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Monday, September 28, 2009

Preliminary Cyberpunk Curriculum, and Other Considerations

I mentioned somewhere (maybe Twitter, though, to be honest, my online correspondence has largely become a blur in the last few months) that I am considering developing an independent study graduate course dealing with cyberpunk and capitalism. This interest follows my attempts to conceptualize cyberpunk as a genre and the pressing curiosity as to the capitalistic claims of the genre. With that in mind, I've started putting together a preliminary "reading list." I am, of course, quite open to suggestions or modifications to this list. Your thoughts are most welcome here.

So, here goes (new additions added at 7:12 PM on Sept. 28th, 10:17 AM on Oct. 1st, and 12:34 PM on Oct. 8th -- more additions are on the way, I just haven't been able to update yet).

Neuromancer by William Gibson
Vurt by Jeff Noon
Dead Girls, etc. by Richard Calder (love him)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Crash by J. G. Ballard
The Integrated Man by Michael Berlyn
The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner
When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanislaw Lem
Spin State/Spin Control by Chris Moriarty
Spacetime Donuts by Rudy Rucker
Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson
Mirrorshades edited by Bruce Sterling
Nova by Samuel R. Delany
Moxyland by Lauren Beukes
Babylon Babies by Maurice G. Dantec

Theory, etc.:
Postmodernism by Fredric Jameson
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Marx and Lenin (or works on them, at least)
(This section is really where I need suggestions, particularly for books that are not Marxist critiques of capitalism)

So, any thoughts?

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  1. You can look at Max Weber and Eric Wolf re: capitalism. Wolf is a particular fav of mine, dealing with the global political economy. There's also a lot of material in colonial/postcolonial theory you could work with, but much of this will be grounded in Marxist theory. I highly recommend reading at least excerpts from the Communist Manifesto. You also would do well to pick up some Michel Foucault re: PoMo theory, as tedious as it can be.

    I notice a lack of Pat Cadigan, Bruce Sterling, short fiction, and the influence/alternate perspective of anime (esp Ghost in the Shell, Lain).

    Just my first impressions.

  2. Anonymous6:49 PM

    I would definitely hit on Nihilism. It was the precursor to Modernism and is very interesting.

  3. Sarah: I will look up Weber and Wolf. I like Marxist criticisms of Capitalism, but I wanted to move out of that for some of this (Jameson covers enough Marx for me :P). I thought of having the Communist Manifesto here, but I wasn't sure if that would pull this concept too far into Marx's territory. I may include it.

    Foucault is a good idea (or at least someone talking about Foucault). Thanks :). I am interested in Postmodernism only insofar as it relates to capitalism, because the design of this independent study is to examine the structures of capitalism within "true" cyberpunk novels.

    As to the Cadigan and Sterling...well, do you have a suggestion for a good cyberpunk Cadigan? I don't know her work (or his?) well enough. Sterling, well, I considered Mirrorshades, since I own it. Maybe?

    I did consider anime, but I wanted this to be literature based. However, Ghost in the Shell did cross my mind, among others, and I didn't think of Lain until you mentioned it (that would be a big one, I think, because it's creepy as hell). Thanks for the suggestions!

    Adam: Any suggestions on where to start? I am insufficiently educated on the subject of Nihilism...

  4. I would consider the Akira manga literature, predating the movie by a number of years. I would consider that an influence on the cyberpunk genre.

  5. I think it is a great idea. I am unfamiliar with any cyberpunk sadly. I do know some anime though. Ghost in the shell, Full Metal Alchemy, Cowboy Beebop. I would love to read some cyberpunk and would love for it to be a genre in and of itself. Dr. Who also is on my radar for cyberpunk as well. I liked the novel The Stand by stepen king, he was the antthisis of cyberpunk in that one. Atleast that is my opinion. Hitchikers guide to the galaxy comes to mind. Don't forget your towel!

  6. Stace: Akira certainly influenced cyberpunk. It's been a while since I've seen the movie (or read the manga), but I will definitely consider extending my project to graphic novels. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Jodi: Ghost in the Shell would be a fine example of Japanese cyberpunk, so you already know cyberpunk visually (though the deeper context in Ghost in the Shell is largely lost to those who watch it because it's cool, but if you dig into it, you see all the layers of what is going on).

    Cyberpunk is a genre, but it's a sub category of, typically, science fiction. Some do argue that cyberpunk exists outside of SF, and they would have a lot of evidence to support such notions.

    You should read my posts on cyberpunk to get an idea of what I'm working with. It's not such a flashy genre as people tend to think (I mean, it is flashy, at times, but cyberpunk is never given credit for what it actually does in being a remarkably subversive form of literature).

    Thanks for the suggestions and thoughts!

  7. David7:11 PM

    Can't help you with the Marxism, but I'll suggest Nova, by Samuel R. Delany on the fiction end. This is a 1968 novel sometimes cited as proto-cyberpunk. It includes the man-machine interface theme, but the jacked-in ones here are laborers running machines - might mesh with the Marxism?

  8. David: It's added to the list. I'll see if it will fit in with what I'm trying to work with.