This is 2021. And as I write this, 4,000 people have married their virtual assistants, luxury fashion brands are making millions auctioning off virtual clothing, and Harvard psychiatrists have issued a plea for advertisers to please restrain themselves from hacking people’s dreams.
We live in a cyberpunk world.
The fact that reality is increasingly, unabashedly, cyberpunk is one of the two prevailing narratives around this strange and provocative genre. The second is, of course, that ‘cyberpunk is dead’. It flared up in the 1980s and was gone by the 1990s. A genre that supposedly started, and ended, with Mirrorshades.
These two narratives—life is cyberpunk and cyberpunk is dead—are not inherently contradictory. The challenge with any form of science fiction is out-racing the exponentially increasing weirdness of the world around us. Relevance today is obsolescence tomorrow, and cyberpunk, with its grounded, near-future focus, is particularly susceptible to the latter. Cyberpunk fiction is dead because reality overtook it.
Or so they would have you believe.