Software/Wetware Critical Essays

Rudy Rucker


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Software was published in 1982. The following year, it won the first Philip K. Dick Award for best paperback original science-fiction book of the year. This was considered appropriate, as the book has many Dickian elements, from the central concern with whether machines can be human to amusing touches such as the boppers using a Mr. Frostee ice cream truck as their earthly headquarters. Scientific necessity resulted in the latter, because the bopper brains require extremely low temperatures.

Perhaps, however, a 1984 event had a greater role in defining Software’s place in the science-fiction world: the publication of William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer. This book, with its mixture of high-tech computer wonders and gritty street reality, was immediately seen to represent an important new form of science fiction, dubbed cyberpunk. A movement cannot consist of a single book, and the search for forerunners soon turned up Software, which fit tolerably well into the cyberpunk canon, though it had less emphasis on the “mean streets” aspects.

Software is told in a straightforward manner. Its primary stylistic virtue is clever neologisms such as “pheezers” and “boppers.” Wetware, which also won the Philip K. Dick Award, takes more stylistic chances, including Berenice’s Poe-derived dialogue and the second-person narration of the brief chapter in which Ken Doll impregnates Della...

(The entire section is 452 words.)