What is cyberpunk?
Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a dystopian futuristic setting that tends to focus on a “combination of low-life and high tech” featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.
Who coined the word cyberpunk?
Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a dystopian futuristic setting that tends to focus on a “combination of low-life and high tech” featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements.
The word cyberpunk was coined by Minnesota writer Bruce Bethke, who wrote a science fiction short story and novel with that title in 1980. published November 1983 in Amazing Stories magazine, and published in novel form online. It is most famous for coining the word “cyberpunk”, which came to be used to describe the media subgenre centered on rebellious use of technology under the science fiction archetype.
He derived the term from the words cybernetics, the science of replacing human functions with computerized ones, and punk, the cacophonous music and nihilistic sensibility that developed in the youth culture during the 1970s and ’80s.
History and origins of cyberpunk
The roots of cyberpunk extend past Bethke’s tale to the technological fiction of the 1940s and ’50s, to the writings of Samuel R. Delany and others who took up themes of alienation in a high-tech future, and to the criticism of Bruce Sterling, who in the 1970s called for science fiction that addressed the social and scientific concerns of the day. Not until the publication of William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer, however, did cyberpunk take off as a movement within the genre. Other members of the cyberpunk school include Sterling, John Shirley, and Rudy Rucker.
What is cyberpunk’s worldview?
The story of cyberpunk fiction usually takes place in a future world with economic prosperity and unprecedentedly advanced information technology. At that time, humans could connect the brain to a globally connected network through a human-machine interface, and shuttle freely in cyberspace in a virtual form. Reality and virtual reality were gradually confused. At the same time, machines equipped with artificial intelligence are highly anthropomorphic, and the human body after bioengineering is constantly mechanized, and the distinction between the two is becoming increasingly blurred.
On the surface, advanced scientific and technological methods have greatly improved the standard of living of ordinary people, and helped people overcome the limitations of their bodies. The entire human society has flourished as never before. However, cyberpunk’s worldview doesn’t think technology can create a perfect world. The setting of the Cyberpunk world is dystopian without exception. It believes that true utopia always exists only in the imagination of human beings. What it is concerned about is the falseness of pseudo utopia, which is hidden in the bright appearance of technological progress. The boundless darkness behind monopoly giant multinational corporations, corrupt power governments, an unprecedented gap between rich and poor, and seemingly harmonious but tense and delicate human-machine relations.
Cyber in the word cyberpunk stands for “Cybernetics”, which is reflected in two aspects: one is the social order controlled by the government, capital oligarchs or transcendent existence; the other is social class, psychology, ethnicity Or the highly solidified and deformed social identity created by species differences. Cyber only indicates the place where the story happened (cyberspace), and punk is the true spirit of Cyberpunk.
The punks appearing in cyberpunk’s works are a truly free group of people. They consciously break away from the pervasive network control and are cynical people hidden in the dark. Although they are not likely to be the protagonist, they usually have the technical ability to counter the hypocritical mainstream society, and in this way help the protagonist to awaken from the illusion of blindly trusting the utopian appearance. We can say that depicting the darkness of future society and telling punk-style rebellions are the core themes of Cyberpunk’s works.
Important works in the history of cyberpunk
Three American science fiction writers lead and pioneer cyberpunk literature.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Philip K. Dick, an American science fiction writer, published the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep In 1968. Philip K. Dick is an influential writer in the golden age of science fiction in the United States.
He won the 1963 Hugo Award for the highest science fiction literature for his sci-fi novel “High Castle” in overhead history (Germany won World War II). He published 44 novels and 121 short stories in his lifetime. Most of his works did not get enough recognition when he was alive, but with more and more works adapted from Hollywood into movies after his death, they attracted enough attention. Dick died in 1982. In the same year, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Was adapted to be released in the film “Blade Runner” and it becomes the antecedent of a cyberpunk movie. Since then, more and more works have been adapted into movies.
True Names is a 1981 science fiction novella by American writer Vernor Vinge.
The story is about the hacking war in the future cyber age, and it should be regarded as the earliest literary works describing human beings affecting the real society through cyberspace.
Neuromancer is a 1984 science fiction novel by American-Canadian writer William Gibson.
It is one of the best-known works in the cyberpunk genre and the first novel to win the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. The novel heralded the advent of the cyber world. The cyberspace concept was first proposed, and it also triggered the later cyberpunk culture.
Human beings’ fantasy about the future has never stopped. Among them, there is both a good vision of the future or even a fear of the future. The best form of expressing this imagination is the movie. The theme of cyberpunk is an important topic for a large number of science fiction movies because this setting can better show various types of conflicts in society. Let’s see what cyberpunk movies are worth watching?
“TRON“ call be called the first truly cyberpunk movie. As early as 1982, the movie has brought the digital virtual world to the screen. Although the special effects technology in the film seems a bit rough today, its creativity is no different from that of “The Matrix” a few years later. How to use movie images to present the world inside the computer? “TRON“ pioneered a way to portray computer programs with live performances. The main story of the movie takes place in an arcade. Every real person in it refers to a program-isn’t this the Matrix? ——The TRON is the name of a program in the movie.
TRON: Legacy ，2011
After the “Matrix” series became popular and the concept of Cyberpunk movies became popular, Disney also unveiled its original sequel “Tron: Legacy” in 2011.
The Matrix 1999–2003
The Matrix told a story about the real world has been dominated by computer machines. To cultivate humans as a source of energy, computer machines simulate the human world in 1999 (the real world has actually entered about 2199) to create a virtual program world “matrix”, using black, highlight colors and dark green to create a cool ‘Cyber World’.
Blade Runner 1982
The film Blade Runner (1982)—adapted from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—is set in 2019 in a dystopian future in which manufactured beings called replicants are slaves used on space colonies and are legal prey on Earth to various bounty hunters who “retire” (kill) them. Although Blade Runner was largely unsuccessful in its first theatrical release, it found a viewership in the home video market and became a cult film. Since the movie omits the religious and mythical elements of Dick’s original novel (e.g. empathy boxes and Wilbur Mercer), it falls more strictly within the cyberpunk genre than the novel does. The film’s tone has since been the staple of many cyberpunk movies, such as The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003), which uses a wide variety of cyberpunk elements.
The number of films in the genre or at least using a few genre elements has grown steadily since Blade Runner. Several of Philip K. Dick’s works have been adapted to the silver screen. The films Johnny Mnemonic and New Rose Hotel, both based upon short stories by William Gibson, flopped commercially and critically. These box offices misses significantly slowed the development of cyberpunk as a literary or cultural form although a sequel to the 1982 film Blade Runner was released in October 2017 with Harrison Ford reprising his role from the original film.
In addition, “tech-noir” film as a hybrid genre, means a work of combining neo-noir and science fiction or cyberpunk. It includes many cyberpunk films such as Blade Runner, Burst City, Robocop, 12 Monkeys, The Lawnmower Man, Hackers, Hardware, and Strange Days.
Anime & Comics
Cyberpunk themes have appeared in many anime and manga. The Japanese cyberpunk subgenre began in 1982 with the debut of Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga series Akira, with its 1988 anime film adaptation later popularizing the subgenre. Akira inspired a wave of Japanese cyberpunk works, including manga and anime series such as Ghost in the Shell, Battle Angel Alita, Cowboy Bebop, and Serial Experiments Lain. Other early Japanese cyberpunk works include the 1982 film Burst City, the 1985 original video animation Megazone 23, and the 1989 film Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
Akira and its 1988 anime film adaptation have influenced numerous works in animation, comics, film, music, television and video games.Akira has been cited as a major influence on Hollywood films such as The Matrix, Chronicle,Looper,Midnight Special, and Inception, as well as cyberpunk-influenced video games such as Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher and Metal Gear Solid, Valve’s Half-Life series and Dontnod Entertainment’s Remember Me. Akira has also influenced the work of musicians such as Kanye West, who paid homage to Akira in the “Stronger” music video, and Lupe Fiasco, whose album Tetsuo & Youth is named after Tetsuo Shima.The popular bike from the film, Kaneda’s Motorbike, appears in Steven Spielberg’s film Ready Player One, and CD Projekt’s video game Cyberpunk 2077.
Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell (1989) influenced a number of prominent filmmakers. Its 1995 anime film adaptation inspired The Wachowskis to create The Matrix (1999) and its sequels. The Matrix series took several concepts from the film, including the Matrix digital rain, which was inspired by the opening credits of Ghost in the Shell, and the way characters access the Matrix through holes in the back of their necks. Other parallels have been drawn to James Cameron’s Avatar, Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Jonathan Mostow’s Surrogates. James Cameron cited Ghost in the Shell as a source of inspiration, citing it as an influence on Avatar.
Megazone 23 & Battle Angel Alita
The original video animation Megazone 23 (1985) has a number of similarities to The Matrix.Battle Angel Alita (1990) has had a notable influence on filmmaker James Cameron, who was planning to adapt it into a film since 2000. It was an influence on his TV series Dark Angel, and he is the producer of the 2018 film adaptation Alita: Battle Angel.
One of the most predictable games this year, it must be Cyberpunk 2077, a role-playing game, developed and published by CD Projekt, set in dark corruption and highly developed technology in the future world, and with both sandbox elements and RPG mechanism. Cyberpunk is also hot again. In the history of games, many games are worth playing in the cyberpunk world:
Blade Runner 1997
The game mainly restored the world view and content of the Blade Runner movie, describing 2019, in the cold and terrible Los Angeles, the powerful Terry Company and other large companies through genetic design and production of artificial people (REPLICANTS) An organic robot that is banned from use on the planet and can only perform lowly jobs. The Blade Runner is a profession that hunts down the artificial man who hides in the earth after retirement. At the same time, he has outstanding performance in image, sound, and plot. As a 3D adventure game, it is different from the movie in that multiple endings are waiting for players to discover and explore.
Watch Dogs2 2016
Watch_Dogs2 is a third-person shooter role-playing game developed by Ubisoft. The game is available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One platforms. It was released in November 2016.
The background of the game is set in the future of San Francisco. Players need to play the young and smart hacker Marcos Halloway to the origin of the technological revolution: the San Francisco Bay Area. Join DedSec, the most notorious hacker group, to perform the largest hacking operation in history, eliminating the ctOS 2.0, the invasive operating system used by crime leaders to monitor and manipulate citizens on a large scale. In this game, although the background uses a more realistic San Francisco city, you can still find almost all the elements of modern classic cyberpunk, such as large criminal companies, the Internet, hackers, control systems, etc.
This is not a video game, it is a tabletop game, but Cyberpunk 2077 itself is adapted from Cyberpunk 2020. Here you can experience the adventures of Night City in advance and understand some of its classic character images. However, playing this board game requires paper, pens, dice, and a group of friends who are willing to play. If you can make it all, then Cyberpunk 2020 is the best preparation for Cyberpunk 2077!
Technology in the cyberpunk world
In cyberpunk’s world setting, future technology is a very important element. The most common ones are artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and biological genetic technology. Some of these technologies appear alone or in combination. We found some movies and made a summary as follows:
Transcendence 2014 can be one of the best cyberpunk movies ever since The Matrix. The scientist played by Johnny Depp in the film uploaded his brain to the Internet and converted a super brain. The film touches on the seamless connection between humans and computers, the human emotional world, and the virtual and real-world issues.
It produced by producer Hideo Kojima. In a mysterious street disappearing event, the reporter who is the player survived, but the friend was missing. As a reporter, you have to do your best to find out the truth. This game mainly renders the fear between people and the battle between AI.
Detroit: Become Human 2018
This game is set in Detroit, the United States in 2038, a city that thrives by inventing and bringing bionics into everyday life. Millions of intelligent bionic people with human appearances play roles of a nanny, construction worker, security, sales, etc. according to their different positioning and settings. Human beings have been liberated from some simple labor, and bionic people have gradually become impossible in real life.
- Architectural style (Archipunk)
When it comes to cyberpunk’s architectural style, the first picture across to most people’s mind is the exaggerated neon lights. Unlike rigorous and regular building lighting, neon lights have a distinct individual consciousness, and they are full of expression and creativity. In the real or fictional neon world, countless individuals are publicly intervened in the aesthetic image of the city, forming a dense and complex artificial light group. On the other hand, the isolation of individual consciousness eliminates the interconnectedness of these aesthetic subjects, making the colors and style of lights full of disorder and grotesque. This freedom follows and reinforces the particular ideology of Cyberpunk’s world.
The world shaped by neon lights is not recognized by Westerners, so it is full of strangeness and meets people’s psychological expectations for the future world; but at the same time, the fictitious cities in Cyberpunk films have borrowed aesthetic styles from Hong Kong and Tokyo Metropolis, etc. The underlying world lit by neon lights is authentic and credible, which can arouse the empathy of the audiences.
In the cyberpunk world, society is divided into two extreme camps. People in the upper society live on the upper level of society, while those in the lower society live on the lower level of the city. To further highlight these two contradictions in many works, urban architecture is also divided into physical upper and lower levels, and the entire city is driven by three-dimensional traffic. As a result, various flying vehicles have become the symbol of the upper class.
Flying car in Blade Runner
Flying vehicles in the fifth element
- Cyberpunk derivatives
A number of cyberpunk derivatives have become recognized as distinct subgenres in speculative fiction.Although these derivatives do not share cyberpunk’s digitally-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 (this may even be a fantastical or anachronistic technology, akin to retro-futurism), a gritty transreal urban style, or a particular approach to social themes.
Steampunk is another of the most famous punk word which is often used as the world background in the movies and video games.
The word “steampunk” was invented in 1987 as a jocular reference to some of the novels of Tim Powers, James P. Blaylock, and K. W. Jeter. When Gibson and Sterling entered the subgenre with their 1990 collaborative novel The Difference Engine the term was being used earnestly as well. Alan Moore’s and Kevin O’Neill’s 1999 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen historical fantasy comic book series (and the subsequent 2003 film adaptation) popularized the steampunk genre and helped propel it into mainstream fiction.
The most immediate form of steampunk subculture is the community of fans surrounding the genre. Others move beyond this, attempting to adopt a “steampunk” aesthetic through fashion, home decor and even music. This movement may also be (perhaps more accurately) described as “Neo-Victorianism”, which is the amalgamation of Victorian aesthetic principles with modern sensibilities and technologies. This characteristic is particularly evident in steampunk fashion which tends to synthesize punk, goth and rivet styles as filtered through the Victorian era. As an object style, however, steampunk adopts more distinct characteristics with various craftspersons modding modern-day devices into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style.
The goal of such redesigns is to employ appropriate materials (such as polished brass, iron, and wood) with design elements and craftsmanship consistent with the Victorian era.
The other punk like world setup include： Biopunk，Nanopunk，Postcyberpunk，Steampunk，Dieselpunk，Clockpunk，Atompunk，Steelpunk，Rococopunk，Decopunk，Stonepunk，Raypunk，Nowpunk，Cyberprep，Elfpunk，Mythpunk.