Mike Gullickson is the author of the cyberpunk bestseller, The Northern Star. Examiner featured it as one of the “Top 5 Indie-Published Books You Haven’t Read, But Should,” and the Midwest Book Review stated “it’s military scifi and futuristic cyber-reality at its best.” He’s been interviewed by Kevin Smith’s Netheads, and on Howard 101. The kindle omnibus edition, The Northern Star: Trilogy, is out now. For more information go to www.mikegullickson.com, and follow him on twitter at: @mikegullickson.
When you hear the word cyberpunk, the majority of us see the same thing: a dark, dilapidated city, soaked in rain. Crowds of people pushing toward their destination. Huge video screens overhead, barking out ads in various languages; and technology used as life support for a crumbling civilization, where only the wealthy and corrupt use it to their advantage.
The seminal Neuromancer and (cinematically) Blade Runner, have anchored this aesthetic into our collective minds. And while there have been great cyberpunk novels since (Altered Carbon comes to mind) the gravity of these two legendary sources have locked cyberpunk into a time capsule, forever stuck in the 80’s. Which is unfortunate, because––beyond any other science fiction subgenre––cyberpunk is the most accurate portrayal of our near future.
In my lifetime, there are have been a slew of triumphs in space exploration: Hubble, the Mars Rovers, Hubble, the International Space Station, New Horizon’s pass of Pluto. (Hell, we just landed on a comet, and that’s INSANE.) And our best and brightest have conquered technological limitations with cleverness, to decipher earth-like planets by using inference and laws of physics to find them. But we are no closer to the stars. Not really.
Pulsing with radiation, with chasms of distance beyond comprehension, it’s a violent, horrible place, unfit for life. How we dream of space (massive ships, hyperdrive, and distant stars) may be a millennium away. The advancements we marvel at today will build a foundation for our ancestors to leap from. But we will be dead and gone. And while worthy of our imagination and awe, it will not help us heed a better tomorrow.
But barring an alien invasion or technology-ending apocalypse, near future science fiction is a great exercise in extrapolating where we are headed as a society. To write it properly we have to look to the pressures, conflicts, and technologies we have today. And when we do, it’s clear that we’re already living a cyberpunk existence.
A definition of cyberpunk (per Wikipedia):
Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a near-future setting. Noted for its focus on “high tech and low life,” it features advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.
Cyberpunk plots often center on a conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and megacorporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth….
The NSA, WikiLeaks, the Sony hack . . . body modification, resource depletion, technology addiction . . . voter malaise, the bionic age, corporate goals versus government policy––and mind control outside of our body. That is our today.
Now imagine four decades from now. I have. The Northern Star series is cyberpunk, not because I wanted it to be, but because it had to be, in order to accurately portray where we may go.
What will the superpowers of the world do when the oil runs out? What will they do when cyberspace is our only salvation . . . and it isn’t theirs? And by continuing to shrink our world with fiber, satellites, zero’s and one’s, how can we prevent the most devious from exploiting it, in the quest for power?
These are real issues that will appear in our lifetime. And while the other subgenres are fun, and the other subgenres are important (The success of The Martian by Andy Weir may actually accelerate our plans to visit Mars.) cyberpunk is the only one that can truly enlighten us at these crossroads. And maybe through it, we can take the proper path––avoiding the worst of man––and build a future where the cities are bright, and the people prosperous, and the government protects us, and our children have hope.
It’s worth trying, isn’t it?
Be sure to check out our awesome giveaway featuring Mike’s trilogy and some Kindle devices.