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Friday, April 2, 2021

Ask Dr. Cyberpunk • with your host, Bruce Bethke

Funny how quickly a week gets behind you when you’re just busy busy busy, scampering like a squirrel from one urgent priority to the next. We have a lot going on behind the scenes here right now at Casa Calamari. One of those things is this book, which I’m really hoping to have ready for release soon. 

As I was digging down through the midden in my office and trying to extract order from chaos, I came across the following notes, scribbled on a string of Post-It notes stuck to a manuscript page. Given the strata in which I found it I wrote this sometime in 2017 or 2018, but even then it was a recapitulation of something I’d found while on an earlier dig for my original notes and manuscript fragments from 1988~1989. For your amusement, then:

Colonizing the Digital Frontier

It will go like this.

1st wave - the cyberpunk phase, primarily kids, anarchists, hackers, wild cards

2nd wave - early adopter capitalists, moving in to figure out how to make money off what the kids have pioneered

3rd wave - organized crime and malignant political actors, moving in to exploit the trust the 2nd wave built and to make real money

4th wave - government, first in the form of military and intelligence agencies trying to figure out what the hell is going on here, followed by regulatory and taxing authorities trying to control it and get the government a piece of the 2nd wave action

Thereafter it settles down into the usual corporatist/fascist unholy alliance between the 4th wave and the successful survivors of the 2nd wave. The 2nd/4th wave alliance will do a great job of getting rid of all that pesky free speech, driving out or putting in prison whoever’s left from the 1st wave, and strangling their nascent competitors in their cribs.

After that things settle into a state of wobbly equilibrium with the 3rd wave. The 3rd wave has the edge in imagination and thus in finding new and creative ways to be evil, but the 2nd/4th wave has the edge in money and raw power and thus is always one close step behind the 3rd wave. 

The 1st wave people, if there are any left or any new ones coming along, will be irrelevant, except insofar as they can be co-oped to join the 3rd or 4th waves. 


Gee, it’s a shame I never wrote that book. 

—Bruce Bethke



GuyStewart said...

That was a possible BOOK???

I thought you'd just cut and pasted parts of a couple of website columns from WIRED or something...

My bad.


~brb said...

It was the book I was working on back in '88~'89, before Jim Baen got hold of Cyberpunk and decided it needed to be a military boarding school novel.

GuyStewart said...

I know SF writers aren't usually a prophetic bunch, but that sounds an awful lot like what we live with on a day-to-day basis...