My work day as a cyber-punk pastiche

I’ve taken a few liberties with a trip to work last week. I wasn’t wearing the P2-rated mask (I have one) and I don’t have Apple Ear Pods. Otherwise here is my best attempt to re-write part of my day as if it was a 1980s cyberpunk novel opening.

Cyberpunk Apocalypse 2019

It was 2019 and the sky was the colour of a nicotine addict’s fingers.

My mask made it hard to breath but it was worth it if I was going to work today. Rated P2 and forming an air-tight seal around the edge, anything else wouldn’t stop the PM2.5 particles in the air getting into my lungs. The streets were full of people who had bought cheaper masks — the surgical fabric kind that had become popular in the big Asian megacities after the big viral outbreaks. Those masks might stop the viruses but not the toxic enemy we were facing today.

My watch alerted me to an incoming call. I declined it, the air was too thick for me to take the mask off for a voice call. My watch showed my heart rate was elevated. No surprise. I was breathing soup through a filter. I pulled out my phone. Normally I could operate it with voice commands but with my mask on, the microphone in my ear piece wouldn’t pick up my commands correctly.

The phone was an older model. Octa core processor, 64 gigabytes of internal storage and 294 pixel density on its rugged touchscreen. It read my fingerprint and then instantly connected to a global network of computers. News alerts appeared: the US President was becoming increasingly unstable, the UK was on the brink of political collapse. Just a normal day. The data I needed was more local.

I fired up a geo-mapping program. It pulled data from multiple sources and displayed it on a satellite based map zeored on my location. All the major fires in my zone were displayed, coloured icons hovering over the streets and bushland. I zoomed into an area at the edge of the map. The fires weren’t encroaching on my home— at least not yet.

There was an old guy coughing ahead of me. Probably old enough that his lungs were already shot from the great nicotine addiction of the twentieth century. Cigarettes were still technically legal but smoking was banned in so many places that the remaining addicts had to congregate outside in doorways and alleyways. Jokes on us, I thought wryly, we all smokers now as the light filtered orange though the brown air.

A message alert appeared. Work letting me know that I was late for the cyber-securtiy briefing. They’d have to carry on without me but I knew what the data teams were going to tell me: multiple intrusion attempts identified from China, the myriad nations that had arisen after the collapse of the Soviet Union and central Africa. Such cyber-attacks had become common place even for a tiny operation like ours. State intelligence services or organised crime? These days was there even a meaningful distinction. The latest strongman ruling in Moscow allegedly owned the President of the United States, so anybody could be in the pocket of somebody else.

It was 2019. Global warming was out of control and Australia was on fire.

17 thoughts on “My work day as a cyber-punk pastiche

  1. My Gibson moment, a few years back, was realising that I was leaving a bar near the docks to go to another bar uptown to deliver a consignment of synthetic cat pheromones.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Mind if I share this on my tumblr? Generally, the procedure on tumblr is to repost the entire thing with a link to the original. Is it okay if I do that, or would you prefer I only post part?

    This pastiche is excellent (and depressing, ’cause as others have said, we got the cyberpunk dystopia without any of the cool parts), and I want others to see it.


  3. “Rated P2 and forming an air-tight seal around the edge, anything else wouldn’t stop the PM2.5 particles in the air getting into my lungs.”
    ” Octa core processor, 64 gigabytes of internal storage and 294 pixel density on its rugged touchscreen.”

    Does cyberpunk usually have this kind of specific tech specs? I’m not sure, but it feels more like a techno thriller or something to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe not quite that much with tech specs, but a lot of the cyberpunks (Gibson and Sterling were especially notorious for it back in the day) name-dropped products relentlessly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When Count Zero came out, someone (Langford?) remarked on the Ian-Fleminglike fondness for brandnames, notably the “carbine-format Steiner-optik laser with Fabrique Nationale sights” mentioned in passing in the first chapter.


      2. Using brands sounds fake and is true to life. It’s a bit like making up names of pop bands – they always sound corny and implausible but then so do real pop band names we just get used to them until they sound natural.
        (e.g. the Beatles is a weak pun)


      3. That sounds right, now that you say it. Tech specs like “64 gigs storage” may not be very common, but product names are ubiquitous. Typically brands that are currently seen as high quality for the very rich – and if I remember correctly it’s often a bit unclear whether the protagonist have that brand because it’s become mass-market in the future, or because the protagonist have really top rate gear.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. There’s a good bit of overlap between cyberpunk and techno-thriller anyway.

      As for brand names, remember that a lot of the early Cyberpunk (see Gibson) was warning about how the world was being taken over by corporations while everybody was too distracted by fads to notice. Of course brand names were dropped everywhere, both as part of the corporate running of the planet and as part of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ treadmill.

      In some ways, the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is the part of that Cyberpunk that has aged the least well, mostly because even the next generation of the suburbian white picket fence types is having serious troubles keeping up with themselves, much less anybody else.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well,I was following along pretty well for a while. I could even suspend my disbelief about the collapse of the Soviet Union — I mean, it’s a fairly out-there idea, and I’d think that one of those smart think-tank guys would say something if it looks like that was about to happen, but I’ll go along with it for the sake of the story. But when you got to the President of the United States being owned by Russia I had to give up. I mean, surely the people of the US would never be so stupid as to vote for someone like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m reading a chinese Webnovel right now, put 100 000 years in the future, where the main character activated her “Blu-ray USB storage on her wristband, making it possible to wirelessly retrieve the dataset” (from memory). My reaction at first was that it felt like writing “they measured the volume in kilogram pounds to get the circumference”. But thinking of other chinese books I’ve read, i’ve gotten the impression that numbers (one of them regularly had 30 000 meter tall spirit beasts attacking), expressions and brands shouldn’t really be taken litterary, but as creating a feeling or parable.

    Thinking back, that’s a good way of thinking of all new brands and words in Cyberpunk.


    1. 30 000 years from now, the world’s last Blu-ray disc disintegrates. Soon after, the disc technology is completely forgotten.

      60 000 years from now, the world’s last USB cable stops working. Soon after, noone remembers what USB is any more, except it has something to do with connecting stuff.

      90 000 years from now, Bluetooth version 9999 is about to be replaced with Bluetooth v. 10000 but someone decides that version number is silly so they rebrand it as “Blu-ray USB”.

      So 100 000 years from now, all the cool kids carries wristbands with blu-ray USB storage, which they use to wirelessly retrieve datasets.

      Liked by 2 people

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