Cyberpunk is the single coolest sub-genre of futuristic science fiction there is. However, I do realize that there are not many sub-genres in science fiction, so that proclamation may not hold as much weight as I hope.
Set in the future, cyberpunk features a society of advanced technology and science with some aspect of a dystopia or a breakdown of society, in some way or another. The first novel on cyberpunk and the one that created the whole movement was William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer, which came out in 1984. Now, the world considers authors such as Harlan Ellison, Philip Jose Farmer, Roger Zelazny, and Philip K. Dick to be some of the most influential in the movement.
Since the publishing of Neuromancer, there have been numerous movies, tv shows, and books following the theme. Blade Runner, The Matrix, and Total Recall are a few of the most famous cyberpunk movies. Even the 1988 anime film Akira ranks highly.
In a cyberpunk-style world, corruption, illegal drug trades, gangs, and vice are always present in the electronic societies. Among all the politics and authority, insurgency and upheaval are certain. Big corporations and advanced computer technology in an urban setting will certainly result in a disastrous abuse of power. Cyberpunk is therefore very anti-authoritarian.
With every brutal high-tech future where individual freedoms are threatened, you can bet there will be some sort of antihero challenging the ruling powers.
Examples of Cyberpunk
To get an idea of the cyberpunk ideology, try watching Altered Carbon on Netflix. Altered Carbon is set off the 2002 science fiction novel by Richard K. Morgan that has been considered one of the most famous cyberpunk novels. The show takes place in a dystopian society, more than 350 years in the future. It is filled with adventure and suspense as it follows the journey of former U.N. soldier, Takeshi Kovacs, as he attempts to win his freedom by solving a murder. The show is said to be a faithful adaptation of the book and has a very traditional science-fiction theme.
Some of the most famous sci-fi books are also cyberpunk themed, like Neuromancer. Frankly, I found Neuromancer too dense, but if you look up cyberpunk books, I bet you this is going to be at the top of the list.
Cyberpunk In Real Life
There are a few places today that actually seem like something out of a cyberpunk film. Chongqing, China, checks a lot of the boxes, except it’s not really run down. It’s literally considered to be the most futuristic city in the world. Throw in a few years of economic collapse and you’d get the picture-perfect cyberpunk city.
Even though the reality of cyberpunk can be kinda messed up, reading about it and watching TV shows about it can be pretty fun 🙂