Literary Precursors

Authored by: Rob Latham

The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815351931
eBook ISBN: 9781351139885
Adobe ISBN:


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The main themes of cyberpunk fiction — the increasing cyborgization of experience, the fusion of high-tech and subculture, rampant globalization — were prefigured in the work of major SF writers of the 1960s and 1970s. As this chapter demonstrates, four themes in particular were foreshadowed in specific works of the New Wave era: 1) the emergence of an information economy, with all its complex impact on the social order, in particular the spread of cybercrime and forms of info-warfare, as seen in John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider; 2) the resultant hyper-commodification of culture and the attendant growth in cyborgized lifestyles, as seen in James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”; 3) the proliferation of synthetic realities, to the point that simulated experience has begun to supplant the real thing, as seen in Daniel F. Galouye’s Simulacron-3; and 4) the possibility of a transhumanist “uploading” of consciousness, allowing individuals to abandon the mortal “meat” in favor of a virtual existence as discorporate data, as seen in Robert Silverberg’s To Live Again. A careful comparison of core New Wave and cyberpunk texts is likely to elicit as many similarities as differences.

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