Thursday, March 30, 2017

Chicanonautica: Cyber Beyond Punk--Latinoids Included

I am not now, nor have I ever been a card-carrying cyberpunk. However, if you look me up online, you find the word used, over and over again, to define me. So I’m stuck with the Chicano cyberpunk label, even though Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Roberto Sifuentes should be credited with creating it.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Cyber World: Tales of Humanity’s Tomorrow. A back cover blurb from Chuck Windig says it “gives the cyberpunk genre a much-needed reboot.” Then Richard Kadrey explains in his forward that “Cyberpunk isn’t cool anymore because it doesn’t have to be.” Editor Joshua Viola declares that “Cyberpunk is dead,” while the other editor Jason Heller says,“Don’t call this a cyberpunk book.” Yet, the book trailer labels it, “A Cyberpunk anthology.”

Pardon my WTF . . .

The book is a slick production from Hex Publishers, out of Colorado (once again, look out Nueva York). A great cover with a pink-hair/plugged-in girl (is pink hair rebellious or nostalgic these days?) does project a certain amount of punk angst. There’s eye-catching art and very modernistic layout. If you flip the pages, the globe in the circuitry rotates. Plus, there’s a bonus CD soundtrack.

Also, the names of writers I know and respect are in the table of contents. So I started reading.

Despite an overall leaning toward angst and pessimism--there weren’t any laughs, which was one of my complaints about the original wave of cyberpunk--there is a connection to the whole “street finding its own uses for technology” concept. The technology has been updated, totally twenty-first century, generations after 1984 when Neuromancer was published and the idea of carrying around computers with more memory that NASA’s lunar landing module was far-fetched. The streets using technology are outside of the Bladerunner future noir safe zone. Transhumanism defines humanity, and provides it with a vehicle to zoom across new fronteras/borders . . .

When cyberpunk first started it was mostly white male, but back then science fiction was considered to be a white male thing. Yeah, they sometimes liked to fantasize about being Asian, but black or brown was getting too far out. And there weren’t many girls around. Later, when summing up cyberpunk, writers would dutifully mention Misha Nogah (what? You haven’t read here Red Spider White Web yet?), and me as Native American and Chicano tokens.

My, have times changed.

Which brings me to why I’m reviewing it for La Bloga: I’m happy to say that Cyber World, without making an issue out of it, is diverse in both the characters presented and the writers, who are all experienced professionals. Yes, there are Latinoids, of various kinds, some of them new.

All the stories are good. My favorites were from Mario Acevedo, Saladin Ahmed, Paolo Bacigalupi, Minister Faust, Chinelo Onwaulu, Sarah Pinsker, Nisi Shawl, Alyssa Wong, and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. I found myself reading the anthology as if it were a page-turner novel, going on to the next story, anxious for more.

I also found myself updating my thinking about what I’m currently writing--always a sign of being near the cutting edge.

No matter what label you put on it, Cyber World not only is about humanity’s tomorrow, but the future of speculative fiction.

Ernest Hogan is more of a Chicanonaut than a cyberpunk. He has stories in The Jewish Mexican Literary Review, Latin@ Rising, and the forthcoming Five to the Future.

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