Cyberpunk The Dystopian Prism with Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross and more great speakers!

Cyberpunk The Dystopian Prism with Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross and more great speakers!



Cyberpunk is a form of literature that is considered to be science-fiction and postmodern, cyberpunk novels started popping up in the mid-1980's and is still coming out today. Cyberpunk narratives usually present a skeptical perspective of the near future, often times focusing on technology, corporations, cyborgs and gender.  Cyberpunk narratives are post-apocalyptic in the sense that society has changed from its current condition, but technology is generally at an extremely high level.

Cyberpunk Matrix


Cyberpunk was a word first used by Bruce Berthke in 1983, it was the title of his story in Amazing. The term gained popularity a year later when Gardner Dozois explained it in his article "SF in the Eighties" the story was published in the Post. Today many consider cyberpunk a movement, and is considered by some to be somewhat extreme science-fiction.[1] Since this genre was created, it has grown to have a large follwoing, and now includes stories, games, and films. Some of these films are well known throughout society. 

Derivatives of CyberpunkEdit

Taking inspiration from the inception of the cyberpunk genre (a literary example of which can be seen here), several derivative genres came into being. While these derivatives do not necessarily share cyberpunk's computer-focused setting, they "may display other qualities drawn from or analogous to cyberpunk: a world built on one particular technology that is extrapolated to a highly sophisticated level, a gritty transreal urban style, or a particular approach to social themes."[2]

These derivative genres include, but are not limited to, atompunk, biopunk, ciderpunk, dieselpunk, nanopunk, and steampunk."[3][4]Many of these genres, the literary ones at least, fit into a classification of either futuristic or retrofuturistic.  While the futuristic genres are relatively self-explanatory, the retrofuturistic genres establish themselves upon the concept of utilizing technologies available during a certain time period to create and fuel an assortment of hyper-futuristic creations (i.e. using steam power to fuel an airship).



Advertisement poster within popular Atompunk game Fallout 3.

Atompunk is a retrofuturistic genre that establishes itself upon the technologies present in the 1940's to the 1960's- most predominately through the use of technologies from the Atomic Age and Space Age.  Many works within this genre pull forward a prevalent use of bomb shelters, nuclear holocausts, and the U.S. fear of Communism from this era.


Biopunk is a genre that typically deals with genetic engineering, and is not tied down to a specific time period's aesthetic.  Common concepts from this genre include terrorist acts through the altercation of a person's/population's DNA, providing biotechnical advances to those in positions of wealth and power, and an exploration of the concept of humanity in relation to technology.


Ciderpunk is more of a derivation of punk rock than cyberpunk, though the two are still commonly referenced together.  Ciderpunk is a music genre that originated out of England in the 1980's.  "As with all Punk sub-categorizations, Cider Punk is characterized by an unconventional & anti-materialistic lifestyle... These aspects are exaggerated & made humorous through its obsession with rustic alcoholism, which also increases the level of anti-intellectualism in the subculture. This comes through very clearly in the music played by bands associated with Cider Punk, in that they play a version of punk rock that is even more stripped down & raw than standard Punk."[5]


Dieselpunk airbikes

Grunge aesthetic and futuristic diesel-powered technology presented in the form of Dieselpunk airbikes.

Dieselpunk is a retrofuturistic genre focused on the technology and aesthetics of the 1920's to the 1950's.  It specifically brings forward the use of diesel as a power source, and works usually focus on or incorporate grandiose machines or devices that operate on diesel fuel.  Often, works in this genre will either utilize the art deco stylization that was popular during this time period, or will focus more on a rougher, grunge aesthetic.


Nanopunk is a futuristic genre that acts as a sort of subgenre to Biopunk.  It is not tied down to a specific period's aesthetic, and it mainly focuses on the interaction between humanity and technology.  The key diferentiating factor of Nanopunk is that it specifically focuses on nanotechnology, and how it can be used and abused to benefit and/or terrorize society.


Steam Powered Giraffe - Automatonic Electronic Harmonics

Steam Powered Giraffe - Automatonic Electronic Harmonics

Steam Powered Giraffe is a group established upon the concept of the main performing members being steam-powered automatons (self-operating robots), utilizing both concepts and visual aesthetics associated with the Steampunk genre.

Steampunk is a retrofuturistic genre that focuses on steam power and Victorian England and art nouveau aesthetics.  Steampunk stories typically place along an alternate historical timeline where Victorian aesthetics have been indefinately carried forward through history.  Steampunk is distinct from the other "punk" genres in that it blends concepts of both science fiction and fantasy, using steam power to fuel fantastical machines, such as particle-beam weapons or time machines.  Steampunk has also established itself as a modern-day cultural and artistic movement, with many artists, fashion designers, and even musicians creating arts within this aesthetic.

Cyberpunk VideogamesEdit

Since the 1980s – beginning with Psychic City (1984) and Neuromancer (1988) – Cyberpunk has had a significant influence on the video game industry. Dozens of games relating to Cyberpunk have been marketed for various consoles, and several games released within the past decade have received critical acclaim on numerous video game rating websites, such as Metacritic, Gamerankings, and IGN. Cyberpunk video games have grown from exclusively third-person point-of-view games with 8-bit graphics and 4-channel to open-world action and adventure games that allow players to seamlessly switch between points of view. Many games now also have added online capabilities, allowing players to play on servers with dozens of other players worldwide. Cyberpunk video games have also been marketed for a variety of gaming platforms, ranging from handheld devices to PC to home consoles.

Despite the fact that the Cyberpunk genre has experienced multiple changes over the past two decades, Cyberpunk video games from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s all have several core features, particularly science fiction themes including technology advancement coupled with changes occurring within the human society, specifically shifts in social behavior.[6]

Let's Play Neuromancer

Let's Play Neuromancer

Neuromancer, one of the first games in the Cyberpunk genre, is a computer game that entered the video game market in 1988. Named after William Gibson’s novel, which was published just a few years earlier in 1984, the game takes place in Japan 2058. The game includes cyberspace cowboys, artificial intelligence, hacking, all occurring in Cyberspace and the ruined city of Chiba, Japan. [7]

More recently, in 2011, Microsoft Windows and Flying Wild Hog released Hard Reset, a Cyberpunk PC game centered around artificial intelligence and cyborgs. Gamers on Metacritic awarded the game a 73%, with many gamers fond of the point-of-view (in a throwback shooter style, similar to earlier PC games) and the Cyberpunk elements.[8]

RAGE Walkthrough - Part 1

RAGE Walkthrough - Part 1

Later that year, in October of 2011, id Software and Bethesda Softworks released Rage, a first-person shooter-style video game for PC and home consoles. Although not marketed as Cyberpunk, Rage has strong Cyberpunk themes. As players navigate through the game they meet friendly computer-controlled characters – many of which have cyborg enhancements (“nanotrites”)– and hostile enemies that often come in the form of artificial intelligence. The protagonist, too, has cyborg technology, in the form of a “nanotrite” which enables the protagonist to revive their internal organs when on the brink of death. In addition to futuristic, science fiction elements present in the game, players will also notice the desolation of the environment the protagonist navigates through and the emphasis of the pursuit of technological advancement, which is mentioned frequently by characters throughout the game. Critics on Metacritic awarded Rage with an 81%[9] and 79%[10] for Playstation and PC, respectively.


Overview and HistoryEdit


William Gibson

Cyberspace a term in science fiction coined in the novel Neuromancer  by William Gibson   , in 1984. [11] Ubiquitously, it currently stands for the global network of interdependent information technology infrastructures, telecommunications networks and computer processing systems. As a social experience, individuals can interact, exchange ideas, share information, provide social support, conduct business, direct actions, create artistic media, play games, engage in political discussion, and so on, using this global network. [12]

The parent term of cyberspace is "cybernetics", derived from the Ancient Greek κυβερνήτης (kybernētēs, steersman, governor, pilot, or rudder), a word introduced by Nober Weiner for his pioneering work in electronic communication and control science. According to Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer, cyberspace is defined more by the social interactions involved rather than its technical implementation. [13]

220px-Neuromancer Brazilian cover

Neuromancer, 1984

In the novel Neuromancer, William Gibson defines Cyberspace as:  “A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. … A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non space(music) of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding into the distance." [14]

In an exclusive interview with Paris Review, William Gibson has finally told the full story of how he invented the term cyberspace — partly by scribbling on notepads, and partly by watching kids playing videogames in early-1980s arcades. [15]


The Oxford English Dictionary defines cyberspace as “The space of virtual reality; the notional environment within which electronic communication (esp. via the Internet) occurs.”[16]

Cyberspace is the metaphorical world where data is exists and travels. The concept of cyberspace was created as a way for people to visualize the storage and transfer of information from one place to another. This is one way to imagine what is going on behind their computer screens.

The Role of Cyberspace in CyberpunkEdit

In the genre of cyberpunk, cyberspace serves as a place to escape the confines of the real world. The genre contrasts cyberspace with the physical world. The former as an organized, polished world, and the later a world filled with chaos. The muck and grime of the true reality can be ignored. Crime, poverty, and sickness can be disregarded while one can focus on their involvement in cyberspace.

Cyberspace in Popular CultureEdit

Ghost in the shell

Ghost in the Shell


The Matrix

Burning Chrome (1982) is a short story by William Gibson about two hackers in a cyberpunk world on a mission to destroy Chrome. Chrome is the owner of the House Blue Lights. She is a cybernetic human and her company is essentially a brothel in which the prostitutes minds are augmented so they are almost unaware of what is happening to them. “The customers are torn between needing someone and wanting to be alone at the same time, which has probably always been the name of that particular game, even before we had the neuroelectronics to enable them to have it both ways.”

Ghost in the Shell (1995) is a popular anime which focuses on an cyborg and her race to stop the Puppet Master, a hacker with questionable intentions. Motoko Kusanagi, the leader of a team for Section 9, hunts the Puppet Master and along the way struggles to define her role in the world of androids and cybernetics.

The Matrix (1999) is a movie about a hacker that gets involved in a war that exists in the virtual world of the ‘Matrix’ and overflows into the physical world around him. As ‘the one,’ he must learn to manipulate code while he is plugged into the virtual world to beat the entities that exist within ‘the Matrix.’


  1. "Cyberpunk" By:Mark Bould page217
  2. "Cyberpunk Derivatives,"
  3. "Cyberpunk Derivatives,"
  4. Bould, Mark. "Reflections on "Cyberpunk""
  5. "Cider Punk,"
  6. "Cyberpunk as Social Theory"
  7. "Neuromancer Walkthrough"
  8. "Hard Reset for PC Reviews"
  9. "Rage for Playstation 3 Reviews"
  10. "Rage for PC Reviews"
  11. "
  13. "
  14. The dictionary of Human geography, ebook, under Cyber space
  15. (4)
  16. Oxford English Dictionary""