This week, we infiltrated the cybernetic vault where Blue Tapes hoard their musical secrets. So delighted were we by the richness of wares on display – abstract mementoes from a dislocated tradition, hits from our tribal future fresh off the time travel machine, tender fillets sliced off the cortex of the collective brain – that we were almost caught by the Black ICE guarding the place.
We scurried off through a stochastic network of nodes in TOR’s onion router losing everyone in our tail, we think, to bring you two tunes which, together, fit perfectly with the vibes of our current read, Walter Jon Williams’ 1986 Cyberpunk classic Hardwired.
Hardwired is set in a future where aloof corporations dominate Earth from their orbital dwellings. They monopolise Earth markets with their zero-G fabbed produce, while those stuck down the gravity-well fight for the scraps. Only a handful of hovercraft-riding smugglers keep the spirit of freedom alive, but for how long?
It is trashy but not as much as that summary made it sound. The setpieces are awesome and the imaginery is banging: Streetfighting dirtgirls with cybernetic snakes coiled in their throats, waiting to strike; chrome-eyed panzerboys with a steel guitar vibrating in their spines; the ghost of a stockbroker who went too far with his implants scattered across the ‘net, hacking the multidimensional crystalline architectures of pharma corporations.
2ndSun’s techno-music things capture the frantic mood as the novel’s protagonists, Cowboy and Sarah, traverse the robotically harvested fields of an imploding America, neon vectors pumped on stimulants and interface addiction, that data high when you jack in and your eyes become infrared sensors, kerosene pumps through your veins, fingers flicking radar-homing missiles like they were pebbles.
All these things and many more we feel in the melange of electro, techno and juke, Drexciyan paranoia and crackling noises of 2ndSun’s outbursts. There is no monolithic sense of progression here, only the hypnotic convolutions with which the system devours itself, just to keep going.
If one half of Hardwired is technoid fetishism and rampant gun-porn, the other is folk American individualism, as Cowboy and Sarah chase their freedom from the Orbitals. Logistically this is impossible. The countries of Earth already tried, and were brought to heel by an asteroid bombardment that killed millions. Brave pilots flew into the sky in their deltas to fight a battle they had already lost, only to tumble back down burning like roman candles.
Our protagonists know this fact in their bones but occasionally manage to suppress it, creating spaces of agency free from the imperative to survive if only for a moment, spaces where they can remove their armour and drink, love and sing. We imagine that a simmering, incessantly soaring guitar like Brian John McBrearty’s creates the protective force-field in the perimeter of these brief zones of defiance.