Mirrorshades – The Cyberpunk Anthology edited by Bruce Sterling

1 minutes estimated reading time

Cyberpunk is a type of science fiction that has been very influential in the creation of the web as we know it. As with most predictions about the future, the now has both over-and-under achieved. Since we are at an economic inflection point, I thought I’d revisit one of the seminal publications of the cyberpunk genre Mirrorshades.


Mirrorshades is a collection of stories that were created by authors considered to be representative of that genre by one of their own Bruce Sterling. Mirrorshades refers to the Oakley type-lenses in sunglasses that were considered to be a cultural artifact for this genre, in the same way that chromed rocket fins graced US-made cars of the 1950s and 60s.

In some ways the stories echoed the kind of ideas I would expect appearing in feature articles of Wired magazine: private artificial islands based on a libertarian ideal to fuel commerce, artificial-eye implants, radical Islam-inspired cyber-terrorism and gene therapy. All of this feels familiar in a post-truth era of late stage capitalism where authoritarianism vies with liberal democracy for legitimancy

Others were exceptionally dated: depending on the the Soviet Bloc to still be a bulwark against global capitalism. The rampant artificial drug use in the stories mirrored the US decent from hippy-inspired pot heads to mainstream cocaine use and new drugs that were then coming online including crack cocaine and MDMA. There was an assumption that the leisure pharmaceutical industry would carry on this spurt of commercial innovation through product development.

Mirrorshades is a good read, but the ideas have been so pillaged by later works that you have to keep yourself in check and remember that for much of the films and books in this area, Mirrorshades (often filtered through other authors later works) was the genesis; the source material from which they sprang. More book reviews here.