My thoughts on attempting this in the dreaming, dissonant dystopia of the Western Pacific, 2099. Chosen Shackles has had incredible influence from vaporwave, and cyberpunk fiction and film. As someone who doesn’t find time to read fiction, often, I take my cues and find my themes from art. It was that inclination to art which drew me to the aesthetic and idea of Vaporwave Fiction.
For the purposes of this essay, we’ll be focusing away from music.
Vaporwave as Art
After setting out to write, I began to wonder what it is which makes Vaporwave a coherent, recognizable form. Its signals to technology, in the glitch and neon hues, is nostalgic and dated. In that way, I believe that the cyber aspects are both incidental and integral.
Incidental in that, were it not so visually distinct in and of itself, the message would not have developed into a full aesthetic. Integral in that the message is about technology. I’m stating the obvious, but it would seem to me that how technology has changed even the way the world is witnessed, is parodied in Vaporwave.
While disillusioned and surreal, Vaporwave views reality as if it were just as real as the virtual. A kind of solipsistic sentiment, romantically concerned with a disconnect from self. It’s that reduction of reality and personhood which is connected to the next common theme.
A cold look at society as an unstoppable glacier. No single individual in control of the collective destiny, and by extension, their own. The conditions are set, the outcome inexorable.
The subject of Vaporwave varies. From urban landscape, now to classical art, the pervasive feeling of being out of touch reflects critically on the rise of modern society. As a postmodern or post-postmodern aesthetic, no answer to our problems is proposed, only a varied response of despair, rejection, resignation, or acknowledgment. The track we’re on is not great. It appears that only in a brief time we’ll all know humanity’s final destination. Whether destroyed or dystopic, the take is not optimistic. At best, Vaporwave is Absurd in its outlook. As if saying that, ‘this is how it’s always been, so enjoy.’ Everything isn’t meant to be okay.
Cyberpunk as Vaporwave Fiction
Vaporwave fiction is best thematically suited for Cyberpunk, we can agree. But beyond that, what are the specific themes which one should cover when trying to write Vaporwave Cyberpunk specifically?
It’s that question which we will practice an answer to, here.
Cyberpunk tropes alone are not sufficient to constitute Vaporwave Fiction. An intentional take requires specific thematic deconstructions.
It wouldn’t be enough to rewrite Blade Runner. Though it is reflective in nature, as any good Vaporwave Fiction should be, it is too direct, in my opinion. Medium constraints aside. Deckard takes on an understandable goal, hunt the Replicants. The danger he experiences can be run from. Vaporwave, in its self-aware fashion, living online, sees the world through a detached and incomprehensible eye. A bewilderment at the choices of modern society and the degradation of information and purpose in a connected, secular, and rationalistic society.
For this reason, the issues Mars faces will primarily be the rat race. The need to participate in the world, despite no feeling of agency. A dissection of the position many of you, including myself, feel in a globalized world screaming the fact we’re no longer integral to the process. The wheel’s turning gets further away as the scope zooms back on humanity’s growth.
So, an abstract goal is required. One doesn’t have to be a misanthrope to resent their smallness. A character arc can be created which leads to a solution to this smallness, in whatever form. A reflection on pain with the intent to justify or understand, finding a recourse from apathy.
Finally, the form and tools of narration.
Short of stream-of-consciousness, it would be better to abstain from overly formalized writing. A personal, talkative narrator will be good. One who poses questions and addresses their own observations. There’s a balance to strike, however, between rationality and an unreliable narrator.
With the BCI input directly into Mars’ experience, this provides the opportunity to visualize a dreamlike world. Through subconscious feedback and psycho-data imprints, reality can be overlaid with an unseen spiritual dimension.
From there, a distinctly cerebral and philosophical approach to storytelling can hopefully carry out the vision. The transition to adulthood and struggle to understand what that necessitates. As always, I try to be ambitious.
Now that I’ve laid out a path, I will revisit it in the future to see how it has unfolded. Read, just as with my previous work, only at the front end as well, I give my thoughts on how themes will or have been handled. Ultimately, though, Chosen Shackles and all my writing is a cathartic experience. This will be my first primarily reflective story, and I’m tremendously jazzed about the way Cyberpunk as a genre facilitates this.
Time to start dreaming.