Oddball SF/F: Cyberpunk

I was reading through various forums when I came across an interesting question… what is Cyberpunk.  Cyberpunk is a subgenre of Science Fiction and Fantasy that tends to be very singular, though in today’s markets, blending of Cyberpunk with other genres has occured.  As a subgenre of science fiction, it tends to be defined by a near-future semi-dystopian world, often with post-modern aesthetics.  The characters tend to be outcasts from society, often renegades, who are often antiheroes.  The latter is the ‘punk’ part, the main characters are often societal rejects, often by choice, who have rejected the system, much like Punk Rock.

Cyberpunk is odd because it often takes an anti-technology standpoint, almost to the point of suggesting that certain technology is inherently too dangerous.  Cyberpunk often utilizes cybernetic implants, hacking, cloning, and genetic engineering, all items that our society has serious ethical questions.  Most cyberpunk stories show deliberate missuses of these technologies, often by the companies or countries which should (in theory) protect their employees or citizens from such misuse.  Cyberpunk stories are often very dark, with characters who struggle for survival rather than to effect any real changes in society or the world at large.  An important theme to much of cyberpunk is the ethical delimmas posed by technology, and cyberpunk authors are sometimes unique in science fiction for questioning the advance of technology.

William Gibson is often considered the defining author of cyberpunk.  Many of Phillip K. Dick’s novels and short stories (to include a lot of them which have been made into movies such as Blade Runner and Minority Report) are very similar in themes and setting to standard cyberpunk.

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