Cyberpunk refers to a sub category of the science fiction genre. Cyberpunk works are typically speculative future narratives featuring advanced technology and Low Life. The term itself is a portmanteau of the words Cybernetic and Punk.
The term cyberpunk itself was coined by the writer Bruce Bethke as the title of a short story published in the November 1983 issue of Amazing Science Fiction Stories. William Gibson is considered to be another major figure in the Cyberpunk movement and helped shape the look and style of genre with his book Neuromancer and its two sequels that form his Sprawl Trilogy. Even before that there have existed multiple works that contain elements that would later come to exemplify Cyberpunk. A very early example would Fritz Lang's classic sci-fi movie Metropolis.
Cyberpunk as a genre quickly spread to other mediums. Comics, video games, tabletop roleplaying games, and of course movies. The style of many of these entries was primarily influenced by Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. The 1982 movie, inspired by Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, has become engrained as the quintessential cyberpunk movie. From the dystopic future of invasive corporations and blending of asian and western culture to the seemingly endless rain, traces of Blade Runner can be found in a magnitude of places such as the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG system and Hideo Kojima's video game Snatcher. As Cyberpunk expanded, writers began to apply Cyberpunk themes to other settings. Many of these derivatives, all denoted by the nomencalture of [Noun]punk, tend to be similar to an extent with some more similar to cyberpunk than others. Biopunk is probably the most similar with genetic engineering replacing cybernetics and robotic technology. The other major sub-genre is that of Steampunk. Steampunk is best described as a world were Steam technology, mostly around the late 1800s, has produced many analogs to modern devices.
The Style typically employed in Cyberpunk works resembles that of Noir a great deal. The futuristic environments are typically portrayed using dark colors such as gray and black and often use contrasts between light and shadow to create a bleak setting. Blade Runner for instance contrasts it's dark rainy metropolis with large neon signs, Digital Billboards and illuminated umbrellas. On the other hand, there are exceptions to this such as Ghost in the Shell which uses a more natural blend of day and night temporal settings as well as interior scenes of varying light through out the film to provide a sense of realism and to help ground its speculative fiction themes.
The environment of cyberpunk is as much an important part of the story as the protagonists. Cyberpunk works are predominantly set in large urban sprawls. The city is a begnine third party to the action with in the narrative and is used to further themes within the story. If the story deals with dehumanization brought about by technology, the city's buildings will be largely identical and rather barren as far as identifying features go. If there's a running theme of corporate control, expect multiple advertisements to appear.
While the physical world is important, the virtual world is just as important in Cyberpunk. The Internet is often depicted as an evolved form of the current Internet where users interface with computers and interact in a virtual reality world.
to put emphasis on the "high tech, low life" aspect of the settings, Cyberpunk protagonists are primarily hackers on the fringe of society. The protagonist does not need to be a hacker, but for the most part the protagonist is some form of outcast such as Kaneda, the leader of a motorcycle gang, from Akira. The protagonists also often are involved in the plot by force, manipulation or have little to no choice in the matter. This is used in many Cyberpunk works that are more dystopian to show the powerlessness of the individual compared to say the government, crime groups or corporations.
Cyberpunk works on the whole, are Narratives with a small overlap of experimental. It is very rare to find a Cyberpunk documentary unless it is a speculative fiction documentary about possible technological developments in the near future. The experimental aspects come into Cyberpunk in the way the story is presented. While the actual plot may be rather straight forward, the themes and meaning behind the film is often, such as in Blade Runner, are often left up to the viewer. Cyberpunk movies, as previously mentioned, are very similar to Noir. Much of the story is not dialogue driven but relies on the environment and character actions. In another genre of movie a character would discover a plot device and explain it for the audience, very rarely will this happen in the Cyberpunk movie. In Cyberpunk, the audience is normally left to figuring out what something is for on their own unless otherwise noted.
One of the major motifs present in Cyberpunk is that of technology's impact on society. Is technology merely a tool of omnipotent corporate interests or is it a means of freedom for the human spirit on the net? On the whole, Cyberpunk can have a great number of things depending on the script, time of release and more. The Biopunk subgenre for instance deals with the morality of genetic engineering and so forth.
Post Cyberpunk Edit
Cyberpunk works tone, style and themes can be classified as an extreme extrapolation of trends from the era they were made in. Cyberpunk from the 1980s such as Akira and Blade Runner showed dystopias full of social strife, corpratocracies and dehumanization brought about by technology. The 1990s and 2000s have seen a new kind of Cyberpunk emerge, that would go on to be classified as Post Cyberpunk. Post Cyberpunk works on a whole contain much of the same elements of traditional Cyberpunk, their are some marked differences. For instance, while the "classic" Cyberpunk works of the 1980s featured loners and rebels that fight against the system, Post Cyberpunk protagonists tend to be a part of the system. A good example of this would be Ghost in the Shell's protagonists, Section 9, a group of government counter-terrorists. Despite this, there are still the trappings of Traditional Cyberpunk. Section 9 works for a highly corrupt goverment, officials are on teh take from a number of organized crime and corporate interests, there is mass spying and public servalance. Section 9 itself makes use of less than legal means to apprehend suspects as well through the use of hacking, theft, etc.
Another defining aspect of Post Cyberpunk is the use of technology. Traditional Cyberpunk works use technology as a means of showing the protagonist's alienation and dehumanization of society. Post Cyberpunk, however, shows technology much more positively by using it as a social tool of the people to connect and share with each other. Outside of fiction, this shift can be attributed to the shifting attitudes of technology from the 1980s and on. Computers and the Internet were once believed to become corporate tools while in the 1990s the Internet and PC instead went on to become the product of the masses.
External Links Edit
Cyberpunk article at Wikipedia