What happened to cyberpunk? This is the question on the tongues of anyone a little disappointed with the way our future of now is being handled. Where are the flying cars? When is someone going to give me and my partner a lot of cash so we can make a righteous XXX version of Neuromancer with a high production value and an all nerd cast? What’s a girl to do when she wants to get dicked by Phillip K. and get covered in the ghostly ectoplasm that dead speculative fiction authors are known to ejaculate.
I call myself a sex hacker and this is in and of itself a small homage to my love of ‘cyberpunk.’ Everyone gets assigned these sexuality and gender interfaces. Most people just use them they way they arrived out-of-the-box. I hacked mine. All of the good stuff is encrypted, anyway. I want to know how my hardware works and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making modifications to get the most out of your machine. Then there’s the software, the stuff of minds and dreams. There’s nothing static about software. There are about a million ways to demonstrate this but most people maintain the belief that hardware and software are on in the same or worse, that you shouldn’t alter it in any way once it leaves the assembly line.
That’s my abstract, theoretical take on things at least and it’s trifles compared to the hard cyberpunk skills of some people I’ve known. We think of hackers and cyberpunks as being youngish white dudes but the best I’ve ever known is a transgender Latina woman who is HIV+ and was homeless during the time I knew her best. She wasn’t a tech nomad so much as she had a fondness for fast drugs and she could never keep her hands on any quality computing hardware for long before it needed to be scrapped or she got jumped. She knew how and where to find her tools and I remember the way she used to go to the library to use their consoles to hack into a car share company’s system to make use of the vehicles parked all over the city that could be opened and operated with RFID technology.
She was in jail more than she wasn’t and there were razors in her tubes of lipstick. She wasn’t on any social networking websites, she’d scare the ever living shit out of the startups in the fancy buildings that looked down on the streets where she lived one night at a time, and she’d seen enough bullshit in her short life already not to have a single scrap of tolerance for any more. She would smoke her rocks in glass pipes, blow clouds, and someone understand the very nature of any and all tech within her sights. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was hacking ATM’s in another country as we speak.
I was the nice white lady involved in social services so I was (rather fairly, I must say) ignored as irrelevant background noise. The white ownership of major social services and their commitment to maintaining the status quo is something that took me a long time to see and the cyberpunk coming down on a sofa in the milleu was part of what broke that paradigm down. Being mostly ignored was something that a lot of my work peers envied because she reveled in making staff feel as uncomfortable as possible and ideally they would wind up crying. “You have to get over this sensitivity shit if you’re going to last around here!” she would scream at anyone with a quivering lip who couldn’t handle the times when she decompensated into terrifying fits.
People love to talk about the gritty side of ‘cyberpunk’ but most of them have never been inside an SRO let alone lived in them. The only time she ever really accepted a single resident occupancy room was when she had to dodge someone and fortify a safe barrier. She figured she did better sleeping around and finding a temporary Daddy or finding herself a rooftop for a night. She lived to flirt with danger but she wore very real scars from skirmishes. I helped her move into a room once that had an old blood spatter stain on the ceiling above the bed. She pointed to it and said, “You know that was a bad hit.” What she meant was that someone was shooting up and hit an artery, probably a femoral artery, and it spurted upward. I asked her if it was going to bother her and she said, “I’m not going to be here long and it’s not like I’m planning to sleep underneath it.”
You’re not really a cyberpunk until you’re afraid enough for your life that a blood spatter stain on a ceiling doesn’t even register on your priority list. It was clear she was acclimation to all kinds of threats to her body and had been for most of her life, so much so that anything else seemed unreal.
She always need an incredible amount of environmental stimulation whether or not she was high. When there wasn’t enough, she would instigate. Her brain spun a million miles an hour and she was shameless in the way she would size people up. She wanted people to know that she was figuring them out and she had me pegged as more of an outsider than my job title would have you know purely from the way I never flinched when she talked about her Daddies or the time when a pair of panties had to be cut off of her because there was blood, a lot of blood during some sexual encounter that may or may not have been consensual and may or may not have involved more than one other partner and because she passed out while things crusted over in the night. If people couldn’t handle the rhetoric of her life then they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of handling her. She had a keen sense for who was dead weight in social services and who actually had something to offer.
From her perspective, the timid had nothing to offer. The fact that I never seemed put off by anything sexual seemed to annoy her at first. It wasn’t getting its intended effect. She stared at me intently to reconsider the data. “What kind of whore are you?” she asked with steely eyes. Her approach seemed to make the assumption I would be rattled by the directness. Instead I shrugged and replied “Kind of depends on what’s on the table.” It was the first time I ever saw her smile at me. She saw shame as a weakness in human emotional security and she loved to crack it.
What I hate about ‘cyberpunk’ is its androcentrism. That’s strange to me because cyberpunk is where you go when things have gotten so bad that all you can do is find a hole, dilate it, climb inside, and start some shit. She used computers as tools to get what she needed and she used them exceptionally well. At one point a director of social services had their office broken into and the only thing stolen was the computer. Everyone knew who did it but no one could prove it. There was too little damage and the alarm system never sounded. When I heard about it, all I could do was smile.
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