Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A short story I read, and revisiting cyberpunk

Late last month, I read an article on Slashdot about Google turning 7 years old. In the user comments of that article, someone posted a short story that I really enjoyed. Here's a link to the story where it originally appeared:

The Nine Billion Names Of God

Here's an excerpt:
"You know what Google is?"

"Yes," I said. I was running low on patience.

"No, I mean, do you really know? More than just the site?"

Reluctantly, I shook my head.

"You ever meet anyone who worked for them?"

"Don't think so."

"You haven't. Nobody works for them anymore."

I shrugged, and took the man's empty pint. I didn't offer to refill it.

"They're self-contained. It's all automated, in there. It's underground."
The story is a nice bit of sci-fi, and arguably cyberpunk in its presentation. (Amongst other things, it made me think of Darren Aronofsky's Pi)

As a teenager, I used to be impressed by certain authors' romantic portrayals of worn-but-wily heroes struggling to make it in dark and oppressive cyberpunk futures. I don't know if I'm heroic at all, or clever enough to be considered wily, but these days, I really do feel like we live in a world that's pretty close to those dystopian visions. [See the following link for a really nice explanation of cyberpunk: Exploring Dystopia: Cyberpunk]

Even though the word has lost some of its edge in recent years, "cyberpunk" fiction is still something that I am very interested in because it's all about technology and society (and the ways that they co-construct each other), issues of power, and the ways that marginalized outsiders and reluctant insiders alike seek to challenge the status quo (even if it's just a little bit).

Here are some movies I have enjoyed that I consider cyberpunk even though fan-made lists of cyberpunk films don't always include them:

Battle Royale (based on the novel by Koushun Takami)
New Rose Hotel (based on the short story by William Gibson)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (yes, the one with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie)

While these films don't feature characters sporting cybernetic implants or prosthetics, and the worlds they portray are not as visually dramatic as the one portrayed in Blade Runner, they share certain thematic and stylistic elements that immediately strike me as being cyberpunk in flavor, even though some would disagree with me. Have we become so used to cyberpunk themes in fiction, or has society become so cyberpunk itself, that the label has become superfluous? Just a thought.


  1. The movie version of New Rose Hotel was ok, by I felt ultimately disappointing. Fox was way to loose, not enough "biz".
    I'm nervous about the film adaptation of "Pattern Recognition" since all the Gibson films have been a let down.

  2. also try nSpace, from the Dovin Melhee story:

  3. I agree with the first commenter's comment.

  4. battle royal is cyberpunk in my eyes.
    what else would describe the odd ideas it portraits.

    haven't seen New Rose Hotel yet, so thanks for the recommendation against boredom.

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