Sunday, April 16, 2006

a fanboy moment


I have being trying to organize both the project I'm working on for my thesis and future applications in my field after this degree. It's becoming a bit overwhelming, so I have less to blog about. Of course, maybe this is why I am awake at 6:30 AM local time. Even the subjects which come to mind are less then meaty....but here goes.

They are coming out with a third season of my favorite show nobody has ever seen: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. This season's episodes is supposd to take some elements from the manga GITS: Man-Machine Interface. The title is Solid State Society and I would post clips but they are in flash and copyright-questionable. Still, there are only a few things I an be a real fanboy on, and this gets me into full-on armchair philosopher mode.

The Ghost in the Shell series, which began as a manga and was later developed into an acclaimed movie (1995) and later a TV series is a postcyberpunk epic concerning a female counterterrorism agent with an advanced cyborg body, the unit she commands and their relation to a future society where almost everyone is biologically connected to the Internet.

Postcyberpunk (as shitty and faux-temporary a monker as post-modernism) is hard to understand, but has a few notable commonalities: it is reasonably free of nihilism (contra a subcurrent in much of Gibson) and less pessimistic about technology than cyberpunk, mostly by having characters working to improve social conditions or protect them from disintegration, rather than being exclusively alienated and disaffected loners in a high dystopia.

Postcyberpunk is concerned with the immediate, postulatable future and eschews space opera deep futures which attempt to see beyond the veil of the Singularity through melodramatic suspension of disbelief. Thus the terrestial effects of technology are of more interest than space travel, because a mantra of the postcyberpunk movement would be 'Technology IS society'. A common reaction from devotees of cyberpunk is to boff this optimism about technology as 'cyberprep', but this is a simplistic 80's high school cafeteria analogy.

Technology has potential to alienate, but much of cyberpunk is based on this romantic hacker myth, abetted by zealous feds in an era where things like P2P, email, blogging, podcasting, and VoIP would be difficult to understand. Yes, the possibilities have been limited compared to both traditional science fiction and cyberpunk, but this is a consequence of both. Star Wars killed off the space opera, much like the car chase is now dead as a filmic device (observation of John Rogers, not me, but I vigorously support this). Likewise, AOL killed off cyberpunk by showing how much more powerful and consumerist the non-alienating aspects of computers would/could be. More likely in a progressive and direct sense the WELL is responsible more than AOL: after professional sci-fi writers began using the Internet without the massive social fragmentation which was predicted by cyberpunk, speculative literature along those lines was impossible to support.

Now the man-machine interface is also a key and original postcyberpunk theme and this ties into the current field which make for good futurist fodder: genomics, nanotech and holography. The ubiquity of the near-future makes postcyberpunk often a trivial label, but works recognized as postcyberpunk all have another commonality in dealing with the biological effects of techonology, leading to alternate terms such as biopunk or ribofunk. Dystopic tendencies still percolate through from cyberpunk, often with more pro-active and empowering libertarian twists. There is a greater respect for the early industrial age, especially in the steampunk aesthetic of say, a Victorian England version of an iPod. Notable authors include Stephenson and Doctorow, but popular works which fall under the banner include Transmetropolitan, The Fifth Element, Deus Ex and the Invisibles. These are a loose conglomeration, which suggests that more development is truly necessary for such a tendency to even be considered a literary movement. Still, it is my hope that the third season of GITS will be such a development.

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