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TUCoPS :: Cyber Culture :: alt_cp.faq

alt.cyberpunk FAQ 97/03/23





Subject: alt.cp FAQ (was: about cyberpunk)
From: Frank <frank@knarf.demon.co.uk>
Date: Thu, 19 Jun 1997 20:44:15 +0100


                        FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
                               ALT.CYBERPUNK



Maintained by Frank (frank@knarf.demon.co.uk) Last update; 23 March 1997 
Posted every two weeks to alt.cyberpunk. URL version available at
www.knarf.demon.co.uk/alt-cp.htm.

This is Version 4.0 of the alt.cyberpunk FAQ. Although previous FAQs 
have not been allocated version numbers, due the number of people now 
involved, I've taken the liberty to do so. Previous maintainers / 
editors and version numbers are given below:

- Version 3: Erich Schneider
- Version 2: Tim Oerting
- Version 1: Andy Hawks

I would also like to recognise and express my thanks to Jer and Stack 
for all their help and assistance in compiling this version of the FAQ.

This FAQ, as with Cyberpunk literature, is a living document. If you 
have any comments, criticisms, additions, questions please send them to 
me at frank@knarf.demon.co.uk. (I especially welcome reports of "broken 
links", either in the ASCII or HTML versions). Send to that address as 
well if you would like the latest version of this document.


The vast number of the "answers" here should be prefixed with an "in my 
opinion". It would be ridiculous for me to claim to be an ultimate 
Cyberpunk authority.



Contents

   1.  What is Cyberpunk, the Literary Movement ?
   2.  What is Cyberpunk, the Subculture ?
   3.  What is Cyberspace ?
   4.  Cyberpunk Literature
   5.  Magazines About Cyberpunk and Related Topics
   6.  Cyberpunk in Visual Media (Movies and TV)
   7.  Blade Runner
   8.  Cyberpunk Music / Dress / Aftershave
   9.  CP Authors' email addresses ?
   10. What is "PGP" ?
   11. Agrippa: What and Where, is it ?
   12. Other On-Line Resources 



1. What is Cyberpunk, the Literary Movement ?

Gardner Dozois, one of the editors of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction 
Magazine during the early '80s, is generally acknowledged as the first 
person to popularize the term "Cyberpunk", when describing a body of 
literature. Dozois doesn't claim to have coined the term; he says he 
picked it up "on the street somewhere".

It is probably no coincidence that Bruce Bethke wrote a short story 
titled "Cyberpunk" in 1980 and submitted it Asimov's mag, when Dozois 
may have been doing first readings, and got it published in Amazing in 
1983, when Dozois was editor of 1983 Year's Best SF and would be 
expected to be reading the major SF magazines. But as Bethke says, "who 
gives a rat's ass, anyway?!". (Bethke is not really a Cyberpunk author; 
in mid-1995 he published Headcrash (www.spedro.com/headcrash/funside.htm
l), which he calls "a cybernetically-aware comedy". (Thanks to Bruce for 
his help on this issue.)

Before its christening the "Cyberpunk movement", known to its members as 
"The Movement", had existed for quite some time, centred around Bruce 
Sterling's samizdat, Cheap Truth (bush.cs.tamu.edu/~erich/cheaptruth/).
Authors like Sterling, Rucker and Shirley submitted articles 
pseudonymously to this newsletter, hyping the works of people in the 
group and vigorously attacking the "SF mainstream". This helped form the 
core "movement consciousness". (The run of Cheap Truth is available by 
anonymous FTP in the directory "ftp.io.com:/pub/usr/shiva/SMOF-
BBS/cheap.truth").

Cyberpunk literature, in general, deals with marginalized people in 
technologically-enhanced cultural "systems". In Cyberpunk stories' 
settings, there is usually a "system" which dominates the lives of most 
"ordinary" people, be it an oppressive government, a group of large, 
paternalistic corporations or a fundamentalist religion. These 
systemsare enhanced by certain technologies, particularly "information 
technology" (computers, the mass media), making the system better at 
keeping those within it, inside it. Often this technological system 
extends into its human "components" as well, via brain implants, 
prosthetic limbs, cloned or genetically engineered organs, etc. 
Humansthemselves become part of "the Machine". This is the "cyber" 
aspect of Cyberpunk. However, in any cultural system, there are always 
those who live on its margins, on "the Edge": criminals, outcasts, 
visionaries or those who simply want freedom for its own sake. Cyberpunk 
literature focuses on these people, and often on how they turn the 
system's technological tools to their own ends. This is the "punk" 
aspect of Cyberpunk.

The best Cyberpunk works are distinguished from previous works with 
similar themes, by a certain style. The setting is urban, the mood is 
dark and pessimistic. Concepts are thrown at the reader without 
explanation, much like new developments are thrown at us in our everyday 
lives. There is often a sense of moral ambiguity; simply fighting "the 
system" (to topple it, or just to stay alive) does not make the main 
characters "heroes" or "good" in the traditional sense.



2. What is Cyberpunk, the Subculture ?

Spurred on by Cyberpunk literature in the mid-1980's, certain groups of 
people started referring to themselves as Cyberpunk, because they 
correctly noticed the seeds of the fictional "techno-system" in Western 
society today, and because they identified with the marginalized 
characters in Cyberpunk stories. Within the last few years, the mass 
media has caught on to this, spontaneously dubbing certain people and 
groups "Cyberpunk". 

Specific subgroups which are identified with Cyberpunk are: Hackers, 
Crackers, Phreaks (www.ccil..org/jargon/jargon_23.html) and Cypher-punks 
(www.csua.berkeley.edu/cypherpunks/home.html):

  "Hackers" are the "wizards" of the computer community; people with a
   deep understanding of how their computers work, and can do things
   with them that seem "magical".

  "Crackers" are the real-world analogues of the "console cowboys" of
   Cyberpunk fiction; they break into other people's computer systems,
   without their permission, for illicit gain or simply for the pleasure
   of exercising their skill.

  "Phreaks" are those who do a similar thing with the telephone system,
   coming up with ways to circumvent phone companies' calling charges
   and doing clever things with the phone network.

  "Cypher-punks": These people think a good way to bollocks "The System"
   is through cryptography and cryptosystems. They believe widespread
   use of extremely hard-to-break coding schemes will create "regions of
   privacy" that "The System" cannot invade.

Some other groups which are associtaed with Cyberpunk are:

  "Transhuman" (www.aleph.se/trans/alliance) are actively seeking to
   become 'Posthuman (www.aleph.se/trans/global/posthumanity/). This
   involves learning about and making use of new technologies that can
   potentially increase their capacities and life expectancy.They follow
   Transhumanism (www.aleph.se/trans/intro/definitions.html), a set of
   'philosophies of life' (such as the Extropian philosophy) that seek
   the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent
   life beyond its currently human form  and limits by means of science
   and technology, guided by life-promoting principles and values, while
   avoiding religion and dogma

  "Extropian" (www.aleph.se/trans/culture/philosophy/princip.html) are
   dedicated to the opposition of Entropy (pete.pomona.edu/pynchon/
   entropy/) Politically, extropians are close kin to the libertarians,
   including some anarchists, some classical liberals, and even a
   political neoconservative or two. But many extropians have no
   interest in  politics at all, and many are actively anti-political.
   Extropians have a principle called "spontaneous order", but politics
   is by no means the only domain in which they apply it. 

So are Cyberpunks any or all of the above, well not really. One person's 
"Cyberpunk" is another's obnoxious teenager with some technical skill 
thrown in, a self-designated Cyberpunk looking for the latest trend to 
identify with or yet another mass media label used as a marketing ploy. 
Whilst most Cyberpunks understand, and some have a a good working 
knowledge of the above definitions, these pursuits are seen as a means, 
rather than an end. The "end" of course depends upon your own personal 
goals.

There are those who claim that "Cyberpunk" is indefinable, which in some 
sense it is. Moreover, most regulars on alt.cp are uncomfortable about 
even implying that there actually are any cyberpunks. The point being 
that we all live in a cyberpunk society today, after all Gisbon himself 
said "The future has arrived; it's just not evenly distributed".

Therefore, by definition most some people are already Cyberpunks. That 
is why when some post on alt.cp claiming that "I am a cyberpunk" don't 
get flamed to death, just ignored, whereas statements such as "survival 
through technological superiority" get flamed from here to eternity and 
back.

In the end, anybody insisting they are a Cyberpunk will probably get 
flamed in alt.cyberpunk. Think of it as a trial by ordeal. John Shirley 
(noted cyberpunk author) didn't make it through the entrance exam. 
Chairman Bruce might just hack it, but AFAIK he's never come visiting.



3. What is cyberspace ?

To my knowledge, the term "Cyberspace" (www.cs.uidaho.edu/lal/cyberspace
/cyberspace.html) was first used by William Gibson in his story "Burning 
Chrome". That work first describes users using devices called 
"cyberdecks" to override their normal sensory organs, presenting them 
with a full-sensory interface to the world computer network. When doing 
so, said users are "in cyberspace". (The concept had appeared prior to 
Gibson, most notably in Vernor Vinge's story "True Names"). "Cyberspace" 
is thus the metaphorical "place" where one "is" when accessing the world 
computer net. 

Even though Gibson's vision of how cyberspace is in some sense, surreal, 
it has stimulated many in the computing community. The word "cyberspace" 
is commonly used in the "mainstream world" with reference to the 
emergent world-wide computer network (especially the Internet). Also, 
some researchers in the "virtual reality" arena of computer science are 
trying to implement something like Gibson's Matrix into a more general 
computer-generated environment, even if its purpose is not "accessing 
the net". 



4. Cyberpunk Literature

The following is intended to be a short list of the best in-print 
Cyberpunk works. Note that quite a few works written before 1980 have 
been retroactively labelled "Cyberpunk" due to stylistic similarities, 
eg Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, or similar themes such as Brunner's The 
Shockwave Rider or Delany's Nova).

   William Gibson's Neuromancer, about a cracker operating in
   cyberspace, a cybernetically-enhanced bodyguard/mercenary, and a pair
   of mysterious AIs, got the ball rolling as far as Cyberpunk is
   concerned. It won the Hugo, Nebula, P. K. Dick, Seiun, and Ditmar
   awards, something no other SF work has done.

   Gibson wrote two sequels in the same setting, Count Zero and Mona
   Lisa Overdrive. Gibson also has a collection of short stories,
   Burning Chrome, which contains three stories in Neuromancer's
   setting, as well as several others, such as the excellent "The Winter
   Market" and "Dogfight".

   Gibson's two most recent works are Virtual Light and Idoru; they 
   share a setting (San Francisco and Tokyo, respectively, of the near
   future) and a few characters, but are otherwise independent. Compared
   to his first trilogy, the technology they posit is less advanced in
   some ways and they are more theme-driven than plot-driven, but they
   deal with many of the same concerns as other cyberpunk works.
   "Idoru" is a Japanese borrowing of the English "idol", and refers to
    a media-company-manufactured pop-music star, a "virtual" example of
   which plays a prominent role in Idoru.

   Bruce Sterling's anthology Crystal Express contains all of the
   "Shaper/Mechanist" short stories about the future humanity and "post-
   humanity". Those short stories are also available with Schismatrix, a
   Shaper/Mechanist novel, in the combined volume Schismatrix Plus. Also
   to be found in Crystal Express is "Green Days in Brunei", a story
   which shares the setting of Sterling's novel Islands in the Net. Both
   are near-future extrapolations in worlds very similar to our own.
   Sterling also has another collection in print, Globalhead.

   Sterling edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology, which contains
   stories by many authors; some are questionably cyberpunk, but it has
   some real gems ("Mozart in Mirrorshades" being one). 

   Sterling's latest novel is Holy Fire, set in a "gerontocratic" late
   21st century Earth dominated by the "medical-industrial complex", and
   focuses on a group of young European artists, hackers, and
   intellectuals determined to go their own way in a world domianted by
   elderly wealth.

   Gibson and Sterling collaboratively wrote The Difference Engine, a
   novel called "steampunk" by some; it deals with many Cyberpunk themes
   by using an alternate 19th-century Britain where Babbage's mechanical
   computer technology has been fully developed.


   Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, carries cyberpunk to a humorous
   extreme; what else can one say about a work where the Mafia delivers
   pizza and the main character's name is "Hiro Protagonist"?

   Larry McCaffrey edited an anthology, Storming the Reality Studio,
   which has snippets of many cyberpunk works, as well as critical
   articles about cyberpunk, and a fairly good bibliography. Other works
   of criticism are Bukatman's Terminal Identity and Slusser and
   Shippey's Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative.

Some other good cyberpunk works include:

   Walter Jon Williams, Hardwired: a smuggler who pilots a hovertank
   decides to take on the Orbital Corporations that control his world.

   Walter Jon Williams, Voice Of The Whirlwind: a corporate soldier's
   clone tries to discover what happened to his "original copy".

   Greg Bear, Blood Music: a genetic engineer "uplifts" some of his own
   blood cells to human-level intelligence, with radical consequences.

   Pat Cadigan, Synners: hackers and other misfits pursue a deadly new
   "virus" when direct brain interfaces first appear in near-future LA 

   Jeff Noon, Vurt: a Clockwork Orange-esque tale in an England where
   virtual reality is truly the opiate of the masses.

Some good out-of-print works to look for are Cadigan's Mindplayers, 
Michael Swanwick's Vacuum Flowers, Daniel Keyes Moran's The Long Run, 
and Vernor Vinge's short story "True Names".



5. Magazines About Cyberpunk and Related Topics

Some magazines which are popular among Cyberpunk fans are:

   Mondo 2000
   P O Box 10171 Berkeley 
   CA 94709-0171 
   Voice (510)845-9018, Fax (510)649-9630 
   Editorials: editor@mondo2000.com Subscriptions: 
   subscriptions@mondo2000.com Advertising:
   advertising@mondo2000.com 
   HTTP site: http://www.mondo2000.com/

Many Cyberpunk fans have an uneasy relationship with Mondo 2000, their 
esteem for it varies according to the amount of technical content and 
affected hipness in the articles. Nonetheless, if anything could claim 
to be the Cyberpunk "magazine of record", this is it. With the departure 
of many of those providing creative impetus (notably, R.U. Sirius), its 
days may be numbered.

   bOING-bOING 
   11288 Ventura Boulevard #818 
   Studio City, CA 91604 
   Voice (310)854-5747, Fax (310)289-4922 
   mark@well.com 
   HTTP site: http://www.well.com/user/mark/

bOING-bOING's status is uncertain; most of its writers now work for 
Wired, it has ceased newsstand distribution and no longer offers 
subscriptions. However, if one can get a copy, it's worth looking at.

   Wired 
   P.O. Box 191826 
   San Francisco, CA 94119 
   Voice (415)904-0660 Fax (415)904-0669 Credit-card subscriptions: 1-
   800- SO-WIRED (1-800-769-4733) 
   Information: info@wired.com Subscriptions: subscriptions@wired.com 
   HTTP site: http://www.hotwired.com

The magazine which, through aggressive positioning, has managed to 
become the "magazine of record" for modern techno-aware culture. It's 
aimed more at technically-oriented professionals with disposable income, 
but many cyberpunk fans like the articles on network and future related 
topics.

   SF EYE 
   P.O. Box 18539 
   Asheville, NC 28814 
   HTTP site: http://www.empathy.com/eyeball

Described by some as the "house organ of the cyberpunk movement", 
founded by Stephen P. Brown at the urging of his friends Gibson, 
Shirley, and Sterling. Published semi-annually, and contains a regular 
column by Sterling.

   Phrack 
   603 W. 13th #1A-27 
   8 Austin, TX, 78701 
   phrack@well.com FTP site: ftp.fc.net.com:/pub/phrack 
   HTTP site: http://freeside.com/phrack.html

   2600 Magazine 
   Subscription correspondence: 2600 Subscription Dept., 
   P.O. Box 752, Middle Island 
   NY, 11953-0752 

   Letters/Article Submissions: 2600 Editorial Dept 
   P.O. Box 99, Middle Island 
   NY, 11953-0099 
   2600@well.com FTP site: ftp.2600.com:/pub 
   HTTP site: http://www.2600.com/

Two mainstays of the computer underground. Phrack deals more with people 
and goings-on in the community, while 2600 focuses on techinical 
information.

   21C 
   HTTP site: http://www.21c.com.au



6. Cyberpunk in the Visual Media (Movies and TV).

TV gave us the late, lamented Max Headroom (www.kiss.com/richter/max/
max.html), which featured oodles of cyberpunk concepts. The Bravo cable
network and the Sci-Fi Channel (www.scifi.com/) are rerunning the few 
episodes that were made. TV also gave us the somewhat bloated Wild
Palms, with a "cyberspace", evil corporations, and a cameo by Gibson.

Also shown on the Sci-Fi Channel is TekWar (www.scifi.com/tekwar), a 
series based on William Shatner's "Tek" novels, which evolved from a set 
of TV movies based on those novels. While possessing some tranditionally 
cyberpunk elements and extended "cyberspace runs", they (or at least the 
TV movies) tend to boil down to good guys vs. bad guys cop stories. 
(TekLords features a central plot element that those who have read Snow 
Crash will  recognize.)

Blade Runner, based loosely on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream 
of Electric Sheep? is considered the archetypical cyberpunk movie. 
(Gibson has said that the visuals in Blade Runner match his vision of 
the urban future in Neuromancer.) Few other movies have matched it; some 
that are considered cyberpunk or marginally so are Alien and its 
sequels, Freejack, The Lawnmower Man, Until The End Of The World, the 
"Terminator" movies, Total Recall, Strange Days, and Brainstorm.

Cyberpunk stories can also be found in Japanese anime films, including 
the Bubblegum Crisis series and Ghost in the Shell.

There is an hourlong documentary called "Cyberpunk" available on video 
from Mystic Fire Video. It features some interview-style conversation 
with Gibson, is generally low-budget, and the consensus opinion on the 
net is that it isn't really worth anyone's time. Gibson is apparently 
embarrassed by it.

Regarding films based on Gibson stories: At one point a fly-by-night 
operation called "Cabana Boys Productions" had the rights to 
Neuromancer; this is why the front of the Neuromancer computer game's 
box claims it is "soon to be a motion picture from Cabana Boys". The 
rights have since reverted to Gibson, who is sitting on them at 
themoment.

Gibson's short story "Johnny Mnemonic" was made into a big-budget full-
length motion picture (us.imdb.org/search). Gibson himself wrote the
screenplay and was a close consultant to the director; the result
"has his blessing", so to speak. As might be expected, there are many
additions to the short story as well as outright differences. The film
contains elements not only from the original story, but also from 
Neuromancer and Virtual Light; there is much more violent action, and
the ending is more upbeat. Very significantly, Molly does not appear
in the film; her place is taken by a character named "Jane" (who has no
inset eyeglasses or retractable claws) due to issues surrounding use of
the Molly character in any future Neuromancer production. (The film was
not a critical or box-office success in the U.S., which Gibson has
partly blamed on the post-production editing; he claims the longer
Japanese release is the better one.)

"The Gernsback Continuum" was adapted into a short (15 minute) film in 
Britain; it has been shown on some European TV networks, but I don't 
know if it's available in the US. Rumors also abound that "New Rose 
Hotel" will be brought to the big screen by various directors. Other 
rumors claim that Count Zero will be made into a film titled The Zen 
Differential.

William Gibson wrote one of the many scripts for Alien 3. According to 
him, only one detail from his script made its way to the actual film: 
the bar codes visible on the backs of the prisoners' shaved heads. A 
synopsis of Gibson's script can be found in part 3 of the Alien Movies 
FAQ (ftp://rtmf.mit.edu/pub/ usenet/news.answers/movies/alien-faq) list 
or the whole script via ftp at cathouse.org:/pub/cathouse/movies/scripts
/alien.iii. Alternatively, try the Internet Movies Database 
(us.imdb.orf/).



7. Blade Runner

The Blade Runner FAQ is available via FTP or URL (www.uq.oz.au/
~csmchapm/bladerunner) and answers many of the more common questions 
Here are short answers to the most common.

   There are several alternate versions. The original theatrical
   release in the US omitted the Batty-Tyrell eye-gouging sequence and a
   few other bits; these were added back in Europe and the video
   release. In 1992, a "director's cut" was released, now available on
   video, which omits the Deckard voiceover and the "happy" ending, and
   reinserts the "unicorn scene". Before that, however, a different cut
   (known as the "workprint") was shown at two theaters, one in LA, the
   other in San Francisco, for a brief period; this has a different
   title sequence and soundtrack, some different dialogue, no voiceover
   and no happy ending, but no unicorn sequence.

   The 5/6 replicants problem: This is widely accepted as an editing
   glitch which slipped through to the release. The film originally
   featured a fifth "live" replicant, "Mary", who was later deleted. In
   the workprint, the line "one got fried ..." is changed to "two got
   fried ...". Bryant does not include Rachel in the original six
   escaped replicants. However ...

   Internal clues, such as lack of emotion, the photographs, and the
   reflective eyes, do suggest that Deckard is a replicant. However,
   this is not explicitly stated in any cut. The "unicorn scene" gives
   this theory more weight.

An excellent resource for any fan is Paul Sammon's in-depth book Future 
Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, which goes over the differences 
between the various version in minute detail.

K.W. Jeter has written two novels which are sequels to the movie: Blade 
Runner 2: The Edge of Human and Blade Runner: Replicant Night. One's 
judgement of the "appropriateness" of this may be influenced by the fact 
that Jeter was a good friend of Philip K. Dick's. The first sequel deals 
very directly with the "extra replicant" and "Deckard a replicant?"  
issues. The second sequel involves Deckard's participation in making a 
movie about his experiences hunting Roy Batty et. al. (as seen by us in 
the movie). More sequels by Jeter are apparently to come.



8. Cyberpunk Music / Dress / Aftershave

There are a lot of posts to alt.cyberpunk asking what Cyberpunk's like, 
do, wear etc. These posts are seen as inane due to the reason they are 
asked, ie, "Cyberpunk sounds cool, how can I become one". Cyberpunk is 
not a fashion statement, therefore little of this FAQ is taken up with 
such matters.

In late 1993 Billy Idol released an album called "Cyberpunk", which 
garnered some media attention; it seems to have been a commercial and 
critical flop. Billy made some token appearances on the net in 
alt.cyberpunk and on the WELL, but his public interest in the area seems 
to have waned. No matter how sincere his intentions might have been, 
scorn and charges of commercialization have been heaped upon him in this 
and other forums.



9. CP Authors' email addresses?

This FAQ used to list the email addresses of some cyberpunk authors.
This may have been appropriate in the days when the number of Internet
users was much smaller. However, the potential for authors to be flooded
with fan mail (or commercial advertisements sent to addresses extracted
by WWW search engines) has increased to the point where the need to
respect authors' privacy and working time, outweighs the desire to give
fans addresses in one convenient location. You may instead want to
consult public email directories for the email addresses for authors
of interest.

However, before you ask for William Gibson's, you should know that at 
the time of writing this FAQ, he had no public email address. In fact, 
he doesn't really care about computers all that much; he didn't use one 
until he wrote Mona Lisa Overdrive, and was thinking of kids playing 
videogames when he developed his "cyberspace".



10. What is "PGP" ?

"PGP" is short for "Pretty Good Privacy", a public-key cryptosystem that 
is the mainstay of the Cypherpunk movement. However, before I describe 
what PGP is, I think it may be of useful to firstly explain why it 
should be used, and the best reason I've heard comes from the guy who 
developed it, Phil Zimmerman.

Why Use PGP ?

"It's personal. It's private. And it's no one's business but yours. You 
may be planning a political campaign, discussing your taxes, or having 
an illicit affair. Or you may be doing something that you feel shouldn't 
be illegal, but is. Whatever it is, you don't want your private 
electronic mail (E-mail) or confidential documents read by anyone else. 
There's nothing wrong with asserting your privacy. Privacy is as apple-
pie as the Constitution.

Perhaps you think your E-mail is legitimate enough that encryption is 
unwarranted. If you really are a law-abiding citizen with nothing to 
hide, then why don't you always send your paper mail on postcards? Why 
not submit to drug testing on demand? Why require a warrant for police 
searches of your house? Are you trying to hide something? You must be a 
subversive or a drug dealer if you hide your mail inside envelopes. Or 
maybe a paranoid nut. Do law-abiding citizens have any need to encrypt 
their E-mail?

What if everyone believed that law-abiding citizens should use postcards 
for their mail? If some brave soul tried to assert his privacy by using 
an envelope for his mail, it would draw suspicion. Perhaps the 
authorities would open his mail to see what he's hiding. Fortunately, we 
don't live in that kind of world, because everyone protects most of
their mail with envelopes. So no one draws suspicion by asserting their 
privacy with an envelope. There's safety in numbers. Analogously, it 
would be nice if everyone routinely used encryption for all their E-
mail, innocent or not, so that no one drew suspicion by asserting their 
E-mail privacy with encryption. Think of it as a form of solidarity."

PGP and the Public-Key Cryptosystem

A public-key cryptosystem allows one to send secret messages with the 
assurance that the receiver will know who the sender was. (This is 
important if, say, you are sending your credit-card number to buy an 
expensive item; ordinary e-mail is somewhat easy to fake.) The message 
is said to be "signed" by a "digital signature". Consider two people, 
Alice and Bob. Each has two mathematical functions, constructed via two 
"keys", A and B. A message encrypted with key A can be decrypted only by 
key B, and a message encrypted with key B can be decrypted only by key 
A. Key A is kept secret, known only to its owner, and is called the 
"private" key; key B is given to anyone who wants it, and is called the 
"public" key.

Suppose Alice is sending a message to Bob. She first encrypts it with 
her private key, and then encrypts the result with Bob's public key. 
This is then sent to Bob. Bob decrypts the message using his private 
key, and decrypts the result with Alice's public key. The fact that he 
was able to decrypt using his private key means Alice inteded themessage 
for him, and that only he can read it; the fact that Alice's public key 
decrypted the result means that Alice was the true author of the message 
(since only Alice has the required private key to encrypt). Thus, when 
you see a "PGP public key block" at the end of someone's Usenet posts, 
that's the "public key" that you can use to encrypt secret messages to 
them.

PGP Sites can be found at: http://www.pgp.net/pgpnet/, or http://www.csu
a.berkeley.edu/cypherpunks/home.html. There's also an excellent resource 
on anonymous remailers at http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~raph/remailer-
list.html. Alternatively, there are two newsgroups dealing with PGP and 
encryption, namely alt.cypherpunk and comp.security.pgp.



11. What is "Agrippa" ?

"Agrippa: A Book of the Dead", the textual component of an art project, 
was written by William Gibson in 1992. Gibson wrote a semi-
autobiographical poem, which was placed onto a computer disk. This disk 
was part of a limited release of special "reader" screens; the reader 
units themselves had etchings by Dennis Ashbaugh which were light-
sensitive, and slowly changed from one form to another, final, form, 
when exposed to light. Also, the text of the poem, when read, was erased 
from the disk - it could only be read once.

On the net, opinion on the Agrippa project ranged from "what an 
interesting concept; it challenges what we think 'art' should be" to 
"Gibson has sold out to the artsy-fartsy crowd" to "Gibson is right to 
make a quick buck off these art people".

Naturally (some would say according to Gibson's plan), someone got hold 
of the text of "Agrippa" and posted it to Usenet. A public copy can be 
found in the file "gopher://english-server.hss.cmu.edu:/English.Server/F
iction/Gibson-Agrippa". The previous author of this FAQ, Erich 
Schneider, has a copy (bush.cs.tamu.edu/~erich/agrippa) as well 
as a copy of a parody (bush.cs.tamu.edu/~erich/agrippa_parody).



12. Other on-line resources

Usenet

   - Usenet FAQs repository (ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/)
   - Usenet Database, Dejanews (http://www.dejanews.co.uk./)

SF and Cyberpunk Literature

   - Rutgers SF archive: FTP (ftp://sfloves.rutgers.edu/pub/sf-
     lovers/) or URL (sflovers.rutgers.edu/web/SFRG/) 
   - Pat Cadigan info (www.wmin.ac.uk/~fowler/patcadigan.html).
   - William Gibson web site (www.vkool.com/gibson/) or bibliography 
     (www.slip.net/~spage/gibson/biblio.htm).
   - Richard Kadrey's novel Metrophage (gopher.well.com/70/1/
     Publications/authors/kadrey/metro/).  
   - Tom Maddox's novel Halo (gopher.well.com/70/1/Publications/
     authors/maddox/halo/). 
   - Daniel Keys Moran (www.kithrup.com/dkm/).
   - Rudy Rucker's home page (www.mathcs.sjsu.edu/faculty/rucker/
     rucker.html). 
   - John Shirley info (www.darkecho.com/JohnShirley.html). 
   - Bruce Sterling info (rice.info.rice.edu/projects/RDA/VitrualCity/
     Sterling/index.html or ftp://oak.zilker.net/bruces). An copy of his
     nonfiction book "The Hacker Crackdown" (gopher.well.com/70/1/
     Publications/authors/Sterling/hc/).,about the attacks on the
     "computer underground" in 1990. 
   - Walter Jon Williams' home page (www.thuntek.net~walter/index.html).
   - Jason Harrison's Directory of Cyberpunk fiction (http://www.cs.ubc.
     ca/spider/harrison)

Hackers and Phreaks

   - Survival Research Labs, that incomparable group of artists and
     hardware hackers, has an HTTP site at "http://www.srl.org/".
     Another URL site can to be found at http://www.construct.net/
     projects/srl/".
   - Many files of relevance to the real-life "computer underground" and
     the hacking/phreaking communities can be found in one of the
     "Computer Underground Digest" sites. One of these is at
     "ftp://etext.archive.umich.edu:/pub/CuD", and includes a complete
     set of issues of Phrack magazine. The Digest itself has an HTTP
     site at "http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~cudigest"; new issues are posted
     to the Usenet newsgroup "comp.society.cu-digest". Phrack issues can
     also be had via Phrack's HTTP site, at "http://freeside.com/phrack.
     html". 


Happy exploring!


=====================================================================
Frank                                          www.knarf.demon.co.uk/

"What is now proved was once       |    PGP Public Key available from
 only imagined" - William Blake    |    pgp@knarf.demon.co.uk



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