Breaking the Interwebz

Breaking the Interwebz


Yesterday was D-Day, my friends. This website showed the first signs of sentience. From one perspective I lucked out, ’cause the quality of sentience displayed was (much like that of our current President) self-destructive. On the other hand, I literally spent all of yesterday cleaning up the shit-show left in the wake of my website (again, parallels can be drawn to our current President and the American people over the course of the next thirty years).

So yeah, the website crashed. Hard. Like, “Daddy, daddy, look at me, no feet!” hard.

 

via GIPHY

Curious to see the full extent of my ignorance when it comes to all things web related? Read the story/plea for help I sent to my theme provider below.

Subject: I don’t even know where to begin.

“Dear Mr. or Mrs. Digital Wizard,

The number of snowballing issues I’m currently experiencing is bordering on ludicrous. I’ll try my best to recall all the cascading gremlins as they appeared, but I might miss one or two because, as previously mentioned, issues have been appearing at ludicrous speed.

As of two days ago I’d yet to update my theme to Divi’s newest version. I’m slow and behind the times, but everything’d been working just fine, so whatever, no bigs. But then I get a message in my dashboard saying, “You’re running PHP 5.6 like a fool. Don’t you know PHP 7.0 is where it’s at?” I’m all for increased efficiency, but if I knew then what I know now about the can of worms I was about to open, oh dear god, I woud’ve stayed in the PHP 5.6 slow lane for the rest of my life.

Anyways, I had no idea what was going to happen (and even less idea what the hell I was actually doing) so I popped over to my host and fiddled with some stuff until I figured out how to switch from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7.0.

In the spirit of full disclosure, it was at this point WordPress told me, “Hey Slick, you really should check compatibility with your current theme. It’s totes easy, just click HERE!.” And I would have, I swear, but again, Divi wasn’t upgraded to its most current form, and so your hallowed halls of Customer Support were closed to my heathenish self.

Okay, so we make the switch to PHP 7.0 and this is where the roads get slick, my butt starts puckering, hands go to 10 and 2 (yeah, yeah, I know, it’s now 8 and 4, but I’m old school. That’s just how I roll), and we the back end starts getting a little squirrely. I pop back over to my website and things look more or less normal, except the blog. The blog is there as you can see in picture uno.

 

But when you click on the actual posts, you more or less get a 404 error message. Don’t believe me? I thought you might not, so I brought along picture dos to corroborate my story.

 

I’m a do-it-yourself’er so to Google we go! There, pretty much everybody is in agreement that the solution is easy. So simple even a child could do it. Just go into your dashboard settings —> permalinks and refresh the save. I’m worth at least 2 children, so I figure, I got this.

But I was wrong. I didn’t have it. Not even a little bit.

I refreshed permalinks (which were custom set to some bamboozling concoction of date stamps, ampersands, and post titles) and nothing happened. Not a thing. The world kept spinning. So then somebody says, “Oh, you need to first change the setting, save it there, then revert back to the original. Then you’ll be right as rain.”

In hindsight I have strong reason to believe that person hated me. It’s the only explanation for what followed.

This is where the wheels came off. Actually, that’s selling it short. This is where the Michelins came off, rolled down the side of a mountain while flipping me the bird, hopped into a raging river and went full Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, never to be seen or heard from again.

The website, and I meant the entire friggin’ website, goes full internal server error 500, which I didn’t fully understand at the time, but if Indianapolis has taught me anything, it’s that bad things come in 500s. I was wary.

Oh, and I was also completely locked out of my website. Couldn’t access squat, not even the admin/login screen. It was dire, Mr. or Mrs. Digital Wizard. So I scampered back to my hosting site and fiddled with some more things. I tried reverting to a backed up copy of the site from the good old days when, ya know, there was still an actual site to behold. That didn’t do the trick, so then on a whim I changed the theme from the server side host to some random, free hobo’esque thingamajigger.

Voila! The website goes full Return of the Jedi. It’s back, if not entirely an eye sore, but hey, progress marches on!

In the grips of curiosity, I switch back to Divi and, wouldn’t ya know it, it works again. Not the blog, I mean, we still have that original sin on our soul, but at least we’re back to square one.

At this point, I say, Okay. I need to upgrade Divi because it’s probably running some outdated nonsense that is creating compatibility issues with the PHP/Permalink switches. So I shell out the cash and put my nose back to the grindstone to try and divine why the hell none of my blog posts are actually there anymore.

Fast forward 36 hours and a new problem emerges. I’m being haunted by a ghost. Remember when I told you I went into my hosting service and reverted to a previously backed up version of the site? Yeah, well, THAT version of the site is the one I see when I go into my dashboard to edit things, but when I physically go to my website, THIS is what I see (refer to the picture accurately labeled Ghost Website).

Ghost Website

Actual Website

Before you ask, yes, I cleared my browsing history and ate my cookies at least 12 times. Contrary to what this email might lead you to believe, I’m not a complete idiot. Oh, I also tried turning the internet off and then back on again. That was also a no-go.

So here we are, I’m being haunted by a version of my website that will not respond to any changes I make in the dashboard, and a blog full of posts that lead nowhere. Needless to say I probably exhausted the full breadth of my do-it-yourself’iness within the first five minutes, but I’m finally ready to ask for help.

Please, please, please, for the love of god, save me from myself, Mr. or Mrs. Digital Wizard.”

Interestingly enough, this was pretty early in the evening, and you would think I’d just call it a night and wait for reinforcements to arrive, but you’d be wrong. I got my shovel back out and kept digging my hole deeper and deeper. Exhausted and frayed, I ran over to my host (BlueHost) and asked their 24/7 customer service peeps for help. Long story short, they had me straightened out within 15 minutes.

Moral of the story: Trying is the first step towards failing. So never try.

Second moral of the story: If you’re looking to start your own website, I highly recommend hosting your domain through BlueHost. Those guys saved my bacon despite my many attempts at cooking my own bacon. It’s also super cheap, only like $4 a month. 10/10 would recommend.

Got a website horror story? I’d love to hear from you. Get down to the comments and tell me about the last time you broke the internet!

Like what you read? Hit the SHARE button below–as a writer, it means the world!
Finding Your Author Voice (Writing Workshop)

Finding Your Author Voice (Writing Workshop)


Fasten your seatbelts, Buckaroos! Today we’re talking about voice (or perhaps more specifically, STYLE), which is a slippery eel of a topic if ever there were one, so we’re gonna have to come at it all sneaky like from a couple different angles and hopefully one of them will stick

First off, before we even get into discussing how we as writers can get a lock on our one true voice and develop a unique saucy style all our own, we need to first understand WHY this topic is so tricky in the first place.

Honestly this part isn’t terribly tricky. Style and voice are hard things to figure out because they are entirely subjective. What one person considers to be a strong, fresh voice, another might find weak and derivative.

One of the greatest voices of all time.

One of the greatest voices of all time.

Here’s the first lesson when tackling style and voice: You can’t please everybody, so don’t even try.

With that said, there are certain characteristics which make for good (if not simply unique) voice, and certain stylistic choices you can make in your own writing to heighten the reader experience/engagement with your particular brand of wordsmithery.

Okay, so what is perhaps the single most important characteristic that makes for good voice?

Be Distinctively Consistent

One of the greatest reviews I ever received came from a reader who has consumed practically everything I’ve ever written. It reads as follows:

“I could’ve told you he wrote this even if his name wasn’t on it, it has his writing style and story plot all over it…”

Notice this reviewer isn’t gushing about how earth shattering the story was. Instead, it’s saying something very simple that most people will overlook, but to me (as the author) lets me know I’m doing part of my job correctly.

What’s that thing I’m doing? I’m delivering a consistent story experience to the readers who enjoy my work. If you pick up one of my stories, you’re likely to have one of three reactions.

  1. You love it.
  2. You hate it.
  3. You’re indifferent to it.

If you love it, fantastic, I recommend you go and grab the other stories. Why? Because I’m stylistically consistent. If you enjoyed (or despised) one of my stories, chances are you’re gonna enjoy (or despise) all the rest.

Now, as the reviewer above mentioned, I have a very distinct style/voice/plotting technique. (We’re just 400 words into this post and I bet you’ve already noticed that, huh?)

The point is, my voice is mine and your voice is yours. Own that voice. Make it your strength. The last thing you want to do is try and copy somebody else’s voice.

Alright, I hear you over there saying, “Yes, Anthony, telling me to own my voice is great, but I came here because I can’t find the damn thing.”

Fair play.

How does one develop their voice?

Remember earlier when I said, “The last thing you want to do is try and copy somebody else’s voice?”

Yeah, I would hope so, it was literally only two paragraphs back…

the name of the windOkay, so that thing I said was totally true, BUT we need to qualify it. If you set out to write like the next Patrick Rothfuss, you’re probably gonna fail. Why? Because there is only one Patrick Rothfuss. And even if you were somehow to mutate into a Patrick Rothfuss simulacrum capable of churning out buttery smooth prose like the bearded bard himself, it wouldn’t matter.

You know why?

Because the world only has room for one Patrick Rothfuss.

However, it can be instructive, for those trying to discover their own voice, to study what exactly makes somebody else’s voice unique.

This is a two-step process.

First: Read a bunch of stuff from that person.
Second: Type out a couple passages from that person’s work.

Step one is easy and obvious, right? How are you supposed to figure out what makes another person’s voice distinctive if you’ve never read anything by said person? That would be, simply put, bonkers.

Don’t be bonkers.

Step two is a bit less obvious. So let me expand on it. Take one of your favorite passages from one of your all time favorite authors (somebody who’s work you could easily pick out of a crowd blindfolded) and then what I want you to do is type out that passage into your little computer box thingee.

Why?

Because there are parts of your brain that light up like a Christmas tree in July when you engage your fingers. Reading is beneficial, sure. But typing out a passage gives you valuable insight into the pace and rhythm of the author your studying. Things that you would probably never notice just by glancing at the page.

What sorts of things might you notice?

Sentence and Paragraph Structure Length

Short, punchy sentences/paragraphs read quickly. If you want your work to have an err of breathlessness, than think about ways you can, overall, condense your sentences. Chuck Wendig is one of my favorite voice writers and he uses this sort of sentence compactification all the time.

Example from Star Wars: Aftermathstar wars

“Chains rattle as they lash the neck of Emperor Palpatine. Ropes follow suit—lassos looping around the statue’s middle. The mad cheers of the crowd as they pull, and pull, and pull. Disappointed groans as the stone fixture refuses to budge. But then someone whips the chains around the back ends of a couple of heavy-gauge speeders, and then engines warble and hum to life—the speeders gun it and again the crowd pulls–

 

The sound like a giant bone breaking.

 

A fracture appears at the base of the statue.

 

More cheering. Yelling. And–

 

Applause as it comes crashing down.

 

The head of the statue snaps off, goes rolling and crashing into a fountain. Dark water splashes. The crowd laughs.

 

And then: The whooping of klaxons. Red lights strobe. Three airspeeders swoop down from the traffic lanes above—Imperial police. Red-and-black helmets. The glow of their lights reflected back in their helmets.
There comes no warning. No demand to stand down.”

Notice how Wendig starts off with a dense first paragraph. Mostly average length sentences, butt the overall complexity of those structures is much higher than what follows when the action really picks up. Suddenly we the reader are flung into a lightning quick section where sentences are only a few words each and a paragraph is, at times, comprised by a single line.

That first paragraph is like the slow click-clack of the rollercoaster taking you up to the apex, giving you ample time to mull over the drop you’re about to experience. The tension mounts, building up, up, up until finally–

–it’s all released in a deluge of fast flying words and paragraphs. White space is everywhere and the reader’s eye is dragged down the page wicked fast.

One of the things you can do when you typing out another author’s passages is tweak the sentence structures. Experiment by shortening or lengthening, compressing or expanding what they put down.

For instance, what happens to Chuck’s passage when we compress that middle section?

“Chains rattle as they lash the neck of Emperor Palpatine. Ropes follow suit—lassos looping around the statue’s middle. The mad cheers of the crowd as they pull, and pull, and pull. Disappointed groans as the stone fixture refuses to budge. But then someone whips the chains around the back ends of a couple of heavy-gauge speeders, and then engines warble and hum to life—the speeders gun it and again the crowd pulls–

 

The sound like a giant bone breaking. A fracture appears at the base of the statue. More cheering. Yelling. And–

 

Applause as it comes crashing down. The head of the statue snaps off, goes rolling and crashing into a fountain. Dark water splashes. The crowd laughs.

 

And then: The whooping of klaxons. Red lights strobe. Three airspeeders swoop down from the traffic lanes above—Imperial police. Red-and-black helmets. The glow of their lights reflected back in their helmets.
There comes no warning. No demand to stand down.”

See how much less white space there is in that section. How much slower that middle portion reads? All I did was remove a couple paragraph breaks.

The big take away from this is simple. When we’re talking about voice and style, we are not just talking about what the person says, but rather, how they say it (and we’re not talking about word choice here).

Think of sentence and paragraph structure as akin to body language. When speaking with another individual, vast amounts of information are shared via non-verbal means such as how we’re standing, what we’re doing with our hands, the expression of boredom or excitement we wear on our faces. So to is it with how we as writers design the visual aspect of the page.

body language

The question to ask yourself here is: What sort of sentence/paragraph structure do you lean towards? For myself, I lean towards average length sentences, though I quite often throw down a very short sentence. Rarely, however, do I hammer out a long (20+) word sentence.

My paragraphs are almost never more than four or five sentences long. Often they are two or three. I’m particularly conscious of this because approaching a huge block of text (especially if you’re reading on a Kindle or other electronic device) is as daunting as going head to head with the Minotaur.

Word Choice

Word choice is one of the easiest ways of distinguishing your voice, and also one of the most treacherous. Often when working with newer writers, I see a tendency towards wanting to use big, hoity-toity words that sound smart. These are what we call five dollar words. Meaning, in a game of Scrabble, that word would be worth five dollars.

No, wait…actually, that doesn’t make sense. There’s no money involved in Scrabble, is there? I’m not sure what game I’m thinking of, but go with me on this. If Scrabble involved money, then a big word like pulchritudinous would be worth five dollars, whereas the word pretty would be worth roughly a nickle.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your own writing is buying into the belief that big fancy words will somehow make everything better. If you’re trying to find your voice hiding in the pages of a Thesaurus, I hate to break it to you turd-bird: You’re gonna be looking awhile.

Now, that’s not to say you can’t use unique words. For instance, returning to our Chuck Wendig example:

“…and then engines warble and hum to life.”

“…the whooping of klaxons.” “…airspeeders swoop down.”

Words like warble, whoop, and swoop are nothing special in and of themselves, but they clearly (and perfectly) exemplify Wendig’s writing style and voice. Even in the midst of this tense scene of public unrest, he’s throwing in somewhat silly sounding words. (Also, notice how beautifully whoop and swoop compliment each other both aesthetically and phonetically. You can bet your ass that was intentional on Wendig’s part.)

Some authors (with their own distinctive voices mind you) might not have gone that route. Perhaps they would have leaned towards choosing words with more implied menace, and that would have been fine, within the context of their own voice.

The trick here is to figure out what sort of words you would use. Great way of doing that? Write out a passage from one of your favorite authors and then pick through it, rewriting sentences here and there, plugging in your unique stylistic sensibilities.

Experiment and Tinker

To get better at writing, you need to write. A lot. But at a certain point, just scribbling words on the page isn’t gonna level you up. Which is where intentional practice comes in. If you’ve made it this far (god bless your poor, poor soul. I am so sorry), then you’re already searching out those methods of improvement.

Good on ya.

But what else can you do?

Well, remember what we said at the very beginning? The part where I said, “Don’t copy other writers”, and then promptly proceeded to contradict myself in the most fantastic of ways?

Yeah, of course you remember that, it was sort of a pivotal moment in our relationship, huh?

After you’ve spent some time diving into the works of other writers, you need to pick up the pen again and start exploring the depths of you. Plum the depths of your creative well.

How do you do that?

By playing outside your comfort zone.

comfort zone

Listen, I love writing first person past tense. It’s my jam. You give me even a slightly interesting character and I’ll find their voice and make it sing. But it took me a long time to figure that out.

I had to write many a story in third person present tense and past tense and future present past tense, to realize where my strengths as an author were hiding.

Once you locate that strength, however, it’s not enough to simply hammer out the same tune. Your readers will notice and they’ll quickly grow bored of your writing, and rightly so. You need to constantly push and adapt, latching onto the stylistic quirks of your writing that are unique to you and expanding them.

Push them out of the nest and make them fly. (Don’t worry, it’s not just you. That analogy didn’t make sense to anybody. Continuing on.)

The take-away is this: Find your strength, that small nugget of what makes you special, and then leverage the hell out of it. Use it to grow more unique little nuggets until you have a whole repertoire of nuggets. (Another weird analogy, sorry. I’m getting tired. Losing steam. Forgive me.)

There’s a famous line out there people use when talking about the derivative nature of all stories. I can’t remember it verbatim, so I’m gonna do you a solid and slap it down on the table here and butcher it for all to see. The gist of it is as follows:

Every story has already been told.

Unfortunately, my special little daisy, this is true (and an important thing to remember whenever somebody tries to sell you the totally awesome idea they dreamt up during their last peyote bender). Ideas are a dime a dozen, all that matters is the execution.

How you tell the story (with your unique voice and style) is what keeps people enraptured.

Now it’s your turn, dearest reader. What sorts of exercises have you done in the elusive quest to find your voice? Get down to the comments and let us know.

Still unclear (or tangled up on a few of the peculiar analogies I used) get down to the comments and fling some questions at my face. I’m ready for you.

And finally, who are some of your all-time favorite voice authors?

The Power of Voice

The Power of Voice

Barbara from the Reading Experience blogged about the power of voice and how it can make all the difference for a reader. She goes through and mentions some of her favorite “voice” authors (and you know, might have mentioned somebody we both know. *cough cough* just sayin’). Barbara is a crazy avid reader, so if you’re looking to find some new awesome authors, go check out that blog post.

CLICK HERE FOR READING EXPERIENCE BLOG!

blackbirdsCurious to know one of my personal voice/style writers of all time? The answer is simple, and one I give often in interviews: Chuck Wendig. Chuck Wendig has a flashy, smack you in the face with a wet fish and leave you wanting more, type of style. I love it. It’s sharp and visceral and, occasionally, beautiful…you know, in a beauty queen covered in mud sort of way. As an author he, more so than anybody else, gave me the confidence to own my own quirky voice/style.

Never read anything by Chuck? Check out Blackbirds (Miriam Black series) for an object lesson in style and bad-ass female leads.

Now, reading that blog got me thinking about voice and style and everything that goes into the two. Voice is a huge topic and we could easily go into a week’s worth of blog posts just on that singular topic. It’s that highly sought after holy grail of writing, and, like anything worth tromping through magical swamps to find, it is incredibly elusive.

Most writing books talk about the power of finding your own voice, but rarely do they provide replicateable steps you can follow to track down your voice. This isn’t a fault of those books, mind you. Voice is highly personal and defining good style is a Sisyphean task by every definition of the phrase.

But, but, but…there are some things you can do to start inching closer to your one true voice. And I promise to give you those steps in a blog post later this week. So keep your ears to sky and eyes to ground, I’ll be back! In the meantime, go check out Barbara’s blogpost over at the Reading Experience and find yourself a new author to love.

Cyberpunk Ain’t Dead…It’s Just Really Sleepy.

Cyberpunk Ain’t Dead…It’s Just Really Sleepy.

If you’ve ever read one of my stories, you’ve probably figured out by now that I’m pretty in love with cyberpunk. The interplay between society, individual freedom, and technology is a source of infinite material. A playground I could romp around in, shoving small children into the sandbox, all day long.

i think its deadBut there’s a problem. Namely, cyberpunk is dead. Or so was claimed a couple decades back by Bruce Sterling (a guy no stranger to cyberpunk himself). For a long time this made me really sad because I thought, “Man, I’m in love with a corpse.” Which, ya know, is frowned on in 45 of the lower states.

Nobody wants to be that guy who likes a thing that has suddenly gone out of vogue. It’s like being a reverse hipster (not as bad as a regular hipster, just sadder). Or showing up to a party that’s already over. All that remains is to clean up the leaked fluids, gather what remains of your pride, and shamble on home.

It nags at me, though. The question: Why is cyberpunk dead? Can it be revived? Perhaps it was just really, really tired and needed a long, couple decade long nap?

This, of course, coming from a guy who plays liberally with a host of cyberpunk tropes in every single one of his stories. Which just means I’m a hopeless optimist for the genre to make a resurgence.

Here’s the thing: Cyberpunk ain’t coming back. Not like it was back in the 80’s and 90’s at least, when masters like Gibson and Stephenson and Sterling were doing their things. No more leather dusters and mohawks cruising the Tokyo slums looking to jack in.

But that’s okay, ‘cause here’s the good thing: Cyberpunk never really left. (Ha, plot twist. How’s that for being entirely contradictory? That’s just me trying to keep you on your toes!)

Cyberpunk has evolved. Into something better? Maybe. Maybe not. Certainly different if nothing else. But here’s the awesome part: It’s been hiding right under our noses the entire time.

One of the attractive qualities of science fiction is that it deals with the future in a way that allows us to process our reconceptualize our present. Extrapolating technological innovations and the inevitable social ramifications is, at it’s heart, what science fiction is all about. Whether we’re dealing with laser wielding aliens, or mega-AI-driven-corporations, or even post-apocalyptic mutant wastelands, we’re always looking forward.

The problem with cyberpunk is that it wasn’t looking far enough forward. It projected the world a few decades out which meant that as soon as the present caught up to the future, the genre as an archetype was done. All the predictions either came true or they didn’t. Suddenly, cyberpunk was dated.

Whoops. Talk about writing yourself into a corner.

Want some examples? Of course you do!

Let’s pick apart some examples from Neuromancer (which you should definitely read, if you haven’t already, because it is one of the all-time classics of the genre), and show what happens when the future becomes now.

Cyberspace/Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality

“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts…a graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.”William Gibson (Neuromancer)

Alright, so already way back in the 80’s, this was the working definition of cyberspace as given to us by Gibson. Now, in his world, “console cowboys” navigated a virtual cyberspace in a very real sense. It was a physical environment made tangible by powerful computers, electrodes, and a healthy amount of induced hallucination.

Now, perhaps we as an internet using people have not progressed quite to that point, but the rise of personal computers, the world wide web, smart-phones, and every other piece of technology that keeps us connected 24/7 isn’t so terribly far off. Compound that with some of the consumer grade tech (think Google Glass and Oculus Rift) flowing down the pipeline later this year, and bam… we’re jacking into the network in ways predicted way back in the 80’s.

Next Big Thing in Augmented Reality

Interestingly, the biggest hitter in the cyberpunk genre in the past decade was successful precisely because it capitalized on that 1980’s nostalgia while also ladling in a healthy amount of immersive tech.

What story is that?

Ready Player One came on the scene in a huge way and it wouldn’t be too hyperbolic to claim it sort of redefined the genre. But, though it tapped into gamer culture, and tinkered with the idea of an immersive 3 dimensional virtual reality somewhat similar to the old guard (think Snow Crash and Neuromancer) it doesn’t really resemble traditional cyberpunk in any sort of meaningful way.

That’s not a bad thing of course, just different. Genres grow. They expand. They evolve. They have to, otherwise they stagnate and die. Epic Fantasy went through a similar period back in the early 2000’s as people grew tired of the same old good-vs-evil, farmer boy with a quest storyline. But now look at Epic Fantasy, it’s healthy and vibrant and flourishing.

One of the interesting cultural things about Ready Player One is that there is already a huge community of gamers (Second Life is the big hitter) already angling for that precise reality. So, like its forefathers, Ready Player One has already dated itself. Then again, it sort of did that by default by relying so heavily on 1980’s references, so whatever.

Wearable Technology

“Booths lined a central hall. The clientele were young…They all seemed to have carbon sockets planted behind the left ear…Behind the counter a boy with a shaven head stared vacantly into space, a dozen spikes of Microsoft protruding from the socket behind his ear.” – Gibson (Neuromancer)

Cyberpunk as a genre always took wearable tech to its logical extreme, whether that be portable decks, goggles, electrodes, or what Gibson termed microsofts (which incidentally has nothing to do with the company Microsoft). We as a culture are still lagging behind cortical stacks as seen in Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon, but we’ve definitely arrived at a place where at any given moment you’re within arm’s reach of a smart-phone. Shit, that’s literally true if you’re wearing a smart-watch.

Wearable tech on the whole, however, hasn’t really taken off yet. Google Glass’s attempt at augmented reality didn’t really work out?

Why not?

This is just opinion, but I think it has to do with the fact that we as a culture aren’t quite ready to be tied that intricately to our technology. Sure, we absolutely, totally are reliant and addicted to our tech, but we prefer the illusion of freedom. At any point, I can put my phone down and pretend I don’t need it. That becomes a different story when I have a port implanted behind my ear.

Then again, there’s the question of infrastructure and digital lag. Unfortunately (again as witnessed by Google Glass) our software just isn’t sophisticated enough to create a seamless transition to augmented reality via wearable tech. Sure, we’re definitely getting there (likely within the next decade), but at the moment, wearable tech just ain’t quite there yet.

I hear you clucking over there, “Well, Anthony, doesn’t that mean there is still space for the exploration of wearable tech within cyberpunk?”

Yes, absolutely there is. But, as we inch closer and closer to that reality, people become less and less comfortable exploring what might come of it. We like to think of the ramifications in terms of the far future, not near. There are lots of people out there right now who would be psyched on a cortical stack, but there are many, many more absolutely horrified by the concept.

This in a nutshell is why cyberpunk is such a hard sell now adays.

Prosthetics and Plastic Surgery

In Neuromancer there’s a character named Molly who has mirrored cybernetic eyes built into her sockets. It displays the time, random data, and allows her to see in the dark. There’s a bartender with cybernetic arms that whirr gently as he moves. Joe-boys are fellas with huge vat grown muscles.

Unfortunately, none of this is science fiction anymore. Plastic surgeons have recently performed the first face transplant, and enhancing biceps, breasts, butts, and calves are so routine that they’re practically outpatient procedures.

The most interesting part of all this is the application of prosthetics, in my opinion. Today we are seeing individuals with degenerative muscular disorders, paraplegics, and individuals who’ve suffered catastrophic brain damage, navigating their world via neurally linked prosthetics.

For now the technology is mostly reserved for individuals with pressing medical need, but it won’t be too far out in the future that we begin seeing cosmetic/commercial applications of this tech.

But again, this is bad news for cyberpunk, because as these technologies become more and more integrated and feasible, they lose that edge of wonder and freshness that once categorized the genre. Yes, we will see individuals in the future with bionic arms. No, that isn’t terribly imaginative anymore.

Good science fiction has always been defined by its ability to innovate and surprise and predict. And sure, cyberpunk predicted these things, but now what’s it going to pull out of its hat?

SimStim (Simulation/Stimulation)

This is the idea that you could recordconnectome and upload experiences/emotions from one individual to another. A sort of shared, collaborative experience. This is one of those areas of cyberpunk that is unfortunately a ways away, though there has been significant work done in recent years.

Problem is, the human brain is crazy complex. The Human Connectome Project is in the process of mapping every neuronal juncture in the brain, but at the end of the day, there are just a shit ton of connections.

Don’t believe me? Check out The Connectome’s Website and see some pictures that will absolutely blow your mind.

Perhaps it’s because how far out this concept still is, but it’s actually a fairly popular one in modern culture. I myself riffed heavily on it in my short story Purgatory where we follow through the eyes of Jarek, an Imagineer for ImagineNation, who’s job it is to daydream experiences for others to experience.

Though this would be mega-cool, and would totally revolutionize how we interact with art and media, it’s not going to be happening any time soon.

Constructs

The idea that we can dump a person’s memories, skills, and personality onto a hard-drive. This is my most favoritest trope within the cyberpunk genre and I deal heavily with it in Time Heist and Mind Breach.

The reason this concept fascinates me so, is that we are getting to a place within the digital age that so much of our lives is out there on the interweb. Eventually, a sophisticated enough computer system, able to mind the data deep enough, could theoretically reconstruct any one of us based on a personality metric. It could not replicate memories, of course, but that’s where the idea of copying the connectome, retracing each individual neural pathway to create a comprehensive neural map, comes into play.

This chain of thought opens up countless possibilities. Each avenue of consequence forking into a thousand others. What’s it mean to be alive within this context? If you separate the mind from the body, what is left over? Are you still living? Is a replica of you still you?

I explore this idea in a short story On the Protean Shore which is due out in an anthology revolving around the them of Afterlife sometime later this year.

A lot of ethical, philosophical, legal, and spiritual ramifications to this sort of technology arise. Thankfully, it is still a ways out, but that is precisely why this is one of the hottest tropes to emerge from modern day cyberpunk.

Further Reading

Alright, my beautiful readers, by now you’re saying to yourself, “Boy howdee, I want to read some cyberpunk!” No sweat, I got your back. Below are three of my favorite cyberpunk novels to come out in the past 10 years. Check them out and let me know what you like, or what you don’t like.

Then again, maybe you’re done with cyberpunk. If that’s the case, get down to the comments and let me know why? What happened? Where’d the love go? Or maybe you’ve never been into the genre. That’s cool, why is that?

Oh, and do me a solid, get down to the comments and leave a recommendation for any awesome cyberpunk you’ve stumbled upon recently.

 

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