CyberFunk was first and foremost a pun. It was an idea joked about in a group of friends, a clashing of two very different genres. The swaggering, over confident and pulp influenced unstoppable protagonists of blaxploitation versus the downtrodden, hopeless yet street and cybernetics toughened anti-heroes that populate the Cyberpunk genre. But while the attitudes are worlds apart, the settings are not so different.
Surrounded by gangs, drugs and pimps, and kept there by an oppressive and uncaring government that limits their rights, freedoms and opportunities, many have turned to crime to get by. Then, when (climactic event) happens, everything changes for (protagonist).
Not sure which genre I’m talking about? It applies equally well to both. Gangs and crime are a constant theme, while the oppressive government cares about race in blaxploitation, and class in cyberpunk, but the approach and cultural clash is basically the same.
So the attitude makes the genre. The unstoppable action heroes of blaxploitation bring power to an otherwise oppressed people by taking down the bad guys (a black and white morality, but ironically not always linked to race despite the genre), but Cyberpunk more often than not admits its belief that changing the world is impossible, and focuses on one injustice to right. It has already given up in the face of oppression, and grudgingly accepts it. One is resistance and hope, the other is defeat and acceptance. The meeting of these two attitudes, then, looked very interesting indeed.
CyberFunk already chose for itself the background information; the ‘funk’ in it determined to me that it’d be musically focused and from that I realised similar parallels. Black culture, particularly that of the 60s and 70s, revolved around Soul and Funk, which embraced a more internal, instinct driven sound that built upon the musical experimentation and free thinking of the 50s jazz.
By comparison, Cyberpunk embraces its 80s birth and is dominated by electronic music. This acoustic freedom versus electronic and mechanical mirrors perfectly through genres an argument that rages through music forums even today.
So another layer formed, and with it appeared the third and last piece of its puzzle. Cyberpunk’s oppressive government are corporations, businesses gone mad with power after monopolising the world’s markets, buying anyone of any worth and abandoning those too poor to slums. Only the lucky few in their employ can rise out from poverty, as they’ve become the only gatekeepers to a better life.
Now if that isn’t a direct metaphor for major music labels and their relationship with small bands I’m not sure what is, and as the son of musicians and close friends with several aspiring bands, I’m only too aware of it. The dilemma between ‘selling out’ and giving up artistic control (and integrity, depending on who you ask) and being able to live your life comfortably and being seen as successful is a very real problem for burgeoning bands.
And so, CyberFunk’s three core elements were established. Through these I’d be able to look at and make commentary on many aspects of the music industry, different breeds of musicians, their fans, the venues themselves, consumerism vs art, electronic vs accoustic music, the trappings of stardom and ego, the list grows…
And honestly all that was a little intimidating. So I decided to mitigate the heavy subtext with comedy, and wrote what I enjoyed writing. What didn’t make the final cut wasn’t necessary. After all, it’s a project that’s based on a pun. If I wrote it with all that at the front, it’d be a bloody essay. So I tossed it all to the back and focused on the most important part of any fiction; the characters!