Interviewing the Cyberpunk Community
There are multiple Cyberpunk blogs on the ‘net, each with its own distinct focus and flavor. Here at Cyberpunk Matrix, your one stop shop for everything Cyberpunk, you’ll notice that the focus is on Cyberpunk media, with a lighter look at how this media affects the world around it, while keeping up to date on everything new that is Cyberpunk. For a deep dive into the philosophy of Cyberpunk, you could try Neon Dystopia. For a community focus with a more interactive feel, try out The Cyberpunk Hive. But for a deeper and wider look at a commentary on “real life” and how it is already Cyberpunk, you can do no better than Cyberpunks.com.
Its founder, Bradley B., agreed to an interview with me so I could get to know a little more about his website, his team, and his thoughts on the current state of our Cyberpunk World. Check out my exclusive interview below.
1. What got you into Cyberpunk?
2. What made you decide to start cyberpunks.com?
It may have been the psychedelics? Maybe I touched the gestalt? We probably just got lucky the domain was for sale (time will tell!). We have big love for cyberpunk, and it was obvious that the normalization of the genre was occurring, with CD Projekt Red intending to ship tens of millions of copies of Cyberpunk 2077. We saw that a new wave of cyberpunk fans would soon be born.
However, at this time, most cyberpunk media had been bastardized and re(mis?)-appropriated while the larger communities had devolved into arguments over neon cities in rain & the emergent synthwave/retrowave aesthetics. While any genre will (d)evolve over time, it was obvious that lots of folk had lost touch of the thread that led us back to Gibson, Sterling & the Mirrorshades Group. Requests for book recommendations stopped at “Neuromancer” and “Snow Crash,” and there were only a few die-hards that could name more than five pieces of cyberpunk media.
Established cyberpunk sites, such as Neon Dystopia or The Cyberpunk Database provided great resources in the form of deep indices going back to the origins of cyberpunk, however, there was very little media to distinguish one work from the other. Why should someone go back and read John Shirley’s “City Come A’ Walking” or Bruce Sterling’s “Schismatrix”? We decided to dig in and try to tell that story.
And that’s just the literary genre. If you want, we could talk about how “Cyberpunk is Now” while moving away from the more puritanical subjects (best Blade Runner cut, anyone?). This, I think, was the real kicker for us. The notion that we’re living in a surveillance state, while consuming yellow journalism (fake news) and seeking truth in a (largely-online) society filled with sock puppets, phone farms, affiliate ads (guilty), astro-turfing, deepfakes, spam and cat videos. In our opinion, the open-source and maker movements may be seen as the flies in the ointment, so to speak, allowing a freedom of speech through invention and creativity that may serve to spark a technical Renaissance, and not one housed in the walled gardens of Silicon Valley.
We also began to develop a feel for the ephemerality of publishing on the web, which we felt overlaid nicely with the retrospective nature of our project and how it applied to our beloved subgenre of speculative-fiction. As this new (fourth?) wave of cyberpunk approaches, we couldn’t help but notice the opportunity to play within this paradoxical arena — one in which we look back at those looking forward in hopes that we ourselves can look forward more clearly.
Frankly, this is a big question with a big, sweeping answer. It’s something like a rite of passage, but I’m currently trying to distill our own version of “What is Cyberpunk?” for the website. Keep checking in, and maybe we can actually define this quicksilver term (with a little help from our friends).
Plus, there’s supposed to be a video game coming out soon, in case you haven’t heard.
3. Is Cyberpunks a solo venture, or do you have a team behind you? If you have a team, who is in your team?
Hah, definitely not a solo venture. By my count, we’ve had about thirty different authors submit work so far. There’s a lot that goes into the making of the sausage. I spend a lot of time pushing buttons and looking for cool projects on the web. Anyone who has story ideas or an article in hand is welcome to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. How do you choose what goes on your website and what doesn’t? In other words, what’s your editorial/curating process?
We ask for pitches and approve what interests us. News and Current Events happen, and sometimes it makes sense to wade in. We’re not afraid of the political, and we’re comfortable with opinion as well, so we’re willing to run the gamut.
As far as process, we’ve got several readers and editors who fact-check and tighten up a submission (if needed), and then we’ll lay this out in a “desktop-first” approach. We’re seeing a lot of sites being lazy about their layouts, just dumping pictures into a stack of words. While I think that works fine if you’re targeting phone users, this allows us to pay fan-service to our cyberpunk friends with six monitors. We look good on mobile too!
5. What are your top three Cyberpunk works, and why?
Desert Island choices, eh? Is this my personal island or the official cyberpunk canon island? Permission to be obtuse?
Choice 1: How about the full Transmetropolitan series for eyecandy and ingenuity?
Choice 2: I’m going to go out on a limb and say Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. This one’s still out of my reach, and I haven’t finished the read. I love the challenge of fordboding, eldritch tomes like Finnegan’s Wake and Gravity’s Rainbow. This one’s super-relevant now as much as ever. It should keep me busy on the desert island.
Choice 3: Maybe “The Unix Programming Environment” or “Introduction to C Programming”? Both were written by researchers at Bell Labs and meant for AT&T’s industrial and business purposes, which at the time was a focus on the nationwide networking of computers via telephones. Pretty incredible systems were implemented to manage that, and we use them in our computing paradigms still to this day. Point being, and I’m as guilty as anyone — we’ve gotten farther away from the source material. The internet has become abstracted away from user interactivity and moved toward user consumption. It’s a cyberpunk’s job to keep it weird and break things. Isn’t it? Anyhow — This is the start of the path to l33t skills.
6. With the advent of drones, robots, the Hong Kong protests and now the Coronavirus, some people think life as we know it is more Cyberpunk than ever. What are your thoughts on the current condition of Cyberpunk in everyday life?
I mean, I touched on it earlier, but it’s pretty obvious. People hate when you point out the obvious. The collected knowledge of the world can be displayed from a device that fits in your hand. You’re probably reading this interview right now with a smartphone in your hand and Apple/Google/Facebook/Verizon are looking over your shoulder. We all know the story already.
Here. I’ll prove it.
- Mention a product explicitly within earshot of your phone — What happens?
- Name two reasons why you would want to have multiple social media profiles on a single platform.
- Tell the truth — Do you ever look at your webcam with a brief flash of paranoia? How often?
- What’s the capital of Pennsylvania?
7. What are your thoughts of the future of Cyberpunk media? Are there any titles in particular you’re looking forward to?
William Gibson’s gonna finish his latest trilogy. Cory Doctorow will too. Lots of emergent voices are in this genre genre now, so I’m hoping I can find more time to read them and give them a fair shake. Cyberpunk 2077, of course, could be a clarion call or another death knell for the genre. I’m hopeful, as it’s not the first time I’ve heard it said that cyberpunk is dead.
We’ve talked before about how we’re really missing out by not focusing our attention on the non-fiction side of cyberpunk:
Skill up, kids. The DIY movement is a not-so-new opportunity for cyberpunk media, IMO. This is the true Hacker paradigm: Open Source, GitHub, Hackaday, Stack Exchange, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Adafruit, MAKE (R.I.P), Prusa Printing — These are the new battlegrounds of cyberpunk, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The future is becoming more evenly distributed. I’m just getting my feet wet. How about you?
8. Finally, what does the word “Cyberpunk” mean to you?
See above. If you think that stuff’s weird — You should see our website.
Interviewing the Cyberpunk Community: an ongoing series
Did you like what you read? Then check out the rest of our interview series!