We welcome Colin F Barnes novelist & micro publisher to talk to us about the return of cyberpunk.
When we look around at technology today, we see things predicted by science fiction and cyberpunk stories of a few decades ago. Back then, mostly during the late 80s and 90s when cyberpunk and the techno thriller were at their peak computers were becoming affordable and regular household items. The early Apple machines, Spectrums and Commodores brought computing to everyone; including the spotty teen in the basement.
Not only did that technological singularity change the world—or at least put in place the elements for change—it brought with it a new way of thinking; the connected world. Writers such as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, amongst others, took the idea of the connected world and extrapolated forward to a futuristic world of hacking, cybercrime, and virtual reality worlds.
As we approached the late 90s and 2000s it started to wane a little, but another decade on and we’re seeing more technothriller/cyberpunk stories return—in the form of books, films and even TV shows. The reason for the slump, in my opinion, was that the things predicted weren’t quite there yet in reality, and regular SF such as Star Trek, Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica filled that desire of stretching out in the future.
Now, though, we are seeing the things predicted, and this is inspiring another kind of singularity; that of the connected world as something that is established, something that humanity has come to rely on. In many instances, social media is this new singularity. And with it comes a lot of problems, and thus opportunity of us writers to explore and extrapolate what this means.
In my novel, Artificial Evil, the world has suffered a great cataclysm and just one million survivors are left living in a dome city that is tightly controlled. Individuals are now one with the network, and are effectively nodes; this is kind of what is happening now, but on a much lower level. With out smart phones and always-on connections, as we move around and manipulate the virtual world, we are becoming nodes and routers of information and content. What would happen if that technology and that idea was integrated directly into the conscious mind? How much of your free will would be give over to the network? And what would that mean for the individual?
If you did lose some of your humanity, but gained the benefits of a wider network, are you still human? or another species altogether? This is partly what I explore in Artificial Evil. Our evolution might not be a biological one, but a technological one, and that, in my opinion, makes a riveting story.
Growing up, Colin was always obsessed with story and often wrote short stories based on various dubious 80s and 90s TV shows. Despite taking a detour in school into the arts and graphic design, he always maintained his love of fiction and general geekery. Now, as a slightly weathered adult, Colin draws on his experiences to blend genres and create edgy, but entertaining stories.
He is currently working on a Cyberpunk/Techno thriller serial ‘The Techxorcist.’ which combines elements of Sci-Fi, Thriller, and Horror.
Like many writers, he has an insatiable appetite for reading, with his favourite authors being: Stephen King, William Gibson, Ray Bradbury, James Herbert, Albert Camus, H.P Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and a vast array of unknown authors who he has had the privilege of beta reading for.
“Artificial Evil: Book 1 of The Techxorcist sees the revival of everything we used to love about cyber punk, repackaged with new twists in this tech thriller. This is a brilliant tale that combines fantastic characters, great tech and a little bit of good old fashioned possession” – Adele Wearing, Un:Bound
“The Techxorcist project piqued my interest for a couple of reasons. First, it is the brainchild of Colin F. Barnes whose work has, to date, always lived up to expectation. The second reason is the title; not only is it fun to say, but it also sets the tone for a grim cross-genre design.
Having had the pleasure of reading Articificial Evil: The Techxorcist Book 1, I can honestly say I was not disappointed. The quality of the writing, the originality of the ideas – they blend together to show Barnes’ work at his best. The passion behind the project comes through every description and in every brilliant character – once you meet Petal, you’ll understand.
Artificial Evil reads as multiple stories at the same time. On the surface a fantastic plot-arc following a post-apocalyptic virtual battle against an evil AI, the brilliance is in the layers of interpretation going on behind the scenes. There are elements of a dozen classic tales intricately woven into the characters, the concept, and the dialogue, and the combination creates a story that is so rich in meaning and allusion it’s impossible not to connect with this seemingly distant and unrecognizable world.
A story that opens the mind to possibilities, crazy ideas that somehow seem plausible, Texchorcist is an exploration of how much we’re willing to give up to be free, and how far we’re willing to go to keep that freedom.” – Krista Walsh, Raven’s Quill.