September 2003
2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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A User's Guide to the Postmoderns
by Michael Swanwick

In accordance with our agreement with Michael, we were only able to post the full essay for a year. We've kept a few bits from it though, hopefully an acceptable interpretation of "fair use" to wet your appetite for the real thing. Though SF needs a new essay to cover the rise of the New Hard SF, this remains an excellent examination of the rise of cyberpunk and SF to the mid 80s. - Ern

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Here's another in a series of essay's about Science Fiction SFRevu is presenting. We follow David Hartwell's piece on the new space opera last month with an article that Michael Swanwick wrote in 1986. I was reminded of it because David referred to it in his piece, and being reminded, I remembered that I've always liked this survey of the cosmology of cyberpunk and humanist SF.  - Ern

(Left: the author at ReaderCon, photo: SFRevu)

A User's Guide to the Postmoderns by Michael Swanwick
Including the Battle for the Future, Unbridled Ambition,
the Fate of the Children in the Starship, the Cyberpunk-
Humanist Wars, Blood Under the Banquet Tables, Metaphors
Run Amok, and the Destruction of Atlantis!

It's been said that every generation creates its own horde of invading barbarians in its young. This is certainly the case in the radioactive hothouse of science fiction...

"It's been said that every generation creates its own horde of invading barbarians in its young. This is certainly the case in the radioactive hothouse of science fiction, where new literary generations arise once every five or so years."

"The most extreme example of generational conflict came, of course, in the 1960s, when the controversy over the New Wave escalated to near-violence." 

In the 1980s, a new generation came into science fiction. This time, however, the army marched into the Eternal City and found it undefended.

"In the 1980s, a new generation came into science fiction. This time, however, the army marched into the Eternal City and found it undefended. The lion gates were open; there were no archers on the walls. The citizenry turned out to throw to flowers, and petty officials proffered the key to the city. The barbarians were dumbfounded. They'd spent years assembling their arms, perfecting their tactics, honing their skills, and they were spoiling for battle. They had to fight someone.

They looked at one another."

"A User's Guide to the Postmoderns" originally appeared in: Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Vol. 10: No. 8, August, '86. It was reprinted in: Reprinted in: Moon Dogs, Ann A. Broomhead and Timothy P.Szczesuil, eds., Framingham, MA: NESFA Press, 2000., The Postmodern Archipelago, (chapbook), San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 1997., Pirated in:  Japan, France, Germany, the Soviet Union. Translated as:  "Postmoderne: Neue Stromungen in der Science Fiction", Wolfgang Jeschke, ed., Das Science Fiction Jahr 3, Munich: Heyne Buchen, 1988.

2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
columns - events - features - booksmedia                    home  /  subscribe