Cyberpunk in the 21st Century

I had a scene in the novella set in Casablanca a hundred years after they built a dome over the city.

I have to admit that the decision to put a scene there, was mostly random, mostly because I didn't want to put it in Paris or Oslo, or some other European city. But as I've been thinking about it, it's an interesting idea, to suggest that Northern Africa, might be the home of the next wave of cosmopolitan meccas. I particularly like the way that, particularly in a cyberpunk context, it creates a parallel with the "middle ages."

I read a forum post somewhere on the internet (that I can't find anymore) that attacked the people who say "cyberpunk is dead," by saying that "cyberpunk represented for them what could have been, and what might yet be," which frankly I think is a load of nostalgic hooey. We can't write stories today that are cyberpunk in the way that people could write stories 20 years ago that were cyberpunk. The cyberpunk "moment" if you will, has passed.

But it's not dead. There are to my mind two distinct flavors of cyberpunk that live on. The sort of theoretical decedents that say that there's an underbelly to technological progress, that explores the possibility of subculture in the bright and shiny future. And then there's the aesthetic side that thinks that DNIs are freekin' amazing and psychedelic virtual realities are cool and so forth.

And before you say, "but tycho, who in their right mind would take as the starting point of a sub-genre, all of the fluff and none of the meat of a preceding field?" And it's not as absurd as you'd think. Steampunk is basically all aesthetic and no real meat from anywhere else, and frankly it's pretty damn awesome. The lesson is that we make our (theoretical) meat pretty much regardless of the setting, so if you have cyberpunks in North Africa, working on an internet that doesn't exist and will never exist, it works (or can), if you play your cards right. Which is always the case, no matter how failed (or not) your premise is.

What I think is more interesting from my own persecutive, is that despite how ardently theoretical I tend to be, I think I fall into the aesthetic camp, rather than the theoretical one. Contemporary theoretical cyberpunk tends to be much more moment specific, more grounded in current existence, current theoretical issues, and less involved in the issues that surround technological development and the culture-technology relationship.

The other factor in my own work is that I see science fiction, even futuristic science fiction as being a historical project. I'm interested in North Africa as a cosmopolitan center in my futuristic stories, because of its history as such, not particularly because I think that it's likely to come to pass.

I think it's incredible that Cory Doctorow and I can agree that futurism has virtually no place in science fiction for such completely different reasons.

Tomorrow is a writing day.

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