April is Cyberpunk Month!

A couple years ago, I declared that April would be the month that we celebrate the science fiction sub-genre known as cyberpunk. It started out as just an excuse to wile away my least favorite month with my favorite kind of fiction. Now, it's something I look forward to every year, as both an opportunity to re-enjoy my favorites but also catch-up on old classics I may not have gotten around to yet.

First Encounter

My first encounter with cyberpunk came fairly early, I remember an attempted viewing of Blade Runner at my library when I was in middle school (I say attempted, because I only made it 25 minutes into the film before I gave up) and of course Akira was standard viewing for any science fiction fan in the 90's. Although at that time, I didn't realize that Akira was considered cyberpunk and more importantly, I didn't even know what cyberpunk was. Even now, it is a description-defying genre that can be simultaneously nebulous and discriminating. I generally hold an all encompassing view of cyberpunk in that anything that has near-future technology, and a conspiratorial tone can be included.

So, the seeds had been planted with Blade Runner and Akira and there were also some smaller works like Strange Days and the unfortunate Johnny Mnemonic (film), but it wasn't until 1997 that the plant began to sprout. That was the year I skipped class with a buddy and went to see the Wesley Snipes action vampire flick Blade. I went to see the movie because it was based on a comic book I was vaguely familiar with, but I came away completely flabbergasted by the atmosphere, the bullet-time-esque special effects and the paranoia inducing conspiracy that drove the whole plot.

Yes, it's a vampire movie, but it contained some undeniably strong cyberpunk aspects. One line snarled by the eponymous Blade sums up a popular cyberpunk theme quite nicely: "You'd better wake up. The world you live in is just a sugar-coated topping. There is another world beneath it--the real world. And if you want to survive it, you'd better learn to pull the trigger."

Two years later, The Matrix was unleashed on the world (recapped perfectly in this 
article from Wired.com), and suddenly Cyberpunk was cast into my lexicon. It helped me track down classic novels like William Gibson's Neuromancer and the rest of the The Sprawl Trilogy, as well as Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. Ironically, The Matrix opened on March 31, 1999, a fact that I had forgotten up until I read the Wired.com article, but it further gives credence to my idea of designating April as Cyberpunk Month.

This year's agenda

It seems like most years I end up going back through old works. People have been saying that Cyberpunk is dead, probably since the term was first coined.  This year, however, it seems like there will be a good balance of old works and new.

  • The Matrix has been re-released in a 10th Anniversary edition on Blu-Ray.  I already have the Ultimate box set on BD, so I'll passing on this release, but for those of you crazies out there that did not like the rest of The Matrix Trilogy, this might be for you.
  • The Prodigy just released a new album Invaders Must Die.  This group, along with The Crystal Method and Leftfield is inextricably linked in my mind to Cyberpunk, as they provided the soundtrack to my initial read through of The Sprawl Trilogy.
  • On television, we have the upcoming season finale of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, as well as Joss Whedon's new show (with only slight cyberpunk overtones) Dollhouse.
  • On the horizon is Alex Rivera's extraordinary looking Sleep Dealer.
  • And there is also talk of a new Syndicate game.

Also, be sure to check out some of these super-cool illustrations by Dan LuVisi and make a point to visit Cyberpunk Review a great website that celebrates cyberpunk all year 'round, not just one month out of the year.

On my personal agenda for this year, I will be finishing up the second season of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and re-watching the Ghost In The Shell movies Innocence and Solid State Society, as well as re-experiencing Blade Runner and Akira for the first time on Blu-Ray.  It will be my first time seeing the 2001 Pioneer re-dub of Akira, so I am very excited for that. 

On the literary front, I'll be going back and reading Mirrorshades, the collection of short stories compiled by Bruce Sterling and possibly checking out the Akira manga on which the movie was based.  And I'm still looking for a good video game to try that fits the genre.

So go forth and read/watch/play something Cyberpunk!  (As long as it's not a Billy Idol album because that soooo doesn't count.)