Showing posts with label cyberpunk 2020. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cyberpunk 2020. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cyberpunk 101: The Anthologies

In a few weeks I am going to be starting up a Cyberpunk 2020 game on G+ Hangouts. In addition to boning up on the rules (I don't think that I have read the Cyberpunk rules in at least 6 years), I decided to dust off some fiction on my bookshelves and reread the source material. Ever since my first paperback copy of William Gibson's Neuromancer, I have been a fan of the genre. I remember getting it to read for my first ever airplane trip, when I went off to college in Indiana. I had read about the book in a Rolling Stone review and knew that I had to read it. The rest was history.

Today, in this post, I am going to talk about fiction anthologies. For me, the stories in these anthologies represent a cross section of Cyberpunk fiction from the orthodoxy (Bruce Sterling's seminal Mirrorshades anthology) to the revelatory (Larry McCaffery's Storming The Reality Studio) to the apocrypha (Peter Lamborn Wilson and Rudy Rucker's Semiotext(E) SF). Between these three books you get an excellent cross section and sampling of Cyberpunk literature, and some of the people who influenced it as well.

Since it is likely to be the one that people are least familiar with, I am going to start by talking about Semiotext(E) SF. Semiotext(E) is an underground publishing house (originally their books were distributed by the anarchist publishing house Automedia) that specialized in cutting edge cultural and political thinking that bleeds out into both fiction and non-fiction. The Semiotext(E) SF anthology looked at the science fiction of the time (a lot of which was Cyberpunk or similar in themes) and put out what they thought was some of the best representations. Assembled by mathematician and science fiction author Rudy Rucker and philosopher Peter Lamborn Wilson, their final product was not unlike Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions, in that it showed a side of science fiction that had teeth to it, unlike much of the commercially available fiction.

Many of Cyberpunk's "usual suspects" are found in this anthology: William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley and Lewis Shiner. Other names, like Rachel Pollack, Hakim Bey, Kerry Thornley and Robert Shockley, may not be as recognizable to many science fiction fans, but they were doing some cutting edge work. Early instigators and influences like William Burroughs, J.G. Ballard and Phillip Jose Farmer are also represented in this book.

Storming The Reality Studio is a bit different from the other two anthologies because it was meant to be a college textbook. For me, one of the nice things about this is that it has essays about cyberpunk and postmodern writing in addition to the fiction. For those without an academic bent, those can be skipped, but I think that they help to give a place and relevance to the Cyberpunk literature. This book also has the most non-fiction of the three anthologies, which might not be a selling point for everyone. It also has the usual suspects: Gibson, Rucker, Shirley, Shiner and Sterling. It also has Ballard and Burroughs, and mixes in Thomas Pynchon and Samuel R. Delany. Some of the reasons that I like Storming the Reality Studio is that it excerpts the often ignored Life During Wartime (the title influenced by the Talking Heads song) by Lucius Sheppard and has a (non-Crow) comic by James O'Barr.

The first Cyberpunk anthology, and one of the things that helped to "kickstart" the "movement" was Bruce Sterling's Mirrorshades. I saved this for last because it is likely to be the anthology that people already have. Many of these stories appeared in the issues of OMNI magazine, the Bob Guccione published magazine of science and science fiction. Obviously, the usual suspects are all here. Unlike the other two anthologies, Mirrorshades doesn't try to go wider than the "usual suspects," it was edited by one of them after all. This isn't a criticism. The stories in this anthology are some of the best out there, and for me, Pat Cadigan's Rock On and John Shirley's Freezone are seminal and important Cyberpunk stories. Ironic that they're both about musicians. I'm pretty sure that one (or both) influenced the Rockerboy in Cyberpunk 2020.

Now I will leave you to tracking down copies and reading. There will be a book club about these books (I may be kidding about that). Hopefully this starts a few discussions, now excuse me while I get back to my game prep.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Random Musings on Cyberpunk 2020 #2: A Little Traveling Music...

Ok, so this is going to be a little bit of "filler" almost. I'm going to share some more contemporary music that sets a tone (for me) for Cyberpunk gaming. I'm going to try to keep away from the expected. These are all songs and artists that come from my personal music collection. Are they "cyberpunk" enough? Do I care?



Why am I going through music, you might ask? Well, I'm looking at how to rework the Rocker Role from Cyberpunk 2020 to give it a more contemporary fit. I don't think the term "Rocker" fits for what I think the Role should be, as it wouldn't give justice to any of the above artists (except for Florence, maybe) and it isn't encompassing enough to cover someone like, for example, Brad Pitt, an actor who uses his fame to get things done (like his housing work in Post-Katrina New Orleans) that others wouldn't end up with the same impact. And what about DJs/Producers like Diplo who end up being a technology icon through their direct interaction with fans through Twitter?

Hell, how would Twitter work in a Cyberpunk world? As you can see, I'm asking a lot of questions.

In case you came to this post directly, here a link to Random Musings on Cyberpunk 2020 #1 for you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Random Musing on Cyberpunk 2020 #1: The Celebrity

As I warned on Twitter, I'm going to be going through my Cyberpunk 2020 rulebook and posting some of my musing about it here. With any luck there will be a reason for all of this, if not at least people will have some cool stuff for their future games.

A few ground rules to this, however. I'm going to be talking about the rules as written and published. If something that I go over was addressed in some online fan supplement somewhere, there is probably a good chance that I saw it already...but fan work isn't what I am talking about in these posts (except obviously my own), so if it isn't in an official rulebook it doesn't count for the purposes of these posts. At first I will be confining myself to the core Cyberpunk 2020 rules, but as time passes (and if there's ongoing interest in these posts) I will include more of the supplements into my musings.

Paris Hilton
Many of these musings will be about how the real world has passed that of the Cyberpunk game and the Night City setting, and how we can remedy that in our games.

For this first musing, an idea came to me last night: The Celebrity. One thing that has become much more prevalent in this day and age are those who are famous mostly for being pretty, already famous, rich or some combination of them. Whether it is someone who got their fame for appearing on "reality TV" (something else needed to be addressed in these musings), or just by being the offspring of the rich and already famous, these glittering kids prance and dance about the clubs and TV screens of the world. Sadly, the old Eurosource and Eurosource Plus supplements would have been a perfect place to explore this the first time but outside of some talk of Goldenkids, there's not much practical for use in play. Interestingly, Call of Cthulhu's Dilettante occupation does a better job of covering this niche than Cyberpunk 2020 has.

Corporates are almost there, but they are still beholden to their bosses and employers. You could do a "Corporate Celebrity" off of the Corporate role, someone who is a celebrity spokesperson/model or reality star, and their Resources Special Ability would be useful for getting things the celebrity needs. You could also loosely model the rich family as the corporation for this sort of character (and Paris Hilton, above, could fit into this sort of Role).

Right now I am going to propose this new Role:

In the world of the future, there are still those who are famous for being famous -- whether that fame came from luck, being in the right place at the right time (and being televised while there), being rich, or inheriting the fame of your family doesn't matter. What matters is that you continue to be in the right places to be seen, and that you look fabulous at the same time.

The Special Ability of the Celebrity is Access. Doors open for you that are closed for others because you can bring exposure and popularity. Add the rank of your Access to Persuade & Fast Talk or Seduction rolls when trying to get people to help you or let you into some place you probably shouldn't be. This shouldn't get you into places that require a security clearance, but you never can tell.

Personal Grooming
Wardrobe & Style
Persuasion & Fast Talk
Human Perception

Up next time will be reworking of one of the existing Roles, either Rocker or Media. Both still have places in Cyberpunk 2020 but their "roles" have changed a bit in this post-Cyberpunk world. Medias need to a little less Edison Carter and a little more Spider Jerusalem meets blogging. Rocker, mostly, needs a name change to cover a variety of differing performers from white hot club DJs to evangelizing actors with a cause. Whichever I get to next will be the one that gets talked about first.