Friday, May 3, 2013

Cyberpunk Aesthetic

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." 


Few opening lines capture a complete aesthetic like the first sentence of Neuromancer. Cyberpunk would grow out of this emotionally gray projection of the future of a technologically connected world. The environment is not thought of in terms of adapting to an mysterious and untamable natural world, but in terms of adapting to the technological creations by mankind. The sky is disinterested, having no thoughts or emotion of its own. But television turned to a dead channel! That takes human will, which is filled with unknown motives and feelings. The sky, the world, is a result of the cumulative individual decisions of humanity manifested in technology. The channel can be turned off at any moment.

Such a powerful aesthetic even captures deep themes. Feeling trapped by a world created by the priorities of others. Breaking out by creating the world in one's own image, no matter how strenuous the process may be. For cyberpunk, this is expressed with the pervasive effect of technology in every facet of life. Dark, grimy, broken down environment. While this is already apparent in the earlier post introducing Neuromancer, there is a lot more to be found.

Case experiences the world around him as underground and behind the scenes, sometimes literally. The Finn provides black market tools in complete darkness, away from the public eye. Technology has become such a part of life that even run-down communities have become inundated with constant streams of bytes. Cyberspace goes beyond underground, beyond even any kind of ground. It is not described in earthly terms, but with shapes and abstractions, modes of thinking only enabled with advancing computers.

Cyberpunk aesthetic matures in Neuromancer's successors, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Leaving aside critique of their plots, their environments are built precisely. Sprawling urban environments in the whole trilogy. Voodoo entities taking up home in cyberspace, and the graceful advancement of Paris in Count Zero. Dilapidated workshops of a junkyard, the technologically chaotic life of a pop star, and the cold environment of Britain as a foreigner in Mona Lisa Overdrive.

What genres in other mediums do you think fits the cyberpunk aesthetic?

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