Why Cyberpunk?

A few days ago I was told by a young woman I couldn’t have been any older than in my 20’s; of course she was trying to sell me something at the time, so it could just have been flattery. Luckily I escaped with the meager contents of my bank account intact.

The reality is I am a bit older than that. I grew up in a different era. The computer and digital toys that kids today take for granted were either unheard of or only just coming into existence when I was their age. The biggest threat we faced was the Soviets and US nuking the planet – that or the next ice age, which would have been preferable. We thought the dystopic future seen in cyberpunk was a very real prospect, given the way things were going.

It was while in high school that I first saw Blade Runner – I had taped it on VCR (kids ask your parents what that is) on a TV with lousy reception.

Despite that I instantly fell in love with the movie. To this day, over 20 years later, it is still my favourite movie of all time.

Then in my last couple of years of high school and on into university I got into RPGs in a big way – the pen and paper version, not the so called computer RPGs (see, technology does have a downside). That was at the start of the technological revolution – cassette tapes and VCRs were giving way to CDs and the internet was becoming more into vogue. At the time it was still mostly limited to places like education centers, but I picked it up early. It was slow – mere dial up – and limited. The first home plan I had was for just 20 hours online a month.

At first it was mostly D&D (and basic at that before moving on to 2nd Ed), but we were soon introduced to Cyberpunk 2020 (2nd Ed) and it soon rocketed to one of our most played gaming systems for a number of years. A bit later on a new recruit to the circle introduced us to Shadowrun, but it didn’t catch on like CP2020 did.

I collected most of the source books (and hope to get the ones I missed out on some day), and even got into Netrunner, the cyberpunk collectible card game.

There was something about the cyberpunk setting that grabbed me. It was gritty, it was different and it was a way to play at a Blade Runner-esque world. It was all about style over substance – sure you could be hackers and anti-heroes trying to make a difference in a corrupt world, but you went about it with style, flair and panache – all long coats and mirrorshades body augments. For the slightly socially inept geeky kids we were, being suave and cool was something to relish.

Of course as the years went on the group fell apart as people moved all over the country (and world) getting jobs and the like and the CP2020 days ended.

And the world changed. Technologies continued to advance – some predicted by cyberpunk, others not – and new genres came to the fore. Chief among those was paranormal.

A couple of years back I was contemplating writing something new and the idea at having a go at paranormal came to mind. I was doing a fair bit of walking back then, and on one of those strolls I was mulling over how to write paranormal that was different than the norm. One of the things I was contemplating was how magic and tech were usually seen as mutually incompatible. Then the idea came to me to go completely against that and go back to the roots of what I love – the cyberpunk genre. By the end of the walk the character of Braeden Wolf was born – and has barely changed since – and the intro of The Seduction of Honey had been written in my head before I got home.

Despite this the idea sat idle for another year before I wrote up a couple of novellas, and at the encouragement of a fellow writer on twitter, actually tried to make something of them. Surprisingly it seemed to work.

So why cyberpunk? Part nostalgia, part for a different take on paranormal and part because it allows me to build a world that, while our world, is different enough so as not to be totally familiar – that way I don’t have to worry about the details of our real world as much. It gives me a chance to explore and create – such as with the language of the streets, its slang and jargon and idiom, that is slowly developing the more I write.

But mostly because I enjoy it – and that, when it comes to writing, is the main thing.

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About Ash Stirling

Author of the darker side of things View all posts by Ash Stirling

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