Monthly Archives: December 2011

Cyberpunk: Looking Back Into the Future

I recently finished reading Walter Jon Williams’ excellent cyberpunk novel, Hardwired, and was dismayed to realize that it had been published in 1986 — just two years after William Gibson’s seminal novel, Neuromancer.  In fact, an online search for cyberpunk novels turns up very few works in this genre more recent than ten years ago.  Sales on my new release, The Dogs of Cyberwar, have been rather sluggish, compared to my earlier publications (though I’ve received some wonderful comments from readers), and I think this is why:  it’s a sub-genre that’s more or less played out.

This is too bad, because I really love cyberpunk, and judging from the reader comments I’ve received, there is still an audience out there for it.  But perhaps not a large audience.  Even a list of cyberpunk-themed films on the great website Cyberpunk Review shows, in my opinion, that there have been few really brilliant films made in this genre in the past decade.  Good ones, yes, but even the good ones aren’t really contributing much to the mythos.

What exactly the mythos is, is of course debatable.   I generally look for various elements, such as a near-future dystopian society, in which corporations have taken over the government and the people have become disenfranchised — meaning, in a nutshell, that they’ve lost any say they might have had in the government (which some might say has already happened in real life).  Computers have become omnipresent and, in many ways, a drug.  (Which, again, many people would say has already happened.)  At the same time, computers and other technology are being used to enhance the human mind and body, and these enhancements are what enables our hero or heroine to fight back against the corporations. Check out and find out here – WebDesign499 for more details about technology.

There are, as I’ve said, a number of variations and different themes to be explored.  But what seems to be the problem with the genre right now is that there isn’t much exploration going on.  Authors and filmmakers in the 70s, 80s and 90s appear to have done all the exploring, and now we’re mostly seeing rehashes of by-now-familiar themes.

To be honest, The Dogs of Cyberwar isn’t innovative, except in having gay protagonists.  I’m hardly the first to do this, of course.  Madeleine Urban’s wonderful triptych of futuristic m/m short stories, Far From Home, touches upon cyberpunk themes, and S.A. Garcia recently released Divine Devine’s Love Song.  I’m sure there are many more.  But not too many — I still have difficulty tracking down cyberpunk with gay protagonists.  So I’m happy to contribute to the number of stories out there.

But the point remains that if writers of cyberpunk stories don’t want to see the genre increasingly marginalized, we should delve a little deeper into what it has to say.  And there is still a wealth of opportunity for commenting upon the way our privacy is rapidly dwindling to nothing, the eroding of personal freedoms and rights in the wake of 9/11 (Cory Doctorow’s Hugo-nominated YA novel, Little Brother, explored this theme very well), how social media and the Internet simultaneously free us to communicate in the face of government bans and opens us up to monitoring by the same government.

These are important issues, and there is still much to be said.

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EXCERPT – “The Meaning of Vengeance” by Jamie Fessenden

One of my lesser known holiday stories, The Meaning of Vengeance, was published by Dreamspinner last Christmas, and tells the story of two Vikings on opposite sides of a family feud which has claimed the lives of everyone in their families but them while looking for the Arizona rehab center. When Ari injures Geirr, rather than finish him off, he decides to nurse him back to health and suddenly the two young men find themselves falling in love with each other. But can they get past all the pain and hatred the feud has placed between them?

This isn’t strictly a “Christmas” story, since the heathen Icelander’s didn’t celebrate Christmas.  It takes place during their Yule season.

“The Meaning of Vengeance” by Jamie Fessenden

EXCERPT — “The Meaning of Vengeance” — M/M historical

It wasn’t until they returned to the bench that Geirr found the courage to ask, “Why didn’t you kill me?”

Ari looked uncomfortable as he lowered him down on the sheepskins. “I almost did. That blow to your head nearly finished you.”

“You could have left me there to die, or finished me off. Why bring me inside and tend to me?”

Ari sighed and retrieved the bowls of stew from the floor, then sat down beside Geirr again before answering. “You have gentle eyes.”

“What?” Geirr bristled. Olaf had often told him that his pale blue eyes were too pretty, like a girl’s. It had always irritated him.

But Ari ignored his flash of temper and continued, “When you looked at me, just before you charged, I could see that you didn’t have the eyes of a killer.”
Geirr wasn’t sure how to feel about that. It was true that he’d never killed anybody and he didn’t really want to. But Olaf had always told him that when his back was to the wall he’d be able to do it. Now someone he’d actually tried to kill was telling him that he never felt at all threatened. It was humiliating.

“I would have killed you, if I’d been able to,” Geirr said sullenly.

Ari gave him an infuriating smile and shook his head. “Olaf was a killer. You’ll never be.”

The mention of Olaf angered Geirr further. He snatched the bowl Ari was holding out for him and dug into it with a ravening hunger. But in the back of his mind, he knew Olaf’s death would hang over his head for the rest of his life, plaguing him. Geirr was now obligated to exact vengeance for the killing. If he didn’t, he would be labeled a coward by everyone on the island and Olaf’s spirit would never rest. Ari would probably kill him easily, if it came to a duel, but somehow or other, one of them would have to die.

* * *

GEIRR dreamt that he was alone on the tundra. Everywhere he looked, in all directions, he could see nothing but snow and ice and barren, black volcanic rock. He tried to determine where he was from the mountains off in the distance, but they were unfamiliar and seemed oddly far away.

He began walking, calling for Olaf. But in this strange wasteland, not even the echo of his own voice answered him. Fear began to overtake him—a terror that he was truly alone out here. That there was absolutely no one else. Desperately, he began to run, having no idea where he was going, his footsteps crunching forlornly in the snow. When Olaf’s name continued to draw no response, he found himself shouting, “Ari!”

He woke to a gentle touch on his forehead. “What is it?” Ari’s deep voice said softly. “I’m here.”

Ashamed but unable to stop himself, Geirr grabbed Ari’s hand. He desperately needed to feel the touch of another human being after that horrible cold emptiness. Ari allowed him to hold on. The man was naked again, having been roused from sleep, and he was squatting beside Geirr’s sleeping bench. He looked at the young man with eyes full of compassion and, when Geirr finally released his hand, Ari brought it up to stroke his dark chestnut hair, soothing him until he drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

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Author Chat (featuring me) on Goodreads today!

Stop by Goodreads today, between 1pm and 6pm EST for a chat with me, Jamie Fessenden, about my current cyberpunk novella, The Dogs of Cyberwar, and some excerpts from the sequel I’ve been working on!

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/734768-meet-jamie-fessenden

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Pimping Two Earlier Holiday Novellas

Now that we’re into December, I feel compelled to point out that I wrote two holiday stories last year.  If you haven’t read them, you might consider giving them a go this holiday season!

"The Christmas Wager" by Jamie Fessenden

 

The Christmas Wager is a Christmas Victorian about a businessman, Andrew Nash, who convinces his best friend, Lord Thomas Barrington, to take him to Barrington Hall for the holidays, even though Thomas has been estranged from his father for years.

It was my first (and so far only) attempt at a Victorian novel and the historical accuracy is a bit dubious (apparently, one does not eat scones for breakfast), but the novella has received a lot of kudos for the romance in the story.  It’s a light, entertaining read.

 

"The Meaning of Vengeance" by Jamie Fessenden

 

The Meaning of Vengeance, on the other hand, explores how the Vikings celebrated Yule before Christianity came to Iceland and features the Norse god of sex and fertility, Frey, giving guidance to a young Icelander.  Geirr’s older brother is killed by Ari in a duel, and Geirr himself is injured, when he seeks vengeance.  But rather than kill him, Ari, chooses to nurse Geirr back to health.  Isolated in a remote farmhouse in the middle of a harsh Icelandic winter, the two young men slowly begin to trust one another…and perhaps even fall in love.

Of my published works, this one is the least well-known, though it received good reviews. Personally, I think it suffered from being part of an anthology with a cover that was wonderful and perfectly suited to the anthology, but completely inappropriate to this story.  I really hope more people discover it this Yule and give it a chance.

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