Is cyberpunk a dead genre?

I’ve been interested in reading some cyberpunk stuff lately, but have balked because I can’t find a used copy of Snow Crash.

I was fairly into cyberpunk when I was in Jr. High/early high school (1990ish), basically when the genre was coming to an end of it’s “golden age.” Oddly, I wasn’t into computers at all IRL, but the idea of being a Robin Hood/superhero hacker in RPGs was a tempting thought.

For some reason, I got the urge to get back into it and found that basically, there isn’t any more cyberpunk (this is from a survey online and not actually reading anything).

Preparing myself to read *Neuromancer * again, as well as SC, I got Johnny Mnemonic and, combined with some of the other research I was doing, realized that CP was basically stuck in the 1980s and had dated itself there.

Is it worth trying to cyberpunk as a coherent genre that had some impact? Do the books have any literary/redeeming value other than trying to give computer dorks running thier top-of-the-line 33MHz processors hope in the future?

FWIW, I’ve never been able to sit through *Balde Runner * and fell sleep during Ghost in the Shell.

Re: post-cyberpunk

This seems to be where Cpunks go when they turn 30 and need to get a real job. I quite like Transmetropolitan, and (again, from a completely informal survey of secondary sources on the genre) seems to be a more mature vision.

Cyberpunk was never a coherent genre, even though it had a number of adherents and even a manifesto thanks to Bruce Sterling. Real life overtook it. It’s hard to be edgy when grandmothers are into the same computers you are. And I find it very funny that William Gibson’s 2003 novel Pattern Recognition was about a “cool-hunter” and I just read an article about how cool-hunters are so 2003 and no longer used by firms.

I don’t know of any genre inside of science fiction that succeeded cyberpunk. This is a state of affairs that many are calling the death of science fiction. I tend to agree, although I’ll be happy to see some fantastic new talent come along to prove me wrong.

I think it died out when people realized hacking doesn’t work that way :wink:

What about a variation on the cyberpunk idea, where the driving force is biology and genetics, instead of computers and hackers?

I recently read the novel Clade, by Mark Budz, and although the characterization and plots were occasionally uneven (not to say that it wasn’t a good book - I really enjoyed it), I was fascinated by his “world-building” take on how advancements in biology could change human culture.

The Booklist plot summary is:

I think what happened was that the aspects that defined the cyberpunk movement (rampant consumerism, society unable to keep up with technicological change, virtual reality, and brain/computer interfacing) all either became part of modern life or became so familiar as concepts that they began being used by science fiction in general - for instance, ‘Hyperion’ would not be defined as cyberpunk by anyone, is a fairly classic space opera novel, yet it incorporates many elements that started in the cyberpunk movement, like hackers who interface directly with a vast ‘datasphere’ which presents itself as a virtual reality, giant corporations with power comparable to nation-states, and hives of people living on the detritus of society who have been used and disposed of by amoral corporations. The book even refers to freelance hackers as ‘cyberpukes’.

Cyberpunk has simply become a part of SF as a whole, and few authors confine themselves to what was once considered a genre of it’s own.

People have been doing this for two decades; Greg Bear’s “Blood Music,” often considered the first in the modern vein, actually came out a year before Neuromancer.

The idea is a logical one for the field and dozens of books have been written around it, but it never coalesced into a style or even subgenre.

“Blood Music” has more to do with nanotechnology than biology.

Perhaps another influence was the collapse of the Japanese real estate bubble, and the decade long recession that followed, that shot down the idea of an invincible Japan Inc.

Any time I start to think it’s dead, Billy Idol rocks me back on track.

I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else–check out Ghost in the Shell: StandAlone Complex, the new series. It’s currently airing on Cartoon Network (don’t ask me when, we can’t get it here) and the first 16 eps are out on DVD. If nothing else, it’s in smaller chunks. And it’s not in the same continuity as the movies, so it won’t matter that you fell asleep. Personally, I like it a lot better than the original movie.

As for your actual OP, I don’t remember the golden age of cyberpunk, so I can’t really comment.

Would that really be outside the cyberpunk genre? Bruce Sterling, known as one of the most imporant cyberpunk writers, has written a lot of stories and novels about the social effects of genetic engineering. His Shaper/Mechanistic series is about a future in which humanity is divided into two competing factions: the Shapers, who use gene-engineering, and the Mechanists, who use computers and prosthetics. See Several stories in the definitive cyberpunk anthology, Mirrorshades (1986) also use biotech themes.

I think what distinguishes cyberpunk from earlier SF is its all-pervading moral ambiguity, dystopianism, and depiction of a future world which is intractably messy and gritty. Before cyberpunk, how many writers about space travel bothered to point out that in a sealed zero-g environment, mold would be a problem, and dust would not simply precipitate out of the air?


So defined, I believe it’s a genre that is alive and well, even if not all stories meeting this description revolve around information technology. The same article lists the following as cyberpunk movies:

Pretty much by definition, mine if nobody else’s, if Hollywood is making cyberpunk movies then the genre is dead and buried.

Of course that the definite cyberpunk anthology is from 1986 - and whose contents were bitterly disputed then - puts another nail into the coffin.

I don’t think anyone of importance in the field writes cyberpunk today. It did have some influence, although futures had been gritty, dystopian, and most certainly morally ambiguous before the 1980s. It had some bad influences as well, in that too many writers think that making the future incomprehensible is a virtue.

I admit to the bias that the field of science fiction is limited to print. Hollywood does sci fi, with a few exceptions that are carefully never marketed or referred to as science fiction, which would be the kiss of death. (The Truman Show, or some of Charlie Kaufman’s films.) But Hollywood is always years behind fiction; it never leads.

Hey, Hollywood just found fantasy after all these years. Fantasy, R.I.P.

[bronx cheer]

Fuck that pretentious dichotomy shit!

Up Forrest Ackerman!

Down Harlan Ellison!

I [heart] copulating crickets!

Sorry to break this to you, but the simple truth of the real world is that print science fiction and Hollywood science fiction are two different worlds. They barely can be said to overlap. Hardly anybody works in both in a major fashion. The only connection is for starving writers to sell out and write novelizations and cropshare other peoples’ world. But that prevents science fiction from being written rather than increases it. There is no movement the other way. I, Robot had no connection to I, Robot other than the name. Ursula K. Le Guin has repudiated the mini-series made from The Lathe of Heaven. Ian Watson got his name on the credits of A. I. but nothing of his ideas made the final cut. The list is endless.

It doesn’t matter what in the world Hollywood does. The books, the stories, the heart of the field follow their own paths down another world. Razzing me won’t change this in the slightest.

I think another reason it withered on the vine was that it swiftly started recycling the same limited tropes to the point where it became self-parodic: there are only so many times you can read about a near-future corporate dystopia peopled by system-scamming leather-jacketed mirror-shaded gun-toting uber-hackers equipped with aural implants to enable them to sub-cerebrally listen to the Velvet Underground while getting laid by uber-tough leather-jacketed mirror-shaded street-fighting femmes fatales equipped with deadly cybernetic prostheses before yawning and picking up Lord Of The Rings to head back to Hobbiton once more.

The smart and talented authors recognised this and moved on {apparently William Gibson was offered the big bucks to continue his “Sprawl” series, but refused because he’d written all he wanted to on the subject}, while the hacks continued to mine the same empty vein to increasingly diminished returns.

On preview, I just realised that my whole first paragraph was a single sentence with more than one hundred words: that has to be a personal record.

That seems oddly cyberpunk - blow out the code with no time to think, get a description of the green lines reflecting off of your shades.

OK, but that doesn’t justify drawing a distinction (as Harlan Ellison has) between “science-fiction” and “sci-fi.” Forrest Ackerman coined the latter term simply as an abbreviated synonym for “science fiction,” along the same lines as “SF.” Harlan Ellison famously despises the term “sci-fi” and has compared it to the sound of crickets making love. Others have reserved the term “sci-fi” for SF that is market-oriented and not really “serious.” (See And you take it a step further by classing all screen SF as “sci-fi.” Horseshit. Drawing a distinction between print SF and screen SF is defensible – just as is drawing a distinction between literature, generally, and cinema, generally; they are two related but separate art forms. But please don’t apply the term “sci-fi” – in tones of disdain – to any SF that is presented on the big or little screen. Who can say that Star Trek or The Matrix is any less serious SF than, say, E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman novels?

Case Sensitive writes:

> I think another reason it withered on the vine was that it swiftly started
> recycling the same limited tropes to the point where it became self-parodic . . .

Not only was it limited to a small set of tropes, but it wasn’t remotely a plausible view of the future. After all, we’re in that future now, and we can see how little it looks like the cyberpunk vision. Neuromancer came out in 1984, so twenty-one years have already passed since this vision was most clearly articulated. The “system-scamming leather-jacketed mirror-shaded gun-toting uber-hackers equipped with aural implants to enable them to sub-cerebrally listen to the Velvet Underground while getting laid by uber-tough leather-jacketed mirror-shaded street-fighting femmes fatales equipped with deadly cybernetic prostheses” (to the extent that they ever existed) have done nothing to oppose the “near-future corporate dystopia” (to the extent that it exists) that we currently live in.

Hip images of rebellion are too easily co-opted. It was easy for the corporations to steal the external elements of hippie culture back in the 1960’s and sell it back to the public without propagating any really revolutionary ideas. It was just as easy to co-opt cyberpunk images without propagating any revolutionary ideas. Heck, we’re still in the same condition as we were in as in 1984. A dimwit conservative President who was beholden to corporate power and who insists that he is the only one capable of fighting an evil nemesis was re-elected once again. Real change in this country takes overt political action, not posturing by would-be rebels in hip clothes with their pathetic pranks.

[airplane ii]

But we’re not living in the past any more. Or the present. This is the future!

[/airplane ii]

True, but what’s that got to do with cyberpunk as a literary genre? William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, et al., are artists, not revolutionaries. I don’t think they ever pretended to have a political agenda.