With the WorldCon so close by, it’d be a shame to miss it…
Yet I have come to suspect these punk derivatives signal something more than the usual merry-go-round of pop culture. These punks indicate that something is broken in our science fiction. Indeed, even when they reject it, these new subgenres often repeat the same gestures as cyberpunk, discover the same facts about the world, and tell the same story. Our hacker hero (or his magic-wielding counterpart) faces a huge system of power, overcomes long odds, and finally makes the world marginally better—but not so much better that the author can’t write a sequel. The 1980s have, in a sense, never ended; they seem as if they might never end.
We are still, in many ways, living in the world Reagan and Thatcher built—a neoliberal world of growing precarity, corporate dominance, divestment from the welfare state, and social atomization. In this sort of world, the reliance on narratives that feature hacker protagonists charged with solving insurmountable problems individually can seem all too familiar. In the absence of any sense of collective action, absent the understanding that history isn’t made by individuals but by social movements and groups working in tandem, it’s easy to see why some writers, editors, and critics have failed to think very far beyond the horizon cyberpunk helped define. If the best you can do is worm your way through gleaming arcologies you played little part in building—if your answer to dystopia is to develop some new anti-authoritarian style, attitude, or ethos—you might as well give up the game, don your mirrorshades, and admit you’re still doing cyberpunk (close to four decades later).
Lee Konstantinou on postpunk.
I’ve probably mentioned before that I am endlessly, endlessly cynical about anything with the suffix -punk attached to it, because to me it immediately flags someone as not learning a single damn thing from history.
You know what killed the punks? Like, the original ones?1 Capitalism. That’s always the failure mode of punk; it always sells out, or is appropriated. It’s turned into a marketable aesthetic, into thousand dollar handbags, into liberal communist propaganda for bougie middle-class kids who want to play in the sandpit of rebellion while not, ultimately, doing anything to change a system they know2 will benefit them in the end. And, okay sure. You could make that argument about everything—we live in a late-stage-capitalist hellhole, et cetera—but the fact that we apparently keep recycling this one particular failure mode over and over and over again, with an apparent utter lack of irony, is just frustrating.
Think up a new suffix, kids. Please. And stop retreading the same old paths dressed in different clothes. Trust on this: if you want to get somewhere different, you’re going to have to walk into the scrub.
What’s this? A mascot for a (semi) secret new project? Ooh…
Also: yes! I actually inked something! And then cell-shaded it! I, like, never do either of those things but… this turned out okay? There are a few spots I’m not happy with and might revisit eventually before [SPOILERS REDACTED] but, other than that… whee! Crab-robot person! Their name is Ai! Because lawlz obvious jokes.
But once a year, like clockwork, the Fan Hugo short list comes out and somehow I can never quite avoid seeing it. When I do see it, I increasingly find a bunch of total strangers who’ve not visibly participated in fandom, and I see red all over again. I will inevitably be told that the failing is in me, that were I to educate myself, I would discover their merit. As often as not, whatever merit is involved, what I actually discover are more neo-pros doing nothing remotely to do with fandom as we know it, or if they do, only in pursuit of making money off us.
Ulrika O’Brien on profiteering [emphasis added].
So it’s extremely no secret that I am… not a fan of the Hugo Awards as they currently exist,1 meaning any time Hugo-adjacent wank bubbles up from the pits of the internet I am totally all the fuck over them! This one is today’s! More under the cut because hoo boy. Long wank is lo-oo-ong!
- Which, incidentally, makes me exactly one of the “fan culture outsiders” O’Brien rants about later on in the article. [↩]
Continuum this year is also the NatCon, and I will totally be there! Doing… something, to be announced closer to the date!
So, better late than never I guess; the Hugos packets came out a while ago, but neither being the most organized nor the fastest reader, I’m only getting around to going through them now.
So. Starting with the novels. First off, full disclosure: I no-awarded this category under my own personal protest rule of doing so in any category in which all finalists are American. Partly because of this, I didn’t full read each novel, instead gave them a “first fifty pages” check, which is how I decide on all my reading; basically, a book has fifty pages to either grab me or turn me right off. If it does neither, it gets put aside in the “not for me” pile. Actual reactions to each work on the list are below but, spoiler alert: my NFM pile has just gotten much taller…