University of Southern California

USC Event Calendar

Visions and Voices

  • Cyberpunk: Past and Future

    Visions and Voices


    Starting in the 1980s, speculative-fiction writers created a subgenre—cyberpunk—that not only predicted but also helped shape the future. A day-long event will bring together seminal figures of cyberpunk, including Rudy Rucker, Nalo Hopkinson and Bruce Sterling, to discuss the cultural moment they incited.

    The literary and cultural movement known as cyberpunk began in the early 1980s when a confluence of speculative-fiction writers remapped and reinvigorated their genre—and much more. Inspired by a rapidly changing present—the beginnings of the World Wide Web; the proliferation of man/machine interfaces; the global spread of Japanese culture—these writers integrated technology, politics, literature and cultural theory to create a genre that not only predicted the future but also helped shape it.

    A day-long event will bring together seminal figures of the cyberpunk movement, including Rudy Rucker (the Ware Tetralogy), Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the RingMidnight Robber) and Bruce Sterling (Bicycle RepairmanTaklamakanMirrorshades), along with figures from the worlds of film, music, technology, architecture and cultural theory, to discuss the cultural moment cyberpunk incited. 

    The afternoon will be devoted to “Cyberpunk 2.0”: small-group world-building and storytelling sessions in which USC students can collaborate with cyberpunk’s founding figures.

    Schedule of Events:
    Most sessions will be held in the Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108. Breakout sessions will be held in SCA 110 and SCA 112.

    10 to 10:15 a.m. 
    Introduction and Welcome from Henry Jenkins

    10:15 to 11:35 a.m.
    The Origins of Cyberpunk Culture
    A conversation with Bruce Sterling (Islands in the Net), Rudy Rucker (The Ware Tetralogy), Roger Trilling (Wild Palms), Mark Pauline (Survival Research Lab) and moderated by Henry Jenkins.

    11:40 a.m. to 1 p.m.
    The Legacy of Cyberpunk Culture 
    John Jennings (Black Kirby Project), Jordan Mechner (Prince of Persia), Claire L. Evans (Yacht), Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer), Nalo Hopkinson (Midnight Robber)
    Moderated by Howard Rodman.

    1 p.m.
    Lunch Break

    2 to 2:45 p.m.
    Breakout Session 1: Cyberpunk 2.0--World Building
    Open to USC students, staff and faculty only.

    Undergraduate and graduate students will work with and exchange ideas in conversation with writers, designers, scholars and technologists with the goal of imagining a world which updates the cyberpunk themes to confront the changes which have occurred in the new media sector since the 1980s.

    2:45 to 3:30 p.m.
    Breakout Session 2: Cyberpunk 2.0--Storytelling
    Open to USC students, staff and faculty only.
    Teams from the first breakout session will build upon their worlds to construct a story and decide on a means of presenting that story to the conference participants. Led by Jeff Watson (School of Cinematic Arts) and Geoff Long (Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism). Participants will include the morning's panelists, plus Stacey Robinson (Black Kirby Project).

    2 to 3:30 p.m.
    Technologies of Cyberpunk
    Open to everyone.

    In parallel with breakout sessions, Technologies of Cyberpunk offers an interpretive chronology of film and TV design fictions that engage the increasingly permeable membrane between computer intelligence and human minds and bodies, from the cybernetic, human-computer interfaces of the 1950s to contemporary visions of fully hybrid states of post-humanity. Curated and assembled by Steve Anderson.

    3:30 to 4:15 p.m.
    Presentations from Breakout Sessions
    Moderated by Howard Rodman.

    4:15 to 4:45 p.m.
    Final Rant by Bruce Sterling

    4:45 to 5:15 p.m.
    Reception and Book Signing

    Organized by Scott Fisher (Cinematic Arts), Henry Jenkins (Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts) and Howard A. Rodman (Cinematic Arts). Co-sponsored by the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab.

    The Ray Stark Family Theatre
    University Park Campus
    USC School of Cinematic Arts 108

    Reception and book signing to follow.

    Admission is free. Reservations required. RSVP at the links below beginning Tuesday, March 31, at 9 a.m.

    USC Students, Staff and Faculty: To RSVP, click here.
    USC Alumni: To RSVP, click here.
    General Public: To RSVP, click here.