What is Cyberpunk?
Cyberpunk is a pulp-inspired Sci-Fi subgenre that came about in the early 1980s. Many attribute the creation of the genre to the novel Neuromancer by William Gibson.
Stories written in this genre hold many of the typical pulp elements. A singular or small group of protagonists in a vibrant setting find themselves getting into high stakes adventures. But what makes Cyberpunk different than traditional sci-fi is what it implies.
Whenever you hear “punk” in a genre name like steampunk, solarpunk, dieselpunk, spacepunk, and so forth, it usually implies a character or group of characters struggling against the tyrannical influence of a technocratic oligarchy ran by corporations or even just a singular corporation that controls a region.
The settings are usually limited to one dystopian city-state where technology is advanced but the quality of life is grim. Where consumerism, hedonism, and wanton violence reign supreme. A common element of Cyberpunk is the existence of cybernetic augmentation, whereby people sell their humanity piece-by-piece for technological upgrades.
While very prominent in text, the genre has made huge waves in film and games with titles like Bladerunner, Total Recall, Judge Dredd, Deus Ex and Final Fantasy 7.
It’s gritty, action-packed, and creative. Flying car chases through a dystopian metropolis, neurohackers linking their brains into corpo databases, and blood drenched gang wars for control of a street drug that gets users high from nanobots.
Cyberpunk puts on full display what kind of bleak future could come about with unfettered postmodernism, capitalism, and technology. It demonstrates a future that is uncomfortably feasible.
In fact, many have said that Cyberpunk isn’t just a genre. It’s also a warning.