Curl's piece establishes a focus on metaphor that is expanded by Eric Rabkin in the best essay in this section. Rabkin identifies the trope of oxymoron as a device pervasively deployed in SF to depict the radical otherness of futurity; he locates in oxymoron the source of SF's traditional "sense of wonder," the compelling estrangement generated by its capacity to yoke seemingly incommensurate modes of being (as in the figure of the "cyborg"). Rabkin's case is methodically argued and persuasive; the problem in context is that he isn't discussing a metaphorical strategy peculiar to cyberpunk or even contemporary fiction, but to the timeless body of fantastic literature. To the extent that he is concerned at all with the "current hot, so-called cyberpunk brand of science fiction" (265), his whole purpose seems to be to debunk its pretensions to originality. This is quite a puzzling animus to discover in a section purporting to analyze the metaphoricity.
It can also be argued that cyberpunk influenced or inspired recent technological advances—personal computers, virtual reality games, clone research, stem cell applications, genetically engineered animals and crops. While we are a ways from Gibson's world, or the dark future of , as William Gibson himself said: "The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed."
It seems reasonable to suppose that Tolkein helped steer programmers towards the Web’s odd, niche-rich, fantasy-land architecture. And surely the cyberpunk novels instilled the idea of having an anarchistic Web with essentially no centralized controllers at all. The fact that that the Web turned out to be so free and ubiquitous seems almost too good to be true. I speculate that it’s thanks to Tolkein and to cyberpunk that our culture made its way to the new strange attractor where we presently reside.
Ginsberg is the most political and most engaged—here I think of Sterling. At the beginning of cyberpunk, it was Bruce who was the indefatigable pamphleteer and consciousness-raiser with his Cheap Truth zine. His Mirrorshades anthology defined cyberpunk in many minds. Like Ginsberg, Sterling continues to roam the planet, making guest-lectures and writing up reports on what he finds. Of the beats and the cyberpunks, it is Ginsberg and Sterling whom one sees most often on television.
As well as amping up the gnarliness, cyberpunk is concerned with the maintaining a high level of information in a story—where I’m using “information” in the technical computer-science sense of measuring how concise and non-redundant a message might.
SF convention panels normally consist of a few professional writers and editors telling old stories and deflecting serious questions with one-liners. Usually the moderator is a semi-professional, overwrought at being in public with so many SF icons, but bent on explaining his or her ideas about the panel topic which he or she has chosen. The pros try to keep the mike away from the moderator. The audience watches with the raptness of children gazing at television, and everyone has a good time. It’s a warm bath, a love-in. The cyberpunk panel was different. The panelists were crayfishing, the subnormal moderator came on like a raving jackal, and the audience, at least to my eyes, began taking on the look of a lynch mob. Here I’m finally asked to join a literary movement and everyone hates us before I can open my mouth?
Like Case, many cyberpunk protagonists are manipulated, placed in situations where they have little or no choice, and although they might see things through, they do not necessarily come out any further ahead than they previously were.
We owe them a debt."Cyberpunk further inspired many professional writers who were not among the "original" cyberpunks to incorporate cyberpunk ideas into their own works, such as Walter Jon Williams' Hardwired and Voice of the Whirlwind, and George Alec Effinger's When Gravity Fails.
It is meant to strike the interest of todays cyberpunks and has been flying off the newsstands, "Which proves that hardcore hackers, multimedia junkies, cyberpunks and cellular freaks are poised to take over the world."As new writers and artists began to experiment with cyberpunk ideas, new varieties of fiction emerged, sometimes addressing the criticisms leveled at the original cyberpunk stories.
Aside from its fumbled prophetic agenda and its narrow focus on essentially a single text, has other editorial problems. Cordwainer Smith's (1975) is cited as "" (102) and the film (1970) as "" (195); H.R. Giger's name is persistently misspelled "Geiger"; Gale Anne Hurd is listed as the director of the 1986 film (295), whereas she was the producer (James Cameron directed). More egregiously, John Huntington, in his essay, rehearses the plot of a J.G. Ballard story that is cited as "The Terminal Beach" when in fact he is describing "The Voices of Time" (140). I don't mean to nitpick, merely to register that the volume's problems are endemic. As an assessment of the prospects of fiction in a cybernetic culture, I recommend instead Paul Delany and George P. Landow's (1991) and William R. Paulson's (1988), while as an overview of cyberpunk and its relations to postmodernism, McCaffery's , McHale's , and Bukatman's (1993) are greatly to be preferred. At best, the various excellences of the Csicsery-Ronay, Rabkin, McGuirk, Landon, and Shippey essays make the book worth consulting if not acquiring. In sum, though is not a bad book, it could, in every way, have been a substantially better one
Like the writers of the 1970s and 80s who assimilated the New Wave's classics and stylistic techniques without necessarily knowing or even caring about the manifestos and ideologies that birthed them, today's new writers might very well have read Neuromancer back to back with Asimov's Foundation, John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar, and Larry Niven's Ringworld and seen not discontinuities but a continuum.Person's essay advocates using the term postcyberpunk to label the new works such writers produce.
A prominent subgenre is steampunk (cyberpunk themes in the early industrial age), which is set in an alternative history Victorian era that combines anachronistic techonology with cyberpunk's bleak film noir world view.
The essays in part 4 pull back to the genre borders, purporting to trace the horizon of the cyberpunk canon. There are essays by John Christie on Gibson, Robert Donahoo and Chuck Etheridge on Shiner, Tom Shippey on Sterling, and Francis Bonner on cyberpunk in film and television. Not a far horizon obviously: the work of three writers and a handful of visual texts. The first two essays are at best routine, but Shippey on Sterling is excellent, showing convincingly how Sterling's extrapolations are guided less by a systematic philosophy than by a kind of ideological bricolage. With Bonner's essay, though, we are back to the routine: rigidly concerned with establishing plausible canonicity for the texts she surveys, she measures various SF films of the '80s against a thematic tally sheet. What possible value there can be in such a procrustean enterprise I can hardly imagine, especially considering that Vivian Sobchack's analysis of the subgenre of the "marginal postfuturist SF film" in her book (1987) already comes fairly close to establishing a cinematic canon of cyberpunk (though this is not Sobchack's specific agenda), and is moreover part of an overarching treatment of SF film that is complex, subtle, and fascinating. Not so Bonner's picayune hair-splitting. (Csicsery-Ronay's brief analysis, in the essay mentioned above, of David Cronenberg's 1982 film is a much more exciting treatment of cyberpunk themes in contemporary cinema.)