Friday, November 18, 2005

Fwd: Cyberpunk Canon

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Oct 22, 2004 12:18 AM
Subject: Belated cyberpunk reading list


I believe I owe you a copy of this; not just books, but comics & music
too. Enjoy.

[from a hackerish mailing list, 6 Nov 2003 at 22:45]

This is a very biased selection of books & short stories from the original
cyberpunks, not the next-gen Stephenson crap (I hated "Snowcrash"); I've
included related works & some music & comic book suggestions as well:

Start here:

Vernor Vinge
* True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier
 (The title short story came out in 1981, right before Gibson started
  writing Sprawl stories).
* Then read all the rest of his stuff.

Next, the classics:

William Gibson
* Burning Chrome (short story collection, (Neuromancer pt0)
* Neuromancer
* Agrippa (poem; read the history on this, or search the alt.cyberpunk
 archives so you can see what all the fuss was about)
Optional:
- Count Zero (Neuromancer pt2)
- Mona Lisa Overdrive (Neuromancer pt3)

Bruce Sterling
* Mirrorshades (the original cyberpunk anthology)
* Schismatrix Plus (includes Schismatrix and Selected Stories from
 Crystal Express)
* Crystal Express (track down the Arkham House edition if you want to
 be 'l33t)
Optional:
- The Difference Engine (with Gibson; steampunk - what if the Information
 Age started ~100 years earlier, during the Industrial revolution, when
 the British Empire was at its peak?)
- Holy Fire

Walter Jon Williams
* Hardwired (Neuromancer meets Mad Max/The Road Warrior)
* Voice of the Whirlwind (kinda like Neuromancer 100 years later)
* Facets (short story collection)
Optional:
- Angel Station

John "I'm an actual punk musician" Shirley
* The Eclipse trilogy - the rise of fascism in a future post-war Europe.
 1) Eclipse
 2) Eclipse Penumbra
 3) Eclipse Corona

Rudy "Mr. Math" Rucker
* Anything; the guy is an amazing and perverted nutcase.
 http://www.mathcs.sjsu.edu/faculty/rucker/ <--homepage
 You may want to start with the Software/Wetware/Freeware/Realware series,
 then the Seek! and Gnarl! collections.

Greg "I am not a cyberpunk" Bear
* Blood Music
* The Wind from a Burning Woman (Short story collection; get the Arkham
 House edition to be uber 'l33t; "Hardfought" is one of the most grimly
 terrifying and saddest things I've ever read.)
* Eon
* The Way of All Ghosts (short story in several anthologies)
Optional:
- The rest of his stuff up to about 1997 is good.

The protopunks:

Alfred Bester
* The Stars My Destination (MUST. READ.)
* The Demolished Man
* Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester
 He wrote this stuff in the frellin' 1950's! And it kicks ass!

William S. Burroughs
* Naked Lunch
* The Ticket that Exploded
* The Soft Machine
* Nova Boys
 Drug-addled cut-up surrealist sci-fi with S&M/homoerotic overtones.

Samuel Delany
* Nova
* Driftglass (short story collection; "The Star Pit" is a must-read)
* Dhalgren
* Babel-17 (neurolinguistics in warfare)

Also try:

* The Ultimate Cyberpunk (anthology) - by Pat Cadigan (editor)
* The Alt.Cyberpunk.Chatsubo Anthology - by Che Paula Dunlop (editor)
* Storming the Reality Studio:
 A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction (essays and
 articles) - by Larry McCaffery (editor)

Pat Cadigan (chick cyberpunk)
* Synners
* Mindplayers
* Patterns (short story collection)

Philip K. Dick
* Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (aka the film "Bladerunner")
* A Scanner Darkly

Arthur C. Clark
* Childhood's End (Blood Music in an earlier incarnation)

Thomas Pynchon
* Gravity's Rainbow (another massive surreal cut-up weirdness book like
 Dhalgran and the Burroughs stuff that seems to make no real sense
 but is still cool, especially if you read it while hallucinating.)
 (You may want to pick up one of the various Gravity's Rainbow "readers
  companions" as well).

Music:

* Early Skinny Puppy, Einsturzende Naubauten & Sonic Youth. Front 242 is
 good too.

Comics.

* Adam Warren's stuff from Dark Horse Comics; this includes his "Dirty
 Pair" work, his run on "Gen13" and especially the "Titans: Scissors,
 Paper, Stone" one-shot.

* Anything by Masamune "Ghost in the Shell" Shirow (also via Dark Horse
 Comics).

-  Paul Pope has done some very interesting cp-ish comics: 100%,
  Heavy Liquid, THB, The Ballad of Dr. Richardson.

-  David Mack's Kabuki has many cp-ish overtones.

[This started a fairly long thread on the root@se2600.org mailing list;
other items that were suggested:]

Books:

- Frankenstein (M. Shelley)
- Faust (Goethe; W. Kaufman, translator)
- Terminal Man (M. Crichton; also, The Andromeda Strain)
- Shockwave Rider (J. Brunner)
- Vacuum Flowers (M. Swanwick)
- Permutation City (G. Egan)

Comics:
- Empty Zone - Jason Alexander
- Transmetropolitan - Warren Ellis
- Mek - Warren Ellis (little three book mini)
- Global Frequency - Warren Ellis (sorry Warren Ellis is/has done some
 of the best stuff in comics to date.

[Next thread, by E2:]

On 7 Jan 2004 at 14:14, E2 wrote:

> For my english class this semester I have to write a research paper on
> a body of fiction, be that book, film, or tv-series, roughly along the
> lines of 'detective' fiction (as in Sherlock Holmes, etc).  The idea is
> to higlight notions of criminality, perversion, delenquency, and deviance
> that arise in popular culture.  I was wondering if anybody had any
> suggestions for books that fall into a the hackeresque/cyberpunk field
> but still have the detective story elements.  Right now I'm thinking
> about Blade Runner (cause it's such a sweet movie) but I'm wondering how
> much tourqing it will take to make my paper topical.  Hit me.

[My reply:]

- "Bladerunner" (aka "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?")
 by Philip K. Dick
- "Altered Carbon" by Richard Morgan; new/3rd-wave cp/detective novel,
 very good IMO.
 [His 2nd novel, "Broken Angels", just came out & it is also very good
 & very disturbing.]
- "When Gravity Fails" by George Alec Effinger; 80's cp novel set in
 Cairo from a Muslim PoV.
- "The Demolished Man" by Alfred Bester (original 50's proto-cp & the
 first novel to win the Hugo); murder investigation & detective work.
- "A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K. Dick; not exactly a detective novel;
 an cop whose undercover alias is so secret that his supervisor and
 co-workers don't even know who he is, is assigned the impossible task
 of watching and eventually busting his alias (ie - himself); revealing
 that he is the cop *AND* the surveillance target to anyone would
 quickly get him killed by drug dealers & corrupt cops on the take.
- "Noir" by K. W. Jeter; interesting reviews, but I haven't read it
 yet; described as "a hardboiled cyberpunk detective novel".
- "Tea from an Empty Cup" by Pat Cadigan; I haven't read this one yet
 either, but I like her other work; also described as "cyberpunk noir
 detective fiction".

Not cp, but still interesting:

- Larry Niven's Gil "the ARM" Hamilton stories, collected into one
 novel; hard sf cop stories set a couple of centuries from now.
- Isaac Asimov's Elijah Baley & R. Daneel Olivaw novels, "Caves of
 Steel" and "The Naked Sun", followed by the related "The Robots
 of Dawn" and "Robots & Empire".
- "/" (aka "Slant") by Greg Bear; cp, not a detective story, but has
 a very interesting futuristic cp murder investigation.
- "Naked Lunch" by William S. Burroughs; proto cp with a lot of
 criminality, perversion, delinquency, and deviance.

Hope that helps, post the paper when you're done. Hell, post it
before you turn it in if you want criticism (constructive & otherwise).

[Replies/additions:]

The very best "Hard Boiled Private Eye" meets SF stories I've ever
read/seen are "A Case For Charley" (1984) and "Charley Gets The Picture"
(1985) by John B. Spencer (A Brit. 1944-2002
http://www.johnbspencer.com/bibliography.htm and also a musician).
They may be somewhat hard to come by these days. Think Raymond Chandler
crossed with Bruce Sterling.

Not a body of fiction, but Clifford Stoll's "Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy
Through the Maze of Computer Espionage" might prove insightful.

[In a similar vein, Bruce Sterling's non-fiction "The Hacker Crackdown"
is online for free & documents the Secret Service raids on various hobby
BBS systems in the early 1990s and the comedy of errors that followed,
including:
- the "stolen $70,000 secret document that would let hackers take down the
emergency 911 system" (revealed in court to be a few pages of billing
procedures that was available to the public for ~$7);
- the assumption that role playing game publisher Steve Jackson Games was
really a secret front for training hackers, and that their "Cyberpunk"
gaming module was a "handbook for computer crime" (example: sections of
the module describe items like cybernetic neural jacks that will let one
plug into the Net, "black ice" and "icebreaker" software you can buy for
your cyberdeck, etc).
Google the book & author for numerous links.]

Also worth mentioning for atmosphere:

Roger Zelazny:
The Great Book of Amber (all 10 volumes; first five are great, 2nd five eh)
Lord of Light
Doorways in the Sand
Four for Tomorrow
Roadmarks
Jack of Shadows

Gene Wolfe:
Shadow and Claw
Sword and Citadel
Urth of the New Sun

I hear "Perdido Street Station" by China Mieville is good.