Today’s Art (18th August 2017)

Well, due to feeling uninspired and being in a slight rush before making today’s digitally-edited painting, I decided to remake one of my favourite paintings that I posted here in 2016 called “La Chanteuse”.

If I remember rightly, the original 2016 version was made during my ‘limited palette’ phase. But, since I use a different palette these days and have focused more on practicing lighting, I decided to give this painting a slightly different “look” to the original version.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"La Chanteuse (II)" By C. A. Brown

“La Chanteuse (II)” By C. A. Brown

Three Basic Ways To Add Other Genres To Cyberpunk Stories

2017-artwork-other-genres-in-the-cyberpunk-genre

Well, for the next article in my series of articles about writing cyberpunk fiction (which were written at the same time I was writing this old series of short stories), I thought that I’d talk very briefly about how to add elements from other genres to your cyberpunk stories.

After all, whilst the cyberpunk genre might have a reputation for only containing grim, gritty “edgy” stories – it’s a genre that is surprisingly easy to mix with other genres.

1) Virtual reality: Just like how traditional science fiction often included fantasy elements by having the characters land on a planet that was still in the middle ages, cyberpunk fiction can do something similar.

After all, most classic-style cyberpunk stories revolve around the characters venturing into a futuristic virtual reality world of some kind. And, just like the holodeck in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, you can use virtual reality settings to add other genres to your cyberpunk story. Just come up with a fictional game or program that includes the other genre that you want to add to your story.

2) Components:
Simply put, one easy way to add another genre to your cyberpunk story is to look at what makes that other genre so distinctive and then try to find a way to add that to your cyberpunk story.

For example, the classic cyberpunk movie “Blade Runner” is probably more vintage film noir than it is cyberpunk. Yet, these two genres go together really well for the simple reason that, although the story is set in a futuristic cyberpunk city, many of the character’s outfits are based on 1940s fashions, many of the locations also feature old buildings and many of the characters’ personalities could have easily come from an old pulp novel.

So, break down both genres into their essential themes etc… and then try to create something new that includes elements from both. Doing it this way will also help you to avoid having elements from each genre clash with each other, or look silly.

3) Look for commonality: Although I ridiculed the fantasy genre in this cyberpunk story, the truth is that it isn’t actually that different from the cyberpunk genre.

Both genres often rely on the main characters having a mastery of uncommon and arcane skills. In the fantasy genre, this is called magic, sorcery, necromancy etc…. In the cyberpunk genre, it’s called hacking.

Likewise, both the fantasy and the cyberpunk genres also rely on suddenly immersing the audience in a fascinatingly confusing imagined world. In the fantasy genre, this world is stuck at some unknown point in the distant past. In the cyberpunk genre, this world is stuck at some unknown point in the distant future.

This was just one example, but if you can find what the cyberpunk genre has in common with the genre you want to mix it with then you’ll probably be able to mix the two genres in a much more seamless way.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (17th August 2017)

Well, I was feeling mildly uninspired when I made today’s digitally-edited painting. But, although it ended up being slightly minimalist, I still quite like how it turned out. Although I settled on a “realistic” colour scheme, I did create an alternative 1980s style version just out of curiosity.

As usual, both versions of this painting are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Wasteground" By C. A. Brown

“Wasteground” By C. A. Brown

Editorial Cartoon – Charlottesville

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Charlottesville” By C. A. Brown

Sorry that it’s somewhat late, badly-drawn and not particularly subtle, but I thought that I should say something about the shocking events in America a few days ago (and Donald Trump’s terrifying response to them too). Although I hadn’t planned to tackle this topic until some of the comics that I’ll be posting here next year, I also thought that I should say something now.

But, as terrifying as the recent events over in America seem to be, one reassuring thing is that they have pretty much united the whole world (except for Donald Trump, it seems) in opposition to both the murderous fascist rabble who terrorised Charlottesville, and to everything that they stand for.

On a personal level, I’ve found my own political views (which are normally a somewhat varied mixture of opinons) leaning further to the left than usual over the past few days.
Because, despite any criticisms I might have of the modern left, these criticisms dwindle into nothing when compared to the sheer horror of heavily-armed fascists marching through the streets of a country that helped to fight against such poisonous ideologies less than eight decades ago.

So, thankfully, the violent fascist rabble in America seem to have scored an own goal. Far from drumming up support for their terrifying ideas, they’ve pretty much united everyone in opposition to them. So, although it initially looked like the worst parts of 20th century history were repeating themselves, at least most of the world thankfully seems to have learnt the lessons of that terrible time (even if Donald Trump doesn’t seem to).

What Makes A Story Cyberpunk? – A Ramble

2017-artwork-what-is-cyberpunk

Well, continuing my series of articles about writing cyberpunk fiction (which were originally written when I was writing these stories), I thought that I’d look at what makes a story cyberpunk.

Like all genres, “cyberpunk” has a few common traits but no real fixed boundaries. For every rule someone can come up with about the cyberpunk genre, there will be an exception.

For example, if you think that things in the cyberpunk genre should revolve around computers or the internet, then what about “Blade Runner” ? It’s the film that pretty much defined the look of the entire cyberpunk genre, but you’d be hard-pressed to find more than the most basic computers in it. The internet isn’t even mentioned once.

Jeff Noon’s “Vurt” is a strange and surreal novel about people who use hallucinogenic feathers in order to explore alien dream-worlds. It sounds more like some kind of hippie fantasy novel from the 1960s, but it actually comes from the early-mid 1990s and the writing style, the characters and the premise of the story are about as cyberpunk as you can get! Seriously, if you aren’t easily shocked, just take a look at this partial webcomic adaptation [NSFW] of it by Lee O’Connor if you don’t believe me.

On the other hand, George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” ticks all of the boxes for a cyberpunk story. Rebellious protagonist? Check. Dystopian future? Check. Omnipresent technology? Check. But, that novel was published in 1949, long before personal computers were even a thing and at least a decade or two before the earliest beginnings of the internet began to form. It is not generally considered to be a cyberpunk novel, despite having a lot in common with cyberpunk fiction.

But, then there are Eric Brown’s excellent “Bengal Station” novels. These are novels that are set on a giant space station, and they follow a hardboiled detective who sometimes uses cybernetic implants to read minds. It sounds very cyberpunk, but the actual stories are more like classic sci-fi and/or ordinary harboiled detective fiction. They’re more like something you’d expect to see in a Hollywood movie than in anything in the cyberpunk genre.

So, there are no fixed rules or boundaries. But, you can still often tell whether or not something is cyberpunk. But, why?

Well, it has to do with the attitudes, inspirations and/or style of a creative work. The first clue is in the name, cyberpunk. Things in the cyberpunk genre often have a very distinctive rebellious attitude. Whether it’s done in a fairly subtle way (eg: through moral ambiguity) or whether it’s exaggerated for comedy value (like in the old “Judge Dredd” comics), it’s usually there. Cyberpunk stories often either tend to have a playful sense of cynicism, or they express outright nihilism.

The main characters are usually “outsiders” of one kind or another. Often, they’re morally-ambiguous magician-like computer hackers, bounty hunters, assassins, private investigators etc…. But, then you have a TV series like “Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex” where the main characters are official government agents who are very clearly “the good guys”. Yet, this show is also pretty much the textbook definition of “cyberpunk”.

I suppose you could say that, if something is inspired by a lot of other cyberpunk things, then there’s a good chance that it’s probably going to be cyberpunk too. Then again, the cyberpunk genre was in it’s infancy when many of it’s defining works (eg: “Neuromancer” by William Gibson, “Blade Runner” etc..) were released. They couldn’t have been inspired by too many, if any, other cyberpunk things.

So, that just leaves style. There’s a very “traditional” cyberpunk writing style, invented by William Gibson in the 1980s, that moves along at a mile a minute – dazzling the reader with vivid descriptions and futuristic jargon. It’s like hardboiled pulp fiction turned up to eleven and pumped full of amphetamines. It is sublime.

But, people were writing cyberpunk fiction before Gibson was and they used slightly different narrative styles, like in this earlier short story by Bruce Bethke. So, “does it sound like William Gibson did in the 80s?” is hardly a way to judge whether a narrative is cyberpunk or not.

So, I guess that if you’re writing a vaguely cynical sci-fi story which includes some kind of focus on technology, then it’s possibly cyberpunk. If you’re writing a slightly gothic sci-fi story with “outsider” main characters, it’s possibly cyberpunk. If the humour in your story is of the cynical dystopian variety, it might be cyberpunk. But, like the shifting ever-changing mass of the internet, nothing is ever fixed in the cyberpunk genre.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (16th August 2017)

Well, today’s digitally-edited painting was kind of random. Basically, I’d pulled an all-nighter the night before and was fairly tired when I made it. It was originally going to be an art deco/1930s style painting, but it just ended up going in a totally random direction fairly quickly. Still, this is probably the best “tired” painting that I’ve made within the past couple of months.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Around" By C. A. Brown

“Around” By C. A. Brown

Three Basic Ways To Connect A Group Of Cyberpunk Short Stories

2017-artwork-connecting-cyberpunk-short-stories

Well, for this article in my series of articles about writing cyberpunk fiction (which were written at the same time I was writing this old series of short stories), I thought that I’d talk about a general writing technique that can work especially well in the cyberpunk genre.

I am, of course, talking about connecting a group of (otherwise self-contained) short stories. The main advantage of doing this is that it allows you to tell a larger story, whilst only writing several shorter stories. And, if like me, you find longer fiction projects considerably more difficult to write than shorter ones, then it can be invaluable.

1) Settings: The easiest way to connect a group of short stories is to have them take place in the same location. The main advantage of this is that it gives you a chance to develop the “world” of your stories and give them all a greater sense of place with only a relatively small amount of description in each story.

This is especially true if you set your stories somewhere fairly large, like a cyberpunk mega-city. By showing a plethora of different locations within the city in your short story collection, you can maintain the limited number of settings that allow each story to be focused (eg: really short stories should only contain 1-3 locations) whilst still giving the audience a tantalising glimpse at the larger city as a whole.

Plus, of course, the other advantage of doing this in the cyberpunk genre is that the place doesn’t actually have to be a physical place. It can be a virtual reality program or some other intriguing corner of cyberspace. For example, most or all of the cyberpunk short stories I wrote last year refer to a virtual reality program/website called “Winter Wonderland”, even though it’s only actually seen a couple of times in the collection.

2) Technology: Another easy way to connect a group of cyberpunk stories is to use the same futuristic technology in each short story. Since cyberpunk fiction often revolves around futuristic versions of the internet, this is something that you can do even if you don’t try that hard.

However, unless you’re basing your short story collection around the effects that one piece of futuristic technology has on the world, then different stories might require your characters to use different types of futuristic technology.

Still, if you set yourself a few basic rules about the technology in your story, then you can give the impression that all of your characters are using the same type of technology even if they use radically different gadgets in each of your stories.

3) Time: Another basic connection technique that can work quite well in the cyberpunk genre is simply to set all of your stories at the same time. For example, my old cyberpunk short story collection was originally posted online in the days before Christmas 2016. So, all of the stories were either set during the winter or featured references to Christmas.

But, even if you just do something simple like setting all of your stories at night or adding rainy weather to all of your stories, then they will still have a weak connection to each other.

Still, if you want to do something a bit more advanced, then come up with a major event that happens in the “world” of your story and then reference it in each of your short stories.

To go back to my earlier example, many of the short cyberpunk stories I wrote last year focused on the few people who didn’t spend Christmas inside the “Winter Wonderland” virtual reality world where most of the people in the city spend their holidays.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂