Cyberpunk (story)

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Bethke, Bruce. “Cyberpunk.” With a Foreword by the Author. Infinity Plus fiction <http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/cpunk.htm>. Story written “In the early spring of 1980.” First publication Amazing Science Fiction Stories 57.4 (November 1983). Bethke’s novel Cyberpunk “is now available as shareware through my web and ftp sites at: <http://www.spedro.com/cybrpnk.pdf> <ftp://ftp.visi.com/users/brbethke/cybrpnk.pdf>"


Foreword: Gives the origin of his neologism “cyberpunk” as “a conscious and deliberate act of creation” achieved “through synthesis. I took a handful of roots — cyber, techno, et al[.] — mixed them up with a bunch of terms for socially misdirected youth, and tried out the various combinations until one just plain sounded right” to be used from the first draft on as “a snappy, one-word title that editors would remember,” to which he adds, with powerful understatement, “Offhand, I'd say I succeeded.”

If one didn’t know the date of composition, one might take “Cyberpunk” as an elegant short parody of Cyberpunk. It is instead the cyberpunk story that did most to invent the term, differing from the norm in being only mildly sardonic, and ambiguously comic (how funny it is depending upon the degree to which one identifies and sympathizes with the protagonist-Narrator).

Michael, a punk 15-year-old — in an old sense of “punk”[1] — is very good at the cybernetic game of computer hacking. Working with his group of what would be droogs in ‘’A Clockwork Orange’’ (1962), he engages or is an accessory to hacking that moves from the mischievous to the felonious. Getting a vague idea of what his son has been up to, the protagonist’s father yanks “the plugs on [... Michael’s computer] terminal," leading to our punk protagonist’s taking serious cybernetic revenge with his father’s job and checking account — “Savings and mortgage on the condo, too.” Michael has hidden away, though, copies of what he’s hacked (deleted, erased) and will restore his father’s life if there are new rules around the house. The story comes to a happy ending however, for the “Olders,” when Michael’s father uses such basic technology/tools as a heavy-duty wire-cutter to cut Michael’s connection to what we’d call the internet and (probably) chisel to take “apart the hinges on [... Michael’s bedroom] door," and enter Michaels room.

"Michael, there's something I think you should see." He dragged me down to his den and pulled some bundles of old paper trash out of his desk. "These are receipts. This is what obsolete old relics like me use because we don't trust computer bookkeeping. I checked with work and the bank; everything that goes on in the computer has to be verified with paper. You can't change anything for more than 24 hours."

"Twenty-four hours?" I laughed. "Then you're still fritzed! I can still wipe you out any day, from any term [= computer terminal] in CityNet'"

"I know." 


But our cyberpunk will not be able to get to a computer at the Spartan military school to which his parents ship him off, for the story’s denouement.



RDE, Initial Compiler, 24Jan19