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Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology

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Britain's innovative SF magazine Interzone has also been a hotbed of cyberpunk activity, publishing Shirley, Gibson, and Sterling as well as a series of groundbreaking editorials, inter-views, and manifestos. With Cyberpunk, I find it tends to fall in a scale from optimistic, like in Trouble and her friends, to full blown dystopia like Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller. Which made a certain kind of sense, because the most successful American designers had been recruited from the ranks of Broadway theater designers. New York to London in less than two days, first-class dining rooms, private cabins, sun decks, dancing to jazz in the evening…The designers were populists, you see; they were trying to give the public what it wanted. Cory Doctorow I’ve not read, though I have a copy of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom which looks good.

Then I took a taxi to a theater that was showing Nazi Love Motel, and kept my eyes shut all the way. The theme of body invasion: prosthetic limbs, implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, genetic alteration. Red Star, Winter Orbit still rates for me as one of Gibson’s strongest stories (alongside Hinterlands). Wearing a pair of m i r r o r s h a d e s grants +1 Ego and provides protection against the flash effects caused by f l a s h b a n g g r e n a d es. The tools of global integration—the satellite media net, the multinational corporation—fascinate the cyberpunks and figure constantly in their work.The anthology includes stories by William Gibson (one also found in "Burning Chrome"), Tom Maddox, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, Marc Laidlaw, James Patrick Kelly, Greg Bear, Lewis Shiner, John Shirley, Paul Di Filippo, and two collaborations of Bruce Sterling's, one with William Gibson and one with Lewis Shiner. You never actually saw it take off, but it flew away to Dialta Downe’s never-never land, true home of a generation of completely uninhibited technophiles. He’d tried them, and there was no way they were going to admit responsibility for the monster in his head.

And before we reach the point where people with no disabilities choose to get prosthetics as an enhancement, we still need to work hard by helping those who are in need of such technologies. The traditional power structure, the traditional institutions, have lost control of the pace of change.

On cyberpunk looking dated, what about River of Gods by Ian McDonald or for that matter Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan? Okay I had been out of the Air Force for a month or so, had a place close to Washington, in Silver Spring. Cohen had sent me some books on Thirties design, more photos of streamlined buildings, and a list of Dialta Downes’s fifty favorite examples of the style in California.

All these contactee stories, for instance, are framed in a kind of sci-fi imagery that permeates our culture. I don’t know River of Gods, but I’ll have to see if I can rustle up a copy, to place in my own Infinite Book Pile. And this is a final oddity of our generation in SF—that, for us, the literature of the future has a long and honored past.Cyberpunk is a product of the Eighties milieu—in some sense, as I hope to show later, a definitive product. I nodded, fishing in my jeans for change, anxious to find a park bench where I could submerge myself in hard evidence of the human near-dystopia we live in. Anyways, one of the short stories is by William Gibson and a couple other short stories really slap, so leaving it here for them online readers out there.

I didn’t rate all the stories, but I did think it was doing something more interesting than the Niven and Asimov that formed much of my then sf diet. Wearing a powder-blue jumpsuit with SENTRAX in red letters down its left breast, and soft black slippers, he floated in a brightly lit white corridor, held gingerly to a wall by one of the jumpsuit’s Velcro patches.The man's a unique individual, to say the least, so it doesn't surprise me that Greg Bear or Rudy Rucker's tales made the collection.

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