What is Cyberpunk?

Trying to define Cyberpunk is a difficult task.  In short, however, Cyberpunk refers to both a culture and a genre.

Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that features advanced science and technology in an urban, dystopian future.  On one side you have powerful mega-corporations and private security forces, and on the other you have the dark and gritty underworld of illegal trade, gangs, drugs, and vice.  In between all of this is politics, corruption, and social upheaval.

“High tech.  Low life.”

Cyberpunk is also a culture with attitude and a distinct style.  Anti-authoritarian, brand-averse, tech-literate; these are just some of the qualities you may find in a cyberpunk.

Cyberpunk street illustration
It’s all there; high-tech, hard-boiled detective, femme fatale, a city at night.

Looking for a long answer?  Read on!

Cyberpunk Origins

Cyberpunk began as a literary movement but has become a subcultural organism. “What is Cyberpunk?” is a complex and multi-layered question, whose answer is ever-changing as the subculture and our perception of the future changes. The tendrils, that began in the written word, have infiltrated beyond movies to all forms of art, fashion and philosophy generating an all-encompassing and ever-growing subculture.

There are number of ways to examine the origins of the cyberpunk movement. The term “cyberpunk” itself can be traced to the short story Cyberpunk by Bruce Bethke. Then of course, there are the core cyberpunk authors that are generally accepted to have laid the ground work of the cyberpunk movement William Gibson (Gibson is considered the founder of Cyberpunk), Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley and Lewis Shiner. There are also a number of precursor novels that had strong themes and imagery that would be later associated with the cyberpunk genre such as The Demolished Man (1953) and The Stars My Destination (1956) by Alfred Bester, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) by Phillip K. Dick, Dr. Adder (Written in 1972, but not published until 1984) by K.W. Jeter, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) by Thomas Pynchon, The Shockwave Rider (1975) by John Brunner, and True Names (1981) by Vernor Vinge. More recently Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash (1992), is largely credited with bringing cyberpunk into the post-cyberpunk era.

William Gibson
William Gibson
Blade Runner
Blade Runner

“I was afraid to watch Blade Runner in the theater because I was afraid the movie would be better than what I myself had been able to imagine. In a way, I was right to be afraid, because even the first few minutes were better.”

“I met Ridley Scott years later, maybe a decade or more after Blade Runner was released. I told him what Neuromancer was made of, and he had basically the same list of ingredients for Blade Runner.”

Blade Runner and Neuromancer were a convergence event that created the filmological and literary birth of a movement. Blade Runner influenced, and still does, all cyberpunk that would come after it visually, the same way that Neuromancer influenced, and still does, all cyberpunk literature. Cyberpunk never was just a literary genre.

Finding a Definition

We can break down a basic definition of cyberpunk by dissecting the word itself. Cyber refers to technology, and is most often associated with cyberspace (this word was originally coined by William Gibson himself), and cybernetic enhancements to the body. But this can can also refer to other technologies such as biotechnology and nanotechnology for instance.

Punk, on the other hand, refers to the people and the attitude that cyberpunk has. Protagonists in cyberpunk tend to be outsiders, anti-heros, outcasts, criminals, visionaries, dissenters, and misfits. The underlying aspect that applies to all of these groups is their subversive nature.

Cyberpunk 2077 guy
One version of a cyberpunk from the in-development Cyberpunk 2077 game.

To subvert is to overthrow or undermine something. The cyberpunk genre itself subverted science fiction, and we never looked back. To be punk is to question authority, and to actively subvert any of that authority you don’t agree with. Different people do this in different ways, just as our cyberpunk protagonists do. An example is Motoko Kusanagi from the Ghost in the Shell franchise. On the surface she seems to be a tool and agent for the Japanese government.  This is true, but this is not what defines her, nor how she defines herself. Throughout the series she is not afraid to go rogue and take things into her own hands if it will get her closer to what she thinks is right – fuck the politicians. She is a subversive element within the government.

The Essence of Cyberpunk

There are a number of quotes that help to illustrate the essence of cyberpunk:

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” – William Gibson

This quote puts the cyber/punk and the “High Tech, Low Life,” dichotomy into context. There exists today high technology, but this technology has failed to erode away social divisions leaving a disparity between the classes which leads to social strife. In addition, although this technology exists the low class does not have the means by which to benefit from it, thus widening the divide as the rich elite get richer and thus have more access to technology.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Hengsha city
The physically divided city of Hengsha from Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a human being.”Bruce Sterling

This is an important concept. We do terrible things to rats in the pursuit of progress, and we are not impervious to any of them. Many cyberpunk plots resolve around some sort of drug effect or brain tampering that we have, in reality, already done to rats. It’s just a matter of time before we start tampering with ourselves in the same ways. Rats are just the preview.

“The street finds it’s own use for things.” – William Gibson

This gets down to the punk/low life aspect of cyberpunk and puts it into the context of the open source, maker, and DIY movements. The rate of technological development is so fast that we generate a lot of stuff that is just there, and obsolete. These things lose their perceived value and are discarded, but then this refuse can be repurposed and used in ways that the original creators never would have imagined. Like using a DVD player to test for HIV.

Cyberpunk Off-Shoots

Biopunk is a subgenre of cyberpunk, that focuses more on the biological technologies such as genetic manipulation. Often cited examples are Gattaca, and Dark Angel. These can be considered cyberpunk because although Biopunk tends to lack the cyberspace and cybernetic aspects that cyberpunk sports, it is faithful to the “High Tech, Low Life,” aspects. It is a different visualization of the same ideas.

Post-Cyberpunk is a modern reaction to the now antiquated visual qualities of ’80s inspired cyberpunk. Post-Cyberpunk tends to have a greater focus on Transhumanism, space travel, and emerging technologies that weren’t imagined at the time of the ’80s.

Being Cyberpunk

A cyberpunk has attitude. This attitude is culturally and socially aware, just like the fiction from which they take their name. They question everything and anyone and decide for themselves what they believe is true. This path to understanding yields different world views and opinions, but diversity is key to a successful population. A cyberpunk knows that the system isn’t in your favor, and the deck is stacked against you. A cyberpunk knows how to hack the system so that doesn’t matter. Don’t fuck with a cyberpunk.

Cyberpunk Hacker.

A cyberpunk has style. This style can be different for each person. It can be practical (Mil-Tec) or flashy (Cybergoth). The style often mirrors the cyberpunk personal philosophy and thus can vary drastically. There are recurring themes such as traditional punk, Blade Runner-inspired, Matrix-inspired, CPUs, Mil-Tec, and Cybergoth.

When is Cyberpunk?

Cyberpunk is now. Many of the things that were predicted in cyberpunk are coming to pass today. Improvements in prosthetics and brain computer interface have resulted in brain controlled prosthetics, a mainstay of cyberpunk. Corporations increasing dominate global politics, and influence culture creating a situation ripe for subversion. The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer, creating a larger and larger divide. The cyberworld is ever merging with the real world through things such as the Internet of Things, social media, mobile technology, virtual reality, and augmented reality. Hackers have brought gangs, corporations, governments, and individuals to their knees. We have entered the cyberpunk age. Welcome.

Cyberpunk has spread to all forms of media, creating a subculture rather a simple genre. There are cyberpunk movies, television, comics, music, and art everywhere. All you have to do is look. Cyberpunk has influenced fashion, architecture, and philosophy. Cyberpunk has become much more than what it was when it began. And it will continue to evolve and become more relevant as we move further from the Cyberpunk Now into the Cyberpunk Future.

Cyberpunk Is Now
‘Cyberpunk Is Now’ by Khultar.


NOTE: The development of this article is on-going and discussion is open to everyone.  We actively encourage you to contribute your ideas and opinions in the comments below, and to challenge the definition we provide where necessary.

44 Responses to “What is Cyberpunk?”

  1. Now this is a topic that’s very close to my heart!

    Here are a some of quotes that might be useful for thinking about what cyberpunk is and where it came from – I’ve got plenty more, but these are some of my favorites:

    “Although cyberpunk is now viewed as a successful subgenre of SF, it was indeed controversial when we started. But that’s the way we wanted it. All of us had, and still have, an implacable and unrelenting desire to shatter the limits of consensus reality. If nobody’s pissed off, you’re not trying hard enough….We started writing cyberpunk because we had a really strong discontent with the status quo in science fiction, and with the state of human society at large.”
    – Rudy Rucker

    “I didn’t have a manifesto. I had some discontent. It seemed to me that midcentury mainstream American science fiction had often been triumphalist and militaristic, a sort of folk propaganda for American exceptionalism. I was tired of America-as-the-future, the world as a white monoculture, the protagonist as a good guy from the middle class or above. I wanted there to be more elbow room. I wanted to make room for antiheroes.

    I also wanted science fiction to be more naturalistic. There had been a poverty of description in much of it. The technology depicted was so slick and clean that it was practically invisible. What would any given SF favorite look like if we could crank up the resolution? As it was then, much of it was like video games before the invention of fractal dirt. I wanted to see dirt in the corners.”
    – William Gibson

    “Science fiction was stuck in a complacent groove by the 1980s. You could go into a bookstore and find Arthur C. Clarke’s next Odyssey installment or Isaac Asimov’s books about the three laws of robotics. Robert Heinlein was still churning out sex and philosophy. But despite the efforts of a variety of literary insurgencies, science fiction felt very much like it did 20 or 30 years before. It was a La-Z-Boy-recliner experience of the future. Competent men of science did competent things, aerospace was the coolest tech, and politics revolved around the conflicts of nation states. And then came cyberpunk—Pat Cadigan, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling. It was subversive and gritty, a poetry-kaleidoscope trip into the for-profit future. Faceless corporations loomed over the ant-sized dramas of human endeavors, moving billions of dollars and yen around the globe while the human beings of the story scrapped it out on the streets. It was cyberspace and console cowboys, leather jackets, Zeiss eye implants, modded Russian knockoff prostheses, extinct horses, mirrorshades. The future was bizarre and threatening—and also strangely real.”
    – Paolo Bacigalupi

    “When we first started cyberpunk, we really wanted to come in under the radar – out of this little science fiction subculture – just knock people flat on their backs. And we really did it. Nobody could have foreseen the futures we imagined. Things have changed since the early days of cyberpunk and I, for one, am a lot more interested in the deep theoretical issues. Sure, I do stuff that’s like MTV video, flash imaginery – but with a sting in the tail. I want to get behind people’s eyes. I want to get to the stage of knowledge as power.”
    – Bruce Sterling

    “What’s really good about punk is that it’s fast and dense. It has lot of information. If you value information the most, then you don’t care about convention. It’s not “Who do you know?”; it’s “How fast are you? How dense?” It’s not, “Do you talk like my old friends?”; it’s “Is this interesting?” So what I’m talking about with cyberpunk is something like this: literate SF that’s easy to read, has a lot of information, and talks about the new thoughtforms that are coming out of the computer revolution.”
    – Rudy Rucker

    “What’s most important to me is that Neuromancer is about the present. It’s not really about an imagined future. It’s a way of trying to come to terms with the awe and terror inspired in me by the world in which we live. I’m anxious to know what they’ll make of it in Japan.”
    – William Gibson

    “Technology is not neutral. We’re inside of what we make, and it’s inside of us. We’re living in a world of connections – and it matters which ones get made and unmade”
    – Donna Haraway

    “As a literary form, what happened was what happens to every successful new thing in any branch of pop culture. Cyberpunk fiction went from being something unexpected, fresh, and original, to being a trendy fashion statement; to being a repeatable commercial formula; to being a hoary trope, complete with a set of stylistic markers and time-honored forms to which obeisance must be paid if one is to write True Cyberpunk….”
    – Bruce Bethke

    “Time and chance have been kind to the cyberpunks, but they themselves have changed with the years. A core doctrine in Movement theory was “visionary intensity.” But it has been some time since any cyberpunk wrote a truly mind-blowing story, something that writhed, heaved, howled, hallucinated and shattered the furniture. In the latest work of these veterans, we see tighter plotting, better characters, finer prose, much “serious and insightful futurism.” But we also see much less in the way of spontaneous back-flips and crazed dancing on tables. The settings come closer and closer to the present day, losing the baroque curlicues of unleased fantasy: the issues at stake become something horribly akin to the standard concerns of middle-aged responsibility. And this may be splendid, but it is not war.”
    – Bruce Sterling “Cyberpunk in the Nineties”

    “There is much bleakness in cyberpunk, but it is an honest bleakness. There is ecstasy, but there is also dread…This generation will have to watch a century of manic waste and carelessness hit home, and we know it. We will be lucky not to suffer greatly from ecological blunders already committed; we will be extremely lucky not to see tens of millions of fellow human beings dying horribly on television as we Westerners sit in our living rooms munching our cheeseburgers. And this is not some wacky Bohemian jeremiad; this is an objective statement about the condition of the world, easily confirmed by anyone with the courage to look at the facts. These prospects must and should effect our thoughts and expressions and, yes, our actions; and if writers close their eyes to this, they may be entertainers, but they are not fit to call themselves science fiction writers.”
    – Bruce Sterling “Cyberpunk in the Nineties”

    “Cyberpunk is roadkill on the information superhighway of the 1990s. No more and no less. Bruce Sterling more or less declared it dead in 1985, and he was right; as a movement within SF it had done its job by then. The world we live in is the future of the 1980s cyberpunks. This is not necessarily a good thing.”
    – Charles Stross

    “My friends who work in aerospace tell me the old guys who built the industry all grew up reading Heinlein and Clarke, and went into aerospace to turn those crazy things they read as kids into practical realities as adults. Well, I work in supercomputing, and I can assure you that this industry is full of young geniuses who grew up reading Gibson, Vinge, and Rucker — and yes, me — and they went into this field to do the same thing. We don’t quite live in the world that cyberpunk fiction predicted. But we live in the world that the kids who grew up reading cyberpunk fiction built, and that is a very cool thing indeed.”
    – Bruce Bethke

    “For me as a kid, reading cyberpunk was like seeing the world for the first time. Gibson’s Neuromancer wasn’t just stylistically stunning; it felt like the template for a future that we were actively building. I remember reading Sterling’s Islands in the Net and suddenly understanding the disruptive potential of technology once it got out into the street. Cyberpunk felt urgent. It wasn’t the future 15 minutes out—it was the future sideswiping you and leaving you in a full-body cast as it passed by. It was a desperately needed course correction. Science fiction had lost the thread of reality. Human beings weren’t going to the moon; we were going digital. Someone needed to grab the genre by the lapels and yank it around—force writers to look at the present moment and decipher its implications.”
    – Paolo Bacigalupi

    “The Future gets divided; the cute, insulated future that Joi Ito and Cory Doctorow and you and I inhabit, and the grim meathook future that most of the world is facing, in which they watch their squats and under-developed fields get turned into a giant game of Counterstrike between crazy faith-ridden jihadist motherfuckers and crazy faith-ridden American redneck motherfuckers, each doing their best to turn the entire world into one type of fascist nightmare or another. Of course, nobody really wants to talk about that future, because it’s depressing and not fun and doesn’t have Fischerspooner doing the soundtrack.”
    – Joshua Ellis

    “What a lot of people seemed to miss…was that the Grim Meathook Future emphatically isn’t the Mad Max postapocalypse where everybody runs around shooting at each other in body armor made of tractor tires and Wilson’s Leather remaindered items. That future — envisioned by many as a sort of antidote to the gee-whiz chrome-plated futures of Star Trek and 1950s rock-ribbed science fiction — is, in point of fact, entirely as ridiculous and unlikely as any of the technofetishistic Rapture-of-the-nerds bullshit that the transhumanists come up with. It’s a macho fantasy invented by the sort of libertarians who secretly pray for the Poor People to rise up and start a civil war so their friends will stop laughing at them for keeping a cache of automatic weapons next to their Lexus in the garage of their suburban enclave.”
    – Joshua Ellis

    “Welcome to J.G. Ballard’s future – fast becoming a consensus in its own right – where the future is essentially banal. It’s the sensible position to take right now. A writer called Venkatesh Rao recently used the term “manufactured normalcy” to describe this. Everything is designed to activate a psychological disposition to believe that we’re in a static and dull continuous present. Atemporality is the (dominant) condition of the early twenty-first century…Under manufactured normalcy nobody wins because everybody goes to sleep and reality never gets improved. But I’ll suggest something to you. All the theories of manufactured normalcy and zero history can be short-circuited by just one thing: simply looking around.

    If the future is dead, then we must summon it and learn how to see it properly again. You can’t see the present properly through a rear-view mirror because its in front of you. There are six people living in space right now. There are people printing prototypes of human organs and people printing nanowire tissue that will bond with human flesh. We’ve photographed the shadow of a single atom. We’ve got robot legs controlled by brain waves. Explorers have just stood in the deepest unsubmerged ploace on Earth – a cave more than two kilometers under Abkhazia. NASA is getting ready to launch three satellites the size of coffee mugs that will be controllable by mobile phone apps. Voyager One is more than eleven billion miles away and is still running off 64K of computing power and an eight-track tape deck.

    Understand that our present time is the furthest thing from banality. Reality as we know it is exploding with novelty every day. Not all of it is good. It is a strange and not entirely comfortable time to be alive. But I want you to feel the future as a presence…I want you to understand that the invisible thing in the room is the felt presence of living in a future time, and not in the years behind us. To be a futurist is not to have your face continually turned upstream, waiting for the future to arrive. It is to clearly see where you are are right now and wonder how to make that better. Act like you live in the science fiction condition, just for today.”
    – Warren Ellis

    “There are no normal people – just look at your relatives, the people you are in a position to know best. They’re all weird at some level below the surface. Yet conventional fiction very commonly shows us normal people in a normal world. As long as you labor under the feeling that you are the only weirdo, then you feel weak and apologetic. You are eager to go along with the establishment, and a bit frightened to make waves – lest you be found out. Actual people are weird and unpredictable, this is why it is so important to use them as characters instead of the impossibly good and bad paperdolls of mass-culture. The idea of breaking down consensus reality is even more important. This is where the tools of SF are particularly useful. Each mind is a reality unto itself. As long as people can be tricked into believing the reality of the 6:30 news, they can be herded like sheep”
    – Rudy Rucker, A Transrealist Manifesto

    “By the late 20th century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs. The cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centers structuring any possibility of historical transformation. In the tradition of Western science and politics. . . the relation between organism and machine has been a border war. The stakes in the border war have been the territories of production, reproduction, and imagination.”
    -Donna Haraway ‘Simians, Cyborgs & Women’

  2. I think it’s pretty clear that in the modern age we have the abilities to make cyberpunk a much more defined genre than at any point in the past. There seems to be an endless excitement about cyberpunk/A.I./singularity driven projects than ever before. Pretty excited about where it will lead in the future.

      • What’s funny is that I brought it up while watching Aliens with a few friends and none of them could agree with Aliens could be categorized as cyberpunk with the main point of contention being it isn’t a “dystopian future”.

      • I think we are seeing a revival of interest in cyberpunk as a subgenre. Partly that’s because we are living in a future that shares many similarities with what early cyberpunk authors predicted and its partly because the shape of the near future is starting to become clear. In the late 1990s, even Bruce Sterling was declaring cyberpunk dead and William Gibson was writing novels set in the present day. In SF, the late 2000s were dominated by the New Space Opera – the rediscovery and modernisation of space opera as a genre by people like Iain M Banks, Peter F. Hamilton, Neal Asher, Paul MacAuley, etc. What is interesting is that many of these authors applied the techniques of cyberpunk to more distant futures. But attention is returning to the near future and are being written by authors who grew up with cyberpunk – look at Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl (2014) or River of Gods by Ian McDonald (2004) or even the Halting State novels by Charles Stross (2007-2011) as examples. Also, many classic cyberpunk authors are returning to the genre – not only do we have The Peripheral by Gibson (2014), but it can be argued that Walter Jon William’s Dagmar Shaw series (2009-2012) is cyberpunk. Plus, the distinctive visual style of cyberpunk is becoming influential again – there aren’t many fictional genres that have developed such strong visual imagery. .

        • Would it be a good idea to have a definitive Cyberpunk reading list on this site?

          Perhaps it would be developing a reading list broken down into specific eras that show the development of the genre – Pre-Cyberpunk Influences (1960-1980), Classic Cyberpunk (1980-1990), The Second Wave (1990-1995), The Wilderness Years (1995-2007), The Cyberpunk Revival (2008-Present). It might even be possible to link to the books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

  3. Newbie here, reading prior comments. Chris Tong, on January 18 you referenced a discussion with friends as to whether “Aliens” could be cyberpunk when it was not in a dystopian setting. There’s a pretty good argument for dystopia, given that (the late) Paul Reiser ‘s character is the guy running the show. He’s a corporate weenie who is trying to take an alien back to Earth so his bosses can learn how to weaponize it, demonstrating that the corporation has serious power over government and military.

    A lot of great thinking here, and I appreciate the leads to books I haven’t yet read. I’d add to the list “Ship Breaker” and “Drowned Cities” by Bacigalupi. They are “young adult,” set in the same world as “Windup Girl,” but events take place in the southern and eastern United States, letting the author display more of his brilliantly conceived world.

  4. I never had even heard of Cyperpunk until I was looking at a book on Amazon and they had it classified as “Cyperpunk”. I immediately googled the word and found several definitions of the word. The book I am referring to is called “Avogadro Corp” by William Hertling. It is the accidental uprising of the first A.I. that sprung up after a coder at Avogadro wanted to go a little beyond the traditional spell checker. Really good book. I recommend it to all. When I get done with it, onto Neuromancer. Can’t wait to dive into it!

    • Isaac Wheeler (Veritas)

      Welcome to my favorite genre by far. I just finished listening to Neuromancer again on audiobook. Great novel all around. I haven’t heard of Avogadro Corp. I’ll have to look it up!

  5. Hey guys, we love your explanation for Cyberpunk. It’s such a lovely (sub-)genre. We love a lot of cyberpunk music, there are a few artists that deliver sensational music, often side by side with the Synthwave genre. “High tech. Low life.” – great site, we just set a link to it!

  6. I’ve been an on & off fan of this genre ever since I was into Sci-fi animes. I think the more socially isolated I’ve felt I got geographically & physically, the more fascinated I was with this sneaky ethos that I could connect with whoever underground with the very medium I’m using to type right now.
    I do agree that Cyberpunk may be now; only that as an observer I’ve been getting that society as whole is trying to go counterwise direction to the Dystopian aesthetics, while at the same time trying to keep depending & taking advantage on mobiles, sm’s, and other ever-increasing technology of present Century. Does that sound reverse-Dystopian?

  7. Isaac Wheeler (Veritas)

    Aesthetics are a great way to hide the darkness underneath the surface. Mirror’s Edge was a good example of this. Gleaming white towers in the sun, while corporations ruled everything.

  8. “In the game of life and evolution there are three players at the table: human beings, nature, and machines. I am firmly on the side of nature.

    But nature, I suspect, is on the side of the machines.”

    – George Dyson, ‘Darwin Among The Machines’

  9. Cyberpunk as a punk genre capitolizes on one idea, ‘reality cannot be cloaked by rose colored glasses’ rose coloring things is what major fiction likes to do, creating this definitive idea of black and white or a ‘romantic’ (goodie two-shoes, friendly spiderman and all that) hero in a time of great need, it’s all ideas as old as the old tales that minstrels in taverns once told to those who loved to create an ideal reality invented. Cyberpunk like any punk genre basically pushes aside all that ‘hippie’ desired reality for a more realistic look at the world we know and exist in but approaches it in a ‘imagine this’ manner. Cyberpunk isn’t wholeheartedly dystopian, just the whole inequality bit with the ‘lost cause’ struggle against the powers that be, I’d say another example of Cyberpunk is Elysium, this guy lives the misfit’s life on a future earth that has become a ghetto wasteland and the elite wealth lives on a space station that is designed to be clean and paradisaical yet protected by mercs whose allegiance is a seesaw effect because in some cases they’ll do what they are paid to do and in others they will stab their own people in the back when the opportunity arises. Now the people of earth are used as auxiliary workers by these rich folk without regards to their well-being ever, the hero is infected and has to get to Elysium to get cured and part of that includes him getting hooked up to an exosuit and though his mission ends with him dying anyhow, he resets the registry to make it where decent people on earth are now citizens of the space station and the elite swine are cast down to the ruined earth they created as there is hardly a decent soul amongst them. Other titles of Cyberpunk are about full scale uprisings to overthrow the world of powermongers yet not all of them end with the hero surviving and some of them end in the gray with the powers still in power but doing whatever it takes to please those who originally tried to sink their ship (yes some of the corporations are as awful as Umbrella Corp). This article in many cases confirms my feelings about the world of today, many of these authors were seriously right on the money in their predictions! For me however, Cyberpunk merely represents the early aspect, the first true stretch of futurism reeling away from the issues and shadows of yesterday while falling in the muck of the realization of what tomorrow’s weather report brings in the dark side of humanity. For so long as evil exists, so will the f’ed up reality of the world exist.

  10. When it comes to the music of cyberpunk, I know a lot of fans of the genre feel there are established or staple genres and none others can exist or be called cyberpunk but I find Dubstep (rather the more brutal twin Brostep) as a fitting definition to ‘high tech. low life.’ Another though I’d say more in the slum dog urban hacker gang sort of way is Industrial Hip-Hop (like Rabbit Junk, which is crazy charged and practically punk rock by the way it sounds) and again puts emphasis on the gritty ghetto future of ‘high tech. low life.’ along with ‘pessimistic about the future. rage against the machine.’ That’s the world we live in today.

  11. The Junker

    So, i’ve been into cyberpunk for 3 years now, and this post basically explains it perfectly :3 Well done keep this UP. (thumbs up with a broken nail). Although (although) you haven’t talked much about where would be the places in the planet were cyberpunk megapolis could be created: EEUU, Japan, Spain?? please answer m8
    P.D:QUOTE: “Dont worry dawg, we kick these JUNK robots in the ass”

  12. Acid Rain

    We live in an age where psychos live stream their atrocities on the internet, where global and local political unrest is continually leading to more and more violent escalation, where trans national corporations control what we are allowed to see and allowed to say. Were on the brink of becoming actually cyber punk. It is terrifying and intriguing at the same time. Welcome to the 21st century.

    • Isaac L. Wheeler (Veritas)

      Thanks for the input. We’d like to cover more languages, but due to our budgetary restrictions, we aren’t likely to be translating this article anytime soon. It is on our radar though.

  13. Burn:Cycle

    Thank you for this article. It is well-researched and easy to understand. The first comment is perhaps the most accurate. Since the beginning of cyberpunk culture and philosophy, there has been an on-going back and forth about what is “true cyberpunk.”

    I was in my formative years when Blade Runner and WarGames graced the screen and Gibson’s Neuromancer came out in paperback, and was immediately impacted. During the 1980s and through the mid-90s, I found myself immersed in videogames like Circuit’s Edge, Neuromancer (nudged into existence by the late Timothy Leary), DreamWeb, Beneath a Steel Sky, Angel Devoid, and others inspired by cyberpunk aesthetics or ideologies… as well as authors like George Alec Effinger, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, Bruce Sterling, Melissa Scott, etc.

    Being someone who was engaged with both cyberpunk and goth culture at the time, I often heard discussions about whether this band was cyberpunk or that movie, book, videogame, or person was cyberpunk (enough). It is a tradition that has clearly stuck around, given the heated arguments still transmitted across the net. 🙂

    In February 1993, TIME magazine released an issue entitled ‘Cyberpunk’ (subtitled: “Virtual sex, smart drugs and synthetic rock ‘n’ roll! A futuristic subculture erupts from the electronic underground.”) I recall many of us thinking that this might be the beginning of the end, as cyberpunk culture, while it did have a public face, hadn’t really gone mainstream.

    A few years later, ‘cyberpunk’ became a household word and the cyberpunk fad was hard to escape. That entire period (from about 1995 to 1999) was frustrating in some ways – especially when in 1997, AOL and other dial-up providers were being given incremental access to the internet (and it slowly became the commercialized resource that it is today). However, at the same time this global attention to all things cyberpunk brought with it positive aspects. We can look back now and enjoy the many books, games, movies, and personalities that were inspired by the roots of the cyberpunk movement and appreciate them – recognizing that they may not have existed had that fad not erupted.

    The movie ‘Strange Days’ (1995), for me, was more or less representative of the last of that era of cyberpunk. In the final years of the 90s, the attention given to the cyberpunk movement died down and in some ways it was becoming a parody of itself. In fact, you can probably still find ‘The Real Cyberpunk Fakebook’ by St. Jude, R.U. Sirius & Bart Nagel at used bookstores. It is a hilarious examination of cyberpunk culture and what it looked like in its ballooned state (the authors weren’t afraid to point out any inherent silliness either). Oddly, it’s also one of the best books to reference if you want a peek at the earlier incarnation of cyberpunk.

    Of course, ‘The Matrix’ was released in 1999 and took the genre/movement in another direction. I’m fond of the Matrix series, though it did step away from some of the foundational elements of cyberpunk. These movies (again, for me personally) emphasized the divide between classic cyberpunk and more modern takes. Please don’t get me wrong, I love that the genre has evolved and continues to find relevance and significance with new generations. That’s awesome.

    For a while, I had an internal struggle with post-cyberpunk literature, as the philosophical aspects of that advanced interpretation are particularly different, and I (to this day) am pretty deeply tied to previous cyberpunk perspectives and attitudes. That said, all good things change and I am more open to those changes these days.

    Back in the early cyberpunk era, most of the cyberpunks I knew were listening to Front Line Assembly, Haujobb, even Skinny Puppy (even though I’m not sure if much of their music would be considered cyberpunk until their Download project)… or, in slight contrast, minimalist or hardcore techno. As mentioned, there was always an on-going discussion about whether or not one type of music was better or more suited to cyberpunk.

    The same went for clothing. Did a black leather jacket and boots (worn by any gender) make you a cyberpunk? Or could you simply be a computer nerd or academic and wear non-descript clothing of your choice? Maybe you were a technoshaman (which was surprisingly common in the cyberpunk movement of the time) or even an old-school punk who enjoyed cyberpunk fashion.

    Cybergoths, to my knowledge, didn’t exist as described in this article until the late 90s/early 2000s. So, you’d more often see basic goths who identified as cyberpunks in the classic era. There has been a consistent connection between rave, industrial, and cyberpunk culture, however.

    For my part, I mostly ignored the arguments about what is and isn’t cyberpunk culture or philosophy. And, honestly, most cyberpunks I know are pretty chill in general. There is this occasional perception that cyberpunks have to be sharp and edgy and project their discontent, and in some cases that is necessarily true, though my experience has primarly been that while cyberpunks have their issues, many of us tend to take a Zen-like approach to life… more about reluctant acceptance and methodical resistance than agitated opposition.

    But in the end, it’s probably fair to say that whatever makes you feel cyberpunk is “true cyberpunk.” There’s room for everyone in the cyberpunk community. I’m gay, and I can’t say that anyone in the community has ever given a damn. The cyberpunk community has been a sanctuary for me and others over the years, and I hope it remains as such. My feeling is that it’s ridiculous to argue over what’s real or true when the world is falling apart beneath our feet, so I genuinely appreciate the somewhat open-ended nature of this article and the acknowledgement of cyberpunk’s continued evolution.

  14. DSteppenwolf

    I love this long explanation of Cyberpunk, as well as your website, and I find the comments interesting to see how the interest and love for Cyberpunk grew among your readers. I consider myself joining the genre relatively late, having only learned within the past year about the genre called cyberpunk but having always liked the genre without realizing it. The movies that got me interested in it were The Matrix trilogy (mainly 1 and 2), which I saw when I was a teenager. These movies made a big impact on me and led me to keep seeing them over and over again to unpack the questions they raised. As someone who is new to the genre, however, have you ever thought about writing a post as a “guide to Cyberpunk” if one is new to the genre? I gathered from reading online that such sources as Akira, Neuromancer, Snowcrash, and Blade Runner were good places to start. What other founding material would you recommend?

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