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Beyond Cyberpunk

Beyond Cyberpunk: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to the Future almost defies description. I say almost because although I can certainly provide numerous descriptions; all will fail in the end. I simply cannot know how you will react to this quirky, slogan-ridden, and occasionally loud, exposition of what may be the cyberpunk movement, if indeed such a thing exists now or ever existed.

Starting from the top (from whence you must dive into the maelstrom), Beyond Cyberpunk (BCP) is a true hypertext created in HyperCard, complete with good graphics and appropriately strange sounds. I say true hypertext where I should perhaps use the term "non-trivial hypertext," since BCP encompasses a ton of information and provides multitudinous ways of navigating through the essays, definitions, manifestoes, clips from published works, and Net knows what else.

BCP has four (I think) basic sections, Manifestoes (essays and opinions on cyberpunk itself – a metalook at the justification of the stack itself in some respects), Street Tech (which looks at and references "the tools and hardware used to construct a ‘cyberculture,’") CyberCulture (the interaction of cyberpunk and culture – I guess), and Media (a look at the publications, films, comics, and whatnot that have helped existentially define the cyberpunk movement). Numerous well-known authors contributed to BCP, including Bruce Sterling, Gareth Branwyn, Rudy Rucker, and no doubt numerous others whose names I didn’t trip over in my electronic perambulations.

Like any good hypertext, BCP is big, confusing, and fast – you zip around in it too quickly to completely absorb each essay or section. As I see it, the point is more to bounce off BCP’s virtual walls, picking up bits and pieces and gradually coming to have a feel for the whole as you carom around. BCP at times seems have a mind of its own, another good hypertext technique for challenging the reader and deepening the textual interaction. Prime among these random interruptions are quotes like "Inspiration knows no baud rate" (of which you can also get a t-shirt) from BCP’s tour guide of the electrons, Kata Sutra, who is also known as "the mistress of recombinant phraseology." Potentially more challenging are the dialogs which force you to click one of two buttons, labeled for instance "Obey" and "Comply." Which is right? Which is OK? There’s no way of telling and I certainly can’t help.

Probably I can best summarize Beyond Cyberpunk as a must-read for anyone interested in the concepts and ideas around William Gibson’s Neuromancer trilogy. BCP is not precisely entertainment, but neither is it an information base; either view misses the point. Damn, I’m losing my grip on BCP again – I’ll have to go read some more. Join me?

My main complaint about BCP is that it is hard coded to the size of the compact Mac screen, and it would be nice to have it full screen on my 13" monitor. I’ve also occasionally found myself unable to switch back to the main navigational screen – no telling why, but in a set of stacks so vast I’m surprised there aren’t more HyperTalk coding errors.

BCP is presented by The Computer Lab, and may be obtained for $29.95 directly from The Computer Lab or from Eastgate Systems, publishers of Storyspace and the main company publishing hypertext today. Apparently BCP’s price will go up in 1993, so, as the BCP folks urge, "Have Yourself a Very Weird Christmas." The Computer Lab, not unaware of other developments in their field, also sells the Voyager electronic book version of Gibson’s Neuromancer trilogy for $19.95, which is barely more than the paperbacks cost and runs well on the PowerBooks. Highly recommended for the cyberpunk in your life.

The Computer Lab — 703/527-6032 — 703/527-6207 (fax)
[email protected]
Eastgate Systems — 800/562-1638 — 617/924-9044
[email protected]

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