Tag Archives: cyberpunk

Cyberpunk commentary – Page 24

Herewith the director’s/artist’s/writer’s commentary on page 24 of The Lightstream Chronicles.

Now things are getting interesting. Last week Sean was about to step into the MagShuttle to head down to the dangerous street level in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong 2. Things will get a little grittier now and the oppressed, cyberpunk side of this society begins to gain some legibility.  In panel 1 Sean is inside and looking out at the view from more than 300 stories above. Upon entering and by virtue of the fact that his identity was logged before the shuttle doors would open, the mesh promptly notifies him that TopCity residents are not advised to travel to that dangerous section of town. (The mesh refers to amalgamation of every network of every device, everyone’s chipset, every touch sensor, camera, scanner, electronic device and active surface in the greater 47,000 square kilometers of the Hong Kong 2 Mega City. The mesh is monitored by New Asia government computers and police security forces. It knows where you are and what you are doing. Though it is not something they advertise, the New Asia government likes to think that the mesh sees everything.

Sean waives the warning without a second thought (typical teenager – even though he’s 18) and opts for street level. As the shuttle descends, the third panel is worth inspecting with a zoom. Once the shuttle drops below the 50 story mark of the TopCity Spanner we can see the descent through the 20th century architecture of old Mong Kok.

Zoom highlights:

For those who want to get the most out of the visuals, a zoom into panel 1 on this page and the last panel of the previous page shows some details of the MagShuttle interior, interface and navigation cameras, and panel 2 features a giant light panel (billboard) for the a synthetic companion from Almost Human Corporation, Sean’s employer. Panel 3 gives you a taste of the Mong Kok neighborhood.

 

A view from DownTown as the MagShuttle approaches.
A view from DownTown as the MagShuttle approaches.

 

To read more about the Hong Kong Mega city and the mesh see pages 5 & 6 of The Lightstream Chronicles, and there is additional backstory on the story or the 2159 pages.

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Sci-fi or cyberpunk? Genre wars with the web comic.

Since the beginning, I have been referring to The Lightstream Chronicles as a science fiction crime thriller, but a more accomplished comic artist than myself referred to the work as a cyberpunk crime thriller. Admittedly, through my own ignorance, this term seemed off-base. I thought of Tank Girl as cyberpunk. So, I did more research. It would appear that there are more genres of science fiction than I was aware of. I think it is fair to say that for the purposes of my thesis, When Designers Ask, “What If?” that I did exhaustive research on comics and graphic novels, as well as the topic of design fiction, but science fiction is this enormous thing that encompasses a vast array of genres and sub-genres that I frankly did not have the ability to explore within the context of the thesis proper. Now, however, that the thesis is complete and submitted to the Internet database as one of a gazillion theses, I can begin to explore those areas that time and scope did not permit. Hence, cyberpunk has caught my attention and beckoned me to further examination.

As in design fiction, there does not seem to be any one authority on the subject and it has morphed in its collective understanding over the years. The combination of “cyber” from cybernetics and “punk” most commonly associated with the early 70’s and 80’s rock music genre could literally be interpreted as thinking machines with attitude. But over the years, the term now confers a sort of uber-technological society where people are not just human and machines are not just machines; there is a shared reality, or virtual reality. An explanation from the Cyberpunk Project website offers an elucidation that I like:

“This technology is visceral. It extends itself into people via brain implants, prosthetic limbs, cloned organs. It is not outside us but under our skin, inside our minds. Technology pervades the human self; the goal is the merging of man and machine.”

"...under our skin..."
“…under our skin…”

And if you want more, Lawrence Person gives an in-depth description in his Notes Toward a Postcyberpunk Manifesto. I particularly like this snip:

” It may have been Isaac Asimov (though I first heard it via Howard Waldrop) who said there were three orders of science fiction, using the automobile as an example. Man invents the automobile and uses it to chase down the villain: adventure fiction. Man invents the automobile, and a few years later there are traffic jams: social problem fiction. In the third type, man invents the automobile, and another man invents moving pictures: fifty years later, people go to drive-in movies. It is this third order of fiction, social fabric fiction, that was at the heart of cyberpunk…The best postcyberpunk moves further into third-order science fiction, the plot arising organically from the world it’s set in.”

 

To me, that is what drives the plot of The Lightstream Chronicles. If you’ve read the backstory on the web site or on pages 3 and 4 of the web comic, then you can see the social fabric fiction at work. It is interesting to note that the godfather of cyberpunk is the same guy who coined the term design fiction: Bruce Sterling. Person (from the same manifesto), paraphrases Sterling’s assessment that, “cyberpunk carried technological extrapolation into the fabric of everyday life.”

That makes for an even more interesting topic: perhaps real design fiction is also cyberpunk. Either way, and even if it’s all really just another flavor of SF, I’m convinced that TLSC play in the cyberpunk sandbox.

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