This post is part of the State of Cyberpunk series.
Matthew Cox was twelve when he first discovered William Gibson’s Neuromancer and immediately fell in love with the genre’s vivid imagery and iconic aesthetic. The integration of biology with technology fascinated him and drew him deeper into cyberpunk with its possibilities. His own works, The Harmony Paradox and Virtual Immortality, reflected this mixed paranormal elements with cyberpunk tech.
Then Is Now
As time passed, however, cyberpunk took on a more sinister meaning for Matthew as the evil corporations of dystopian fiction became the reality he saw around him. He pointed to the lurking sense that large and powerful corporations are up to something dangerous and liable to run over anyone who stands in their way as one of the key elements of cyberpunk. In his view, cyberpunk has become largely a replica of what we have today with an added layer of grime, complete with virtual reality, government surveillance, and a host of conspiracy theories.
Matthew pointed out that conspiracy theories in particular play a role in the modern sense of cyberpunk. In cyberpunk, virtual reality often creates a sense of distortion and uncertainty about reality in its users. It’s hard to tell where the real world begins and ends. Matthew noted that with the increase of misinformation adrift on the internet and among news outlets has created a similar effect. The rise of conspiracy theories under such conditions are inevitable and result in a sense of surrealness where people today find it difficult to parse reality from propaganda.
The presence of cyberpunk elements in modern society also makes it harder for creators in the genre to keep up with the trends, Matthew noted.
“There’s a degree of pressure,” he said. “You almost can’t write fast enough.”
Fiction, Not History
Instead of making it an outdated genre, the immediacy of cyberpunk is what makes Matthew believe it is now more necessary than ever. He thinks it helps alert people to the danger of small groups of people controlling vast power structures or resources. He speculates also that cyberpunk is about to make the jump from niche subgenre into the mainstream consciousness.
“A couple of years ago it happened to fantasy,” Matthew said. “I think cyberpunk is about to do the same…it’s gaining a foothold in larger society.”
He also hopes that cyberpunk will serve as a warning to coming generations and help correct some of the problems it depicts.
“We want to write dystopia,” he concluded. “Not history.”