Beyond Cyberpunk: New Critical Perspectives

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Beyond Cyberpunk: New Critical Perspectives, Graham J. Murphy and Sheryl Vint., eds. New York: Routledge, 2010. 281 pp.

Anthology of critical essays, reviewed Ellen Rigsby, "Bookending Cyberpunk", upon which we depend.

Rigsby notes this anthology is marketed "as an opportunity to re-examing cyberpunk given our current digital age," but is less "a meditation on technological effects" and more, or "rather a sustained consideration of both old and current 'cyberpunk works given that the immersive technologies cyberpunk describes are reflected more through contemporary forms of technology and cyberculture than they were when Gibson's Neuromancer was published in 1984." The editors divide the text into "sections on the situation of cyberpunk (as a movement or otherwise), on political economy and cyberpunk, and on embodiment/transcendence of the body and cyberpunk" (Extrapolation 387), with the essays on the body of most immediate relevance for the topic of this wiki.

The essay by Brian McHale from 1992 "suggests that cyberpunk 'translates of transcodes postmodernist motifs' so that it 'tends to "literalize" or "actualize" what in postmodernist fiction occurs as metaphor' (6). The AI's and "human-machine interfaces of cyberpunk illustrate the instability and disintegration of the self characteristic of postmodernism according to McHale" (JFA review, p. 399). Rob Latham in the anthology notes that cyberpunk is closely related to the preceding New Wave, and Rigsby in her review cites Samuel R. Delany as one source for the idea that such literalization is common in SF more generally (Extrapolation p. 388).

Beyond Cyberpunk includes Neil Easterbrook on "Recognizing Patterns: Gibson's Hermeneutics from the Bridge Trilogy to Pattern Recognition, and is relevant for Pat Cadigan's Tea from an Empty Cup (1998), video games such as Deus Ex (2000), and THE MATRIX (1999). ¶¶Rigsby notes in the essays the limitations of the freedoms apparently given in cyberpunk technology, including cyberspace. Jonathan Boulter "reminds us that, by way of technology, humans lose aspects of subjectivity when technology creates new aspects through sensory extension. The bionic and cybernetic accessories that one can accrue in Deus Ex are offered as extensions but serve to commodify the bodies that they enhance." Body modification can yield "extension of the senses" in games, but the enhancement "is only temporary […] and perhaps escapist. The desire to leave the body to inhabit the gamescape is melancholic — we can leave the body" (in a Separable Soul motif) "to play a video game about leaving the human body for an enhanced cyber-body — but the plot of the game eventually ends, throwing us back into our shelves" (Rigsby pp. 389-90).

See Beyond Cyberpunk also for Karen Cardora's examination of "the implication of declaring cyberpunk dead just as women writers begin to use it to explore the identities of race, gender and sexuality in cyberspace," arguing "the cyborg body is an effective trope through which to expand the roles and social locations female characters inhabit"; for Pawel Frelik for considerations of humanism and posthumanism; and for Veronica Hollinger's using M. Shelly's Frankenstein "as a metaphor for understanding the ontological questions that arise when considering cyberpunk retrospectively through the lens of current cyberculture — and what that view can suggest for our reading of "some early feminist 'cyberfiction'" (Rigsby p. 390).

RDE, Initial Compiler, 20Aug18