Cyberpunk is sticky because it got so many things right. Both in terms of political/economic/social predictions and in terms of an attractive aesthetic. And technologically it is now an alternate present where we went with VR instead of smartphones and private military commandos instead of strategic media campaigns.
Saying that SF is "broken" because of this, or pushing thoughts-and-prayers-punk trash, is taking the Bannon view that "politics is downstream from culture". That the worth of a genre of fiction is measured by its value as motivational propaganda.
I wonder what sub-genre of SF has something to say about the people who are pushing "consume this corporate media that makes you feel happy and hopeful instead of angry" as a response to social problems?
Of course the other reason for cyberpunk's staying power is that it is an established genre and media companies know how that established genres are safer investments (best investment: reboot/sequel to something people already like).
I wonder what sub-genre of SF had a lot to say about the result of corporate/economic influences on popular art?
Gee, what a mystery.
It's the manifest destiny of the culture war that absolutely EVERYTHING has its cultural value purchased and liquidated for it's political propaganda cash value.
Modern science fiction describes worlds where people can clone their consciousness 50 times over, where it is possible to adjust the perception of time, and where plans take millennia to come to fruition.
Accelerando by Charles Stross. Recursion by Tony Ballantyne. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow.
Yes, these are all evolutions of previous ideas, but Science Fiction has always built on itself.
I almost feel like the author of the blog went and read Altered Carbon for the first time and somehow thought it was a continuation of Gibson and Stephenson's work. Neither of their latest stuff feels very "cyberpunk" to me. Maybe more so with "The Peripheral", but certainly not Seveneves.
Citation needed. While this is under open debate amongst fans of the genre, I don't think Stephenson has stated it's a parody? And deliberate parody or not, I feel it brings a lot of ideas into the fold and observes the spirit of the genre. It's not a mistake to cite it as an example of the genre.
Think George Romero movies: they're "zombie movies" by genre, but they also are self-aware and frequently invert or riff on tropes of the genre itself.
In a lot of contexts that is a useful taxonomy to use, because it ends up being more clear.
I know there was a foreword or afterword about how it originally began as a comic book script, which would certainly push it towards being over the top.
Maybe it's me - but I don't really see a lot of differences between all those, in a way that I could label it a parody. But did technology advance that quick in less than 10 years that what you described changed?
From a certain standpoint they're all "equally ridiculous", not so different. (Not a judgement of quality, I love them all.)
I recall an interview where Stephenson went on at length about the very structured nature of "Snow Crash."
Dammed if I can find it right now.
And you can't necessarily just solve this "politically" with "activist scifi". You have to actually figure out which scientific and philosophical foundation-stones of our present social and technological orders are false assumptions, and figure out how to open them to question and speculation. Then you have to tell an interesting story about it all!
(I often find that many of the people trying to "critique" our social order haven't taken that essential step of asking what the counterfactuals are to the false assumptions they critique. They think just by criticizing, you open some vast untapped field of techno-social possibilities. Nah, once you've grabbed the steering wheel, you still need to have somewhere to steer towards, a map of how to get there, and a map of why you want to go there.)
I don't agree with Ursula LeGuin that novelists shouldn't or can't imagine the future. The early cyberpunks certainly did imagine aspects of the future like the importance of cyber-security, individuals vs. massive multinational entities, social fragmentation, and the decay of the nation state. SpaceX's shiny rocket currently taking shape shows that some of the "golden age" space sci-fi writers imagined certain aspects of the future too. The greatest sci-fi is about both the present and the future.
I don't think it is particularly new. Maybe its more obvious now because there is more bleed between Science Fiction and Fantasy as separate genres. You had your Azimovs and Clarks, but you also had your Dicks, Zelaznys and Moorcocks.
Hard SF definitely exists, it's just (like other literary subgenres) a bit less popular and prolific.
But back in the moment, I fell asleep many times trying to go through those passages.
Anyhow, I agree that this trilogy is really good work, on so many levels. It gets me thinking nearly everyday, years later, about what I'd need to prepare for as an eventual, hopeful colonist.
Previous SF genres had shiny futures, technology that worked, bad guys who were bad and good guys who were good... cyberpunk turned that all on its head and asked "What if everything is as broken and shitty in the future as it is now? What if it's even shittier? Never mind the captains and the heroes, what will the lowlifes and the junkies and the scoundrels do in the future? What if technology is no solution but just a source of more problems?"
These questions remain as relevant and compelling as ever, and so the genre endures.
Modern day society looks a lot like the sci-fi novels from the 80s. Novels that use modern day as a kick-off point will naturally have elements of that embedded within them. That sure as hell doesn't make them "punk" novels.
I think modern sci-fi has gone a LONG way past "punk" and is pretty firmly in the "post-apocolyptic" realm right now (which I find marginally entertaining and relatively scary depending on my mood any given day).
That said, I think another large reason is that we're still in early days for many of the technological themes presented in those punk novels.
Human-machine interfaces are still in infancy.
AI is breaking ground, but just barely.
Power generation is basically the same story (although modern fusion is looking more and more compelling).
We have SO much untapped potential there that it's absolutely obvious why people continue to write different takes of it.
Alternatively, the author just has a fetish for punk styled novels and hasn't quite realized it yet.
I mean, I can sorta buy over-intelligent AI, human-computer interface, and all that cool shit, but the bits have to flow from here to there somehow. And all cyberpunk stories I've read just assume that information magically teleports. Just like that awful Avatar (which isn't really cyberpunk, but still) - we have rogue humans running around in an undeveloped alien planet and somehow they enjoy ultra-4K instant VR experience over the air? Who's maintaining that connection?
The most elegant SF stories IMO gloss over a lot of tech - Inception for example, never explains a single technical detail about the machines that power the dream world, instead focusing purely on the human interactions.
A counterexample is Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, which focuses heavily on tech and makes a good attempt at keeping it within the realm of physics while still describing interesting ideas - however much of the theme of the book is how technology develops as a product of its environment and how it builds on existing tech in a collective way, so it contributes to the story. Even so, it was criticized for being too technical (even though I enjoyed that part of it immensely).
Another example is 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, which makes the mistake of focusing too much on the tech - in fact the whole plot is essentially a vehicle for the author to describe all the possible human habitats that could exist in space.
Nobody's gonna care about bandwidth if your hero is trying to save mankind from galactic chaos by reinventing history, but let's say, if you're in a spy action thriller set in the middle of WW2, you can't just take a flight from Heathrow to Budapest: there must be at least some pseudo-plausible explanation.
But as with any sci-fi, you have to have some amount of suspension of disbelief when talking about new tech. If the author knew everything about the tech they talk about, they wouldn't be writing science fiction because they would have invented it, and we'd be reading nonfiction instead.
The real spoiler is always going to be latency.
Hopefully someday there will be a landmark solarpunk movie/book that will definitely set it as a recurring theme and general direction for new thinkers to embrace.
There has been a massive increase in social welfare spending since 1982.
The continual mischaracterizations of history by writers at media outlets like Slate is really unethical.
Also, the economy is substantially more regulated, and the government's control through omni-surveillance and legal inventions like National Security Letters, has grown by leaps and bounds.
The increasingly constrained, legalistic and centralized structure of the economy is one reason people's lives in the developed world haven't improved more since 1982.
..our present is locking us into a narrow range of dystopian futures.
Can't we just get beyond Thunderdome?