Cyberpunk, Cancer, and Me

I’m trying not to think about how I had to miss this:

Henry Jenkins​ invited me to take part last year. When I accepted, I either didn’t have cancer or didn’t know it. The conference started right after my last day of chemo.

I wanted so much to take part, to talk about cyberpunk and the last 30+ years of culture, technology, science, and the street finding its own uses for things. I was there in the beginning, even before I actually knew I was there. It’s the course of my career, of my development as a person and as a writer. I went on writing exactly what I wanted to write, not because I was trying to be a cyberpunk but because the things associated with cyberpunk were the things I was most interested in.

Alfred Bester was a direct influence on Samuel Delany​; Samuel Delaney was a direct influence on William Gibson. I was influenced by all three, plus Cordwainer Smith and James Tiptree, Jr., among others. But cyberpunk didn’t happen until the personal computer finally arrived. Then the trilogy was complete: telephone, television, and home computer. They didn’t merge as quickly as I thought they would.

It took me a long time to be taken seriously as a writer, and to be seen as the writer I was trying to be––i.e., a hard science-fiction writer. A few years ago, Greg Benford turned to me in the course of a conversation and said, “Pat, you’re a hard science fiction writer…” I can’t remember the rest of the question, just Greg calling me a hard science fiction writer. I figure Greg would know the difference. So I got bonafides.

That’s what cyberpunk always was to me––hard science fiction, taken out of a wish-fulfilment setting where everything would be all right if we could just develop the right technology, and re-imagined in the real world, where things could go wrong and people could get hurt.

And so it goes. I should have been at USC talking about what was, what is, and maybe what’s coming, but things went wrong and I got cancer.

Actually, now that I’ve written it out, it’s kinda funny. I can see why our plans make God laugh. She’s got a wicked sense of humour. But then, I do, too.

So this is where I am. I can’t feel sorry for myself though because I am OMG ALIVE and if the science and technology work in my favour, there’s a chance I might stay that way past 2017. 

Anything can happen. Anything––but not everything. Nobody gets everything. But whatever you do get is something. Some people think that if they didn’t get what they wanted, they got nothing. That’s a bad mistake and they go on making it, thinking they’re getting nothing because it doesn’t look exactly like what they wanted.

But the truth is, you, me, all of us––we’ve got nothin’ coming. Nothin’, that is, except what we can make of our talents, ourselves, our lives. If that isn’t enough, nothing ever will be.

18 thoughts on “Cyberpunk, Cancer, and Me

  1. I’m with you on this. Anything can happen. What becomes your everything should have to do with the choices you make.

    Not how it works. Still, making the choices you want — rather than what other people think you should want — make for a lot when life throws you a curve ball and it hits you solidly between the eyes.

    I hope someone at the con reads your blog. It’s dandy.

    • Actually, I’ve noticed that this is often how things turn out for me. Something always balances things out.

  2. Your writing has always been both inspired and inspiring. I share your point of view about cyberpunk and realism.
    But your courage is more inspiring. I haven’t had cancer, but I contracted a syndrome called ARDS four years ago. It kills 75% of the people it strikes. I was lucky enough to survive. I’m on 24/7 oxygen and disabled as a result. The adjustment has been hard.
    Your perspective has helped me get through the day a couple of times. That’s way more than one can ask of a person.
    I fully expect to see you at the Grand Barsoom Hotel one day. Cheers.

    • Thank you for your good words.

      Obviously, cancer isn’t the only rough ride out there…and, as my mother used to say, there are things that can take your life without killing you.

      If anything I’ve written has helped you in some way, I’m glad. Hang in there. And let me know how you’re doing as and when you’re up to it.

  3. Hi there,

    Just last night I watched a documentary on a show called Vice. Strange name that. Anyway
    the documentary was all about current actual cures for various cancers as being used in various hospitals around North America. What they were doing was taking viruses that normally in the past killed us, hollowing them out and restructuring them in such a way that
    when injected in the patient with cancer the virus would hunt out the cancer cells and destroy them completely without harming normal healthy tissue. The viruses they were using were the common cold virus, measles and best of all the Aids virus. In the case of the Aids virus they were having tremendous success. I believe it was being used to kill leukemia. They expected to have this on the market in 2016 marketing it as an actual cure.

    Of course you may already be aware of this stuff but I found it all rather encouraging. Worth checking out. Hang in there.

    Ed Milewski

    • I’ve heard about this. I think it’s ingenious and I’ll be following the progress of this development closely.

  4. Hey howdy! My book club read Synners recently (honest to cheez whiz, I’ve been meaning to read it for what, 20 years?) and it led to one of our best discussions yet. Then the other night, my movie club watched Ghost in the Shell, and a buddy was asking “whatever happened to cyberpunk,” which led me to wonder, “What is Pat Cadigan writing these days?”

    So here I am, and there you are, with a post on how you were a part of cyberpunk (Hard SF, in a certain tradition, taken out of wish fulfillment land and putting technology into the hands of flawed people in a flawed world). Perfect.

    I’m sorry that you weren’t able to make the conference, but thank you for sharing your thoughts here. 🙂

    • Thanks for your good words. You made my day.

      I haven’t written many novels since around 2000, as I had to care for my elderly mother. After she died in 2012, I went to work on something totally new and differentt but my progress has been patchy thanks to my own health problems. Nonetheless, I persist. Meanwhile, almost all of my backlist is available electronically

      Thanks again for taking a few moments to give me some good words.

  5. Pingback: Snapshots 150 The Sesquicentennial | File 770

    • Well, actually, I was scheduled to talk about cyberpunk. Which I would rather have been doing, believe me.

  6. A brave tale. I too don’t recall that conversation, but was obvious when I first read you that you have the right conceptual instincts, do the homework, think firmly, write resonantly. Hard sf indeed!
    We must meet when I’m next in London.

    • Yes, I’m afraid so. I’m in that small but unlucky percentage of women who experience a recurrence of uterine cancer within a year of treatment for the initial onset. The recurrent variety is more serious but I’m doing my best to kick its arse. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s