Another of those strange fiction/nonfiction hybrids that only science fiction seems to generate. As shaped by McCaffery (English/San Diego State; co-ed., Alive and Writing, 1987), the intent is to explore the phenomenon of cyberpunk sf, its relationship to postmodern fiction, and its influence on the literary mainstream. Cyberpunk's type-specimen novel is William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984), which introduced many of the concepts for which cyberpunk is now famous: the imaginary computer-generated universe, cyberspace; the punk sensibility (personal appearance, clothes, music, lifestyle); the global awareness based on unrestricted corporatism and consequent lack of a global ethic; and, above all, the culture of perpetual change, embedded in and driven by technology. Many of the essays here capably and sometimes excitingly explore this universe (Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., Brian McHale, Darko Suvin), while others hide behind a smoke screen of academic jargon (Veronica Hollinger, Fredric Jameson), and still others become distracted (Joan Gordon, failing to determine why Pat Cadigan is cyberpunk's only female practitioner). For the uninitiated in particular, the fiction on display here forms an excellent introduction, ranging from acknowledged cyberpunkers like Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shiner, Lucius Shepard, Rudy Rucker, and Marc Laidlaw to fellow travelers such as J.G. Ballard, Samuel R. Delany, and poet Rob Hardin. Also excerpted here, William S. Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon are held—with some justification—to have prefigured cyberpunk. Yet other authors (Kathy Acker, Mark Leyner, Don DeLillo) demonstrate how far cyberpunk has infiltrated the literary mainstream. Clearly, cyberpunk now forms the cutting edge of sf; equally clearly, sf has not just challenged the mainstream literary avant garde but has become part of it. Like cyberpunk and sf in general: sometimes irritating, severe, puzzling, or incomprehensible, but just as often original, provocative, incisive, or challenging. Newcomers to cyberpunk will find the fiction particularly useful and enjoyable, while oldsters will revel in and argue over the essays. Splendid, stirring stuff.
Read full book review >