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SkepticJ
2011-May-06, 09:11 PM
I like the man's writing, but I can't think of anything truly original that Gibson thought up in cyberpunk. It was all invented by other people a couple of years before Neuromancer was published.

Cyberspace? A word. The idea of it exists in Tron.

Blade Runner is packed with cyberpunk. Grim, polluted, mega-buildings, punk fashion, animated billboards . . .

Van Rijn
2011-May-06, 09:25 PM
I can't remember Neuromancer (I read it, but it didn't stick with me), and didn't care much for cyberpunk. Gibson didn't actually understand the technology, and there weren't that many authors that did, actually, so it was hard for me to suspend disbelief, and just in general, I didn't like the writing style. I very much liked Vinge's True Names, which felt very much like something that could be in the (then) future, though I don't know if you'd call that cyberpunk.

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-06, 11:16 PM
I read Neuromancer and Count Zero because I felt I should. I didn't enjoy them much, especially the latter, and as I was starting to learn about real computing, I found the idea that a program could melt its storage medium rather silly. I got more enjoyment from the Burning Chrome collection.

TrAI
2011-May-06, 11:41 PM
I like the man's writing, but I can't think of anything truly original that Gibson thought up in cyberpunk. It was all invented by other people a couple of years before Neuromancer was published.

Cyberspace? A word. The idea of it exists in Tron.

Blade Runner is packed with cyberpunk. Grim, polluted, mega-buildings, punk fashion, animated billboards . . .

Well, it is pretty rare for any story to be unique, mostly it is a combination of elements used in earlier stories or happenings, with the author only choosing the finer details and the order of these elements. The elements used in Gibsons stories probably do occur in other stories. However, it is pretty common for the person that finishes something, or gets something into a state practical for commercial use to get the credit.

By the way, Neuromancer was not the first story Gibson wrote about that world, The Cowboy Bobby Quine, one of Case's mentors, used his custom Ono-Sendai Cyberspace deck to access the matrix and cut Chrome's ICE to get access to her computer systems in the story Burning Chrome. That story was published very nearly at the same time as the movies you mentioned. That was not the first story either, Johnny Mnemonic was published for the first time in 1981, and this, of course, is the story about Molly and Johnny, Molly does mention Johnny in Neuromancer, apparently he was killed by the Tessier-Ashpool assassin.


I can't remember Neuromancer (I read it, but it didn't stick with me), and didn't care much for cyberpunk. Gibson didn't actually understand the technology, and there weren't that many authors that did, actually, so it was hard for me to suspend disbelief, and just in general, I didn't like the writing style. I very much liked Vinge's True Names, which felt very much like something that could be in the (then) future, though I don't know if you'd call that cyberpunk.

Hmmm... Someone knowing more about the technology at the time would probably have been more able to give a realistic presentation, but the negative side is that such stories tend to become limited to derivatives of the technology, and probably have to be put in the near future to retain realism.

In the real world, there would be little visual stimulation in the actual intrusion. Of course, it would probably be possible to make a compelling story about such things, the weeks and months of careful research needed, the social engineering, perhaps have the character infiltrating the buildings owned by the target and set up a rogue access point and/or loggers. The character could go dumpster diving and/or try to track down computers that the company has sold or thrown away in the hope that some useful tidbits of information would remain unwiped. A character like the one doing the job would have to rely on stealth to a much higher degree than your typical cyberspace cowboy, these guys seem to rely on tactics that would light up an intrusion detection system like a fire in a Christmas tree forest, and get the system taken offline before much could be done.

Edit:
correction of spelling - rouge->rogue
note to self: Spell Check does not tag a word if the incorrect spelling is itself a correctly spelled word...

Noclevername
2011-May-07, 12:52 AM
set up a rouge access point

Boy, rebels and criminals sure seem to love that color. ;)

Van Rijn
2011-May-07, 12:57 AM
Hmmm... Someone knowing more about the technology at the time would probably have been more able to give a realistic presentation, but the negative side is that such stories tend to become limited to derivatives of the technology, and probably have to be put in the near future to retain realism.


Actually, a big problem I had in the '80s with computers in SF in general, not just cyberpunk, was that I was usually reading about more interesting ideas in Byte magazine than I was seeing in science fiction stories. There seemed to be about three ways most authors would go:

(1) The future is the same as today - For instance, you might see a story set a few hundred years in the future, but the people are still looking at terminals with QWERTY keyboards, and they aren't doing anything really novel with the computers . . . yet there is mention of still advancing electronics.

(2) Didn't understand the technology - this is what I was seeing with Gibson, and too much of his stuff just didn't make sense.

(3) The too human computer - This is where the computer seems technologically advanced, but it's easy for an author to handle, since it's just a human in disguise (much like too human aliens). Very often, you could replace the computer with a person and have essentially the same story.

Of course, it's hard writing a good story, and coming up with something that would be different and would make sense. Still, I had the impression that writers just weren't keeping up with what was actually going on in the field.

SkepticJ
2011-May-07, 03:06 AM
Well, it is pretty rare for any story to be unique, mostly it is a combination of elements used in earlier stories or happenings, with the author only choosing the finer details and the order of these elements. The elements used in Gibsons stories probably do occur in other stories. However, it is pretty common for the person that finishes something, or gets something into a state practical for commercial use to get the credit.

Which is my point. He wasn't the first to do any of this. He's not the father of cyberpunk, just the most famous writer in the genre. Vernor Vinge, and Philip K. Dick both wrote fiction that could be called cyberpunk before Gibson.


That story was published very nearly at the same time as the movies you mentioned. That was not the first story either, Johnny Mnemonic was published for the first time in 1981, and this, of course, is the story about Molly and Johnny, Molly does mention Johnny in Neuromancer, apparently he was killed by the Tessier-Ashpool assassin.

And Tron and Blade Runner would've been in post-production then. Compare the time and effort it takes to make a movie, and write a short story. Guess who had the ideas first.

TrAI
2011-May-07, 04:35 AM
Boy, rebels and criminals sure seem to love that color. ;)

Corrected


Actually, a big problem I had in the '80s with computers in SF in general, not just cyberpunk, was that I was usually reading about more interesting ideas in Byte magazine than I was seeing in science fiction stories. There seemed to be about three ways most authors would go:

(1) The future is the same as today - For instance, you might see a story set a few hundred years in the future, but the people are still looking at terminals with QWERTY keyboards, and they aren't doing anything really novel with the computers . . . yet there is mention of still advancing electronics.

(2) Didn't understand the technology - this is what I was seeing with Gibson, and too much of his stuff just didn't make sense.

(3) The too human computer - This is where the computer seems technologically advanced, but it's easy for an author to handle, since it's just a human in disguise (much like too human aliens). Very often, you could replace the computer with a person and have essentially the same story.

Of course, it's hard writing a good story, and coming up with something that would be different and would make sense. Still, I had the impression that writers just weren't keeping up with what was actually going on in the field.

Well, when designing some technology for a story, you have to decide the purpose of it in the story, it isn't unreasonable to assume that what works today would work in the future, the QWERTY keyboard has been around for what.. 130+ years?, it is not impossible it may be around 100 years in the future. Terminals would still work, even though the computer is much more powerful, it just isn't important unless the purpose of that specific technological device is to show the advances done.

However, if you are focusing on the technology, you may want to make it impressive in some way, to make it stand out. Of course, you may still want to consider practicality, for instance, I do not see the point in having transparent displays on all sorts of things, it doesn't seem to make much sense in most situations.

About too human computers: We rarely get to know what class of AI approach has been used, it may be quite likely that an AI capable system would be designed to interact in a human-like manner, such behavior may be useful to the development of intelligence in a way useful to us.

The curiosity to pursue knowledge, the creativity to apply such knowledge in new ways, the ability to understand emotions on an innate plane and so on may be important to effective interaction and perhaps even be defining characters of intelligence and sentience, at least in the way we understand it.

TrAI
2011-May-07, 05:42 AM
Which is my point. He wasn't the first to do any of this. He's not the father of cyberpunk, just the most famous writer in the genre. Vernor Vinge, and Philip K. Dick both wrote fiction that could be called cyberpunk before Gibson.

And Tron and Blade Runner would've been in post-production then. Compare the time and effort it takes to make a movie, and write a short story. Guess who had the ideas first.

I suppose that probably the 1970's and early 1980's had just the correct mix of things to germinate and bring to fruition this sort of story, several people had ideas like this, it is not really important, it was when the stories/movies was published the genre defined itself, and that is what must be counted as its birth as a distinct genre, and Burning Chrome and the later Neuromancer has the combination of elements generally considered as staples of cyberpunk already at that time, so Gibson is considered a pioneer of the genre.

You can probably trace the threads trending towards the Cyberpunk style back much earlier than this time, but that holds true for just about anything.

parallaxicality
2011-May-07, 12:14 PM
I like the man's writing, but I can't think of anything truly original that Gibson thought up in cyberpunk. It was all invented by other people a couple of years before Neuromancer was published.

Cyberspace? A word. The idea of it exists in Tron.

Blade Runner is packed with cyberpunk. Grim, polluted, mega-buildings, punk fashion, animated billboards . . .

Tron world is not cyberspace; it is a representation of the programs themselves, whereas cyberspace is a representation created by programs. And Gibson's first cyberpunk work, in which he coined the word "cyberspace", was not Neuromancer but Burning Chrome, which came out the same year as Blade Runner. And Tron.

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-07, 12:29 PM
I thought Bruce Bethke coined the term. I reviewed a book of his (which I didn't like) called Headcrash; the blurb made this claim.

parallaxicality
2011-May-07, 12:32 PM
When was Headcrash published? Amazon says 1997, which means the book is lying.

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-07, 01:15 PM
1997 is probably right. He didn't invent the term in that book - it was a case of, "The author of this book invented the term 'cyberpunk'!"

parallaxicality
2011-May-07, 01:30 PM
Oh, cyberpunk; I thought you meant cyberspace.

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-07, 01:34 PM
Oh, cyberpunk; I thought you meant cyberspace.

Sorry, my mistake, not yours. I wasn't thinking straight when I read Post 10.

SkepticJ
2011-May-07, 07:44 PM
Tron world is not cyberspace; it is a representation of the programs themselves, whereas cyberspace is a representation created by programs.

And the light-cycle game is what?

parallaxicality
2011-May-07, 08:53 PM
a video game program.

SkepticJ
2011-May-08, 04:34 AM
I'm just not seeing a substantive difference. It's software given a tangible 3D form that can be interacted with.

Technically you are correct, and they're not precisely the same thing, but the distinction, IMO, isn't enough to assign credit for cyberspace to someone else. The Tron guys got it.

parallaxicality
2011-May-08, 06:01 AM
They both came out the same year. I don't see how precedence applies.

Van Rijn
2011-May-08, 06:38 AM
What are you arguing? Who came up with the term "cyberspace" or who had a good early "in the computer" world? Gibson probably gets credit officially for the term, but I know he wasn't the only one who came up with the term. And there had long been precedent for world in a world stories, or simulation stories going back decades. But, one of the best stories of that time, I thought, was Vernor Vinge's 1981 True Names. I don't think it got as much attention initially because the publication had been limited, but that was, to me, far more impressive than anything Gibson did.

Van Rijn
2011-May-08, 06:53 AM
Well, when designing some technology for a story, you have to decide the purpose of it in the story, it isn't unreasonable to assume that what works today would work in the future, the QWERTY keyboard has been around for what.. 130+ years?, it is not impossible it may be around 100 years in the future. Terminals would still work, even though the computer is much more powerful, it just isn't important unless the purpose of that specific technological device is to show the advances done.


But that's just it: They often weren't substantially more powerful, and couldn't do things that had already been demonstrated, and were pretty obviously going to become common in a few years. But worse, I remember stories where they would act like there was still continual rapid improvement in the technology (even though set perhaps hundreds of years in the future), not a technological plateau as suggested by the limited technology.

Again, I was often seeing more interesting stuff in Byte magazine. My impression was that there weren't many writers keeping up with the technology.

Paul Beardsley
2011-May-08, 08:40 AM
And there had long been precedent for world in a world stories, or simulation stories going back decades.

Ain't that the truth! Stanley Weinbaum (of "A Martian Odyssey" fame) was writing virtual reality stories in the 1930s!


Again, I was often seeing more interesting stuff in Byte magazine. My impression was that there weren't many writers keeping up with the technology.

I wonder how widespread this is in science fiction in general. Most literary SF types make at least a token effort to be up to date - some (Stephen Baxter, for instance) make a considerable effort.

Going back to cyberpunk's precursors, nobody has mentioned John Brunner's Shockwave Rider, or the TV show Max Headroom. I haven't read the former, but I remember being impressed by the latter because of its portrayal of characters who were practically illiterate but they were clued up when it came to the binary system.

It should be noted that cyberpunk was not just about cyberspace technology. It was about style and attitude - two qualities that were quite different to what prevailed before, and which IMO quickly proved very wearing!

HenrikOlsen
2011-May-08, 11:51 AM
Cyberpunk is much more a literary style than it's about the subject choice, e.g. any specific technology. That's what caused many of the people trying to follow up on the initial success to fail, they thought if they wrote about cyberspace they were writing cyberpunk, but the style and the societal changes predicate by them were off for cyberpunk.

Githyanki
2011-May-09, 02:03 AM
(1) The future is the same as today - For instance, you might see a story set a few hundred years in the future, but the people are still looking at terminals with QWERTY keyboards, and they aren't doing anything really novel with the computers . . . yet there is mention of still advancing electronics.

Most science fiction is like that; they have today's technology in the future. From Juiles Vern sending a bullet to the Moon or the horrible main-frame from the movie Alien.

SkepticJ
2011-May-09, 04:27 AM
Ain't that the truth! Stanley Weinbaum (of "A Martian Odyssey" fame) was writing virtual reality stories in the 1930s!

How was that supposed to work--what created the virtual realities? Dreams, like in Inception?

Van Rijn
2011-May-09, 08:22 AM
How was that supposed to work--what created the virtual realities? Dreams, like in Inception?

There were a good number of stories where computers or machines (not necessarily looking like a modern computer) created a simulation. HOW they did it, like how computers could have human-like AIs (as seen in many stories) wasn't explained in any detail.

By the way, I'll point out that the holodeck first appeared in the Star Trek animated series in 1974, though in an otherwise ignorable episode (see http://www.danhausertrek.com/AnimatedSeries/PJ.html).

Van Rijn
2011-May-09, 08:43 AM
I wonder how widespread this is in science fiction in general. Most literary SF types make at least a token effort to be up to date - some (Stephen Baxter, for instance) make a considerable effort.


Well, I will grant that this is a field where being a few years out of date is a really big deal, and in the '80s, to really follow it, you had to be in the field, or at least be reading the major magazines regularly and understand the implications of what they were reporting. You couldn't usefully follow it online, and books were useless (as they would always be too far out of date).