For the first installment of our series, Cyberpunk Collectibles, we got our hands on a hardcover, first-edition of Mirrorshades on eBay. I checked around to make sure that other copies were available, and the prices have definitely gone up since I bought mine. A hardcover first-edition in good shape is easily $100+. If you can find a paperback copy for under ten bucks, you should snatch it up, but good luck, chum.
It may come as a surprise to you that the cyberpunk genre had more of its origins in literature than within the internet itself. This new aesthetic came to prominence in the mid-to-late eighties after the publication of the canonical icon, Neuromancer. Few writers in this period helped to crystallize this new, hard-wired ethos like William Gibson.
Among these wild new thinkers, though, was Bruce Sterling, living in Texas and publishing a sci-fi zine called Cheap Truth under the alias of Vincent Omniaveritas. Many of the seminal cyberpunk writers were brought together in what is, in my mind, Sterling’s most iconic project — Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology.
It would be surprising if every author published in Mirrorshades wouldn’t emphasize the historical importance of being a part of this project. In addition to the eleven short stories from the newly christened members of the Cyberpunk school, there is a visionary preface from Bruce Sterling that outlines the movement in its infancy. It’s nearly a manifesto, but I only hold-back from calling it so because there are a lot of “Cyberpunk Manifestos” floating around the web, and we plan to get to those some other time.
Still, Sterling describes cyberpunk as “a product of the Eighties milieu” and argues that “its roots are deeply sunk in the sixty-year tradition of modem popular SF.” He goes on to name drop the titans of science fiction and to recognize the shoulders upon which the fledgling genre stood. Harlan Ellison, H.G. Wells, Samuel Delany, Michael Moorcock, Thomas Pynchon and “always” J.G.Ballard. The list goes on. With influences like these, it’s no wonder Sterling has wound up working/writing somewhere in the slipstream.
- “The Gernsback Continuum” by William Gibson
- “Snake-Eyes” by Tom Maddox
- “Rock On” by Pat Cadigan
- “Tales of Houdini” by Rudy Rucker
- “400 Boys” by Marc Laidlaw
- “Solstice” by James Patrick Kelly
- “Petra” by Greg Bear
- “Till Human Voices Wake Us” by Lewis Shiner
- “Freezone” by John Shirley
- “Stone Lives” by Paul Di Filippo
- “Red Star, Winter Orbit” by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson
- “Mozart in Mirrorshades” by Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner
“As radical reformers of hard SF [these writers] take their inspiration from contemporary state-of-the-art tech; from cybernetics, genetics, neurochemistry, ecology. They are fascinated by the trademark collision of high-tech and pop culture, and by the strange enclaves where ‘the street finds its own use for things.’ The SF they write belongs to a decade marked by satellite rock concerts, Sony Walkmans, and home computer networks — a decade which is converting the ivory tower of science into snazzy condominiums.”
This book showcases writers who have come to prominence within this decade. Their allegiance to Eighties culture has marked them as a group as a new movement in science fiction.
This movement was quickly recognized and given many labels: Radical Hard SF, the Outlaw Technologists, the Eighties Wave, the Neuromantics, the Mirrorshades Group.
But of all the labels pasted on and peeled throughout the early Eighties, one has stuck: cyberpunk.”