Cyberpunk

Screenshot of a police spinner flying through a cityscape next to a large building which has a huge face projected onto it. In the distance a screen can be seen with writing and pictures on it
Still from Blade Runner (1982), an influential cyberpunk film.

Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a futuristic setting that tends to focus on a "combination of lowlife and high tech"[1] 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.[2]

Much of cyberpunk is rooted in the New Wave science fiction movement of the 1960s and 70s, when writers like Philip K. Dick, Roger Zelazny, J. G. Ballard, Philip José Farmer and Harlan Ellison examined the impact of drug culture, technology and the sexual revolution while avoiding the utopian tendencies of earlier science fiction. Released in 1984, William Gibson's influential debut novel Neuromancer would help solidify cyberpunk as a genre, drawing influence from punk subculture and early hacker culture. Other influential cyberpunk writers included Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker.

Early films in the genre include Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner, one of several of Philip K. Dick's works that have been adapted into films. The films Johnny Mnemonic[3] and New Rose Hotel,[4][5] both based upon short stories by William Gibson, flopped commercially and critically. More recent additions to this genre of filmmaking include the 2017 release of Blade Runner 2049, sequel to the original 1982 film, and the 2018 Netflix TV series Altered Carbon.

Background

Lawrence Person has attempted to define the content and ethos of the cyberpunk literary movement stating:

Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body.

Cyberpunk plots often center on conflict among artificial intelligences, hackers, and megacorporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth, rather than in the far-future settings or galactic vistas found in novels such as Isaac Asimov's Foundation or Frank Herbert's Dune.[7] The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but tend to feature extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its original inventors ("the street finds its own uses for things").[8] Much of the genre's atmosphere echoes film noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from detective fiction.[9] There are sources who view that cyberpunk has shifted from a literary movement to a mode of science fiction due to the limited number of writers and its transition to a more generalized cultural formation.[10][11][12]

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