Bruce Sterling on Boris Johnson's bizarre, cyberpunk dystopia address to the UN

This week's bizarre speech to the UN by the UK's clownish, authoritarian Prime Minister pro tem Boris Johnson has sparked a lot of talk, especially among science fiction readers who recognise the difference between cautionary tales about hi-tech dystopias and suggestions for public technology policy (unlike PM Johnson).

Especially trenchant is Bruce Sterling's commentary, which correctly points out that Boris Johnson could easily be a character from Sterling's 1998 novel Distraction, which remains one of the all-time great political satire novels (along with Neal Stephenson's Interface): "I could have written this speech as a fictional speech by a politician in one of my novels, for instance, 'Green Huey' in the novel 'Distraction.' And Boris Johnson’s speech would have passed muster in one of my novels: readers would have been entertained by it, in the standard science-fictional fashion: 'of course a politician in a cyberpunk sci-fi novel is gonna dwell on the killer robots and the mutant chickens.'"

*If he’d delivered this rant from a podium at South by South West in Austin instead of the floor of the UN, people would have just nodded thoughtfully, and even been rather pleased that a major G-7 politician was so up to speed with the mutant chickens.

*In terms of cultural sensibility, this must be the most cyberpunk intervention that I’ve ever seen from any major politician (as opposed to say, elected officials of the Pirate Party, who are commonly actual counterculture punks obsessed with computers). BoJo is trying to conjure up a transgressive cyberpunk atmosphere of ecstasy and dread here, he’s trying to put the previous world order on the back-foot and make it feel old and out of touch.

Visionary high-points of the recent Boris Johnson speech at the United Nations [Bruce Sterling/Beyond the Beyond]