
I caught the transys for school, just in case they were watching. Two blocks down the line I got off and transferred going back the other way, and a coupla transfers later I wound up whipping into Buddy's All-Night Burgers. Rayno was in our booth, glaring into his caffix. It was 7:55 and I'd beat Georgie and Lisa there.
"What's on line?" I asked as I dropped into my seat, across from Rayno. He just looked up at me through his eyebrows and I knew better than to ask again.
At eight Lisa came in. Lisa is Rayno's girl, or at least she hopes she is. I can see why: Rayno's seventeen--two years older than the rest of us--he wears flash plastic and his hair in The Wedge (Dad blew a chip when I said I wanted my hair cut like that) and he's so cool he won't even touch her, even when she's begging for it. She plunked down in her seat next to Rayno and he didn't blink.
Georgie still wasn't there at 8:05. Rayno checked his watch again, then finally looked up from his caffix. "The compiler's been cracked," he said. Lisa and I both swore. We'd worked up our own little code to keep our Net private. I mean, our Olders would just blow boards if they ever found out what we were really up to. And now somebody'd broken our code.
"Georgie's old man?" I asked.
"Looks that way." I swore again. Georgie and I started the Net by linking our smartterms with some stuff we stored in his old man's home business system. Now my Dad wouldn't know an opsys if he crashed on one, but Georgie's old man--he's a greentooth. A tech-type. He'd found one of ours once before and tried to take it apart to see what it did. We'd just skinned out that time.
"Any idea how far in he got?" Lisa asked. Rayno looked through her, at the front door. Georgie'd just come in.
"We're gonna find out," Rayno said.
Georgie was coming in smiling, but when he saw that look in Rayno's eyes he sat down next to me like the seat was booby-trapped.
"Good morning Georgie," said Rayno, smiling like a shark.
"I didn't glitch!" Georgie whined. "I didn't tell him a thing!"
"Then how the Hell did he do it?"
"You know how he is, he's weird! He likes puzzles!" Georgie looked to me for backup. "That's how come I was late. He was trying to weasel me, but I didn't tell him a thing! I think he only got it partway open. He didn't ask about the Net!"
Rayno actually sat back, pointed at us all, and smiled. "You kids just don't know how lucky you are. I was in the Net last night and flagged somebody who didn't know the secures was poking Georgie's compiler. I made some changes. By the time your old man figures them out, well..."
I sighed relief. See what I mean about being cool? Rayno had us outlooped all the time!
Rayno slammed his fist down on the table. "But Dammit Georgie, you gotta keep a closer watch on him!"
Then Rayno smiled and bought us all drinks and pie all the way around. Lisa had a cherry Coke, and Georgie and I had caffix just like Rayno. God, that stuff tastes awful! The cups were cleared away, and Rayno unzipped his jumper and reached inside.
"Now kids," he said quietly, "it's time for some serious fun." He whipped out his microterm. "School's off!"
I still drop a bit when I see that microterm--Geez, it's a beauty! It's a Zeilemann Nova 300, but we've spent so much time reworking it, it's practically custom from the motherboard up. Hi-baud, rammed, rammed, ported, with the wafer display folds down to about the size of a vid casette; I'd give an ear to have one like it. We'd used Georgie's old man's chipburner to tuck some special tricks in ROM and there wasn't a system in CityNet it couldn't talk to.
Rayno ordered up a smartcab and we piled out of Buddy's. No more riding the transys for us, we were going in style! We charged the smartcab off to some law company and cruised all over Eastside.
Riding the boulevards got stale after awhile, so we rerouted to the library. We do a lot of our fun at the library, 'cause nobody ever bothers us there. Nobody ever goes there. We sent the smartcab, still on the law company account, off to Westside. Getting past the guards and the librarians was just a matter of flashing some ID and then we zipped off into the stacks.
Now, you've got to ID away your life to get on the libsys terms--which isn't worth half a scare when your ID is all fudged like ours is--and they watch real careful. But they move their terms around a lot, so they've got ports on line all over the building. We found an unused port, and me and Georgie kept watch while Rayno plugged in his microterm and got on line.
"Get me into the Net," he said, handing me the term. We don't have a stored opsys yet for Netting, so Rayno gives me the fast and tricky jobs.
Through the dataphones I got us out of the libsys and into CityNet. Now, Olders will never understand. They still think a computer has got to be a brain in a single box. I can get the same results with opsys stored in a hundred places, once I tie them together. Nearly every computer has got a dataphone port, CityNet is a great linking system, and Rayno's microterm has the smarts to do the job clean and fast so nobody flags on us. I pulled the compiler out of Georgie's old man's computer and got into our Net. Then I handed the term back to Rayno.
"Well, let's do some fun. Any requests?" Georgie wanted something to get even with his old man, and I had a new routine cooking, but Lisa's eyes lit up 'cause Rayno handed the term to her, first.
"I wanna burn Lewis," she said.
"Oh fritz!" Georgie complained. "You did that last week!"
"Well, he gave me another F on a theme."
"I never get F's. If you'd read books once in a--"
"Georgie," Rayno said softly, "Lisa's on line." That settled that. Lisa's eyes were absolutely glowing.
Lisa got back into CityNet and charged a couple hundred overdue books to Lewis's libsys account. Then she ordered a complete fax sheet of Encyclopedia Britannica printed out at his office. I got next turn.
Georgie and Lisa kept watch while I accessed. Rayno was looking over my shoulder. "Something new this week?"
"Airline reservations. I was with my Dad two weeks ago when he set up a business trip, and I flagged on maybe getting some fun. I scanned the ticket clerk real careful and picked up the access code."
"Okay, show me what you can do."
Accessing was so easy that I just wiped a couple of reservations first, to see if there were any bells and whistles.
None. No checks, no lockwords, no confirm codes. I erased a couple dozen people without crashing down or locking up. "Geez," I said, "There's no deep secures at all!"
"I been telling you. Olders are even dumber than they look. Georgie? Lisa? C'mon over here and see what we're running!"
Georgie was real curious and asked a lot of questions, but Lisa just looked bored and snapped her gum and tried to stand closer to Rayno. Then Rayno said, "Time to get off Sesame Street. Purge a flight."
I did. It was simple as a save. I punched a few keys, entered, and an entire plane disappeared from all the reservation files. Boy, they'd be surprised when they showed up at the airport. I started purging down the line, but Rayno interrupted.
"Maybe there's no bells and whistles, but wipe out a whole block of flights and it'll stand out. Watch this." He took the term from me and cooked up a routine in RAM to do a global and wipe out every flight that departed at an :07 for the next year. "Now that's how you do these things without waving a flag."
"That's sharp," Georgie chipped in, to me. "Mike, you're a genius! Where do you get these ideas?" Rayno got a real funny look in his eyes.
"My turn," Rayno said, exiting the airline system.
"What's next in the stack?" Lisa asked him.
"Yeah, I mean, after garbaging the airlines . . ." Georgie didn't realize he was supposed to shut up.
"Georgie! Mike!" Rayno hissed. "Keep watch!" Soft, he added, "It's time for The Big One."
"You sure?" I asked. "Rayno, I don't think we're ready."
Georgie got whiney. "We're gonna get in big trouble--"
"Wimp," spat Rayno. Georgie shut up.
We'd been working on The Big One for over two months, but I still didn't feel real solid about it. It almost made a clean if/then/else; if The Big One worked/then we'd be rich/else . . . it was the else I didn't have down.
Georgie and me scanned while Rayno got down to business. He got back into CityNet, called the cracker opsys out of OurNet, and poked it into Merchant's Bank & Trust. I'd gotten into them the hard way, but never messed with their accounts; just did it to see if I could do it. My data'd been sitting in their system for about three weeks now and nobody'd noticed. Rayno thought it would be really funny to use one bank computer to crack the secures on other bank computers.
While he was peeking and poking I heard walking nearby and took a closer look. It was just some old waster looking for a quiet place to sleep. Rayno was finished linking by the time I got back. "Okay kids," he said, "this is it." He looked around to make sure we were all watching him, then held up the term and stabbed the RETURN key. That was it. I stared hard at the display, waiting to see what else was gonna be. Rayno figured it'd take about ninety seconds.
The Big One, y'see, was Rayno's idea. He'd heard about some kids in Sherman Oaks who almost got away with a five million dollar electronic fund transfer; they hadn't hit a hangup moving the five mil around until they tried to dump it into a personal savings account with a $40 balance. That's when all the flags went up.
Rayno's cool; Rayno's smart. We weren't going to be greedy, we were just going to EFT fifty K. And it wasn't going to look real strange, 'cause it got strained through some legitimate accounts before we used it to open twenty dummies.
If it worked.
The display blanked, flickered, and showed:
I started to shout, but remembered I was in a library. Georgie looked less terrified. Lisa looked like she was going to attack Rayno.
Rayno just cracked his little half smile, and started exiting. "Funtime's over, kids."
"I didn't get a turn," Georgie mumbled.
Rayno was out of all the nets and powering down. He turned, slow, and looked at Georgie through those eyebrows of his. "You are still on The List."
Georgie swallowed it 'cause there was nothing else he could do. Rayno folded up the microterm and tucked it back inside his jumper.
We got a smartcab outside the library and went off to someplace Lisa picked for lunch. Georgie got this idea about garbaging up the smartcab's brain so that the next customer would have a real state fair ride, but Rayno wouldn't let him do it. Rayno didn't talk to him during lunch, either.
After lunch I talked them into heading up to Martin's Micros. That's one of my favorite places to hang out. Martin's the only Older I know who can really work a computer without blowing out his headchips, and he never talks down to me, and he never tells me to keep my hands off anything. In fact, Martin's been real happy to see all of us, ever since Rayno bought that $3000 vidgraphics art animation package for Lisa's birthday.
Martin was sitting at his term when we came in. "Oh, hi Mike! Rayno! Lisa! Georgie!" We all nodded. "Nice to see you again. What can I do for you today?"
"Just looking," Rayno said.
"Well, that's free." Martin turned back to his term and punched a few more IN keys. "Damn!" he said to the term.
"What's the problem?" Lisa asked.
"The problem is me," Martin said. "I got this software package I'm supposed to be writing, but it keeps bombing out and I don't know what's wrong."
Rayno asked, "What's it supposed to do?"
"Oh, it's a real estate system. Y'know, the whole future-values-in-current-dollars bit. Depreciation, inflation, amortization, tax credits--"
"Put that in our tang," Rayno said. "What numbers crunch?"
Martin started to explain, and Rayno said to me, "This looks like your kind of work." Martin hauled his three hundred pounds of fat out of the chair, and looked relieved as I dropped down in front of the term. I scanned the parameters, looked over Martin's program, and processed a bit. Martin'd only made a few mistakes. Anybody could have. I dumped Martin's program and started loading the right one in off the top of my head.
"Will you look at that?" Martin said.
I didn't answer 'cause I was thinking in assembly. In ten minutes I had it in, compiled, and running test sets. It worked perfect, of course.
"I just can't believe you kids," Martin said. "You can program easier than I can talk."
"Nothing to it," I said.
"Maybe not for you. I knew a kid grew up speaking Arabic, used to say the same thing." He shook his head, tugged his beard, looked me in the face, and smiled. "Anyhow, thanks loads, Mike. I don't know how to . . ." He snapped his fingers. "Say, I just got something in the other day, I bet you'd be really interested in." He took me over to the display case, pulled it out, and set it on the counter. "The latest word in microterms. The Zeilemann Starfire 600."
I dropped a bit! Then I ballsed up enough to touch it. I flipped up the wafer display, ran my fingers over the touch pads, and I just wanted it so bad! "It's smart," Martin said. "Rammed, rammed, and ported."
Rayno was looking at the specs with that cold look in his eye. "My 300 is still faster," he said.
"It should be," Martin said. "You customized it half to death. But the 600 is nearly as fast, and it's stock, and it lists for $1400. I figure you must have spent nearly 3K upgrading yours."
"Can I try it out?" I asked. Martin plugged me into his system, and I booted and got on line. It worked great! Quiet, accurate; so maybe it wasn't as fast as Rayno's--I couldn't tell the difference. "Rayno, this thing is the max!" I looked at Martin. "Can we work out some kind of. . . ?" Martin looked back to his terminal, where the real estate program was still running tests without a glitch.
"I been thinking about that, Mike. You're a minor, so I can't legally employ you." He tugged on his beard and rolled his tongue around his mouth. "But I'm hitting that real estate client for some pretty heavy bread on consulting fees, and it doesn't seem real fair to me that you . . . Tell you what. Maybe I can't hire you, but I sure can buy software you write. You be my consultant on, oh . . . seven more projects like this, and we'll call it a deal? Sound okay to you?"
Before I could shout yes, Rayno pushed in between me and Martin. "I'll buy it. List." He pulled out a charge card from his jumper pocket. Martin's jaw dropped. "Well, what're you waiting for? My plastic's good."
"List? But I owe Mike one," Martin protested.
"List. You don't owe us nothing."
Martin swallowed. "Okay Rayno." He took the card and ran a credcheck on it. "It's clean," Martin said, surprised. He punched up the sale and started laughing. "I don't know where you kids get this kind of money!"
"We rob banks," Rayno said. Martin laughed, and Rayno laughed, and we all laughed. Rayno picked up the term and walked out of the store. As soon as we got outside he handed it to me.
"Thanks Rayno, but . . . but I coulda made the deal myself."
"Happy Birthday, Mike."
"Rayno, my birthday is in August."
"Let's get one thing straight. You work for me."
It was near school endtime, so we routed back to Buddy's. On the way, in the smartcab, Georgie took my Starfire, gently opened the case, and scanned the boards. "We could double the baud speed real easy."
"Leave it stock," Rayno said.
We split up at Buddy's, and I took the transys home. I was lucky, 'cause Mom and Dad weren't home and I could zip right upstairs and hide the Starfire in my closet. I wish I had cool parents like Rayno does. They never ask him any dumb questions.
Mom came home at her usual time, and asked how school was. I didn't have to say much, 'cause just then the stove said dinner was ready and she started setting the table. Dad came in five minutes later and we started eating.
We got the phone call halfway through dinner. I was the one who jumped up and answered it. It was Georgie's old man, and he wanted to talk to my Dad. I gave him the phone and tried to overhear, but he took it in the next room and talked real quiet. I got unhungry. I never liked tofu, anyway.
Dad didn't stay quiet for long. "He what?! Well thank you for telling me! I'm going to get to the bottom of this right now!" He hung up.
"Who was that, David?" Mom asked.
"That was Mr. Hansen. Georgie's father. Mike and Georgie were hanging around with that punk Rayno again!" He snapped around to look at me. I'd almost made it out the kitchen door. "Michael! Were you in school today?"
I tried to talk cool. I think the tofu had my throat all clogged up. "Yeah...yeah, I was."
"Then how come Mr. Hansen saw you coming out of the downtown library?"
I was stuck. "I--I was down there doing some special research."
"For what class? C'mon Michael, what were you studying?"
It was too many inputs. I was locking up.
"David," Mom said, "Aren't you being a bit hasty? I'm sure there's a good explanation."
"Martha, Mr. Hansen found something in his computer that Georgie and Michael put there. He thinks they've been messing with banks."
"Our Mikey? It must be some kind of bad joke."
"You don't know how serious this is! Michael Arthur Harris! What have you been doing sitting up all night with that terminal? What was that system in Hansen's computer? Answer me! What have you been doing?!"
My eyes felt hot. "None of your business! Keep your nose out of things you'll never understand, you obsolete old relic!"
"That does it! I don't know what's wrong with you damn kids, but I know that thing isn't helping!" He stormed up to my room. I tried to get ahead of him all the way up the steps and just got my hands stepped on. Mom came fluttering up behind as he yanked all the plugs on my terminal.
"Now David," Mom said. "Don't you think you're being a bit harsh? He needs that for his homework, don't you, Mikey?"
"You can't make excuses for him this time, Martha! I mean it! This goes in the basement, and tomorrow I'm calling the cable company and getting his line ripped out! If he has anything to do on computer he can damn well use the terminal in the den, where I can watch him!" He stomped out, carrying my smartterm. I slammed the door and locked it. "Go ahead and sulk! It won't do you any good!"
I threw some pillows around 'til I didn't feel like breaking anything anymore, then I hauled the Starfire out of the closet. I'd watched over Dad's shoulders enough to know his account numbers and access codes, so I got on line and got down to business. I was finished in half an hour.
I tied into Dad's terminal. He was using it, like I figured he would be, scanning school records. Fine. He wouldn't find out anything; we'd figured out how to fix school records months ago. I crashed in and gave him a new message on his vid display.
"Dad," it said, "there's going to be some changes around here."
It took a few seconds to sink in. I got up and made sure the door was locked real solid. I still got half a scare when he came pounding up the stairs, though. I didn't know he could be so loud.
"MICHAEL!!" He slammed into the door. "Open this! Now!"
"If you don't open this door before I count to ten, I'm going to bust it down! One!"
"Before you do that--"
"Better call your bank!"
"B320-5127-OlR." That was his checking account access code. He silenced a couple seconds.
"Young man, I don't know what you think you're trying to pull--"
"I'm not trying anything. I did it already."
Mom came up the stairs and said, "What's going on, David?"
"Shut up, Martha!" He was talking real quiet, now. "What did you do, Michael?"
"Outlooped you. Disappeared you. Buried you."
"You mean, you got into the bank computer and erased my checking account?"
"Savings and mortgage on the condo, too."
"Oh my God . . ."
Mom said, "He's just angry, David. Give him time to cool off. Mikey, you wouldn't really do that, would you?"
"Then I accessed DynaRand," I said. "Wiped your job. Your pension. I got into your plastic, too."
"He couldn't have, David. Could he?"
"Michael!" He hit the door. "I'm going to wring your scrawny neck!"
"Wait!" I shouted back. "I copied all your files before I purged! There's a way to recover!"
He let up hammering on the door, and struggled to talk calm. "Give me the copies right now and I'll just forget that this happened."
"I can't. I mean, I did backups in other computers. And I secured the files and hid them where only I know how to access."
There was quiet. No, in a nano I realised it wasn't quiet, it was Mom and Dad talking real soft. I eared up to the door but all I caught was Mom saying 'why not?' and Dad saying, 'but what if he is telling the truth?'
"Okay Michael," Dad said at last. "What do you want?"
I locked up. It was an embarrasser; what did I want? I hadn't thought that far ahead. Me, caught without a program! I dropped half a laugh, then tried to think. I mean, there was nothing they could get me I couldn't get myself, or with Rayno's help. Rayno! I wanted to get in touch with him, is what I wanted. I'd pulled this whole thing off without Rayno!
I decided then it'd probably be better if my Olders didn't know about the Starfire, so I told Dad first thing I wanted was my smartterm back. It took a long time for him to clump down to the basement and get it. He stopped at his term in the den, first, to scan if I'd really purged him. He was real subdued when he brought my smartterm back up.
I kept processing, but by the time he got back I still hadn't come up with anything more than I wanted them to leave me alone and stop telling me what to do. I got the smartterm into my room without being pulped, locked the door, got on line, and gave Dad his job back. Then I tried to flag Rayno and Georgie, but couldn't, so I left messages for when they booted. I stayed up half the night playing a war, just to make sure Dad didn't try anything.
I booted and scanned first thing the next morning, but Rayno and Georgie still hadn't come on. So I went down and had an utter silent breakfast and sent Mom and Dad off to work. I offed school and spent the whole day finishing the war and working on some tricks and treats programs. We had another utter silent meal when Mom and Dad came home, and after supper I flagged Rayno had been in the Net and left a remark on when to find him.
I finally got him on line around eight, and he said Georgie was getting trashed and probably heading for permanent downtime.
Then I told Rayno all about how I outlooped my old man, but he didn't seem real buzzed about it. He said he had something cooking and couldn't meet me at Buddy's that night to talk about it, either. So we got off line, and I started another war and then went to sleep.
The snoozer said 5:25 when I woke up, and I couldn't logic how come I was awake 'til I started making sense out of my ears. Dad was taking apart the hinges on my door!
"Dad! You cut that out or I'll purge you clean! There won't be backups this time!"
"Try it," he growled.
I jumped out of my sleepsack, powered up, booted and--no boot. I tried again. I could get on line in my smartterm, but I couldn't port out. "I cut your cable down in the basement," he said.
I grabbed the Starfire out of my closet and zipped it inside my jumper, but before I could do the window, the door and Dad both fell in. Mom came in right behind, popped open my dresser, and started stuffing socks and underwear in a suitcase.
"Now you're fritzed!" I told Dad. "I'll never give you back your files!" He grabbed my arm.
"Michael, there's something I think you should see." He dragged me down to his den and pulled some bundles of old paper trash out of his desk. "These are receipts. This is what obsolete old relics like me use because we don't trust computer bookkeeping. I checked with work and the bank; everything that goes on in the computer has to be verified with paper. You can't change anything for more than 24 hours."
"Twenty-four hours? " I laughed. "Then you're still fritzed! I can still wipe you out any day, from any term in CityNet'"
Mom came into the den, carrying the suitcase and kleenexing her eyes. "Mikey, you've got to understand that we love you, and this is for your own good." They dragged me down to the airport and stuffed me in a private lear with a bunch of old gestapos.
I've had a few weeks now to get used to the Von Schlager Military Academy. They tell me I'm a bright kid and with good behavior, there's really no reason at all why I shouldn't graduate in five years. I am getting tired, though, of all the older cadets telling me how soft I've got it now that they've installed indoor plumbing.
Of course, I'm free to walk out any time I want. It's only three hundred miles to Fort McKenzie, where the road ends.
Sometimes at night, after lights out, I'll pull out my Starfire and run my fingers over the touchpads. That's all I can do, since they turn off power in the barracks at night. I'll lie there in the dark, thinking about Lisa, and Georgie, and Buddy's All-Night Burgers, and all the fun we used to pull off. But mostly I'll think about Rayno, and what great plans he cooks up.
I can't wait to see how he gets me out of this one.
After I sold the original story in '82, I continued to work on the story cycle, publishing bits and pieces here and there throughout the 1980's. In '89 I pulled the major chunks together into the rough form of a novel, and to my surprise and delight I sold it, to a publisher who later regained his sanity and decided not to release it.
It took me five years to recover the rights to this book. By the time I finally did, everyone in the publishing industry assured me there was no point in pursuing it further, as the market had spoken with Godlike finality: Cyberpunk was dead. There was, I was told, no possibility that another cyberpunk novel would be commercially successful, and there would never be a successful cyberpunk movie.
The novel, Cyberpunk, is now available as shareware through my web and ftp sites at:
� Bruce Bethke 1980, 1997
"Cyberpunk" was first published in Amazing Science Fiction Stories, Volume 57, Number 4, November 1983.
Elsewhere in infinity plus:
Elsewhere on the web:
(last edited January 8, 2011)
CyberpunkCyberpunk is a science fiction genre noted for its focus on "high tech and low life." The name is derived from cybernetics and punk and was originally coined by Bruce Bethke as the title of his short story "Cyberpunk," published in 1983, although the style was popularized well before its publication by editor Gardner Dozois. It features advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.
DefinitionAccording to Lawrence Person,
SettingCyberpunk writers tend to use elements from the hard-boiled detective novel, film noir, and postmodernist prose to describe the often nihilistic underground side of an electronic society. The genre's vision of a troubled future is often called the antithesis of the generally utopian visions of the future popular in the 1940s and 1950s. (Gibson defined cyberpunk's antipathy towards utopian SF in his 1981 short story "The Gernsback Continuum," which pokes fun at and, to a certain extent, condemns utopian SF.) In some cyberpunk writing, much of the action takes place online, in cyberspace, blurring the border between actual and virtual reality. A typical trope in such work is a direct connection between the human brain and computer systems. Cyberpunk depicts the world as a dark, sinister place with networked computers dominating every aspect of life. Giant, multinational corporations have for the most part replaced governments as centers of political, economic, and even military power. The alienated outsider's battle against a totalitarian or quasi-totalitarian system is a common theme in science fiction and cyberpunk in particular, though in conventional science fiction the totalitarian systems tend to be sterile, ordered, and state controlled. Cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling summarized the cyberpunk ethos in Cyberpunk in the Nineties as follows: Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a human being. And we can do most anything to rats. This is a hard thing to think about, but it's the truth. It won't go away because we cover our eyes. This is cyberpunk. La filosofia è il proprio tempo appreso col pensiero. (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel)
ProtagonistsProtagonists in cyberpunk writing usually include computer hackers, who are often patterned on the idea of the lone hero fighting injustice: Robin Hood, Zorro, etc. They are often disenfranchised people placed in extraordinary situations, rather than brilliant scientists or starship captains intentionally seeking advance or adventure, and are not always true "heroes." An apt comparison might be to the moral ambiguity of Clint Eastwood's character in the Man with No Name trilogy. One of the cyberpunk genre's prototype characters is Case, from Gibson's Neuromancer. Case is a "console cowboy," a brilliant hacker who betrays his organized criminal partners. Robbed of his talent through a crippling injury inflicted by the vengeful partners, Case unexpectedly receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be healed by expert medical care but only if he participates in another criminal enterprise with a new crew. Like Case, many cyberpunk protagonists are manipulated, placed in situations where they have little or no choice, and although they might see things through, they do not necessarily come out any further ahead than they previously were. These anti-heroes"criminals, outcasts, visionaries, dissenters and misfits" do not experience a Campbellian "hero's journey," like the protagonist of a Homeric epic or an Alexandre Dumas, père novel. Instead, they call to mind the private eye of detective novels, who might solve the trickiest cases but never receives a just reward. This emphasis on the misfits and the malcontents (what Thomas Pynchon called the "preterite") is the "punk" component of cyberpunk.
Society and governmentCyberpunk literature is often used as a metaphor for the present-day worries about the failings of corporations, corruption in governments, alienation, and surveillance technology. Cyberpunk can be intended to disquiet readers and call them to action. It often expresses a sense of rebellion, suggesting that one could describe it as a type of culture revolution in science fiction. In the words of author and critic David Brin:
OverviewThe science-fiction editor Gardner Dozois is generally acknowledged as the person who popularized the use of the term "cyberpunk" as a kind of literature, although Minnesota writer Bruce Bethke coined the term in 1980 for his short story "Cyberpunk," which was published in the November 1983 issue of Amazing Science Fiction Stories. The term was quickly appropriated as a label to be applied to the works of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Lisa Alloju, John Shirley, Rudy Rucker, Michael Swanwick, Pat Cadigan, Lewis Shiner, Richard Kadrey, and others. Of these, Sterling became the movement's chief ideologue, thanks to his fanzine Cheap Truth. John Shirley wrote articles on Sterling and Rucker's significance. William Gibson with his novel Neuromancer (1984) is likely the most famous writer connected with the term cyberpunk. He emphasized style, a fascination with surfaces, the "look and feel" of the future, and atmosphere over traditional science-fiction tropes. Regarded as ground breaking and sometimes as "the archetypal cyberpunk work," Neuromancer was awarded the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards. After Gibson's popular debut novel, Count Zero (1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) followed. According to the Jargon File, "Gibson's near-total ignorance of computers and the present-day hacker culture enabled him to speculate about the role of computers and hackers in the future in ways hackers have since found both irritatingly naïve and tremendously stimulating." Early on, cyberpunk was hailed as a radical departure from science-fiction standards and a new manifestation of vitality. Shortly thereafter, however, many critics arose to challenge its status as a revolutionary movement. These critics said that the SF "New Wave" of the 1960s was much more innovative as far as narrative techniques and styles were concerned. Furthermore, while Neuromancer's narrator may have had an unusual "voice" for science fiction, much older examples can be found: Gibson's narrative voice, for example, resembles that of an updated Raymond Chandler, as in his novel The Big Sleep (1939). Others noted that almost all traits claimed to be uniquely cyberpunk could in fact be found in older writers' worksoften citing J. G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Stanislaw Lem, Samuel R. Delany, and even William S. Burroughs. For example, Philip K. Dick's works contain recurring themes of social decay, artificial intelligence, paranoia, and blurred lines between reality and some kind of virtual reality, and the influential cyberpunk movie Blade Runner is based on one of his books. Humans linked to machines are found in Pohl and Kornbluth's Wolfbane (1959) and Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness (1968). In 1994, scholar Brian Stonehill suggested that Thomas Pynchon's 1973 novel Gravity's Rainbow "not only curses but precurses what we now glibly dub cyberspace." Other important predecessors include Alfred Bester's two most celebrated novels, The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination, as well as Vernor Vinge's novella True Names. Science-fiction writer David Brin describes cyberpunk as "the finest free promotion campaign ever waged on behalf of science fiction." It may not have attracted the "real punks," but it did ensnare many new readers, and it provided the sort of movement that postmodern literary critics found alluring. (One illustration of this is Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto", an attempt to build a "political myth" using cyborgs as metaphors for contemporary "social reality.") Cyberpunk made science fiction more attractive to academics, argues Brin; in addition, it made science fiction more profitable to Hollywood and to the visual arts generally. Although the "self-important rhetoric and whines of persecution" on the part of cyberpunk fans were irritating at worst and humorous at best, Brin declares that the "rebels did shake things up. We owe them a debt." Cyberpunk further inspired many professional writers who were not among the "original" cyberpunks to incorporate cyberpunk ideas into their own works, such as Walter Jon Williams' Hardwired and Voice of the Whirlwind, and George Alec Effinger's When Gravity Fails. These types of writings do not only form into the work of a book, but cyberpunk knowledge is also leaking into the pages of magazines. Wired magazine, created by Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, mixes new technology, art, literature, and todays important topics. It is meant to strike the interest of todays cyberpunks and has been flying off the newsstands, "Which proves that hardcore hackers, multimedia junkies, cyberpunks and cellular freaks are poised to take over the world." As new writers and artists began to experiment with cyberpunk ideas, new varieties of fiction emerged, sometimes addressing the criticisms leveled at the original cyberpunk stories. Lawrence Person wrote in an essay he posted to the Internet forum Slashdot:
Subgenres and connected genresAs a wider variety of writers began to work with cyberpunk concepts, new sub-genres of science fiction emerged, playing off the cyberpunk label, and focusing on technology and its social effects in different ways. A prominent subgenre is steampunk (cyberpunk themes in the early industrial age), which is set in an alternative history Victorian era that combines anachronistic techonology with cyberpunk's bleak film noir world view. The term was originally coined around 1987 as a joke to describe some of the novels of Tim Powers, James P. Blaylock, and K.W. Jeter, but by the time Gibson and Sterling entered the subgenre with their collaborative novel The Difference Engine the term was being used earnestly as well. Another subgenre is biopunk (cyberpunk themes dominated by biotechnology) from the early 1990s, a derivative style building on biotechnology rather than informational technology. In these stories, people are changed in some way not by mechanical means, but by genetic manipulation. Paul Di Filippo is seen as the most prominent biopunk writer, including his half-serious ribofunk. Bruce Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist? cycle is also seen as a major influence of pacquiao vs margarito. In addition, some people consider works such as Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age to be postcyberpunk.
Film and TelevisionThe film Blade Runner (1982), adapted from Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is set in 2019 in a dystopian future in which manufactured beings called replicants are slaves used on space colonies and are legal prey on Earth to various bounty hunters who "retire" (kill) them. Although Blade Runner was largely unsuccessful in its first theatrical release, it found a viewership in the home video market and became a cult film. Since the movie omits the religious and mythical elements of Dick's original novel (e.g. empathy boxes and Wilbur Mercer), it falls more strictly within the cyberpunk genre than the novel does. William Gibson would later reveal that upon first viewing the film, he was surprised at how the look of this film matched his vision when he was working on Neuromancer. The film's tone has since been the staple of many cyberpunk movies, such as The Matrix. The short-lived television series Max Headroom also spread cyberpunk tropes, perhaps with more popular success than the genre's first written works. During the 1989/1990 television season, the setting of the science-fiction show War of the Worlds was retooled into a post-apocalyptic, dystopian, cyberpunk setting. It is believed this change was made in order to accurately depict the aftermath of the 1953 invasion of Earth. The number of films in the genre or at least using a few genre elements has grown steadily since Blade Runner. Several of Philip K. Dick's works have been adapted to the silver screen, with cyberpunk elements typically becoming dominant. Examples include Screamers (1996), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), and A Scanner Darkly (2006). Unfortunately for cyberpunk's arguable originator, the films Johnny Mnemonic (1995) and New Rose Hotel (1998) were both flops, commercially and critically. Director Darren Aronofsky set his debut feature π (1998) in present-day New York City, but built its script with influences from cyberpunk aesthetic. According to the DVD commentary, he and his production team deliberately used antiquated machines (like 5-1/4 inch floppy disks), echoing the technological style of Brazil (1985), to create a cyberpunk "feel." Aronofsky describes Chinatown, where the film is set, as "New York's last cyberpunk neighborhood." The RoboCop? series has a more near-futuristic setting where at least one corporation, Omni Consumer Products, is an all-powerful presence in the city of Detroit. Until the End of the World (1991) shows another example where cyberpunk provides an assumed background, and a plot device, to an otherwise mood and character-driven story. Gattaca, (1997) directed by Andrew Niccol, is a futuristic film noir whose mood-drenched dystopia provides a good example of biopunk. The Japanese anime cyberpunk film Akira (1988) has a futuristic setting in a crime-ridden Tokyo. The Matrix series, which began with 1999's The Matrix (and now also contains The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, and The Animatrix) uses a wide variety of cyberpunk elements. 1999 also saw the release of "The 13th Floor" and Chris Carter's short lived series "Harsh Realm"both of which utilized the notion of cyber-realities. Also worth mentioning is 1995's Strange Days. Set on New Year's Eve 1999, it features many key elements of the cyberpunk genre, both technological and social.
Anime and MangaCyberpunk has been used widely in anime and manga. In Japan, where cosplay is popular and not only teenagers display such fashion styles, cyberpunk has been accepted and its influence is widespread. William Gibsons Neuromancer, whose influence dominated the early cyberpunk movement, was also set in Chiba, one of Japans largest industrial areas, although at the time of writing the novel Gibson did not know the location of Chiba and had no idea how perfectly it fit his vision in some ways. The exposure to cyberpunk ideas and fiction in the time mid 1980s has allowed it to seep into the Japanese culture. Even though most anime and manga is written in Japan, the cyberpunk anime and manga have a more futuristic and therefore international feel to them so they are widely accepted by all. The conceptualization involved in cyberpunk is more of forging ahead, looking at the new global culture. It is a culture that does not exist right now, so the Japanese concept of a cyberpunk future, seems just as valid as a Western one, especially as Western cyberpunk often incorporates many Japanese elements. William Gibson is now a frequent visitor to Japan, and he came to see that many of his visions of Japan have become a reality:
MusicThe term cyberpunk music can refer to two overlapping categories. First, it may denote the varied musical works that cyberpunk films use as soundtrack material. These works range from classical music and jazz used, in Blade Runner and elsewhere, to evoke a film noir ambience to Noise music, electronica, electronic body music, industrial, futurepop, goth rock, neurofunk, goa trance, techstep, and IDM. Arriving toward the tail end of both the initial cyberpunk boom and his own career, pop singer Billy Idol released the album Cyberpunk, which included the song "Neuromancer." The album contained a floppy disc which compactly combines full lyrics, a biography, wild graphics, snippets of sound from the CD and a bibliography for compuphiles to learn more about computer subculture. The album was neither a critical nor commercial success. More commercially oriented, British band Sigue Sigue Sputnik appeared on the scene in 1985, sporting popular dystopian and post-apocalyptic Cyberpunk themes and motifs both in their visual appearance as well as their style of distinctly electronic music, courtesy of their producer, Synth legend Giorgio Moroder. The sleeve artwork to their debut album, Flaunt it, further references Cyberpunk culture. After switching to producers Stock Aitken Waterman for the following album, however, their popularity and commercial success began to wane. A current band that claims to emit the kind of sound William Gibson must have heard in his head in the 1980s when he invented the cyberpunk novel, is Aerodrone, a dancepunk band from Eugene, Oregon. The bands use of synths, heavy beats, guitar riffs could all fit right in with the pre-Windows world of hard-core hacking in "Neuromancer."
RoleplayingSeveral role-playing games (RPGs) called Cyberpunk exist: Cyberpunk (aka Cyberpunk 2013), Cyberpunk 2020 and Cyberpunk v3 (aka Cyberpunk 203X), by R. Talsorian Games, and GURPS Cyberpunk, published by Steve Jackson Games as a module of the GURPS family of RPGs. Cyberpunk 2020 was designed with the settings of William Gibson's writings in mind, and to some extent with his approval, unlike the approach taken by FASA in producing the transgenre Shadowrun game (see below). Both are set in the near future, in a world where cybernetics are prominent. In addition, Iron Crown Enterprises released an RPG named Cyberspace, which was out of print for several years until recently being re-released in online PDF form. In 1990, in an odd convergence of cyberpunk art and reality, the U.S. Secret Service raided Steve Jackson Games's headquarters and confiscated all their computers. This was allegedly because the GURPS Cyberpunk sourcebook could be used to perpetrate computer crime. That was, in fact, not the main reason for the raid, but after the event it was too late to correct the public's impression. Steve Jackson Games later won a lawsuit against the Secret Service, aided by the freshly minted Electronic Frontier Foundation. This event has achieved a sort of notoriety, which has extended to the book itself as well. All published editions of GURPS Cyberpunk have a tagline on the front cover, which reads "The book that was seized by the U.S. Secret Service!" Inside, the book provides a summary of the raid and its aftermath. 2004 brought the publication of a number of new cyberpunk RPGs, chief poker online among which was Ex Machina, a more cinematic game including four complete settings and a focus on updating the gaming side of the genre to current themes among cyberpunk fiction. These tropes include a stronger political angle, conveying the alienation of the genre and even incorporating some transhuman themes. Another game of note is OGL Cybernet, published under the Open Gaming License for the D20 system. 2006 saw the long-awaited publication of R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk v3, the followup to Cyberpunk 2020, although many see the new edition as more Transhumanist or Postcyberpunk than truly Cyberpunk. 2006 also saw James Norbury's Corporation published, taking an unusual viewpoint in that rather than having players take on the traditional cyberpunk role of the lone anarchist fighting an oppressive social order they instead take the role of agents for one of the five great megacorporations of the world. Taking inspiration from videogames such as Syndicate and Deus Ex, Corporation includes themes of transhumanism, particularly cybernetic and biopunk elements - casino online agents are universally exceptional individuals whose capabilities are pushed far beyond the human by cybernetic and genetic enhancements. Role-playing has also produced one of the more original takes on the genre in the form of the 1989 game Shadowrun. Here, the setting is still that of the dystopian near future; however, it also incorporates heavy elements of fantasy, such as magic, spirits, elves, and dragons. healthcare management degree. The cyberpunk aspects of Shadowrun were modeled in large part on William Gibson's writings, and the game's original publishers, FASA, have been accused of plagiarizing Gibson's work without even a statement of his influence, while Gibson has stated his dislike of the inclusion of fantasy elements. Nevertheless, Shadowrun has introduced many to the genre, and still remains popular among gamers. The trans-genre RPG Torg (published by West End Games) also included a variant cyberpunk setting (or "cosm") called the Cyberpapacy. This setting was originally a medieval religious dystopia which underwent a sudden Tech Surge. Instead of corporations or corrupt governments, the Cyberpapacy was dominated by the "False Papacy of Avignon". jobs health care management degree. Instead of an Internet, hackers roamed the "GodNet?", a computer network rife with overtly religious symbolism, home to angels, demons, and other biblical figures. Another "cosm" setting that was part of the Torg gameworld was Nippon Tech, which incorporated other aspects of cyberpunk, such as dominant corporations with professional assassins. It did not, however, deal with computer networks as a major part of the setting.
Computer gamesComputer games have frequently used cyberpunk as a source of inspiration. Some of them, like Blade Runner and The Matrix games, are based upon genre movies, while many others like Deus Ex, Iconoclast, System Shock, Fear Effect, Syndicate, Snatcher, and Policenauts are original works. home care orlando and dentist reviews Cyberpunk has also been used in computer adventure games, most notably the now freeware Beneath a Steel Sky (published by Revolution Software), Neuromancer (published by Interplay in 1988), Rise of the Dragon (published by Dynamix now Vivendi Universal in 1992), the Tex Murphy games published by Access Software, The Longest Journey (one half was the cyberpunk Stark, while the other one was the magical-styled Arcadia), Uplink (published by Introversion), Bloodnet (published by Microprose 1993), Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller (Gametek 1994) and Tokyo War (published by Weapon Studios in 2002). The popular Half-Life 2 modification Dystopia exclusively relies on cyber punk themes. The action adventure game Neuromancer is based directly on the novel's brief resume main theme including Chiba City, some of the characters, hacking of databases and cyberspace decks. Flashback: The Quest for Identity and Team17's Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy are also cyberpunk games. The city-builder game SimCity? Societies offers also the possibility to create cyberpunk cities.
Tabletop gamesCyberpunk has also inspired several tabletop,Marketing Companies miniature and board games. Most notably, the now defunct company - FASA - which produced Shadowrun. Games Workshops game Necromunda which is a branch of their Warhammer 40k line of games, is also worth noting. However there are several other examples, such as Dark Future and Etherscope, while Warmachine is a miniature game that incorporates some elements of steampunk. The game Battletech also incorporated industrial cyberpunk themes and elements. These games allow artists to not only work out new story lines for their cyberpunk universes but also to give their audiences a chance to design and designate groups of cyberpunk warriors. Netrunner is a collectible card game introduced in 1996, based on the Cyberpunk 2020 role-playing game; it launched with a popular online alternate reality game called Webrunner, which let players hack into an evil futuristic corporation's mainframe. Iconoclast is a Pen and Paper RPG based on a MUD of the same name. The MUD though still active, only has a few players. thesis writing service | drafting chair | carpet cleaning| carpet cleaning naperville| dissertation writing | sell my diamond | Alexander Vs Bradley | chicken coop plans | dating filipina | buy essays | social media seattle | social media marketing strategies | classification essay | cheap payday loans online | madera plumber | kitchen compost bin | berber carpet | vince delmonte | teach yourself french