did we really know anybody who would stand up in leather pants and shout, “I am a cyberpunk?
by R.U. Sirius
Every few months the net goes gaga for someone publishing the off-the-cuff “R.U. A Cyberpunk” parody from a 1993 edition of MONDO 2000.
Oh well. Glib amusement and fast attention rules, so I may as well go with it.
When we called the first edition of MONDO 2000 the cyberpunk issue, I don’t think we really had a persona in mind (although Larry Welz did present Cherry Poptart‘s friend Elle Dee as a cyberpunk in that issue). Rather, I think we saw it as a sort of memeplex that would be pretty well expressed not only by interviewing 4 SF writers who were identified with the C-Punk genre (and I don’t think they actually called themselves cyberpunks — maybe some of them were happy to call themselves cyberpunk writers John Shirley, maybe?); by interviewing the guys behind Max Headroom, by hipping people to Processed World and the latest from the Subgenius; by having mysterious articles on wicked computer hacks by “Lady Ada Lovelace” and “Michael Synergy.”
But did we really know anybody who would stand up in leather pants and shout, “I am a cyberpunk?” I think maybe Michael Synergy was the only one in our circle who embraced the identity. Outside of Synergy, I don’t remember any of the outlaw type hackers we had the occasion to interview or hang out with adopting the ID.
Later, Chris Hudak, the cool looking dude in the “R.U. A Cyberpunk” thing seemed to embrace it. And a little later, St. Jude, myself and Bart Nagel were hired to create Cyberpunk Handbook, which was a humor book about how other people could get a clue and become cyberpunks. Eric Hughes, sharing the cover with Tiffany Lee Brown, identified as a cypherpunk but that was a semi-organized group with a definite goal to overthrow everything with encryption technology.
I don’t know. I throw it open. Are you now or have you ever been a cyberpunk?
Here are a few brief and rather random quotes from some of the people interviewed for the upcoming Mondo book saying stuff about cyberpunk.
Mark Heley (started Toon Town, a successful group of “cyber” oriented rave promoters in the early ’90s)
It was the beginning of the period we are still in, pretty much. Nobody really knew what the web was back then or what enormous potential it held, people in the Mondo scene knew and were going at it full force. Emergent technology is still a huge area of cultural change. The cyberpunk people made it a movement and an identity, the scene grew to be a substantial part of a long history of bohemian culture that runs against the grain. This time it was armed with the internet, smart drugs, ubiquitous technology and the ubiquitous interface we still love and live in daily. It both began and predicted the times we live in.
Rudy Rucker (SF writer, Math writer/teacher, software developer, coauthor of MONDO 2000: A User’s Guide to the New Edge)
I couldn;t believe it. February 8, 1993, the book (“New Edge”) was featured in Time magazine! And it was the cover story. And Bart did the cover photo and there was a full page picture of Queen Mu and R.U. The cover said “Cyberpunk” I thought: YEAH!
The Mondo thing wasn’t as hard. It was softer. Because they weren’t actually learning. Though most of the cyberpunks weren’t either, but I had a feeling like I was learning how to be a C programmer¦ an assembly language. I was getting into it in a hard machine-edged kind of way. And Mondo was more of a hippie thing. I’d say cyberpunk was a little more punk. In Mondo, there was this flowers and psychedelic thingâ€¦ taking vitamins to get smarter. It didn’t have exactly the same feel as cyberpunk.
Stephan Ronan (Beat Historian, Mondo writer)
…that was my first visit to the Mondo house in the hills of Northside and in my account I describe it as a “technogothic citadel.”
Don Joyce (of Negativland) and I had done an Over the Edge program a few years earlier entitled “Cyberpunk” with novelist Richard Kadrey and science fiction poet Andrew Joron (and John Shirley on tape). By this point I was being to tire of the term. I had read in FACE magazine a writer predicted “technogothic” would replace it so I went for it. Around then a letter was published¦ It said the letter-writer had been to Mondo house and it was hardly the “technogothic citadel” he had been led to expect. Ha! See how myth-making works?
Walter Isaacson (Author, former editor of Time)
I saw Wired, when it came out, not as a competitor but as a complement to MONDO 2000. I think some of the cyberpunk spirit has been lost by the commercialization of the web and the desire to get ad revenue.
5 thoughts on “R.U. a Cyberpunk? Well? R.U? … Punk”
I just wanted to get the notifications of new entries to my email. Couldn’t find other way to do it.
I did buy into the identity, it was fun. At the time I adopted the persona of a legit computer hacker with a bitchin’ fashion sense. Of course I went on to be the runner up in the 1995 alt.cyberpunk beauty pageant but that is a tale for another day.