Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cyberpunk Timeline: 1980 - 1981

What happened in 1980? (And what makes these events cyberpunk?)

The movie "Lathe of Heaven" was released. The movie is a science fiction film about whose dreams alter reality. The movie takes place in the future, and becomes more "futuristic" the more he dreams. There is also a fear of the protagonist's dreams destroying the world.

The board game "Car Wars" was released. Car Wars is a post-apocalyptic vehicle combat simulation game.

Commodore releases the "friendly computer," the VIC-20. Computers are starting to be part of people's homes.

Mattel releases Intellivision nationwide. Video games are becoming are a part of people's lives by becoming more accessible. Entertainment is now a virtual realm anyone can step into.

"The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" published. Part of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series of books, which is a funny look at futuristic science fiction future in which the Earth gets blown up by aliens.

The movie "Mad Max" is released internationally. It's an apocalyptic action thriller film set in the near future of a bleak, dystopian, impoverished Australia that is facing a breakdown of civil order primarily due to widespread oil shortages.

The character "Cyborg" of DC Comics is introduced. He is a half-man, half-robot superhero, who was the son of a pair of scientists who decided to use him as a test subject for various intelligence enhancement projects.

The movie "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" is released. It is the sequel to the popular Star Wars franchise, featuring more lightsabers, laser guns, and robots, as well as Luke Skywalker getting his hand cut off, only to be replaced by a robotic hand.

Bruce Bethke claims to have coined the term "cyberpunk", though the story, "cyberpunk", would not be released until three years later. The short story was a high-tech science fiction story about a group of teenage crackers with ethical shortcomings. Bethke said that the coining of the word was his attempt to find a word that would combine the notions of punk attitudes and high-technology.

Gene therapy was introduced. Gene therapy is basically the repairing of genes to correct for diseases that result from a loss or change in our genetic material. Human DNA, our very coding, is able to be messed and meddled with. Could the ability to change human DNA be a bad thing? Don't ask a cyberpunk author, or else you might be having nightmares for weeks.

What happened in 1981? (And what makes these events cyberpunk?)

The movie “Looker” was released. The movie is about a plastic surgeon who works on four beautiful models when they start dying under mysterious circumstances. Paranoia is of course ever present in much of cyberpunk, and this movie is no different. This time the paranoia rests on a company that develops new advertising technologies.

The movie “Heavy Metal” was released. The film is an anthology of various science fiction and fantasy stories adapted from “Heavy Metal” magazine and original stories in the same spirit. The stories take you from space stations to zombies, and is rooted together with plenty of bloody violence, nudity, and sexuality.

The video game “Astrosmash” was released for Intellivision. It goes on to sell one million copies. People, more and more, are allowing electronics to take up their time and become part of their lives. In this very sci-fi game, the player takes control of a laser cannon, then protects the Earth from falling asteroids, missiles, and UFO's.

The TV series “Hitchhiker's Guide to the Glaxy” airs. Douglas Adams's famous, hilarious take on the cyberpunk fear of the world ending reaches the masses through the magic of television.

The movie “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” is released. Once again the viewers follow Max as he scrounges for the little bit of gasoline left in the world with his dog and a sawed off shotgun. The film's comic-book styled, post-apocalyptic, punk world popularized the post-apocalyptic genre in film and fiction writing and instantly became a cult classic.

The story “The Gernsback Continuum” by William Gibson is released. The story appeared in Gibson's Burning Chrome anthology. This story marks the beginning of Gibson's shaping of the cyberpunk world. This story does not drop the reader into, rather, has the reader follow the protagonist as he sees flashes of an alternate reality. An all too perfect futuristic would-be world with no regard for fossil fuels and where everyone looks the same.

The story “The Belong Kind”, a collaboration between noted cyberpunk authors William Gibson and John Shirley, is released. The story is set in a more modern time, where the protagonist follows a seemingly human woman around as she goes to different bars until he finds out she is some kind of creature. Then, he himself, becomes one these belonging kind. Once again, paranoia of the frailty of the human race is evident in this cyberpunk story.

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