Friday, January 25, 2013

Neuromancer by William Gibson - The Archetype of Cyberpunk



 
The Matrix is a world within the world, a global consensus- hallucination, the representation of every byte of data in cyberspace . . .

Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction.


 


Published in 1984 (long before the Internet was invented), Neuromancer is what diehard fans of cyberpunk would call the template of Cyberpunk. Not only did William Gibson introduce the term and notion of 'cyberspace', he asked the main question many cyberpunk novels ask: what it is to be human once technology has replaced our living tissue? (That question can be originally attributed to Phillip K. Dick and his 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - a.k.a. Blade Runner)

Neuromancer touches on many classic aspects of Cyberpunk.

The dystopian backdrop : a grimy, broken down, technology filled and noir-infused Japanese city.

The antiheroe: Case, the previously brilliant computer hacker who had his brain cells fried by his former employer, leaving him unable to jack in to the "cyberspace."Cyberpunk characters are put in situations that they don't often choose, and usually don't come out on top, forming great examples of anti-heroes.

Biotechnology to its finest: physically augmented kick-ass heroine, Molly, with her mirrored lenses covering her eye sockets, a sharpened reflex system and double-edge blades.

The blur between reality and the virtual: the direct connection between brain and computers with sensational descriptions of surfing The Matrix.

What I loved the most about Neuromancer was the 'feel' that emanated from this book. The world-building, characterization and voice reeks of cyberpunk and its gritty characteristics.

While some readers have complained about Neuromancer's pacing and (now outdated) technology, Neuromancer remains one of the most important novels in the history of literature as it transcended its time and revolutionized the genre of science-fiction.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Steampunk Fashion

Though Steampunk takes its cues from Victorian Britain, when it comes to fashion its more anything goes. Attend a Steampunk gathering and, yes, you will see top hats, corsets and bustles - and the almost eternal goggles - but the beauty of Steampunk is that you create your own look.

Steampunk fashion ignores the current obsession with size and so draws larger people of both genders. It's also blind to colour and sexual persuasion. In direct opposition to Victorian "values", Steampunk is inclusive and about being an individual.


A Steampunk gentleman in traditional attire,
but the rings add a touch of personality.

Steampunk is about imagining how the Industrial Revolution might have continued.
This lady wears wings that have a touch of da Vinci about them.

Steampunk also imagines how industry could affect everyday life.
Modifications such as this geared arm are popular in the genre.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our first book feature - Techxorcist Artificial Evil by Colin Barnes





----------------


Three hackers.
A deadly plot.
One chance to save humanity.
In the tradition of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and Richard Morgan, British writer Colin F. Barnes delivers a cyberpunk tech thriller for the modern age.
2153. Post-cataclysm. The last city exists beneath a dome where the mysterious benefactors ‘The Family’ tightly control the population with a death lottery and a semi-autonomous network.
All is well until the day family man Gerry Cardle, head of the death lottery, inexplicably finds himself the no.1 target of a malicious Artificial Intelligence. Gerry’s numbers are up, and he has just 7 days to save himself,  find the source of the AI, and keep the last stronghold of humanity safe.
Gerry finds help in the shadows of the city from two rogue hackers: Petal – a teenage girl with a penchant for violence, hacking systems and general anarchy, and, Gabriel – a burnt-out programmer-turned-priest with highly augmented cybernetics.
With his new team, Gerry discovers there is more beyond the dome than The Family had let on, and his journey to find the source of the AI leads him through a world of violence, danger, and startling revelations.
Everything is not as it seems. Gerry is not who he thinks he is. Evil can be coded…. Can Gerry and his friends stop it before it destroys humanity?
Artificial Evil is book 1 of 3 of The Techxorcist series. The larger-than-life offspring of Blade Runner, Mad Max and The Exorcist.


----------------


 

Colin F. Barnes is a writer of dark and daring fiction. He takes his influence from everyday life, and the weird happenings that go on in the shadowy locales of Essex in the UK.

Growing up, Colin was always obsessed with story and often wrote short stories based on various dubious 80s and 90s TV shows. Despite taking a detour in school into the arts and graphic design, he always maintained his love of fiction and general geekery. Now, as a slightly weathered adult, Colin draws on his experiences to blend genres and create edgy, but entertaining stories.

He is currently working on a Cyberpunk/Techno thriller serial 'The Techxorcist.' which combines elements of Sci-Fi, Thriller, and Horror.

Like many writers, he has an insatiable appetite for reading, with his favourite authors being: Stephen King, William Gibson, Ray Bradbury, James Herbert, Albert Camus,  H.P Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith,  and a vast array of unknown authors who he has had the privilege of beta reading for.


 


-Who is Colin Barnes?

I'm a thirty something from Essex in the UK. I write things, publish things, and consume a cornucopia of media to feed my imagination, where I live for the vast majority of the time. Before I got into writing I trained as a graphic designer and ran a web development company for a while, then I worked for the man as a Lab Tech, and recently jacked it all in to live my dream: one of poverty and daily struggle—that of the humble writer.

-Why do you write cyberpunk?

Well, cyberpunk is just one of many genres that I work in, and the main reason why I enjoy writing those kind of stories is that it's science fiction with an edge; it's a glimpse of our near future using technology that's just on the cusp of breaking through. Cyberpunk also has a lot of character and edge: the stories can be larger-than-life and full of adventure.

-What is your all time favorite cyberpunk story? Why?

I'd say Blade Runner (or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The book from which it was adapted). It's just a great story that examines what it means to be human or how far can we evolve and still keep our core humanity.

-What would you do if you lived in a world you created?

If we're talking about the world in The Techxorcist, I'd like to think I'd be one of the rebels fighting for freedom, using technology for good and helping rebuild the world.


-We're dying to know, where did the idea of Techxorcist Artificial Evil come from?

Funny thing is I can’t. It wasn’t any one thing. It was a case of many influences finally smashing together to create a vague idea that I then explored further. It started life as a short story with a very open ending, which begged the age-old question: what if?

-Tell us about your main characters (warning: SPOILERS ALLOWED)

There's three main in characters in The Techxorcist trilogy, and each book follows each on of their stories. In the first we have Gerry Cardle. He's a family man, working as the lead algorithm designer for the death lottery in City Earth. The whole trilogy kicks off with his story. One morning he wakes to find his numbers have come up, despite being exempt. His investigations on that anomaly takes him on a dangerous and deadly adventure when he meets my other two protagonists: Petal and Gabriel - two 'off-the-grid' hackers.
Next up is Petal. She's an anarchic teenage girl with strange eyes that she keeps hidden behind goggles. She's foul-mouthed, a little bit violent, but entirely charming. She works as a hacker—amongst other things—and helps lead Gerry into a new world of discovery and truth.
The final book features Gabriel, the elder of the three protagonists. Like Petal, he, too, is a hacker. Only he's getting old and has been at it for a long time. He's a little on the edges of sanity and hides many secrets and agendas. Working with Petal he 'exorcises' malicious Artificial Intelligences. Together, all three have to work to gather to unveil the truth and save humanity.

-What was the hardest part of writing this novel?

I think weaving the overall plot. Because the narrative extends across three books, I needed to make sure that each character's arc worked for each book and across the entire story.

-What is your favorite plot-twist/character/element...from your novel?

That's really difficult because I love so many things about it, but Petal as a character is just ridiculous fun to write. She's crazy, loyal, violent, talented, funny and writing her scenes are always enjoyable.

-What's next for Colin Barnes?

Well, so many things! Aside from The Techxorcist trilogies next books, I have two novellas due out. The first 'Heart for the Raven's a gothic horror is out by Fox Spirit Books, I'm also publishing a weird/lovecraftian horror 'of Darkewood & Ivory' in the coming months.
Besides all that, I also run my own publishing company 'Anachron Press' and we have 9 titles scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2013, so I'm going to be exceptionally busy over the next few months.

-What advice would you give writers who want to write cyberpunk?

Read and watch everything in the genre. It has certain tropes that can be helpful or a hinderance, and the style has common elements. There's room to innovate and do something different (I've added horror and adventure to my cyberpunk story), but it makes sense to know the genre so you can decide how to subvert it.

-Very important question: Windows, iOs or Android?

I'm a mac fan. iOS or OS X all the way for me.

Thank you for interviewing me. It was a real pleasure.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Introduction to Cyberpunk


Photo by D3ATHW01F6 on stock.xchng

Cyber+punk -- the precursor to all punk genres, the mix of punk attitudes and technological advancement.

Many of you have probably been exposed to the genre, even though you may not know it. Or maybe I'm being unrealistic because I love the beast.

Cyberpunk originated in the 1980's, when computers and their evolutionary potential became the next big thing. It desired to push the envelope of traditional science-fiction, trading far off planets and alien encounters for the extrapolations of a present economical and social climate exacerbated by technology.

"High tech and low life," remains the quintessential sentence for classic cyberpunk. Originally used by William Gibson to describe his first short story Burning Chrome (1982), it has now become the mainstream description of the genre and fits quite well.

Many of the cyberpunk worlds are made of omnipotent technology that has spread to become the norm rather than the exception, with corporations and government as its rulers. This leaves the hacker, cultural deviant, social rebel -- the "low life," to struggle beneath the thumb of society and its demands for generalization. But the low life usually ends up making his/her own way, transforming and individualizing technology beyond its intended use.

There are so many possible backdrops to cyberpunk stories, from the post-apocalyptic remnants of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to the noir aesthetic of Jeff Somers' The Electric Church, it makes it such an exciting genre. The backdrop is often dictated by the author's intended message, directly related to the concepts of post-humanism, post-industrialism and post-nationalism.

It still doesn't ring a bell?

Have you heard of the authors Gibson, Sterling?

The Matrix ::nods head:: yep, that's considered cyberpunk. Blade Runner, Surrogates... all cyberpunk.
I love writing cyberpunk because it drives me to study and question the current state of things and status quo. Extrapolating from current events, socio-economical aspects and technological break throughs.

Cyberpunk imagines tomorrow.

We will go over the genre in more details (from world-building to characterization) in future cyberpunk related posts.

So, which side would you be on --the corporation's or the hacker's?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Steampunk Classics: The Time Machine by HG Wells

Though it's enjoyed an enormous rise in popularity within the last few years, Steampunk is not a new genre by any means. Writers have been utilizing what we classify as Steampunk elements since before the genre was given a name, and one of my personal favorites is HG Wells. Not all of his works would qualify as steampunk, but his novella The Time Machine most definitely gives us some fantastic futuristic technology.

First published in 1895, when steampunk was just a twinkle in the eye of science fiction, Wells' novella takes a look at the perils of time travel by following the Time Traveler as he uses his machine to journey into the future. He goes, expecting to find something similar to the life he left, but he discovers that humanity has split into two groups--the mild-mannered Eloi who live on the surface, and the dangerous Morlocks who occupy the underground. (And yes, those Morlocks were the inspiration for the Morlocks of the X-Men universe.) After he saves a young Eloi girl from drowning, the Time Traveler becomes noticed by the Morlocks, and not in a good way. They stalk him and try to kill him for his time machine. You'll have to read the book if you want to know the rest ;)

The Time Machine presents a few of what have become basic steampunk tropes--time travel, scientific discovery, technology ahead of its time, explorers, and alternate history. While not pure steampunk, Wells' novella acts as part of a foundation for the subgenre and has spawned multiple sequels and homages that are as well as different movie adaptations that utilize steampunk aspects including Morlock Night by KW Jeter, first published in 1979, a steampunk fantasy novel in which the Morlocks, having studied the Traveller's machine, duplicate it and invade Victorian London, and most recently, The Time Traveler's Tale: Chronicle of a Morlock Captivity by Paul Schullery, in which the Time Traveler returns to the future many years later to mobilize the Eloi against the Morlocks.

Fun fact: The term "Time Machine," which was coined by Wells, is used to denote any such vehicle.

Pop Culture Fact
: On an episode of "The Big Bang Theory" Leonard accidentally buys a full-sized replica of the Time Machine used in the 1960 film for $800.

In the future (bahahahahaha) we'll take a look at other classics that have helped to develop one of the subgenres we love so dearly.

The Time Machine is available EVERYWHERE. If you need help looking, check out:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Book review: Lady of Devices - Shelley Adina



London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world.

At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. When her father gambles the estate on the combustion engine and loses, Claire finds herself down and out on the mean streets of London. But being a young woman of resources and intellect, she turns fortune on its head. It’s not long before a new leader rises in the underworld, known only as the Lady of Devices.

When she meets Andrew Malvern, a member of the Royal Society of Engineers, she realizes her talents may encompass more than the invention of explosive devices. They may help her realize her dreams and his . . . if they can both stay alive long enough to see that sometimes the closest friendships can trigger the greatest betrayals . . .


This book contains two types of stories I love—the fish out of water story, and the rich-kid-turned-ass-kicking-lord-of-the-underground story. I know, that last bit was a little long, but that’s exactly what happens to Lady Claire in this fun steampunk romp through Victorian London. All of our favorite steampunk trappings are there—airships, steam trains, lightning guns (oh yeah, dude, LIGHTNING GUNS)—but the heart of the story is Claire’s transformation from the viscount’s daughter who wants more from her life than simply finding a husband, to a vigilant protector of a group of ragamuffins at whom high society wouldn’t even bat an eye. I loved the way Adina structures her story and makes Claire lose everything before she can build her life in the streets. 

Not to say that Claire takes to it immediately. There’s quite a bit of expected internal struggle as she adjusts to a life of hardship. To her credit, she refuses to succumb to the low road of pickpocketing and theft as her group of children has done, instead keeping her head high and showing the kids that there are better ways to life. That’s one of this book’s best qualities—showing that no matter how awful the circumstances, a Lady still makes her own luck, as Claire points out. 

One of the major drawbacks to this book is that it suffers a bit from Trilogy Setup-itis. The first book in a trilogy often has no choice but to be a setup book, in that it introduces the world and the main players with a bit of plot thrown in. While Claire’s story is captivating, and it did keep me turning pages, the conflict is more internal than external. It’s more about Claire’s struggle to maintain her independence and settle into this newfound role as “Governess” to a group of street kids. She builds her reputation almost purely by accident. But Claire’s most redeeming quality (she has many, btw), is this: though things keep happening to her, she continually takes what she’s given and makes something better out of it. That aspect of The Lady of Devices makes it a great read for both steampunk lovers and those new to the genre.