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.