The Cyberpunk Apocalypse is a one-of-a-kind close-quarters residency and MFA alternative for writers in Pittsburgh, a household centered around literature where 36 writers from across the US and Canada have lived and worked over the last five years. When it began it was the only zine residency in the US and continues to be the only writer’s residency that puts comic artists, zinesters, novelists, journalists, poets, translators, and any kind of writer on the same competitive level. Writers come to the Cyberpunk Apocalypse with very different skill sets and overlapping interests, which makes each creator a resource for their fellow residents and creates room for rapid growth and collaboration. Each resident has personal goals connected to every new project they take on, while the goal of Cyberpunk is twofold: to support the residents in their pursuits and to advance literature through exploring and building alternative non-academic routes for writers.
So much about the literary world today is defined by the conveniences of academia. The genre of “literary fiction” as separate from “popular fiction” feels born of professors struggling to justify their position as master when so few of them have books that sell. The common literary practice of group critique known as “the workshop” can seem more valuable as a way to occupy 15 writers’ time in a tidy time slot than as a way to advance the craft or skill of writers. Even classifying writers as poets, fiction writers, or creative nonfiction writers is more about separating classes and degree tracts than it is about the work or the people producing it.
The way these aspects of the higher education system affect writing will only become obvious with a modern equivalent as comparison. And while there are as many paths to becoming a writer as there are writers in the world, there are few organizations that provide support, cross-promotion, and validation to self-proclaimed writers, and there are fewer still that have been around long enough to build a camp of writing. The Cyberpunk Apocalypse exists in part as an example of one possibility and a call for other individuals to imagine an environment and path in which great writers, and by extension quality thought, can be produced.