1. A genre of near-future science fiction in which conflict and action take place in virtual reality environments maintained on global computer networks in a worldwide culture of dystopian alienation. The prototypical cyberpunk novel is William Gibson's _Neuromancer_ (1982).
2. A category of popular culture that resembles the ethos of cyberpunk fiction.
3. A person or fictional character who resembles the heroes of cyberpunk fiction.
Title of a short story by Bruce
Bethke, later used by Gardner Dozoi, editor of _Asimov_ magazine. Shortlived
eighties subculture spawned by William
big bang _Neuromancer_
Scott's visionary film _Blade
"Stanley Kubrick is the essence of cyberpunk." - Timothy Leary
In the late 50's and 60's, a group of a hundred or so select psychologists and philosophers discovered the brain. That is, they discovered how to navigate and explore the brain, just like Magellan and Columbus did for the outer geography of the planet earth. People like Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, and Albert Hofmann used psyche-active vehicles to move around in the brain. One of the major philosophic tasks of the late twentieth century is mapping the different islands or hemispheres or continents in the universe of the brain.
I remember Huxley used the metaphor of the fire antipodes of the brain, of the mind -- like Australia being discovered by Captain Cook. This is the first task of the psychedelic philosopher. So over the years I've produced dozens of sketch maps of the culvas circles, the circuits or the levels of consciousness. These were crude words to build up a vocabulary or a cartography of inner space. I don't use the notion of eight circuits now as much as I did, but that's why i did it.
The twenty-first century person is a cybernetic person. He or she accepts the Heisenberg principle that you create all realities. Therefore you're responsible for everything that you experience. This identification of yourself as a quantum entity certainly dissolves most of the identification chords to your former culture, your former nation, your former religion, or any other external structure, even to your family, unless family members are redefined as cybernetic entities. The cyber-punk, or the cybernetic person, is a free agent. By the way, nobody uses that term anymore; it's like one of those words taht was wonderful for awhile, then it carried all the freight it could, and it was kind of co-opted by some high-falutin literay types and so forth. But no one uses that word anymore, although we certainly hang it up on the trophy shelf as a wonderful bumper sticker.
The cybernetic person spends a very high percentage of his or her time and energy in what's now called cyber-space, communicating, mutually creating new realities with other people, on the other side of the screen. The cyber-punk person is a free agent, and the new society is made up of free agents who link-up at a much different level of social connection than family, work, or religious commitment. So the cyber-society is a society of highly skilled, highly courageous, cybernetic people who mutually create what we call "cyberias" or cyber-architectures, on the other side of the screen.
- Timothy Leary
Science Fiction is the literature of alienation. I'm really influenced by Phillip K. Dick, Samuel Delaney, and also a lot of the Cyberpunk guys, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, William Gibson, Pat Cadigan. Another writer, Octavia Butler, uses genetic mutation as a metaphor for what's going on in society, psychologically, emotionally, and economically. It's all being determined by genetic type in her books.
- DJ Spooky
THE CYBERPUNK AS MODERN ALCHEMIST
The baby boom generation has grown up in an electronic world of TV and personal computing screens.The cyberpunks offer metaphors, rituals, life styles for dealing with the universe of information. More and more of us are becoming electro-shamans, modern alchemists.
Alchemists of the Middle Ages described the construction of magical appliances for viewing future events, or speaking to friends distant or dead. Writings of Paracelsus describe a mirror of ELECTRUM MAGICUM with telegenic properties, and crystal scrying was in its heyday.
Today, digital alchemists have at their command tools of a precision and power unimagined by their predecessors. Computer screens ARE magical mirrors, presenting alternate realities at varying degrees of abstraction on command (invocation). Aleister Crowley defined magick as 'the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with our will,' and to this end the computer is the universal level of Archimedes.
The parallels between the culture of the alchemists and that of cyberpunk computer adepts are inescapable. Both employ knowledge of an occult arcanum unknown to the population at large, with secret symbols and words of power. The 'secret symbols' comprise the languages of computers and mathematics, and the 'words of power' instruct computer operating systems to complete Herculean tasks. Knowing the precise code name of a digital program permits it to be conjured into existence, transcending the labor of muscular or mechanical search or manufacture.
Rites of initiation or apprenticeship are common to both. 'Psychic feats' of telepathy and action-at-a-distance are achieved by selection of the menu option.
- Erik Davis
Cyberpunk began as a loose generational nexus of writers swapping letters, manuscripts, ideas.
Cyberpunk crunches together neuro- and physical chemistry, genetic biology, structural linguistics, cybernetics, bio-technology and cyborg engineering into a fantastic series of fictions.
There is no typical cyberpunk,
although the general project does have central themes, tenets, and
topics. I'd say it is an eighties milieu - nineties, post-2001
would equally do - it is a product of the interzone between hard
technologies/sciences and nihilo-romanticist surrealism.
Its precursors are Michael Moorcock, Langdon Jones, Harlan Ellison,
Samuel Delaney, Norman Spinrad, Brian Aldiss, John Varley, Philip.
K. Dick, Alfred Bester, the strange pulsing
entropies of Thomas
panic-theory of Baudrillard, the Situationist International, Larry Niven, Roger Zelazney, H.G. Wells, the "programming phenomena" control-data buzz of Guy Debord, and the seminal genius of J.G. Ballard.
Cyberpunk was essentially initiated by J.G.Ballard in The Atrocity Exhibition. Ballard details the collapse of a landscape through which lines of deterritorialisation have proceeded to absolute tolerances, fractal zones in which sheer contiguity replaces syntax...
Thomas Pynchon in _Gravity's Rainbow_ explores the obliteration of outdated territories, languages, affiliations, of any boundaries or forms that have impeded the installation of cybernetics--the theory of messages and their control is here intermeshed with the hegemony of what Pynchon calls the mega-cartel, the zaibatsu, the multinationals.
Cyberpunk has a strong garage-band aesthetic. It grapples with the raw core of the near future--its myths, its ideas, its coming practices. It is a pop culture which is theorizing itself into a more cohesive and self-determined existence.
Roy's murder of Tyrell is the most meaningful statement in the whole of Cyberpunk : "Not an easy thing, to meet your maker."
Cyberpunk is a pop-cultural fascination with cybernetic
systems, including a vast array of machines and apparatuses that
computational power. Such systems contain a dynamic, even if wasted, quotient of intelligence. Telephone networks, communication satellites, radar systems, programmable laser video-discs, robots, biogenetically engineered cells, rocket guidance systems, videotex networks--all exhibit a capacity to process information and execute actions. They are all cybernetic in that they are self-regulating mechanisms or systems within predefined limits and in relation to predefined tasks.
There are no truly entropic or closed
systems in Cyberpunk as there are in Situationist theory; all processes
impinge upon and are effected by other processes in some way. Systems
feed energy into each other. Feedback exists between systems that are
not in themselves closed but contingent upon other systems. A system is closed
when entropy, virtual
technologies, the Videodrome, gas or electricity
bills dominate the feedback
process, that is when the measure of energy lost is greater than the measure
of energy gained. A candle is a good example.
There is no more opposition in the Cyberpunk territory between the abstractions of money and the apparent materiality of commodities; money and what it can buy are now fundamentally of the same substance.
Cyberpunk makes clear that information is a name for the content of what is exchanged with the outer world as we adjust to it and make our adjustments felt upon it-to live effectively is to live with adequate information, the fictions of Cyberpunk.
Cyberspace as described by William Gibson in _Neuromancer_ was prefigured in Nikola Tesla's 1901 plan for a world system of totally interconnected, planetary communications. He believed he could engineer a globe unified by the universal regulation of time and fully traversed by flows of language, images, and money-all reduced to an undifferentiated flux of electrical energy.
Situationist Cyberpunk flicks aside the general form of Marxist analysis... and suggests that the classical definition of productive forces is too restrictive and expands the analysis further into the whole murky field of significations, transmissions, communications, materialisations, reifications- programming phenomena.
One of the key roles of the expanding electronic grid is to articulate a new social and geopolitical stratification based on immediacy of access to data. The aim of Cyberpunk is to create a state of temporary gridlock in order to insert certain secrets of its own.
excerpts from article on cyberpunk by Mark Downham on which appeared in London's _VAGUE_ magazine .
Cyberpunk (from Cyber(netics) + punk) is a sub-genre of science fiction which uses elements from the hard-boiled detective novel, film noir, Japanese anime, and post-modernist prose. It describes the nihilistic, underground side of the digital society which started to evolve in the last two decades of the 20th century. The dystopian world of cyberpunk has been called the antithesis of the utopian science fiction visions of the mid-20th century as typified by the world of Star Trek.
In cyberpunk literature much of the action takes place online, in cyberspace - the clear borderline between the real and the virtual becomes blurred. A typical (though not universal) feature of the genre is a direct connection between the human brain and computer systems.
Cyberpunk's world is a sinister, dark place with networked computers that dominate every aspect of life. Giant multinational corporations have replaced governments as centres of power. The alienated outsider's battle against a totalitarian system is a common theme in science fiction; however, in conventional sci-fi those systems tended to be sterile, ordered, and state-controlled. Cyberpunk, in sharp contrast, shows the seamy underbelly of corporatocracy, and the Sisyphean battle against their power by disillusioned renegades.
Cyberpunk stories are seen by social theorists as fictional forecasts of the evolution of the Internet. The virtual world of the Internet often appears in cyberpunk under various names, including "cyberspace," the "Metaverse" (as seen in _Snow Crash_), and the "Matrix" (from the film _The Matrix_).
Notable precursors to the genre are Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination (Tiger! Tiger!), 1956), Philip K. Dick, John Brunner (The Shockwave Rider, 1975), Vernor Vinge (True Names, 1981), and K. W. Jeter (Dr. Adder, published in the 1980s but written ealier.)
At least two role-playing games called Cyberpunk exist: Cyberpunk 2020, by R. Talsorian Games, and GURPS Cyberpunk, published by Steve Jackson Games as a module of the GURPS family of role-playing games. Both are set in the near future, in a world where cybernetics and computers are even more present than today. Corporate corruption is a frequent theme in these games' adventures. The characters often find themselves skirting the law, if not outright flouting it.
In 1990, in an odd re-convergence of cyberpunk art and reality, the U.S. Secret Service somehow came to believe that GURPS Cyberpunk was a "handbook for computer crime", and raided the offices of Steve Jackson Games, confiscating all files related to GURPS Cyberpunk.
An unusual sub-sub-genre of cyberpunk is steampunk, which is set in an anachronistic Victorian environment.
The emerging genre called postcyberpunk continues the preoccupation with the effects of computers, but without the assumption of dystopia or the emphasis on cybernetic implants.