3.07.2004

Mining Our History

If "in the high-tech 80s, 'technological literacy' meant outright *ecstasy and dread.*," as Bruce Stirling proposes in Cyberpunk in the 90's, perhaps I should be more understanding if today's current rate of technological innovation has frightened the science fiction community into "head in the sand" SF and flight to fantasy, while the core of fantasy has become so static as to be confused with deceased. Only the faint fog of "New Weird" and interstitial appearing on the mirror as a sign of like--and even these movements are keeping their distance.

"Cyberpunk," before it acquired its handy label and its sinister rep, was a generous, open-handed effort, very street-level and anarchic, with a do-it-yourself attitude, an ethos it shared with garage-band 70s punk music.

Cyberpunk's one-page propaganda organ, "CHEAP TRUTH," was given away free to anyone who asked for it. CHEAP TRUTH was never copyrighted; photocopy "piracy" was actively encouraged.



I've always had a high regard for CP as a breakaway literary movement, a radical departure from what came before. I was never aware that it was a successful grass roots movement, or that it owed its success to a samizdat publication--CHEAP TRUTH--which would correspond to Gabe Chouinard's smartmobs.

CHEAP TRUTH had rather mixed success. We had a laudable grasp of the basics: for instance, that SF writers ought to *work a lot harder* and *knock it off with the worn-out bullshit* if they expected to earn any real
respect. Most folks agreed that this was a fine prescription -- for somebody else.


Somehow it is both reassuring and distressing to visualize the influence and health of SF as a cycle, but I'd be a lot more comfortable if the genre looked like this cycle belonged to an ascending spiral of increasing readership, influence and adventure. From here it looks like each turn of the wheel brings fewer readers and more of a sense of claustrophobic contraction. If this were a revolution, reducing the genre to a core membership might be a strengthening move, but this is supposed to be a populist literature.

What the history of dawn of cyberpunk also says is that anyone, even everyone, can play a part in identifying what is good, original, unique, and promoting it by doing nothing more than talking about what you like to others who might like it (or something like it).

Best Regards,
Alan Lattimore
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