Evolving semantics of cyber and punk : a study of cultural relevance with William Gibson & Neal Stephenson.
Date of Issue2013
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
As Cyberpunk science fiction grew in prominence and popularity in the late 80's, prominent critics began to question its heralding as a revolutionary genre of social commentary and subversion. The focus of most of this attention was placed on William Gibson’s Neuromancer, arguably the novel that birthed the Cyberpunk aesthetic. One concern was with the way Cyberpunk aligned itself so readily with notions of "hip" in its language and imagery, hence exposing itself to inevitable postmodern self-destruction and debasement by proponents of the cultural industry. Ensuing pastiches of its aesthetic in widespread media ensure that its message of corporate subversion inevitably will go awry. Its characters, technologically savvy “street people” who subvert the very technologies that enable the hegemony of dominant power, ironically strive to be part of the same hegemony, and crave upward mobility. This makes any notion of counter-cultural resistance problematic. I argue that critics fail to take into consideration the cultural context of the period of time it was written in. As a cultural statement, it has to raise a continuous protest against the status quo of cultural sentiment, and evolve. To supplant this argument I introduce works of post-Cyberpunk - Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and Diamond Age. In this essay, I make a comparison between the aesthetics and motives of Gibson and Stephenson’s works, and aim to show a coherent evolution of ideas. This evolution of ideas progress in tandem with real world social and cultural landscape, and effectively predicts the present. It is this prescience of modernity that guarantee its updated message of subversion, and its effectiveness as a literary movement.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University