Is Cyberpunk coming back?


#1

I guess the title says it all really?

But i live in Sweden and im in my last year of upper secondary school/high school and we basically have to do a big exam work that is more or less like a papper like in university, and i decided to write about cyberpunk. Because of this i have been thinking of cyberpunk very much lately.

With the release of Blade Runner last year and the netflix series Altered Carbon (based on the cyberpunk book with the same name) that dropped around a month ago we have seen a bit more cyberpunk then usual. There also seems to be a larger number of cyberpunk games around now, such as “The Red Strings Club” and “The Last Night” although these are small games we should also mention that CD Projekt Red (the developers of the witcher series) are working on Cyberpunk 2077.

And as it looks today we are more or less already are living in a cyberpunk dystopia (although much more absurd then what William Gibson perhaps thought, i mean who could have predicted the whole bitcoin spectacle?)

So are we seeing atleast the groundworks for a new wave of cyberpunk? What are your thoughts and predictions on these developments? Am i somewhat right or am i just talking out of my ass right now?


Luv is Rage 2 (Bethesda Remix)
#2

Better that than steampunk which isn’t fuckin’ punk at all send post


#3

I tend to agree with what Austin et al have said on the podcast around this: I’d love for it to happen but I’m not convinced it is. There seems to be a bit too much of the borrowing of the established aesthetic without the underlying punk politics - a whole new generation of which would be extremely welcome (in an era where the previous push may not have been completely absorbed into the mainstream but is definitely a counter-culture now often living inside a suit while writing letters to politicians about the ever-growing surveillance state - the thing warned about is absolutely happening but the pushback has lost some edge with age and assimilation).

That’s where I’m at: the thing I really want to see is the next cyberpunk. The one that may not dress in that established aesthetic but takes a new hammer to the emerging (digital/societal) consensus and plots a new path of radical resistance against the dystopian ends we’re currently walking towards. The '80s neon is a cool look but it’s currently looking more and more like a sign that someone is trying to sell me my childhood (under the mistaken impression that those of us now in our 30s actually have real money to spend on nostalgia) when what I’m looking for is speculative fiction based on current politics - less '80s hacker, more BLM.


#4

It’s not really Cyberpunk at all. There’s a nostalgic element to that kind of fiction in dealing with neon signs and supersaw synth pads that really ignores the political element of cyberpunk in favor of telling stories about cops. Bladerunner wasn’t a story about Deckard and Deckard was a fucking asshole, but 2049 is about him, just like Mute is about a detective, just like Human Revolution is about a cop, just like Altered Carbon is about someone who might as well be a cop. It’s just science fiction noir that’s making an upsurge. Cyberpunk has been dead for decades.


#5

Well do you think that there is a chance for a surge of cyberpunk works that still feels like the previous waves that makes cyberpunk big again within the mainstream and that actually is very core genre fiction and not just elements of cyberpunk and that this leads to a new wave of actual new work that has a more radical standpoint that comments on the current political climate in a interesting way?


#6

It’s coming back as an aesthetic, at the very least. Theres just something sexy about neon and wet pavement and flying cars when you don’t have to engage with the politics of neon, wet pavement, and flying cars.

Thats not to say cyberpunk stuff coming out in the past five years doesn’t engage with politics. Blade Runner 2049 definitely wants to talk about the labor politics in its world, Red Strings Club does engage with queer politics and identity (and does so well) even if they do fuck some stuff up at the end.

The Last Night is apparently about returning to the status quo after feminists take over the world or some shit so it’s better not mentioning that at all, and Cyberpunk 2077 is such an unknown at this point that hell, couldn’t tell you. I hope that Pondsmith’s involvement keeps CDProjekt true to his setting.

But the rise of 80’s nostalgia has definitely made the aesthetic of Cyberpunk the appeal of the setting and genre more than what it actually has to say. Easier to make people appreciate the effects of the Reagan years when the entire text isn’t “fuck Ronald Reagan.”

Which is why in my head I’ve basically divorced the aesthetic from the political message. Any story that has to do with technology in a very specific way and that engages with politics is Cyberpunk. Mr. Robot is cyberpunk without the neon, Serial Experiments Lain is cyberpunk without the flying cars.


#7

steampunk is victorian aristocracy plus pipes. it’s just a fantastical version of early sciences, which evolved from rich academics getting really into expensive hobbies out of boredom and curiosity. its the literal fucking opposite of punk


#8

Yes thank you although I’d say it is more Edwardian with Gears


#9

i hear you, and am altering my assessment to Regency with vapor


#10

Good cyberpunk is being made by independent creators. Virtually all “cyberpunk” that is being made for mainstream audiences is adopting the neon and chrome aesthetic, and draping a crude facsimile of the politics over themselves as another aesthetic choice. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Detroit: Become Human gesture at contemporary issues but only to use them as window dressing. Obviously, Detroit: Become Human isn’t out yet but considering what David Cage has said in interviews and the fact that David Cage is David Cage it’s basically a foregone conclusion how it’s going to shake out.


#11

i mean i HOPE cyberpunk comes back - theres so much cyberpunk inspired media that has diverse casts like the fear effect games whose main protags are an asian lesbian couple


#12

I am not defending what eventually became of steampunk, but if you look to Gibson & Sterling’s The Difference Engine, there is a lot that’s very punk about it. For instance, it borrows characters from Sybil which is itself about highlighting the plight of the working class.


#13

It’s funny how that works. Gibson comes around, codifies a genre, and then other people come in and screw it all up.

The Difference Engine is brilliant.


#14

It’s worth noting that steampunk was already a thing (and explicitly codified as steampunk) before Gibson & Sterling wrote The Difference Engine. I haven’t read the steampunk canon, if there is such a thing, but from what I understand it mainly started as various sci-fi and fantasy authors paying homage to and lifting inspiration from early sci-fi like Verne, and that the politics were never really a core component of what the steampunk genre became defined as. A few authors literally just decided to call the books they were writing steampunk and it stuck. So you have some steampunk fiction that earns the punk moniker, and you have a lot of it that just thinks that the Victorian period was super rad, from the fashion down to the politics.


#15

I’d love if cyberpunk creators spread their wings to cyberpostpunk, cyberemo, and cyberpowerviolence.

So, if Gibson is my Sex Pistols I hope CD Projekt Red are my Funeral Diner.


#16

I’d say that people are cribbing notes from cyberpunk in large numbers because it feels less like a possible future, and more like an inevitable one.

Farmers in the Midwestern US are downloading illegal software from Ukrainian forums to jailbreak the computers in their tractors that prevent them from replacing parts on their own.

We have LEDs instead of holograms or neon, and it’s not festooning every last thing, but we’re very much living in a cyberpunk future even if the aesthetic is applied unevenly.


#17

I mean cyberpunk is basically new wave as it is? In other words, is Gibson Sex Pistols, or is he New Order?

oh no now I’m going to legitimately devote brain power to thinking about this


#18

Gibson is, ironically, the Les Paul of cyberpunk authors.


#19

My main argument here would be that the “skeleton” of cyberpunk is itself what would be the kind of fiction you’re looking for, if you want it in the realm of science fiction. (Specifically social issues is what you seem to be wanting, right? There’s also cli-fi but it’s not as social.) The problem is cyberpunk has been bastardized and sold as an aesthetic.

I really ought to get to reading more cyberpunk literature. I’m fascinated I have Snowcrash on my bookshelf but have never given it a go.

I’d love to see “Cyber-post-punk”, but I don’t really know what that would look like, and how it would distinguish itself from “post-cyberpunk”… I guess my desire is for it to continue to utilize the cyberpunk world design but diverge from the old narrative restraints and experiment there. (I’m actually working on something like this.) Like a lot of specific niches of speculative fiction, I feel like a lot of stories end up not being particularly unique. Thinking about the way Vonnegut (whether you like him or not) used sci-fi trappings but told stories completely unlike most sci-fi. I would love to see this with cyberpunk.

Again, I don’t read enough cyberpunk, so maybe there are plenty of books that already do this. (Please tell me if there is!)


#20

Hmm, between this and the F-you to steampunk above you it sounds like time for me to nail down the concrete tenets and pitch for my new punk genre that spins off from dieselpunk but instead of futurism and fascism, focuses on socialism, and natural beauty. The working name is Steinbeckpunk.

If I nail this just right they’ll say Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is proto-Steinbeckpunk.


Actually, focusing on cyberpunk, God will I be glad if cyberpunk dies. From an aesthetic perspective, the way it latched onto strong visuals from a specific time of punk along with a childlike enthusiasm toward any technology that sounded cool, is positively revolting. Like the “cover” for Shadowrun Returns that has an elf with a massive mohawk, gasmask, and trenchcoat, that tacky mess of cyberpunk cliches? It had me dry heaving for years before I finally had the stomach to buy the game and realize it was good. Thankfully Harebrained, like everyone else, realized that’s not a look that should or does work anymore.

And then obviously that whole rant also applies to Steampunk. Next -punk genre better have a timeless aesthetic. No, I don’t care if that actively runs counter to the word punk, it’s going to be way cooler better remembered if I’m not distancing myself from a genre in disgust a decade later.