Gibson, who said he never had a stake in the "polemic of cyberpunk," thinks the genre has become a stylistic commonplace. "The trouble with the label, though, is that it leads people to assume there's a sort of center for this stuff. In fact, the label has been applied to an existing phenomenon."
A famous science-fiction writer once said that when it's raining chicken soup, the wise man buys a bucket. Indeed, Gibson and Shirley have found cyberpunk to be a useful springboard for launching film-writing careers. Gibson is hammering out the script for "Aliens III," which producer Walter Hill says will inevitably and directly reflect cyberpunk issues and aesthetics. Shirley and Gibson are also adapting one of Gibson's short stories, "The New Rose Hotel," for a film version slated to be produced by Ed Pressman ("Salvador," "Wall Street") and directed by Kathryn Bigelow ("Near Dark"), a professed Gibson devotee.
But Gibson, Shirley, Sterling and the other writers associated with cyberpunk appear to be moving beyond it. Gibson, for instance, plans to write a playful alternate history of the Industrial Revolution. Shirley, meanwhile, has plunged into surrealism with his upcoming novel, "A Splendid Chaos," to be published in the spring by Popular Library.
"The attention I've received from this thing has blown it for me," said Gibson. "I doubt I'll ever write anything like 'Neuromancer' again."
With an irony that is particularly apt because it reflects how most movements have mutated or stagnated by the time they have been recognized by the culture at large, cyberpunk is only now making a bid for recognition within the arena of American letters.
Editing Special Issue
Larry McCaffrey, an English professor at San Diego State University, is editing a special issue about cyberpunk for the literary journal Mississippi Review.
"Most contemporary fiction," McCaffrey said, "does not attempt to deal with the fundamental way that technology has changed our lives. The only recent novel I can think of that addressed the issues cyberpunk tackles was Don Delillo's 'White Noise.' Meanwhile, the trend in post-Modernist literary criticism these days seems to be to identify the places where literature intersects with rock music, film, jazz, TV and image making.
"I think that if cyberpunk leaves any lasting legacy, it will be this breakdown of barriers, both between science fiction and non-generic fiction and between the written word and the rest of the arts."