A word from the author: I’m no literary scholar. I’m a writer. After I write something, I get to know “what that was”, usually from reviews. Sometimes I hear that I wrote cyberpunk or hopepunk or even solarpunk. I read some articles on what they are, and I don’t know what to think about.
You can imagine my confusion when I wrote the first stories about gamedec in 2002 but finished the whole saga in 2015, and learned that the term “solarpunk” was forged in 2008, and hopepunk word was cataloged in 2017. So, I did not know these terms when I wrote the first three parts of the big story.
The definitions of cyberpunk, solarpunk, and hopepunk are broad and narrow at the same time. Broad, because they concern things globally: solarpunk novel, as I understand it, should stress the renewable sources of energy, the “green” direction, generally. Hopepunk is about fighting for values, about kindness towards others, about hope.
So, if there are some atomic powerplants in a novel, it is no longer solarpunk, and if some characters in a story don’t show kindness, it is no longer hopepunk? Of course, those questions are wrong. It is more about the mood, the reception of a novel/story/game: is it more solar-ish, hope-ish, or cyberpunk-ish (where you should show the bottom of society, “hight tech – low life” and a rebellion)?
The definitions are also narrow (as I understand this word) because they suggest that you can describe society stratification, climate changes, or values things only within their genre. Of course, that is not so. Science fiction was always about that.
I am a creator, not a follower. So frankly, I never wanted to write stories and novels in any trend. In my opinion, creation should, or to put it better, can be free, not trendy.
I wanted to write about games in the future. In the first part of the “Gamedec” saga anyway. Was it cyber, solar, or hopepunk? Or did I create a new genre, “gamepunk”? Hm, and what if I don’t think it was “punk” at all, because Torkil Aymore, the main hero, was a detective, not a low-lifer, and his clients were mostly wealthy? Is it a “Gamedec” trend? I get lost. Are genres like solarpunk, hopepunk, or cyberpunk unnecessary because their traits are present in most contemporary science fiction movies, novels, and games?
picture: solarpunk city by Steven Wong
But people like to label things. It is easier to say:
- You know, it is a little cyberpunk, with a pinch of noir, detective stories, there is sun there, it is not only dark, and it is not like everybody is unhappy there, the author stresses values and shows meaningful solutions, so quite a bit of hopepunk.
- I see, so to keep it short: cyberpunk, noir detective mood, and hopepunk, yes?
- Sure. And a lot of games, the future ones. Like in the Matrix movie.
No doubt that conversation took less time than telling the whole background of Gamedecverse and the history of the main hero.
One of the most eminent Polish poets, Julian Tuwim, in one of his witty poems, asked a question: “How does the peppermint smell?” Then he tried to answer the question: that it smells like toothpaste (but it is the opposite, he replied to himself: it is the toothpaste that smells like peppermint!), that smells like some healing elixirs (and again, he noticed it was the other way round), and so on. Eventually, he concluded, that peppermint smells… like peppermint.
from: Gamedec video game trailer
There are two kinds of authors (of course, there are more, but for the sake of this article, let’s say there are two categories). The first are those who say: “I’ll write cyberpunk!” or “I’ll write space opera!” or “I’ll write a postapocalyptic novel!” or “I’ll write a fighting fantasy thing!” and so on. Then they keep to the trend, just filling the known channel with their story.
The second type says: “I want to tell an interesting story; it swells in my heart! I have a vision I want to share!” The trend doesn’t matter to them that much. Of course, they see their story in a given setting, but it is more a product of their imagination. I don’t want to say that the first kind of writer doesn’t have interesting stories or vision. All I mean that the primary incentive in the first group is to write something in a given trend (sometimes the one that sells best in a given time, or is most, well, “trendy”). The second kind thinks about an idea, the story, the hero, the vision first, and then constructs the world around those ideas.
I have a sensation that Frank Herbert’s Dune was like that. I am pretty sure he didn’t want to write a space opera nor any post-apocalyptic story (in a way, Dune’s world is a post-a-great-war thing) nor, eventually, a religion treaty. He wanted to write a story of destiny, sandworms, and sand. An ecological drama. Why? Most probably because he was interested in that.
picture: book character, Torkil Aymore by Tomasz Maroński
Why George Lucas created Star Wars? I am almost sure it emerged from his most profound dreams. He did not think of creating a space opera. The space opera surrounded his ideas. Well, that was the case, in my opinion, anyway.
So why did I write “gamedec” saga? Gamedec is about a game detective in the first part, but in the next installments, that detective has to face the realium (reality). He observes and participates in the reshaping of the world as he knows it, and in the fourth and the fifth parts of the saga, the story changes to military SF and a solar utopia? Why did I do that?
I wanted to write a story of a human in a changing world - a human that has to change. Adapt. Develop. It was a kind of an RPG story: he got new skills and entered new realities in an ever-evolving world. It was my dream to write something like that.
Oh. And I loved video games.
That’s why I created the profession of a game detective. I wanted to show how complex and exciting the situation of gamers of the future can be. How deep and intricate the entanglement of realium and sensory worlds could go. Is it possible that a gamedec will accept payment for his job being a spaceship in one of the games? Will he discover who in realium is the woman his client met in a Paradise Beach game? Will he learn to control pain during Goodabads matches? Will he enter a forbidden game where it is possible to die? Like: really die? Will he help a group of young players to finish a cooperative game to win the prize? You see, the more games of the future I created, the more problems and questions I wanted to put. Is it hope, solar, or cyberpunk?
from: Gamedec video game trailer
Torkil lives really high, on the 342nd floor of a liner (a standing-hanging building) on the outskirts of giant Warsaw City. Every day he can see the sun shining off the towers of the town he loves. He drinks whiskey pondering the cases he solved, looking at sunsets. But he knows that there is no sun deeper within his city, and at the bottom of Warsaw City lie ruins of old Warsaw, where wild tribals live, where mutated bats and rats dwell, and it is very dangerous to go there. Oh, and sometimes he recalls that all the polis (cities like Warsaw City) are surrounded by ABBs (Anti Bios Barriers). The climate, fauna, and flora are so aggressive that it is impossible to go beyond the barriers and survive. Only Out-Rangers go there. Is it hope, solar, or cyberpunk?
Humanity is on the brink of immortality. You can buy a beelbie – your very young body without a brain, undergo a brain graft surgery, and in two weeks become young again. Remarkable, isn’t it? There is another planet that is terraformed – Gaya. A globe without mutations, without wild climate, a sunny new world. You can emigrate. Well, of course, if you can afford those luxuries: the new body or the ticket. So, you see, the fantastic new world and life await you if you have the money. But it is not impossible to earn it (although it is pretty hard) or get a loan from the bank. Of course, if your life decisions were reasonable and you could foresee, you would need some extra cash just in case. Is it h-, s-, or c- punk? Well, as far as I know, many science fiction approaches describe social stratification and unequal goods distribution.
In one of the stories of the first tome, Torkil starts to hallucinate. He begins to see a demon, who knows more than him, and sometimes says things that help Torkil a big deal. The creature’s name is Lee Roth, and it appears when Torkil plays The Abyss game. The problem is that the demon reappears after Torkil finishes the game session. Then another spiritual hallucination appears. Torkil meets people who can see such phenomena as well. Is it medical fiction or fantasy now? Well, all these events have a scientific explanation, but the reader has to wait for it till the end of the saga.
picture: Torkil Aymore by Tomasz Maroński
I thought about a beauty business, cooking, transport, food making, gaming, space travels, law, corporation wars, and, believe me, hundreds of other little and more significant things and described them on thousands of pages. It is just the gamedec world. Gamedecverse. And it is just Torkil Aymore who's the main hero. At the end of the big story, he has friends, quite a lot of them, a big family too, but, at the end of the day, it is his story. And a little bit of mine, because I've spent the best period of my life to create it. What is it then? H-, s-, c- or fantasypunk?
It occurs it is not only a literary scholars problem, but also the game developers one. Designers of Anshar Studios, who decided to create a “Gamedec” game, had to face it and decide how to “position” their creation. Who to address? How to label it? The times are complex, but the thinking of clients became simpler. Designers knew people like to label things. Labels give them orientation, like stars to ancient sailors.
So how did they create the game?
- A pinch of detective, noir mood,
- A bunch of Matrix games of the future,
- A punch of cyberpunk atmosphere at the bottom parts of Warsaw City,
- Some golden rays of hope / solarpunk at the top parts of the polis,
- And a lot, a lot of good, profound stories to tell.
It is the fruit of their effort, dreams, and imagination. Well, I work with them too, so let me say it is our effort. I hope you will like it, no matter what proportions of “punks” you prefer.
text by Marcin Sergiusz Przybyłek, the author of the Gamedec saga
Which genres associated with the futuristic vision of the world do you find most interesting?