Cyberpunk introduced itself as science-fiction’s cynical sibling, extrapolating the worst aspects of today rather than the lofty aspirations of tomorrow. Good cyberpunk fiction only seems fictional at time of writing, and as such the genre affords far less conceptual wiggle room than its sleeker, starrier counterpart. In sci-fi, our eyes are fixed on the stars, but in cyberpunk we find our ears secured firmly to the pavement.
What, then, do we have to look forward to in the current year? What grim dystopia awaits to surpass the one we already inhabit? If nothing human makes it out of the near future, what can we expect in the meantime?
Corporate hegemony is too present, too real in the current age to be depicted as a hallmark of some hellish age of tomorrow. Silicon Valley is already pushing for RFID chips under your skin, while tech-savvy outcasts have pioneered decentralised social networking and untraceable monetary transactions. No one owns anything, and some of the ballsier haves are telling the have-nots to fill up on insects once they get home to their habitation pods. When the implants go in things will be different, but what’s next? How do you warn everyone about a future we have already hurtled towards?
Cyberpunk is as much a cultural lens as it is a genre of fiction, and that lens has recently elected to magnify something at once compelling and absolutely revolting: pus.
I wish to bring two (presently) fictional works to your attention, though they have both seen a steady increase in popularity. The first of these projects is a YouTube channel run by iCarly’s Noah Munck, of all people, called Sadworld. The content is a hectic mix of sketch comedy and trippy music, held together beautifully by a schizophrenic editing style. Content aren’t really in keeping with IDDQD, but don’t watch Sadworld if you’re prone to headaches or seizures.
The Sadworld Twitter account (and, by extension, their Patreon) is also worthy of note, thanks to Noah’s intermittent cyberpunk shitposts. These brightly-colored walls of flavour text lend some frankly inspired world-building to Noah’s personal Techno-Hell. This is where the aforementioned pus comes in, and I never thought I’d ever put those words together until now.
Munck’s future is decidedly post-implant singularity, which is to say that absolutely everyone has something under their skin. The catch is that, while such surgeries are affordable to the average wageslave, the results are often rather messy. It may be relatively easy to get a music player jabbed into your skull, there’s no guarantee that the wound will ever stop weeping. In essence:
Welcome to the Future™, sorry about the smell.
My next example of the subgenre I will only once refer to as pus-core comes in video game form, and it’s essentially a somewhat stripped-down Deus Ex dipped in LSD. This is Cruelty Squad, an indie game still under development by Consumer Softproducts (nice name btw). Fans of Sadworld will be right at home among the bright colours and industrial cynicism, which complement the gameplay and story wonderfully. Cruelty Squad is cyberpunk through-and-through; human life has no value and thus civilian deaths incur no penalty, while gibbed bodies often produce organs which can then be sold via the game’s internal stock market terminal.
Implants and augs are, of course, available for purchase between missions. They’re all fittingly grotesque, with options such as a suit of fleshy bio-armour and a couple of bodily-waste propulsion systems. NPCs will spout futuristic pessimism when interacted with, their dialogue seeming rather Landian at times.
If Sadworld and Cruelty Squad have shown me anything, it’s that we’re nearing the future originally envisioned by the founders of cyberpunk to such a degree as to see all the gory details up close. This will be upon us sooner than we think, like all unpleasant predictions, and one must look no further than Reddit for proof. Transgender subreddits are being slowly peopled with post-op horror stories, grim tales of mutilation, regret, and pus. Today’s death-drives are yesterday’s science-fiction, we just thought the corporations would have cooler names.