Basics of Cyberpunk

Looked through my files. Not a single piece saved about cyberpunk. Well, I can’t say ‘not a single piece’, bits and pieces most likely are scattered all around. A refresher is always good. This is a good post to update too (a reminder to myself).

Most of the information comes from the Wikipedia. Some parts from memory. It is really not advisable to fall in the research rabbit hole during NaNoWriMo.

Cyberpunk

Coined by Bruce Bethke 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.

Much of cyberpunk is rooted in the New Wave science fiction movement of the 1960s and 1970s. That’s when writers examined the impact of drug culture, technology, and the sexual revolution while avoiding the utopian tendencies of earlier science fiction.

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.

~ Lawrence Person

Cyberpunk plots often center on conflict among artificial intelligences, hackers, and mega-corporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth. I decided to stay away from earth. I will probably put the story on some random planet. Or a space station.

Setting

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”).

Cyberpunk is often set in urbanized, artificial landscapes, and “city lights, receding”. With strange and chaotic streets where “old and new exist in confusing relationships”.

Cyberpunk writers tend to use elements from crime fiction particularly hardboiled detective fiction and film noir—and postmodernist prose to describe an often nihilistic underground side of an electronic society. 

Much of the action takes place online, in cyberspace, blurring the line between actual and virtual reality. A typical trope in such work is a direct connection between the human brain and computer systems.

Cyberpunk settings are dystopias with corruption, computers and internet connectivity. Giant, multinational corporations have for the most part replaced governments as centers of political, economic, and even military power.

Protagonists

Many cyberpunk protagonists are manipulated, placed in situations where they have little or no choice, and although they might see things through, they do not necessarily come out any further ahead than they previously were. These anti-heroes—”criminals, outcasts, visionaries, dissenters and misfits” – call to mind the private eye of detective fiction. This emphasis on the misfits and the malcontents is the “punk” component of cyberpunk.

Japanese cyberpunk is a little bit different. It has roots in underground music culture. Generally it involves the characters, especially the protagonist, going through monstrous, incomprehensible metamorphoses in an industrial setting. Many of these films have scenes that fall into the experimental film genre; they often involve purely abstract or visual sequences that may or may not relate to the characters and plot. Recurring themes include: mutation, technology, dehumanization, repression and sexual deviance.

It seems that it is the best to play in one city. A mega city. It would be controlled by corporations that fight between themselves. Above the laws. Possibly these corporations would be a background noise. They loom over everything, yet isn’t central to the story.

Mega-corporations are massive conglomerates holding monopolistic or near-monopolistic control over multiple markets (thus exhibiting both a horizontal and a vertical monopoly). They are so powerful that they can ignore the law, possess their own heavily armed (often military-sized) private armies, be the operator of a privatized police force, hold “sovereign” territory, and even act as outright governments.

I like the idea from Cyberpunk 2077. Their Night City’s visual identity is derived from the four eras it underwent—austere Entropism, colourful Kitsch, imposing Neo-Militarism, and opulent Neo-Kitsch. I could build my own eras for my cyberpunk city.

Digging deeper

The New Wave is a movement in science fiction produced in the 1960s and 1970s and characterized by a high degree of experimentation in both form and content, a “literary” or artistic sensibility, and a focus on “soft” as opposed to hard science.

It engaged on complex levels with concepts such as entropy, postmodernism, surrealism, and utopia, and in this it was influenced by the political turmoil of the 1960s, such as the controversy over the Vietnam War, and by social trends such as the drug subculture, sexual liberation, and the environmental movement.

In the 1960’s and 1970s it had several themes, including sexuality, drug culture, use of psychedelics, alienation, social isolation, class discrimination through social isolation, and the end of civilization. A central concern of the New Wave was a fascination with entropy, i.e., that the world (and the universe) must tend to disorder, to eventually run down to ‘heat death’.

[this will be updated]

Obviously this is not a completed Basics of Cyberpunk. Mostly a quick refresher. Keeping in mind that I will live in a Cyberpunk world for a full November, I will learn more stuff. Thus I’ll shape this post accordingly. This might be the first post I’ll actually update.