Lecture 20: Cyberpunk and Biopunk
English 192
Summer 2013
9 September 2013
If I make the lashes dark
And the eyes more bri...
Administrative Matters
● People are working steadily on the study guide.
● Remember that I need to approve you as an edito...
Final exam format
● Two parts.
● First part: identifications (pick six from four categories, no
more than two from any cat...
Paolo Bacigalupi (1972–)
● Best known for his short
stories and The Windup
Girl (2009).
● Windup Girl won the Hugo
and Neb...
Is The Windup Girl an SF novel?
… according to these definitions:
● Hard/Soft SF?
● Dystopian? (Utopian?)
● Does it fit in...
(Jameson 93)
In what ways does the novel …
● … explore the consequences of some transformation to the
basic parameters of existence?
● ...
Again, some characteristics of
dystopian fiction …
● Characterized by a society suffused with mass
poverty, oppression, or...
“Cyberpunk” (1984? –)
● A postmodern-influenced SF sub-genre that
focuses on advanced technology (especially
information t...
● “high tech, low life”*
“Classic cyberpunk characters were
marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the
edge of societ...
● Major practitioners:
● Philip K. Dick (A Scanner Darkly, Ubik)
● Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age)
● William...
Energy
Yates: “I’ve got kink-springs the size of my fist
that hold a gigajoule of power. Quadruple the
capacity-weight rat...
Generipping
“No graffiti of genehack weevil engraves its [the
ngaw's] skin.” (Bacigalupi 2)
“Most likely, she bribed the w...
“Pollen wafts down the peninsula in steady
surges, bearing AgriGen and PurCal’s latest
genetic rewrites, while cheshires m...
“By then, they were only mopping up. AgriGen
and PurCal and the rest were shipping their
plague-resistant seeds and demand...
The calorie corporations
[Anderson:] “Blister rust is mutating every three
seasons now. Recreational generippers are hacki...
Media credits
● The photo of Paolo Bacigalupi (slide 4) is by
Larry D. Moore and has been released under a
Creative Common...
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Lecture 20 - Cyberpunk and Biopunk

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Twentieth lecture for my students in English 192, "Science Fiction," summer 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.

Course website: http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/m13/

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Lecture 20 - Cyberpunk and Biopunk

  1. 1. Lecture 20: Cyberpunk and Biopunk English 192 Summer 2013 9 September 2013 If I make the lashes dark And the eyes more bright And the lips more scarlet, Or ask if all be right From mirror after mirror, No vanity's displayed: I'm looking for the face I had Before the world was made. — W.B. Yeats, “Before the World Was Made” (ca. 1933)
  2. 2. Administrative Matters ● People are working steadily on the study guide. ● Remember that I need to approve you as an editor before you can edit. ● There's still some low-hanging fruit to be picked. ● In addition to getting an additional quiz score for completing this assignment, either contributing to the guide or using it as a study tool will make you eligible to pick up a few extra-credit points after the final exam. – Unless you've already picked up extra credit for doing an extra-credit presentation. ● Questions about the final exam? ● Other matters?
  3. 3. Final exam format ● Two parts. ● First part: identifications (pick six from four categories, no more than two from any category). Total: 36 points. – People – Places – Things – Ideas ● Second part: short essay/long short answer (pick two from approximately five). Total: 64 points. ● Bonus questions: – will not have their format discussed in advance. – will be hard. – Will give the lowest payoff for effort of any questions on the exam. ● There will be anti-cheating measures in place.
  4. 4. Paolo Bacigalupi (1972–) ● Best known for his short stories and The Windup Girl (2009). ● Windup Girl won the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel in 2009; was also selected by Time as one of the Top Ten Books of 2009. ● Two other novels published, three apparently forthcoming soon.Bacigalupi in 2012; photo by Larry D. Moore
  5. 5. Is The Windup Girl an SF novel? … according to these definitions: ● Hard/Soft SF? ● Dystopian? (Utopian?) ● Does it fit into any of these periodic divisions (aside from the date of publication)? – “Adventure” period (pre-1920) – “Modern” science fiction (1920–1935) – “Golden Age” science fiction (1935–1950) – “Classic Period” science fiction (1950–1965) ● What other definitions of SF might it fit under?
  6. 6. (Jameson 93)
  7. 7. In what ways does the novel … ● … explore the consequences of some transformation to the basic parameters of existence? ● … function as an exploration of a “mythology of power”? ● … seem to partake of the “literature of ideas” idea of SF? ● … exhibit a concern with Enlightenment-derived scientific thought? ● … as “scientific thought” is understood at the time it was written? ● … respond to or encode traditionally “liberal” values? ● Progress? ● Tolerance? ● Democracy? ● Rationalism?
  8. 8. Again, some characteristics of dystopian fiction … ● Characterized by a society suffused with mass poverty, oppression, or other suffering. ● Often extrapolative, based on contemporary social trends. ● Often provides explicit explanations for “how things came to be this way” within the fictional world. ● Often positions itself explicitly as warning about how contemporary trends may turn out. ● Often intends to provide a critique of (Utopian- intended) totalizing solutions to social problems.
  9. 9. “Cyberpunk” (1984? –) ● A postmodern-influenced SF sub-genre that focuses on advanced technology (especially information technology and cybernetics). ● A common theme is the adaptation of technology to ends its inventors never intended. – “The street finds its own uses for things.” – William Gibson, “Burning Chrome” (1981) ● Generally set in the near future on earth, rather than in distant times and places. ● Often, the setting is characterized by social breakdown, frequently to the point of being a (usually post-industrial) dystopia. ● Many cyberpunk novels are also set largely online.
  10. 10. ● “high tech, low life”* “Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body.” — Lawrence Person, “Notes Toward a Postcyberpunk Manifesto” (“Seph” on the Collective Cyberpunk Community Forums)
  11. 11. ● Major practitioners: ● Philip K. Dick (A Scanner Darkly, Ubik) ● Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age) ● William Gibson (Neuromancer) ● Pat Cadigan (Deadpan Allie trilogy) ● Film examples you likely know: ● Blade Runner (1982; more clearly cyberpunk than the Philip K. Dick novel on which it is based) ● The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003) ● Johnny Mnemonic (1995) ● Hackers (1995)
  12. 12. Energy Yates: “I’ve got kink-springs the size of my fist that hold a gigajoule of power. Quadruple the capacity-weight ration of any other spring on the market. I’m sitting on a revolution in energy storage, and you’re throwing it away. […] We haven’t had power this portable since gasoline.” (5) “These genehacked animals comprise the living heart of the factory’s drive system, providing energy for conveyor lines and venting fans and manufacturing machinery.” (9)
  13. 13. Generipping “No graffiti of genehack weevil engraves its [the ngaw's] skin.” (Bacigalupi 2) “Most likely, she bribed the white shirts for stamps rather than going through the full inspection process that would have guaranteed immunity to eight- generation blister rust along with resistance to cibiscosis 111.mt7 and mt8.” (3) “The boy said the man Gi Bu Sen gives them blueprints, but he betrays them more often than not. But his aunt discovered a trickery. And then they made the successful rip of the ngaw. Gi Bu Sen did hardly anything for them with the ngaw.” (43)
  14. 14. “Pollen wafts down the peninsula in steady surges, bearing AgriGen and PurCal’s latest genetic rewrites, while cheshires molt through the garbage of the sois and jinjok2 lizards vandalize the eggs of nightjars and peafowl. Ivory beetles bore through the forests of Khao Yai even as cibiscosis sugars, blister rust, and fa’gan fringe bore through the vegetables and huddled humanity of Krung Thep.” (47-48) “Somewhere in this city a generipper is busily toying with the building blocks of life. Reengineering long-extinct DNA to fit post- Contraction circumstances, to survive despite the assaults of blister rust, Nippon genehack weevil and cibiscosis.” (64)
  15. 15. “By then, they were only mopping up. AgriGen and PurCal and the rest were shipping their plague-resistant seeds and demanding exorbitant profits, and patriotic generippers were already working to crack the code of the calorie companies’ products, fighting to keep the Kingdom fed as Burma and the Vietnamese and the Khmers all fell. AgriGen and its ilk were threatening embargo over intellectual property infringement, but the Thai Kingdom was still alive. Against all odds, they were alive. As others were crushed under the calorie companies’ heels, the Kingdom stood strong.” (120)
  16. 16. The calorie corporations [Anderson:] “Blister rust is mutating every three seasons now. Recreational generippers are hacking into our designs for TotalNutrient Wheat and SoyPRO. Our last strain of HiGro Corn only beat weevil predation by sixty percent, and now we suddenly hear you’re sitting on top of a genetic gold mine. People are starving—” Yates laughed. “Don’t talk to me about saving lives. I saw what happened to the seedbank in Finland.” “We weren’t the ones who blew the vaults. No one knew the Finns were such fanatics.” “Any fool on the street could have anticipated. Calorie companies do have a certain reputation.” (6)
  17. 17. Media credits ● The photo of Paolo Bacigalupi (slide 4) is by Larry D. Moore and has been released under a Creative Commons-Sharealike license. Original source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paolo_bacigalu pi_2012.jpg

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