Archive for November, 2012

Neonomicon’s semi-interesting, mostly-boring cover. At least it is connected to the story.

Alan Moore has become one of the preeminent voices in comics today, and quite rightly so. From his small beginnings working for 2000ad on strange little SF flavoured anecdotes (Tharg’s Future Shocks) all the way to writing what some people would call one of the best comics ever written (Watchmen) and in the process change the very idea of what we call comics and graphic novels. This might seem grandiose praise, but I do believe that he has had a massive impact. I’ve enjoyed his work immensely.

So then, I was very interested to discover that he had written a small comic series influenced by H.P.Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, entitled “Neonomicon.”  A large portion of my own professional work has been dedicated to a similar pursuit, so it was inevitable that I would (eventually) get around to reading it. I am very late to the party though, since its been out for about two years. GRrr! I was dismayed, however, that it wasn’t as good as it could have been, or even, as good as it should have been. Heh, yeah, that does sound rather demanding, doesn’t it?

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It has been almost two weeks since the latest Halo game, imaginatively titled “Halo 4”, was released and since I am a long time Halo fan, I felt that I was somewhat obliged to talk about it. As usual, this won’t be a review – that’s not my kind of thing and Halo seems to be one of those games/series that tends to polarize players. You either like the series or you don’t, and I do. I guess I still do, but the developers are making it harder and harder to do so.

As a science fiction fan, the original Halo captured my imagination with its broadstroke space opera, highly influenced by authors like Iain M. Banks and the like: enormous mysterious space artifacts, fascinating alien cultures and ancient secrets about to be uncovered. It was Aliens meets Forbidden Planet. As a first person shooter fan, it introduced a lot of ideas that would mold what people expected from the genre, such as having every weapon you’ve collected at your disposal all the time, regenerating health and enemies that required forward thinking. The day it came out – the launch day of the first Xbox – I watched someone else play it for an hour,  then had to go buy the console and the game. I haven’t looked back.

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I remember a time when cyberpunk was the shit! Not just something that was cool, but something that dominated the landscape.

It seems crazy to say that now, since to a lot of people it has lost its edge and even disappeared from the public eye. Today, its themes of rebellion in a world of corporate control, freedom of expression and self-empowerment through technology are still relevant, if not more so, but are frequently used as part of trans-human stories. Humanity has moved on, shall we say.

The Cyberpunk ideal, 1990-ish

Back in the 80s and early 90s, the world was, obviously, a different place. There was no freely accessed Internet and the cultural impact that would come along with it. Computer technology was something at most people’s arm’s length, not even in the form of cell phones (as someone who painfully – and expensively – followed the trends of portable computing (from Psion Series 3, Palm Pilots all the way up to iPaQs and eventually iPhones), it took 16 years before I was satisfied that truly mobile computing had arrived.)  Cyberpunk at the time was less of a “it will happen” and more of a dream. It was us still being hopeful for the future, even though it was grimly dystopian – even if we were held under an oppressive force, we’d still have the toys and the will to use them.

For me, and perhaps many others like me, Cyberpunk was not just a SF movement but a zeitgeist, and perhaps even like the punk genre that inspired it, most of us didn’t realize that it was “over” until someone said “Cyberpunk? What’s that?” (and i for one would argue that its not over, but just that there aren’t many practitioners left.)    Cyberpunk not only encapsulated the future I thought would come to pass, but was also a reflection of who I was, or who I felt I was – something that I can’t really say about any other genre of SF. It was something I didn’t want to leave behind, nor have taken away from me, but suddenly it had transmogrified into a dead genre, which because of the perpetual churn of technology became too real, even mundane. We live in a world very similar to the Cyberpunk ideal: the Internet binds us all together informing and controlling us. Corporations rule lives: jobs, national policy, describing the future with their products, redefining ecologies. Technology has become part of civilized life: blogs, smart-phone assistants, AIs, the “Cloud”. There are the freedom fighters and the malcontents: Anonymous and similar groups having huge impact on the world around them, for good and bad.  Sure, the Steppin’ Razors, implanted sunglasses and some of the other cyberpunk bells and whistles haven’t come around yet, but they’re just around the corner. The thing is, we’re living Cyberpunk – the dream is real.

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