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Category: Aesthetic (page 1 of 2)

Images and media with a cyberpunk vibe. For more frequent #inspo, peruse Exolymph’s Tumblr.

Futuristic Déjà Vu Plz

I bailed on y’all yesterday, so here’s an irregular #aesthetic picdump. Shouts to Glitchet for managing to do this every issue.

Woman with networked wire hair. Artwork by Albert Albaladejo.

Artwork by Albert Albaladejo.

Artwork by Barış Şehri.

Artwork by Barış Şehri.

Artwork by Neeraj Jast.

Artwork by Neeraj Jast.

Artwork by VladislavPANtic.

Artwork by VladislavPANtic.

Artwork by Jake Kemper.

Artwork by Jake Kemper.

Artwork by Ian Sokoliwski.

Artwork by Ian Sokoliwski.

Artwork by mundra-mundra.

Artwork by mundra-mundra.

Artwork by Albert Albaladejo.

Artwork by Albert Albaladejo.

Artwork by Grei.

Artwork by Grei.

Artwork by Gabriel-BS.

Artwork by Gabriel-BS.

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Quick Intro Note

Election? What election? Ugh. I wrote down all my feelings and posted them on my personal website, so if you’re interested you can go read that. But this is not a politics newsletter, even though governmental shenanigans often end up being cyberpunk. For now, let’s change the subject. I mean, seriously, who isn’t ready to talk about ANYTHING else?

Copy-Pasted Toil and Trouble

Toby Shorin shared a set of “cyber mysticism” resources, through which I found STONEDALONE: “a collection of wearable 3d printed crystals imbued with cyber mystical properties”.

Photo from the STONEDALONE shop.

Photo from the STONEDALONE shop.

Photo from the STONEDALONE lookbook.

Photo from the STONEDALONE lookbook.

The only thing that’s explicitly ~cyber~ about the actual products is that they’re 3D-printed. Beyond that it’s all fuzzy aesthetic stuff. Which is not a criticism! It’s just an interesting facet (pun intended) of the project.

I can’t quite tell if STONEDALONE is tongue-in-cheek. It looks like vaporwave or pastel goth jewelry with a nifty marketing hook. For example, “the blue crystal simulates a sense of shavasana after a harrowing reddit session” — how is that anything but sly self-parody?

On the other hand, there are bizarre cyber witches out there who are 100% sincere. So you never know.

Both the look and the ethos of STONEDALONE heavily remind me of cybertwee, a digital femme collective that most notably sold cookies on the deep web. And cybertwee itself is a kawaii reinterpretation of VNS Matrix.

Performative femininity has always flourished on the web, but it seems to have gotten more self-conscious about it. Hmm.

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The More My Car Looks Like an Insect, the Better

Pink mecha. Artwork by Brian Clarke.

Artwork by Brian Clarke.

Artwork by Nick Rutledge.

Artwork by Nick Rutledge.

I hope the vehicles of the future do look cooler than sedans and minivans. But of course, by the time we get to the year 2137, the new aesthetic will be just as boring as the current aesthetic.

However, this visual is really the cutting edge:

Artwork by @greatartbot, which does consistently produce good art.

Artwork by @greatartbot, which does consistently produce good art.

That’s it. I’ve run out of opinions tonight.

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Momentary Stasis by PR Adams

PR Adams asked me to share his dystopian spacepunk novel, Momentary Stasis. I haven’t read it yet so I don’t have any detailed thoughts, but I like this bit of the blurb:

Humans discover alien technology and start colonizing worlds outside the solar system. Genetic modification produces miracles. Science advances the human condition. And, for the first time in history, the nations of the world have achieved real peace with each other.

But only the elite truly benefit from all the advancements. Most people are still trapped on an Earth ruined by chemical pollution, nuclear accidents, and chaotic weather changes. Rebellious “genies” — genetically engineered servants — cause more harm than good. And global corporations have stripped the idea of nations and freedom of any real meaning.

Maybe a little on the cheesy side, but that’s not always a bad thing!

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Buildings, Exterior and Interior

I am profoundly uninspired tonight, so here are a couple of visual representations of potential futures:

Artwork by Tomoyuki Yamasaki.

Artwork by Tomoyuki Yamasaki.

Sorry about her extremely practical and appropriate attire.

Artwork by Joris Putteneers.

Artwork by Joris Putteneers.

If you want to read something, my friend Yael Grauer wrote about coping with her guilt about a friend’s suicide by reading their old chat logs.

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Robot Nymphs with Milky Silicon Skin

Blake Kathryn is “a multidisciplinary designer and content creator” — more femme androids and other delights can be viewed on the portfolio website, Instagram, or Tumblr.

pastel pink android by Blake Kathryn

shiny gold fembot by Blake Kathryn

a pastel vaporwave portrait of Microsoft's Clippy by Blake Kathryn

Yes, that is Microsoft’s infamous Clippy. A robot nymph if I ever saw one…

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Good & Normal Babies

My friend ReTech created these sculptures. I find them profoundly unsettling, and hopefully you will too. Dread the mechanized infants…

Update: ReTech deleted the Imgur galleries, but I saved a couple of photos.

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More Slim Jims; Less Soylent

Noir cyberpunk artwork: The Fat Man by Samuel Capper

The artwork above is Samuel Capper’s The Fat Man. Note the figure’s left arm, the one pointing at the screen. I love the unabashed grotesquerie of this image — so often cyborg bodies conform to the ideals of celebrity magazines and mainstream porn.

I’m not saying that fatness is inherently grotesque, but that within the context of modern beauty norms, obesity is viewed with contempt. It is radical to combine the triple chin and robot arm in one character — this implies a future in which sophisticated body mods are available, but the pressure to be thin and “fit” is either gone or disregarded.

I also love the allusion to The Maltese Falcon, both in the portrait’s title and its style. (Sydney Greenstreet’s character is dubbed the Fat Man.) Cyberpunk is often cited as a genre with noir roots, but aside from Blade Runner the visuals have often tended more toward space-age sleekness than old-school back-alley grime.

Give me more nastiness, more cigarettes, more computers held together with duct tape. More Slim Jims and less Soylent. And more body diversity — but I want that from all media.

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What Counts as Cyberpunk?

Cyberpunk artwork by mjbauer.

Artwork by Micah Bauer.

There are several definitions and a lot of cultural baggage attached to the word “cyberpunk”, so applying it can be contentious. What counts as cyberpunk, hmm? Who gets to decide? Most people agree that NeuromancerBlade RunnerGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and the Walled City of Kowloon all qualify, but anything else is subject to much debate. Here’s my opinion — if you can answer yes to these two questions, then a given piece of media or real-world phenomenon is cyberpunk:

  1. Does it involve computer technology that was new or didn’t quite exist yet at the time of writing / creating / happening?
  2. Does it feature a shadowy corporate elite exploiting the plebeian masses?

The following sources should establish why that’s my two-part test.

Cyber Model: V3-X (vex.ilo)

Image via Jamie.

Cyberpunk: Aesthetic, Subculture, Futurist Trend, or All of the Above?

Cyberpunk originated as a fiction genre — it started with novels and now extends to anime and beyond. It’s also a political attitude, and increasingly commentators like myself claim that we already live in a tech-fueled digital dystopia. Personally, I take an expansive view of cyberpunk, and I’ll use the label for anything that demonstrates futuristic computer-based technology and scarily inequitable distributions of power.

Wordnik pulled this definition from Wiktionary, and it fits decently well: “A subgenre of science fiction which focuses on computer or information technology and virtual reality.” The relevant Wikipedia article starts with a decent overview:

“Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a future setting that tends to focus on the society of the proverbial ‘high tech low life’; featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as information technology and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order. [¶] Cyberpunk plots often center on conflict among artificial intelligences and among megacorporations, and tend to be set in a future Earth, rather than in the far-future settings […] Much of the genre’s atmosphere echoes film noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from detective fiction.”

header of the cyberpunk subreddit

The cyberpunk subreddit is emblazoned with the tagline “High Tech, Low Life” and its sidebar explains, “A genre of science fiction and a lawless subculture in an oppressive society dominated by computer technology and big corporations.”

The CyPunk article that describes the 1980s origins of cyberpunk is worth quoting at length:

“The word ‘cyberpunk’ first appeared as the title of a short story ‘Cyberpunk’ by Bruce Bethke […] Bethke himself tells, that the coining of the word ‘cyberpunk’ was a conscious and deliberate act of creation on his part. The story was titled ‘Cyberpunk’ from the very first draft. In calling it that, Bethke was actively trying to invent a new term that grokked the juxtaposition of punk attitudes and high technology. His reasons for doing so were purely selfish and market-driven: He wanted to give his story a snappy, one-word title that people would remember. And he really did succeed.”

Furthermore:

“The technology of cyberpunk is ultratechnology, which mixes genetic material from animal to animal, from animal to man, or from man to animal. This technology raises human embryos for organ transplants, creates machines that think like humans and humans that think like machines. This is a technology designed to keep people within the ‘system’ that dominates the lives of most ‘ordinary’ people. This is the science of controlling human functions and of electronic, mechanical and biological control systems designed to replace them.”

On the Cyberpunk Forums, Sophia Andren appeases my own preference for a definition that observes rather than dictating:

“In a world saturated with violently accelerating change, the cyberpunk must find herself armed with a sharp awareness of what is going on around her. Most people seem to be apathetic about the philosophical implications of the uncanny technologies of the near future; the issues invoked by artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the technological singularity continue to evade our collective consciousness. […] While these technologies are not inherently malign, we would rather not see what happens when they are exclusively in the hands of the corporate elite.”

Andren continues:

“Perhaps the most clandestine aspect of cyberpunk is the ethereal subculture of hackers, phreaks, netrunners, ravers, and razor girls. It is androgynous, sophisticated, and futuristic. It is also impossible to restrain as it has slipped through the cracks; it is now lost in the delicate balance between the analogue and digital worlds, avoiding both the attention and oppression of the system. With the rise of a ubiquitous internet, cyberculture has begun to permeate throughout the popular culture of modern society. Meanwhile the cyberpunk subculture remains underground, though where one ends and the other begins is often difficult to discern.”

Cyberpunk artwork by AdrianDadich.

Artwork by Adrian Dadich.

To hammer the point home, popular cyberpunk blog Neon Dystopia proclaims:

“Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that features advanced science and technology in an urban, dystopian future. On one side you have powerful mega-corporations and private security forces, and on the other you have the dark and gritty underworld of illegal trade, gangs, drugs, and vice. In between all of this is politics, corruption, and social upheaval.”

I’m getting a little tired of quoting, so I’ll just say that TV Tropes echoes a lot of the above.

If you’ve read this far, you probably get the sense that there are varying definitions of cyberpunk, although they converge on a few points. Of course, it’s a semantic argument — the word itself only matters insofar as it determines how people allocate cultural power. The truth is that any definition will be based on past usage rather than future manifestations, and I firmly believe that cyberpunk has explanatory power when it comes to the next century. Exolymph is all about looking at our current situation and wondering what it says about where we’re going — this has always been the role of cyberpunk media.

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