Cyberpunk, what is it?


(YouTube 2016)

Considered to be a subgenre of science fiction (Barnett 2000), cyberpunk is described as a pessimistic view of the future (Starrs & Huntsinger 1995). Cavallaro (2000), credits cyberpunk with questioning machine-human dynamics, exploring the implications of cyberspace, virtual reality and other technologies threatening the human race with extinction.

You may equate these descriptions with films like Bladerunner, The Matrix, Terminator 2: Judgement day and 12 monkeys, all generally categorised as cyberpunk. Unlike other fictional works, the protagonist in cyberpunk literature tends to be information (Starrs & Huntsinger 1995). Interaction between humans and machines is a central cyberpunk theme, and authors often share a fascination with ‘enhancement’, where the human body becomes less organic and increasingly artificial (McCarron 1995, p. 266). But despite technology facilitating the genre, cyberpunk is anti-technology, resistant to further deterioration between humans and machines (McCarron 1995, p. 271). Its central themes include the possibility of machines having minds and querying humanness when rivalled by inhumanness (McCarron 1995, p. 272). See the interactive timeline below for the evolution of cyberpunk.

cyberpunk timeline


Barnett, P.C 2000, “Reviving Cyberpunk: (Re)Constructing the Subject and Mapping Cyberspace in the Wachowski Brothers’ Film The Matrix”, Extrapolation, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 359.

Butler, A.M 2000, Cyberpunk, Pocket Essentials, Great Britain

Cavallaro, D 2000, Cyberpunk and cyberculture: science fiction and the work of William Gibson, Athlone Press, London.

Cornea, C 2010, Science fiction cinema: between fantasy and reality, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh

Dinello, D 2005, Technophobia: science fiction visions of posthuman technology, University of Texas Press, Austin.

Dyens, O 2000, “Cyberpunk, Technoculture, and the Post-Biological Self”, CLCWeb: Comparitive Literature and Culture, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 1.

Geraci, R.M 2012, “Video Games and the Transhuman Inclination”, Zygon, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 735-756

Goicoechea M 2008, “The Posthuman Ethos in Cyberpunk Science Fiction”, CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 1-11.

Jones, S 1994, “Hyper-punk: cyberpunk and information technology”, Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 81-92.

McCarron, K 1995, “Corpses, Animals, Machines and Mannequins: The Body and Cyberpunk”, Body & Society, vol. 1, no. 3-4, p. 261-273

Starrs, P.F & Huntsinger, L 1995, “The matrix, cyberpunk literature, and the apocalyptic landscapes of information technology”, Information Technology and Libraries, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 251.

YouTube. (2016). Cyberpunk Documentary – 1/5. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Aug. 2016].


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