Posts tagged: cyberpunk
David Forbes looks at the history of the grinder/DIY transhumanist movement, tracing its origins from the experiments of Kevin Warwick and Lepht Anonym to Warren Ellis’ Doktor Sleepless comic to the Grinding.be website to Grindhouse Wetware:
Usually, a subculture starts in a particular societal splinter just far enough off the beaten path to find breathing room. Its members begin talking to one another, and eventually someone puts a name on it that sticks. The group hits a nerve or a style, and in time a journalist tells a bit of their story. Often, the writers who deal with subcultures act more as archaeologists than engineers, dredging up what’s already been rather than creating what is to be.
Grinders — who are dedicated to bringing a cyberpunk tomorrow into reality today through DIY body modification — are different. They started with a name in the literary world and migrated seemingly backwards into reality. In 2007, comic writer Warren Ellis launched Doktor Sleepless, a series about the eponymous mad scientist and his apocalyptic plots. It’s a stew of wild ideas — occult magic, implants, urban breakdown — set in a just-past-tomorrow era. The series, which lasted more than a year, is a bit hit or miss but with some truly fascinating moments and a heaping hodgepodge of speculative ideas. Central to Doktor Sleepless are grinders — the term originating from video games, where players “grind” their character through repetitive actions to reach a higher level of power. While identity overhaul has been a selling point of alternative cultures back to prehistory, Ellis’s grinders emphasized identity as a character sheet, with each capability up for modification, for upgrade.
In March 2012 I wrote:
We’ve had steampunk and dieselpunk and atompunk, so now it’s pixelpunk. We’re about to hit full circle and have retro-cyberpunk complete with VR headsets and Power Gloves.
Later that year Oculus did a Kickstarter for their virtual reality headset, which also happened to kickstart a new wave of VR kit. I just wrote about the latest one for Wired:
The designs for the ANTVR headset itself and its nifty convertible game controller are proprietary technology. But the designs and firmware for the wireless receiver–which sits between the headset, the controller, and the gaming console–are open source. That opens up a range of possibilities, such as creating custom controllers or using the ANTVR controller to control other devices.
For example, ANTVR co-founder Qin Zheng says you could write software for using ANTVR to control a Roomba vacuum cleaner robot, perhaps using the headset to watch the feed from the bot’s on-board camera. You could also make your own version of the receiver specifically designed to work with a game console or device not officially supported by ANTVR. “You can use the signal straight from the USB port,” Zheng says. “We will give the developer all the documentation and libraries.”
Still no Power Gloves, though…
Sci-fi writer Tim Maughan on graffiti:
My own interest in graffiti dates back to my first teenage introduction to hip-hop culture in the mid-1980s, when the first images of New York subway art started to make their way over the pond in magazines and, much rarer, snippets of TV alongside those first rare glimpses of block parties, scratch DJs, rappers, and breakdancers. Apart from their raw visceral energy, both hip hop music and graffiti struck me as intensely science-fictional. Both are about the appropriation of technology to create something new?—?hip-hop taking samplers and turntables to generate new sounds they weren’t designed to make, and graf taking car repair paint and the very architecture of cities to create new visual spaces and canvases. They are, perhaps, the most literal expression of William Gibson’s famous cyberpunk-defining phrase ‘the street finds its own use for things’.
Gibson’s early works, and those of his many lesser imitators, would herald the hacker as the rebellious hero of the future; a trope that would immeasurably shape everything from political activism to venture capitalism in the decades to follow. Perhaps the stereotypical image of the hacker as lone digital warrior, skulking over keyboards in screen-glare lit rooms seems very far removed from the image of the spray can welding, shadow dwelling, trespassing graffiti writer, but the two subcultures share a startlingly similar set of goals, values, and approaches: both look to subvert existing infrastructures and systems, both value one-upmanship and bragging rights, and neither can resist the illegal thrill of breaking-and-entering?—?whether physical or virtual?—?even when the risk of being caught may well lead to ruthless, draconian punishment. Both also share, perhaps most importantly, an aesthetic obsession with the future?—?something apparent in the work of artist Leonard McGurr, better known as FUTURA 2000.
In the latest episode of Mindful Cyborgs Chris Dancy and I journeyed to the belly of the beast at Defrag and interviewed investor Chris DeVore from Founders Co-Op on “industrial entropy”:
KF: Yeah, one of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is that in the 80s there was dystopian sci-fi people would talk about the mega corporation and you would see these big conglomerates but now what seems to actually be taking over or becoming more prevalent or mega networks … so, Y Combinator is one example though. Maybe the founders [00:04:06] would be as well but Paul Graham has explicitly said that part of the point of Y Combinator is to be a distributed peer to peer replacement for the traditional company to give the members of it the benefits of being part of a large company without having to be part of the structure of a large company. Do you have any thoughts on that? Do you think that’s actually happening?
CDV: I definitely do and I think this is where the pattern that I think is interesting and there’s a dark [00:04:31] that we’ll get to in a minute is, when everyone is responsible for their own career pathing, like no man is an island, right? We all need different mixes of skills and abilities and kind of promotional states to build an organization that’s capable of things that more than one human can do but this idea of going from hierarchies of organizations with organization design and managers and leadership into networks where you essentially have these flat as Paul says peer-to-peer networks of people that they collaborate in more dynamically as they come together around a project and then they disassembled and reassembled different products. I think that’s fundamentally true about the nature of work today.
Even an enterprise work you might have a project manager but they’re going to hire this sort of coalition of vendors to come together to build a software or to ship certain kind of product and then when that’s over and they then ships over they’re going to disassemble and they’re going to reassemble very organically and I think it’s again very empowering for people who have the skills and ability to navigate and set their own career path and build their own digital identity and kind of how work come to them and be called in to these dynamic networks.
The thing that I worry about is from a skilling standpoint who’s being left behind, who doesn’t have the ability to surf on this very organic dynamic networked economy and how do you make that economy as open or as porous as it can be so that people who are coming out of school right now it used to be they go to a career fair and they get a job. If those jobs don’t exist, what does exist and what are the gateways and points of access for people into the network at this point?
Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Episode 15 – Industrial Entropy and the Turks! The Turks! The Mechanical Turks!
Here’s an example:
office wonton soup -ware bicycle render-farm futurity smart- tower office bicycle fluidity spook table. media neural papier-mache -ware sensory savant sub-orbital saturation point network pistol concrete rebar A.I.. 3D-printed long-chain hydrocarbons post- engine pen paranoid nodal point skyscraper computer range-rover euro-pop camera camera. rifle paranoid digital -ware sentient Tokyo kanji footage artisanal rain urban modem Shibuya. Kowloon crypto- kanji girl network Chiba motion concrete assassin courier construct plastic dead.
Reminds me of Kenji Siratori
(via Bruce Sterling)
A while back someone put every issue of OMNI Magazine online for free download in PDF and other formats. Over at the William Gibson forums, Memetic Engineer rounded up all the issues of OMNI that are available for download and have stories by William Gibson in them:
May 1981, features “Johnny Mnemonic.” From the contributors page: “Gibson is a full-time writer living in Vancouver, British Columbia. His work appears in two anthologies, Universe 11 and Shadows 4, both published this year by Doubleday. The issue also features a story by Ray Bradbury and an interview with David Cronenberg.
July 1982 features “Burning Chrome.”
July 1983 features “Red Star, Winter Orbit” by Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
July 1984 features “New Rose Hotel.” (Which was turned into the Gibson movie you never heard about: directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe and Asia Argento)
July 1985 features “Dogfight” by Gibson and Michael Swanwick.
The October 1981 issue features “Hinterlands,” but it’s not available in the OMNI archives.
The text on these scans is readable but blurry. If you just want to read the stories, buy the Burning Chrome collection.
See also: William Gibson dossier
Photo by Mike Linkovich
New one from me at Wired:
Some people believe that everyone should be a programmer. But Frank Duff is living proof this notion should be taken with a large grain of salt. In 2003, Duff quit his job as a software developer and went to work as a bike messenger.
Two years later, he published an online memoir detailing his exit from the software world, and it became an instant internet classic, reflecting the desire of many developers and other white-collar workers to somehow escape their office cubicles and do something “real.”
“Even before Office Space, white collar workers peered out the window (if they were so lucky) and imagined a more romantic life doing real work out under the sun,” he wrote.
Since Duff published his memoir, we’ve seen a mini-movement across the tech world that seeks to turn just about everyone into a programmer. A startup called Codecademy is offering online programming lessons designed for the average person. Google is pushing visual programming tools such as a Blockly and App Inventor that let you code without even a single keystroke. And a Facebook engineer named Carlos Bueno recently published a book that seeks to bring the programming ethos to children as young as five. Duff sees some value in the idea of universal “code literacy,” but he also urges moderation.
“Should everyone learn to code? I certainly wouldn’t make it mandatory,” he says. “[But] I encourage people to learn to code, just as I would encourage them to learn to drive, knit, and shoot.”
Nine years after quitting his full-time programming job back in 2003, Duff tells Wired that he still codes from time to time, but he has no regrets. Leaving the programming world freed him to do so many other things. “I think it’s unlikely that I’ll ever need to rely on my ability to write code to feed myself again,” Duff says. “But it’s a skill set I’m grateful to have.”
Coder in Courierland, Duff’s original post about his time as a courier
Lysergically Yours the novel Duff wrote while couriering.
Messenger space, messenger body, messenger mesh Another article on couriering.
For the past few days scans of magazine covers allegedly appearing on newsstands in the background of the film Blade Runner have been circulating thanks to the Science Fiction Tumblr (you can find great quality scans and notes in this Flickr set).
Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic, saw them and decided to find out whether they are real or not.
Spoiler alert: Yes, they’re real and they appeared on a Blade Runner special feature Signs of the Times: Graphic Design.
It’s still interesting to read Madrigal’s post because for some insight into the process of journalistic verification. Enjoy!
*MONI is clearly a reference to OMNI.
*HORN looks like a predecessor to Future Sex.
*I wonder whether KILL is a reference to Solider of Fortune, but the first trials involving that magazine didn’t happen until the late 80s.
These are my notes from William Gibson’s Q&A session after his Zero History reading at Powells Books in Portland, OR on 9/08/2010 (here are some photographs from the evening). I thought initially that most of this would come up in other interviews, but I recently reviewed my notes and realized that although some of it has come up elsewhere, some of it is either unique or unusual. So I decided to type up my notes.
Gibson started off saying “Powells is the best book store in the world. It’s not even a book store, it’s a genre all to its own,” before reading the first chapter of Zero History. After the reading he said “The reason I write opening chapters the way I do is to get rid of all the people who won’t ‘get’ the book. They’re all fairly easy to read after the first chapter.” He then opened up to questions. Most, probably all, of these answers are incomplete - but close to direct quotes from larger answers. I didn’t ask most of these questions and didn’t get down the exact questions asked.
Q: What’s next?
Gibson: I have no idea. I have to have no idea. I know no one believes me, but I never intended to make trilogies. When I was learning about writing, I was told that trilogy was a long novel with a boring middle published separately. I think the books could be read in any order. I think I would be interesting to read these backwards. But maybe that’s too advanced.
[of course now he’s said that his next novel will probably be about the future]
Where do you go for inspiration?
I’m not a globe trotting writer/researcher. Wherever I happen to go usually ends up in the book. For example, I happened to go to Myrtle Beach a few months before I wrote the book and I thought it was suitably weird.
Asked about predictions.
I’m not interested in the sort of sci-fi that does or doesn’t predict the iPad. I’m interested in how people behave.
Asked about the intelligence communities in his books
I don’t want anyone to think I’ve gone “Tom Clancy” but what you find is that you have fans in every line of work. How reliable those narrators are I don’t know, but they tell a good story.
Asked about humor in his work.
Neuromancer was not without a comedic edge. My cyberpunk colleagues and I back in our cyberpunk rat hole sniggered mightily as we slapped our knees.
But writers can’t have more than two hooks. “Gritty, punky,” sure. “Gritty, punky, funny” doesn’t work.
I asked him about the slogan “Never in fashion, always in style” because I read that slogan on his blog and never found out what company that slogan actually belonged to.
Aero Leathers in Scotland. But they weight too much. You wouldn’t tour in a WWII motorcyle jacket unless of course you were on a WWII motorcycle. [Gibson reportedly wore an Acronym jacket on the Zero History tour]
Asked about Twitter
Twitter is the best aggregator of novelty anywhere. There’s more weird shit there than anywhere. It’s the equivalent value of $300 worth of imported magazines for free every day.
Asked about hypertext/electronic media and how it is changing his work.
The book is a cloud of hyperlinks. You can Google any unfamiliar phrase and you will be sort of walking in my shoes, going where I did in my research. The links are there, and there’s even some easter eggs.
I’m not sure what question this was in response to
I large part of my narrative comes from growing up in a particularly backwards part of the south, which had a particularly spoken culture.
Asked about his favorite contemporary writers
Asked about the punk influence on his work.
It wasn’t the Sex Pistols, it was Waylon and Willy.
Asked what sci-fi influenced him.
Certain sci-fi that never had much impact on the mainstream of the genre. My novels have had very little impact as well. If you don’t believe me, go down to a sci-fi specialist shop. Cyberpunk has become a descriptor - cyberpunk albums, cyberpunk pants.
Asked about cyberpunk’s legacy.
Anything with a manifesto ends up looking silly.
Asked what he thinks of the post-cyberpunk writers, Cory Doctorow et al.
I think the original cyberpunks were a little thin on the ground.
See also: William Gibson dossier.
The other night in Portland, Gibson said Twitter was the equivalent of only $300 worth of imported magazines - guess the value has already inflated.
I thought Richard’s comment about how there may never be another LOST was interesting.