This blog post is part of the State of Cyberpunk series.
The striking visuals and digital landscapes of cyberspace were what first drew Brian Woodruff to the genre of cyberpunk, through such works as William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Count Zero, as well as the writings of Philip K. Dick. To a young man living in an era of dial up internet, the idea of being able to upload your mind into a computer was the perfect cocktail of fantastic and plausible to excite the imagination. He loved the genre’s capacity for intelligent storytelling and it’s demand that the readers keep up, rather than be hand-held along for the journey.
Brian’s interest in the digital netscape of cyberpunk stories was a sign of things to come. His list of works includes not only books and a graphic novel – he’s also written stories for Virtual Reality (VR) games.
I’ve been curious about how the particular mediums cyberpunk creators use affects the stories they tell, and when I asked Brian about what it was like to work with multiple mediums, he said that he’d found the crossover helpful to his writing holistically. His work translating a story from the medium of a book into an MMORPG when he worked on City of Steam helped him fully separate from the characters he was working with, allowing him to ultimately tell better stories across all mediums. Writing for VR games like Neurowake and Darkout were also learning experiences. Virtual reality games require, first and foremost, a sense of immersion on the part of the player, requiring programmers to take a hard look at the user experience. That detailed-level of perspective taking helped Brian separate himself completely from the characters to focus on just telling a good story.
A Genre That Wrestles With Itself
Digital landscapes and communication across vast spaces weren’t the only draw of cyberpunk for Brian. He also loved that cyberpunk was a genre that wrestled with itself. He observed that stories set in cyberpunk universes tend to build on conflicting worldviews, often with no clear answer at the end. That complexity is what makes cyberpunk so relevant to our modern world.
Brian pointed out that cyberpunk holds a mirror to society, and that makes it an ideal testing ground for opposing ideas and worldviews.
“I like the idea that [in cyberpunk] we can challenge conventions within our own world and try to offer solutions or consequences of them,” he stated.
Cyberpunk offers an ideal testing ground for these ideas because, as Brian pointed out, “We’re getting closer and closer to [cyberpunk] being a reality, if it isn’t here already.”
Hope in the Shadows
Unlike many other creators I’ve spoken to who have expressed similar sentiments with dismay, Brian is optimistic about cyberpunk being a sign of the times.
“A lot of cyberpunk rightly focuses on the lower levels,” he explained, “the unsung heroes on the bottom of society and those living in the shadows. If we can create people who are so miniscule in the grand scale of society, especially in these societies, you have to believe that somewhere in the subculture of cyberpunk, a lot of good is going on.”
In Brian’s view, the silver lining on the gritty chrome of cyberpunk is that it gives hope to people who feel like they’ve hit rock bottom in their lives. If the underdog-protagonists can always find a way to survive, then maybe we as readers can too.
As he looks to the future, Brian hopes people will use cyberpunk, and every other genre, as a space to exercise and enjoy their creativity.
“I hope people use their imagination,” he said. “Go far with it. I want people to go as far as their minds will take them.”
If you’d like to read about Brian and his work, visit his website at http://www.bcwoodruff.com/.
Brian Woodruff is a writer, artist, and video game designer that likes to imagine preposterous realities and manifest them in our own… possibly even more insane world. He loves cats, comics, reading and exploring. His wife, L, puts up with his madness… for reasons beyond his comprehension. Whatever it may be… he is grateful!
I’m friendly! Reach out to me if you like sci-fi, fantasy, creativity, and a dose of the absurd along the way.