I’m probably the last blogger in the world to write about this. The United Federation of Charles already posted a list of signs that we’re living in a cyberpunk future. During the election, people were noting the similarity between the political turmoil in the US of 2016 and the political turmoil of the US in Transmetropolitan. Penny Arcade has even been making jokes about how our video games have caught up to what Gibson envisioned. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Several of the biggest news stories right now are all about how we’ve created a digital dystopia for ourselves.
I don’t think I need to brief anybody on the whole Cambridge Analytica situation. That story is as ubiquitous as it is terrifying. The prospect of all your social media posts being used to profile you and even influence you in a certain way is ridiculously scary. That is an incredible amount of power for a corporation to have. But almost as horrifying is the ransomware attack in Atlanta, in which a small group of hackers is keeping an entire local government’s data hostage, forcing city officials to do all their work without the benefit on online records. This, of course, mirrors the ransomware attack in the UK last year which rendered many hospitals unable to treat their patients.
All of this is having a conflicting effect on my writing: it’s making me want to write a cyberpunk style story while at the same time making me wary about doing so. I know that’s an incredibly self-centered take on the whole thing, but I can’t help but think about it. I am often inspired by what’s going on in the world around me when I write, and the world around me is currently dominated by the misuse of technology for personal gain. At the same time, I wonder if writing a cyberpunk style story about the future of a world that is basically cyberpunk already makes any sense. Conceivably, I could do a story about a hacker exposing corporate greed and corruption in the present without stretching willing suspension of disbelief at all. But the specific story I have in mind requires some technology that doesn’t exist yet.
But maybe this isn’t such a dilemma after all? Hell, William Gibson himself always said that his writing was more about the present than the future. And A Scanner Darkly was most definitely a reflection of the drug culture and police attitudes of the time when it was written. In any case, I’m sure there is still room for near-future science fiction in such a technologically saturated world. Perhaps what I really need to do is just have more faith that my ideas are good and worth reading. Feels like I’ve touched on that on this blog before, though…ah well, it’s not easy to be confident when you have a mood disorder.
P.S. – Stack Skills emailed me about a deal on a White Hat Hacking bundle. I am in no way affiliated with them, but I thought I’d pass the link along in case anybody felt like doing something more constructive about our cyberpunk nightmare world.