I’m not a big fan of genre fiction. The very idea that fiction is made to fit within little buckets gets me a little itchy. Just the other day I was in a conversation with an author who was looking for books in which the main character is a writer. Like, that was a type of bucket she wanted to find books to put in.
I’m much more of the type of reader who prefers his fiction to be unexpected. I often refuse to read the synopsis of a book that is recommended to me just so I can get into the book without the preconceived notions one gets from knowing the type of book you’re getting into.
All the same, it turned out I somehow managed to have this short story anthology of books the editors considered the penultimate examples of cyberpunk on my Kindle and decided to give it a read. The one thing it had going for it was that cyberpunk is a genre I haven’t spent too much time reading and in general have very little experience with (even if I did spend some time playing Cyberpunk 2077 in the last year).
To put it simply, I had a lot of fun with this anthology. While there is definitely some short hand which exists within this genre, like with any genre, that makes many of the stories feel similar to each other and lacking some surprise from one story to the next, what I found most interesting as I made it through this collection is how much these authors were able to play around with the concepts of corporate government and general dystopian nightmares. Short stories probably benefit the most from genre fiction, as you can easily build a world with the shorthand of the genre, allowing the author to focus more on character development and exploration of themes.
Quite possibly my favorite story out of this collection was Cory Doctorow’s story about the “end of the world” where a bunch of system admins were stuck in a server building housing a large portion of the internet. Their situation led them to discuss the idea of whether to continue fighting to keep the internet alive or to burn it to the ground in order to stop the terrorists. It was a clever take on the concept of a post-armageddon world, seen through the eyes of the people we usually don’t think of, who also manage to keep our networks running, and therefore also keep the world running. While I’d question this story’s inclusion as cyberpunk, because it was set in the modern world, it still asked many of the same questions you’d find in a cyberpunk story, while giving it an interesting new lens to ask them through.
In summation, although I’m not a fan of genre-fiction, this collection really felt like a fun take on a genre I had little knowledge of and learned a lot through.
And now I feel like I need to give Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom another chance…