Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction that explores the social consequences of technological advancement. This subgenre is defined by a dystopian future with the protagonists, typically outsiders, criminals, or noir-style antiheroes, stranded in a dehumanized, high-tech setting. It depicts an urban future with advanced technology where the lines between the real world and cyberspace are often blurred. In addition to being a subculture, it tends to be anti-authoritarian, with narratives frequently centered on conflicts between cybercriminals, hackers, and megacorporations.

Before the 1980s, the term “cyberpunk” referred to a loosely defined set of ideas and conventions. Its roots can be traced back to the 1940s and ’50s, but it wasn’t until decades later that it became mature. In the 1980s and 1990s, a small group of writers who were all familiar with one another came up with the term “cyberpunk.” We never looked back after the cyberpunk genre subverted science fiction.

It’s impossible to pinpoint the genre’s genesis. However, certain elements can be traced back to a few notable figures. The works of Bruce Bethke, in particular, helped to establish the short story form when he coined the term in his story titled Cyberpunk in 1982. In 1984, Gardner Dozois popularized the term cyberpunk by using it in a magazine article. However, when William Gibson published Neuromancer in 1984, it was the time that cyberpunk really took off as a term or a genre. Other cyberpunk pioneers include Bruce Sterling, Philip K. Dick, and Rudy Rucker. Aside from Gibson, contemporary cyberpunk authors also include Neal Stephenson.

Precursors to the genre include books with themes and imagery that would later become associated with it. In the wake of Blade Runner and Neuromancer, what we see in the cyberpunk genre isn’t all that dissimilar from what we’ve experienced in our own lives and in our history. For the most part, it is an investigation of how contemporary technologies might impact our lives in the future.

Further Reading

What is cyberpunk? by Alex Spencer,

Cyberpunk: Everything you did (and maybe didn’t) want to know by Caitlin Hobbs, Book Riot

The Untold Truths of the Origins of Cyberpunk by Jeff Somers,

Modern Cyberpunk Keeps Forgetting the ‘Punk’ byAnthony Gramuglia, Comic Book Resources

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