“The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.” – William Gibson
Cyberpunk as a subgenre of science fiction is featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, juxtaposed with radical change in the social order. It tends to be set in near future Earth, the settings are usually post-industrial dystopias, and conflicts among artificial intelligences, hackers and mega corporations; an ubiquitous data sphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body.
The origins are rooted in the New Wave science fiction movement of the 1960s and 70s, often analyzing the impact of drug culture, technology, and sexual revolution with an avant-garde style. In 1983 a short story written by Bruce Bethke, called Cyberpunk, was published in Amazing Stories.
The name was picked up by Gardner Dozois, editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, attempting to coin a term that encompassed both punk attitudes (refers to the people and attitude that cyberpunk has; protagonists in cyberpunk tend to be outsiders, anti-heroes, outcasts, criminals, visionaries, dissenters and misfits) and high technology, which became the main concept in building cyberpunk aesthetics.
Beginning in the early 1990s, some trends in fashion and music were also labeled as cyberpunk, blurring the line between actual and virtual reality. Primary exponents of the cyberpunk field include William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, Bruce Bethke, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley and Philip K. Dick (author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, from which the film Blade Runner was adapted).
Cyberpunk is also featured prominently in anime and manga: Akira, Gunnm, Ghost in the Shell, being among the most notable. The tendrils, that began in a written word, have infiltrated beyond movies to all forms of art, fashion and philosophy, generating an all-encompassing and ever-growing subculture. Visually, individuals are usually modified and enhanced not with cyberware, but by genetic manipulation of their chromosomes.
Some Neo-Futurism artworks and cityscapes have been influenced by cyberpunk, such as the Sony Center in the Potsdamer Platz public square of Berlin, Germany.
Los Angeles International Airport Theme Building in Los Angeles was built in 1961 as a way to commemorate the optimism of the new jet and space age, resembling a landed spacecraft. As the futurist and former champion of cyberpunk Bruce Sterling puts it in an email to The Verge:
“Both cyber and punk are rather old-fashioned in 2014.” So even though cyberpunk may be dead, the people who grew up on Gibson’s writing, Akira, and Blade Runner are still around. Whatever’s left of the dissident genre into a different shape, folding in haute couture fashion designers like Iris Van Herpen and architects like Zaha Hadid, fine-art photographers like Filip Dujardin.