Cyberpunk Comes to Life: Virtual Popstar Hits the “Stage,” Tomorrow Night

Okay, so I’m in a bit of a quandary. There’s a “show” (the reason for the quotes’ll be apparent in a sentence or two, here) going on tomorrow, Thurs., November 10th, over at the Marq*E Stadium 23 on I-10 (just west of 610), starting at 7PM (you can get tickets here), and I’ve resisted the urge to add it to the shows list so far. I’m honestly not sure I should.

The reason is, well, partly because it’s a simulcast-type thing that’s being broadcast to a handful of theaters in the States and elsewhere, but mostly because the “musician”/”singer”/whatever isn’t real — it’s what’s called a Vocaloid, and “her” name (damn, these quotes are getting old) is Hatsune Miku. Apparently she/it is kind of like a super-advanced version of that creepy-sounding software that speaks whatever you type, except in this case, she/it sings whatever the hell you type. And she/it is immensely popular in Japan.

This may not be news to folks who observe Japanese culture, but holy crap, it is to me. I mean, I get Gorillaz or Dethklok, but those are essentially cartoons with a real band singing and playing songs some songwriter came up with. Hatsune Miku cuts out the band entirely, instead just “singing” songs people write for her/it. (According to Wikipedia, people have written more than 22,000 songs for her/it to sing. Whoa.)

In short, she’s an anime character who’s become a pop star, despite being a piece of sophisticated software with marketing tacked on the front. And that disturbs me somewhat, for reasons I can’t entirely explain.

I remember reading William Gibson‘s novel Idoru — the title character of which is an A.I. pop star that learns from interactions with people — back in the late ’90s, when I heavy into my cyberpunk-lit phase, and chuckling, figuring there was no way anything like that would happen in my lifetime, at the very least. A “virtual idol”? That’d never fly.

And now, here we are. We now live in a world where computer-generated cartoons are pop stars, people get (briefly) married just to make a few million dollars, and colleges actively recruit athletes to play a “sport” described in a fantasy novel.

What the hell planet is this, again?

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