Cyberfiction offers a tantalizing view of what a completely networked world might be like; yet even with distance transcended by computers and phone links, the real world persists as an important component of these narratives. Examining the representation of real spaces in cyberpunk fiction not only reveals the narratives' reliance on events in “real” space but also shows how their assumptions about organizing space and distributing power are more colonialist than futurist. In conjunction with this geography, these narratives also employ the genre most closely associated with colonialism—namely, adventure. The reliance on first-world/third-world divisions leads us to question why these seemingly innovative narratives would rely on “old” geographies and “old” genres in their re-vision of a new, postdistance world. The innovations of Pat Cadigan'sMindplayers offer sharp contrast to the standard texts of cyberfiction, particularly classics by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. The difference shows that only by questioning narrative structure, interrogating the conventions of genre, and mapping a geography of real space that is closer to home can cyberpunk narratives stop reinscribing technological change in terms of the exotic and begin to explore the repercussions of technology on the scale of the familiar. This change in narrative and geographical imagination must happen in order to achieve the aim that all these fictions seek: that is, to challenge our understanding of what this new technological power will enable.
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E. L. McCallum; Mapping the Real in Cyberfiction. Poetics Today 1 June 2000; 21 (2): 349–377. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-21-2-349
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