Thursday, 24 September 2020

Cyberpunk: Lawnmower Manning Down The People

So kids are wearing Cyberpunk 77 shirts and ppl are selling their old eds for a fortune and gamers are raving about a thing they pre-paid for foolishly trusting the system. I think when I saw the four-character choices for CP77 (cos you cannot say CP) I was disappointed by how glamorous everything seemed to be. Also I have been on cyberpunk forums since FB started and I was involved in teen hackers in 80s doing kind of dodgy stuff so I feel like I was into the genre before it was named. The cyberpunk maxim from Mondo2000 era "How Fast? How Dense?" has been my art and writing based mantra since 1990ish.

Of late I noticed a flood of new cyberpunk groups online who missed the point. Many featured underage girl cosplayers and anime characters and crude sexual discussions that made me the think CP is appropriate for these groups. I quit a bunch and began to think the older groups where lefty tech punks feuded with libertarians and capitalist fascists were actually better all along. I run an Australian cyberpunk & apocalypse group that started as a local thing for gamers before COVID but I opened to Australia and more recently to anyone interested and we have been mostly jerk-free (though there is a Nazi I'm looking for an excuse to banhammer but they have been careful about saying in public so some kudos for staying in your shitty closet-nazi uniforms and white race pride crap). I'm pretty disheartened how some men weaponise soft porn to drive any who don't share their values from groups and to gaslight people. So they don't want young peoples ethics issues or women or people who side with them and soft port is the means to purge groups. Plenty of admins don't see this and ban the wrong people in some sort of centrist fantasy bubble. So I opened up my group to rescue people from some groups which was nice.

On a side note, I worked in pin-up art and men's mags but you don't have to turn all your interests to porn or imagine fucking everything you like to look at. Actually, you kind of appreciate a break and working in it makes it a chore, not fun and you don't even see attraction the same way anymore. My old boss won't accept male friend offers mostly because they discuss his art in ways that make him want to puke.

Go look at Solarpunk if you need a break from bitterness. Those groups are so much nicer on the whole and optimistic.

Anyway, the discussions of late we had (which led to me formalising my Cyberpunk1977 stuff) explored the changes and parts of cyberpunk culture since the hype for the new game have been affecting groups and other Admins and I have discussed it. This is a bit from my FB page and some extra content following that. Im a bit reminded of a guy who ran a nightclub complaining when a certain gen reinvented punk as glamour with more shiny PVC than punk and that was 20 years ago. There is more to being cool in cyberpunk.

Lots of this Included Eff Wing, Richard and Tai and follows from Eff Wing questions and I'm Tudor here (don't ask - a sad FB story). This was pulled out of lots of threads and tangents but Ive tried to make chronological which it wasn't. Be kind and blame me rather than any participants please - hard to convey a sprawling multi thread conversation over days here. (sic) means ive changed the wording and I hope not intent for clarity. Ive added to my stuff a bit cos I can. Basically, it is a clumsy attempt to explain Cyberpunk and Punk vs Cyberpunk77 marketing hype.

Your welcome to agree or disagree in comments but please don't make personal attacks on participants. There are lots of takes on this topic and better histories. Its just a discussion not a textbook or absolute truth statements.

Eff: Any opinions on Blade Runner? Alien? Total Recall?

Tudor: Mine or groups? More to it than 80s cinema. The genre is pretty stuck in 80s

Eff: lol. IMO AirPods, watches, RFID chips under our skin, and the way we never are far from our phones make us cyberpunks in a way

Tai: No, that just makes people consumers and non-questioning subservient cattle. Bread and circuses.

Eff: it's herding us toward more cyberpunk notions isn't it? ala Singularity book

Tai: "cyber" yes, "punk" no. Most people these days append "punk" to any genre because they naively think it sounds "cool" or "clever", not because they understand the meaning or origin. Which is ironically the opposite of being "punk".

Eff: It's fascinating that the pandemic has made us all even moreso a digital version of ourselves. you're being a bit coy, please help me to understand what the 'punk' means? what is the meaning and origin of cyber 'punk,' if you don't mind sharing? Cheers.

' punk ' mainly implies rebellion against the government / megacorps / authority and normal society ' doesn't it ? ShadowRun! back alley transactions! Jonny Mnemonic! If one wishes to go Blade Runner or Dreaming Androids, that's more philosophical, but not really a punk idea, methinks. not really sure why you (Tudor) and Tai are making this definition so murky, but I'd appreciate a straight answer if you don't mind.

Tudor: Im not gonna write an essay on this now but I prefer sf dealing with philosophy and humanism. 

In 80s i hung with punks and hackers. Mid-late 80s into early 2000s punks I knew were brawling with nazis, eating garbage, having secret raves in drains with hacked power, shoplifting games to pirate and distribute them with hand photocopied walkthroughs and decoder wheels and other hijinx. Punk is grimy and a bit scary and only came to be middle-class glamour in 90s. Punk is DIY vs mass-produced. It isn't just game saying no authority like a kneejerk move but maybe for some it is. Not really one take on this but I have an idea of authentic punk formed in 1977 to 2000ish.

2000ad comics with judge dredd was full of cyberpunk grit.

I liked gurps cyberpunk and iron crown cyberworld which reality was uncertain and quirky and riddled with conspiracy theories to the extent the GM could define their settings reality level from dry sci fi to a more tabloid reality. More games should do this.

I like cyberpunk rpg in someways it is Metkon rpg modded to anime cyberpunk. I liked TSR freelancers setting. Torg had good tech and corporate warfare rules and first RPG to implement 3d printing in a way TV is just starting to use. 2300 was perfect for aliens style sf and did a cybertech supplement for the earth.

High Colonies rpg, much-maligned was like the expanse setting and not cyberpunk but slots into Aliens or 2300 well. High colonies did have a fascist faction with clone soldiers which kind of united everyone and hidden alien jerks nobody in setting new about. Would work well with some cyber add ons. The hab generations and birth tables could be used in any in system sf.

I'm not saying anything I say is authority or matters. Don't be like me.
I don't want a cyberpunk that parades of 14-year-old characters or cosplayers as sex toys rather than for the cool costumes or hair or artistry or effort. Pics are one thing ogrish comments ppl make about them are morally repugnant and would be illegal in many cases if they acted on them. If you have wife or daughter or sisters or a mother maybe consider If your comments helps them or hurts them.

Eff: Thanks, i understand.
I think I was put-off by the attitude of Tai's response -- it seemed inaccessible, i guess?
I agree and think that philosophy and humanism are likely the underpinnings of any 'punk' movement, the raison d'etre of the rebellion, perhaps. Why hack? Why fight nazis? Why eat garbage? Why hold secret raves? Why pirate software / media? Because it's the philosophical or human 'right thing to do,' to some degree. (Tudor: poverty, inaccessibility, gentrification, only way to enjoy these benefits of modern living my answer)

For RPG's, I think that the Shadowrun genre (cyber tech deckers, physical combat, and magic) has the most flexibility. for one, magic is the ultimate rebellion, above physical and technological laws, some would say. (I'm running a 'hack' of Marvel Heroics and Cortex Prime to create a fast and easy Shadowrun game on Facebook groups atm). The cyberpunk genre can be gritty, can be anti-establishment, can be costumes/hair/piercings, but it can also be a 'wage slave' that fights the good fight in the night. (and on weekends?). In any case, happy cyberpunk roleplaying - as i type my cyber message about punks to you on my tech, I think the world is basically 'there' in many ways.

Tai: No, I touched on a major core point. In general (and there is a large variety), the punk side (including the writing itself) has its basis in questioning, thinking for one's self, exploring ideas, not being manipulated, and self-sufficiency; which is opposite to the OP mentioned tech-cheesecake, being controlled consumerist sheep, and conforming to "pop culture" to be "hip".
Therefore, just using tech/cyber does not make one cyberpunk. In most cases these days we only have cyberconsumers.

Eff: Ah thanks for that clarification, good to know.
The "If you know, you know" attitude kinda Irks some people.
So punks (without the Cyber) include protagonists in stories like:
Brave New World,
Sherlock Holmes,
and Equilibrium.
Toss in some integrated / internal tech and these characters become Cyberpunks, is that right?
I'd say with the pandemic lockdowns, people are showing their punk side. Questioning / exploring ideas: answers are all over the internet, and everyone is doing research on topics like the pandemic. Thinking for one self / not being manipulated: some punks wish to not wear face masks, and keep partying without social distance. Self sufficiency: some punks are using what they know (herbs, meditation, exercise) to make themselves heal better after getting infected, though it seems unorthodox. I agree, we're mostly cyberconsumers today. But for those that are 'punks' today, it is easier to observe them (e.g. join the 2600 hacker collective); it is easier for them to 'rebel' thru social media (e.g. Antifa and UBI movements).

Tai: By knowing what it isn't and is the opposite of (eg: tech gadgetry by itself, consumerism, tech for the sake of tech, and the mentioned tech-cheesecake), you can develop a better understanding of what the punk part of cyberpunk is.

Eff: Okay so to reiterate from all of these comments, that "punk is rebellion from the norm"
Cyberpunk is "rebellion thru technology"
Thanks for the lesson, coach.

Tai: Not necessarily blind rebellion. It usually involves some degree of intelligence/thought/insight and avoiding being used/abused by "the system" which is often a dystopian society or corporation. It's not normally about causing trouble for the sake of trouble (eg: not wearing a mask during COVID so as to be "anti-authoritarian" when the infection has been verified is self-defeating).

Eff: so punk is political then, yes?

Tudor: Inherantly

Tai: Everything is political, but it is the way CP is political that defines CP. Mal from Firefly resists the Alliance, has tech and so on, but is not really CP. Luke resists the Empire in Star Wars, has tech, but is also not really CP.

Tudor: punk kids still use political images. Ive got lots of books of punk posters many like John Heartfield art memes of pre ww2. Look at dead Kennedy's (top of post) Art like this easy to look up. If you only appropriating punk for fashion you never got it (even though Vivian Westwood was there in early days of punk when she and Malcome and Punk flirted with Swastikas briefly to be edgelords then stopped - but that another story).

The first modern description of "street art" was punk posters. Punk kids first crackers who got into scar and hiphop.Johnny rotten was kicked out of scar scene for his swastikas - punk scene flirted with it as shock/rebellion till violent skinheads tried taking over scene and punks fought back - generations of punks kept this up. And the flirting with swastikas ended (Souxie and Banshees did it too, then bands with Nazi inspired names like Joy Division and New Order - but I dont think any of these ppl were actually Nazis). 

Punk was always about poverty and DIY vs overpriced gigs that paywalled the poor. Rebellion is there but gamesaying and shock for the sake had problems with consequences (use of swastikas). Sherlock holmes I cant really see as Cyberpunk but I guess noir detectives are common in genre and Sherlock was a drug additct and jerk. Sherlock written by a newage sucker duped by fraud psychics is funny.

Eff:Okay who are some characters that 'are' cyberpunk?
I'm guessing Jonny Mnemonic? Mr Robot? (sic) Protagonists in the Matrix>

Tudor: Im more interested in setting than characters who often are or start as stooges - Jonny is a highly paid corporate agent in a cp world - he wears a suit but deals with punks. The junky dolphin is the most cyberpunk character and film too gutless to discuss it.

Eff: I was of the impression (sic) that anyone could be cyberpunk, including wage slaves who go to their day job, but hack at night, like Mr. Robot. Wow the dolphin is cyberpunk.

Tudor: metropolis 1926 is more cyberpunk than some takes (though ive done stuff on decopunk before and dislike modern steampunk and dieselpunk - perhaps id use Jetpunk for 60s). Metropolis has class struggle, consciousness, a megacorp, oppressive urbanisation and an android/consciousness transfer or mind copy.

Eff: oh gosh I'll need to look that up, thanks. Um... any other mainstream examples of cp?

Tudor:Protagonists dont have to be punk or start off that way. JudgeDdredd is a case in point
2000ad characters and worlds are often punk - so many brit writers from there made vertigo comics. 

Eff:Ok so judge Dredd was not a cyberpunk himself, but the other supporting characters and his targets were cyberpunk, is that right?

Tudor: Yes - characters explore the world but might look down on it rather than fight it. I like Johonny Nemo too - a brit comic cyborg detective who is modded to drink more, has a robot assistant and deals with weird tech crime in an often brutal manner. Currently, I'm more interested in what I term "proto cyberpunk" nowadays. 6million dollar man, Semon Seed, Forbin project, Brainstorm.

Eff: I thought Steve Austin is basically a loyal government agent ?

Tudor:As I said protocyberpunk. He was astronaut turned into cyborg, only very tough and strong willed could survive - Jamie a world class athlete (the book Cyborg is nastier and has inbuilt assassin weapons. He early on refuses missions so they trick him into them and make them personal by using his friends - he refuses to kill for OSI (in tv only). In bionic woman she is keen after the shock of surgery but at end she wants to quit, they hunt her down and she cuts a deal to live after being a fugitive. Both have good ai and replicant episodes. Computers in some episodes straight from Forbin project. Only big government could afford AI and bionics in 70s. Shockwave Rider by Brunner the hero trained by a prestigious thinktank but becomes a fugitive. Starting corp and falling and seeing inequality and poverty and lies works (Matrix). In 80s Cyberpunk tech it is common, stealable, hackable, recyclable.

I generally prefer Japanese cyberpunk to novels in the 80s by guys on typewriters (I'm looking at you Nueromancer). I couldn't get past the first chapter of Snow Crash despite having Sumerian references because it was too too cool and wasteful of resources for a pizza delivery. Most of my friends loved it. Possibly I like cyberpunk comics and Japanese animation more. Probably roleplaying games did it better than novels too for me.

Eff: Fifth Element?, Total Recall?, Mad Max?

Tudor: mad max nope - though the decay and punk is there from when family folk feared them.
I preferred modern total recall to old one - Phil K Dick a huge influence on genre - best thing in 1st one was Jonnycab. Original total recall spent years in edit and needed tech to save it ironically. 5th element the city squalor is cyberpunk but the film is ultimately religious ending in space gods deus machina and a vertical shaft of white light (cop out end of too many SF films). Cyberpunk elements are mainstream now and overlaps but some things probably more specifically cyberpunk not just visiting for the glam.

Ghost in the shell is probably my fave film/anime/manga of genre - philosophy of consciousness is big part of the genre and how tech changes everything. In series, people are always doubting the rules of technology and how aware machines are. I like Burst Angel quite a bit too but that's also a spaghetti western and mecha drama. Some include Akira but it probably has non cyberpunk territory. Tetsuo Body Hammer films are interesting but I couldn't watch ever again (I blame you Richard). The KDFM vid using Gunhead footage is probably the most cyberpunk thing ever to me.

Eff: (sic) Is this the game (shows pic of Cyberpunk77) It looks interesting, but it could also just dilute everything that we've discussed in this thread. Anything that is a big open world video game can become rote very fast, losing the original intent / message / gravitas and becoming ... Well, just a video game.

Tudor: basically my point all along and point of this thread. When they announced the character backgrounds and pix of them I lost interest (but I might play when cheaper - now im actually online not homeless with a phone tether I might change after I thrash Farcry Primal and Fallout stuff I missed).

Eff: In your post you said game, so I thought it was referring to a new paper rpg game, like Shadowrun. That also has races and classes.

Tudor: Best not get me on Shadowrun. Class and race not the inherent problems just the Cyberpunk2077 game ones (but class and race do have problems inherently in games).

Eff: Videogame marketing for 2077 is very heavy-handed.

Tudor: Yes more glamourpunk

Eff: Is there anything they could add to the game, to attract you into playing it?

Richard: I think you're being a bit harsh about the classes - creating content for all the classic character classes would bee too expensive. They might only have two skill trees available, but you can build your own character from both skillsets and you get a choice of three backgrounds which I assume give separate skills and bonuses. The backgrounds are more the character archetypes anyway - corporate (diplomat/resources), street kid (I guess rogue/tech/hacker skills) and nomad (street samurai type stuff). Better for them to focus on deeper content for fewer character types than broader but shallower material for all.

Tudor: (a few ppl have said this to me) I get that but are classes in rpg
nomad=mad max types in ttrpg
street kid=gang member in ttrpg?
I think its kinda over glamorous my main hot take

Richard: It's meant to be a first person immersive CRPG, not a social beer and skittles RPG session - they need to put the money on the screen and want to take everything up a notch from Witcher 3.

Tudor: I get it and I hope not a GTA reskin full of heists. Hope it has philosophy social commentary and cognitive gonzo. I only play fallout so what would i know about computer gaming.

Richard: Well, the Witcher games had a go at subverting expectations re the monsters and curses. You could straight up treat the monsters as monsters and hack them up and still keep going with the game, or you could investigate the legends, the characters involved in the affected village and work out that a lot of the time the monster was only there because of someone's corruption or evil actions, and bringing them to justice would lay the curse.

Tudor: Possibly like many things just marketing and fans that bug me.
Worst film ever made gets me more curious than blockbuster of the year

Richard: So I doubt Cyberpunk 2077 will be just another shitty open worlde collectathon and icon a-la-ubisoft

Tudor: I guess we should wait and not speculate

Richard: I can wait and speculate

Tudor: Your a special man. Solarpunk is the cool thing kids into now
sustainable egalitarian tech. Cant imaging a computer game Solarpunk77 - probably a sustainable city sim about gardening and recycling so supermarkets and power companies collapse. 

Tai: If you can, watch "Appleseed Ex Machina"

Eff:Cool thanks, watching the YouTube clips now
Sooo many bullets, John Woo bullets, many many

Tai: You need to watch the whole thing to see the message.

Eff: Shall do. I like the love story too, lol

Thanks Tai Lung and Tudor Cook Beal , I've been inspired to check out the live version of Ghost In The Shell (can't access Appleseed yet). Just starting to watch it, it seems a bit more heavy handed with the cyberpunk message than the anime, but I like how much grittier it seems. (I watched the anime years ago, and am trying to appreciate the live version on its own) Thoughts?

Solar Punk seems nice!

Tudor: (ghost in the shell) film was abused as dumbed down and whitewashed so lots of fans hate it. I liked It anyway. Stand Alone Complex the tv series is the best version but some ppl don't like that. I guess the idea of failures of high tech is part of the dystopia - so grunge, ruins, poverty all part of the mix. Solar punk guys got me into dumb tech - less fragile more sustainable longer lasting. Looking at Indiginous long lasting cultures again.

I realize the live movie is different, but in some ways, the dumbing down made it more accessible. If I had seen it first, I'd be interested in watching the anime/tv series after.

Tai: The movie is different in that is does not capture what made the anime special. It does not have the depth, the thought, the essence. That is the problem with everything becoming accessible, you lose the depth that originally inspired and drew people to it. Then pop culture is drawn to something that is not what it was, only to something that implies what it is. You lose the original.

Tai: An excellent overview and perspective

Rodney: Cyberpunk died in 1993 (with pic of Billy Idol's Cyberpunk single)


This thread came to life elsewhere again but it links to my older cyberpunk 1977 and deco posts

For the record I side on Pure genre over elements of genre featured. So Psychic aliens or demons tend to put outside scope of my work. I dont dislike it (if you do better than Shadowrun) but when Im talking genre other stuff should be a minor element. Corsucant in StarWars had dirty low living neon scary streets but Starwars is not cyberpunk even if it has the odd bionic bit.


  1. BTW - Deadline's 'Cheeky Wee Budgie Boy' strip was pretty Cyberpunk, and also had body hacking (ie you could get reshaped to look like Elvis, the main character had a budgie head, gangs of criminals with cyberguns who all looked like Marilyn Monroe or living Rodin sculptures...).

  2. I enjoyed this discussion. It's never been uncommon for bloggers to post their thoughts and theories and such, but I do like this recent wave of interview / discussion posts (I started doing them a little while ago as well).

    It's one of the advantages of G+ and other Social platforms, but I think there is a benefit to incorporating this form of discussion into blogs as well.

    I keep finding myself lately coming into these interesting blog posts and commenting "I am interested in this / have thoughts but don't have the time or energy to properly respond".

    Sadly, that is yet again the case, but I still wanted to show a gesture of support for it.

  3. Reading about the 70's tech groups in Steven Levy's Hackers book could help with PC/NPC backgrounds or skills.


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