When it comes to defining Cyberpunk it seems that there are almost as many opinions as there are readers, and that most oppinions fail to encompass the entire genre. Definitions that apply to the more identifiable works such as SLANT fail to hold true works like FONDLY FAHRENHEIT. Indeed there are many CP works that are worlds away from what some people would call the Gibson Cyberpunk.
My first question to you is this. How would you as a Cyberpunk author define Cyberpunk?
My second question is one that I have debated many times with associates. What do you think about the statement that the essence of Cyberpunk can be traced back over one hundred years to Mary Shelley?
From: Greg Bear
Interesting debate! If we define "punk" as "rockstar romantic sensibility," then Bill's classic is the defining example. (This might bring in M & PB Shelley and Byron as well, as romantics flirting with goth--but minus the tech, of course.) A broader definition--hi-tech, generally hard-sf with a cyber sensibility which includes SLANT and QUEEN OF ANGELS should also include STAND ON ZANZIBAR and FONDLY FAHRENHEIT.
Relativism is a dangerous quality; recognising origins (boundaries) is important. Cyberpunk did categorically begin (emerge?) with Gibson and Sterling.
If the romantic nature of Shelley fills the 'punk' requirment, then can we not say that Frankenstein was in fact a work of Cyberpunk. Certainly the experimental nature of the monsters creation fullfills the 'cyber' requirment.
Much of the 'punk' that I have seen in the genre is less about standing up to the man, and more about using, exploiting, or destroying the technologies which society has yet to fully accept and/or appreciate. The social conflict caused by the new technology is, in my eyes, the most defining aspect of cyberpunk.
If this can be said to be true, then the demand that Dr. Frankenstein take responsibility for his 'monster', and that we later see the Dr. as being the true monster of story, is in fact similar to many of the more social aspects of Cyberpunk.
(Hi all -- New to the site, just finished re-re-reading Eon. Great book. Not cyberpunk :)
For me, "Cyberpunk" is almost entirely defined by the glam that Wm Gibson brought to the mix of drugs and computer geeks that he evoked. Much less to do with content than with style.
Think "mid-80's" here and the culture wars that had been brewing in the US and Europe -- there's a different *aesthetic* from the popular authors of the day. By way of analogy, it's the difference between 80's indie pop vs. crap like "Eye of the Tiger".
Sterling's The Artificial Kid comes close to being cyberpunk -- certainly in terms of content: a "combat artist" f'r crissakes? -- but stylistically and in terms of moral concerns it owes more to the 70's than to the 80's.
Cyberpunk has a kind of noirish acceptance of corruption and lives within it rather than trying to overcome it. -- Hm, that may be too precise. I want to be able to include books like Jennifer Government and Accelerando under the aegis.
Anyway, my basic thought is that it's about style (both a writing style as well as aesthetic perception), and to some degree about underlying assumptions of the world, rather than about a particular set of stories and subjects.
"Pattern Recognition" is almost cyberpunk, isn't it? But there's no fictional tech in it at all...
Sorry to go on and on about another author on your site Greg. I think you rock :)
PS Frankenstein isn't cyberpunk IMO. But what about Wuthering Heights?
From: Greg Bear
Way back when, I eschewed the label, but with respect--didn't think I fit the bill. Style certainly helps define flavor. Is BLADERUNNER cyberpunk? I think so--very eighties, classic style and flavor. But given that, FRANKENSTEIN certainly combines goth-noir with high-tech and romantic attitude!
Wonder what the Bronte sisters would be writing if they were alive today? Laurel K. Hamilton or Anne Perry?
Bladerunner -- definitely.
Do Androids Dream? -- not so much :)
You make a good case for Frankenstein as cyberpunk, using my own criteria, dammit!
Long as the Brontes wouldn't be writing Danielle Steele, I'm okay. I suspect they'd be TV screenwriters, maybe showrunners for something dark on FOX...
Please could you help me in defining cyberpunk. iam doing a style book all about cyberpunk, and would love some views on there fashion, makeup, music ect.
thanks very much
From: Greg Bear
Any thoughts/definitions for Annastasia? I have a hard enough time defining science fiction, so I'll pass for now...
As I have said before, cyberpunk is more then just computers and outlaws. If it were then a good portion of CP works would not fit within the barriers. There is a wonderfull style about Cyberpunk that draws us near to it, but this style is not uniform, nor is it defining. Cyberpunk, TRUE Cyberpunk, is an outlaw genre and as such it has something to say about our world.
There is one constant in Cyberpunk. Society. Every work of Cyberpunk that I have ever read has shown some sort of social element. We don't read these story's because they contain cybernetic limbs... we read them because of what these technologies say about us.
Ghost in the Shell is perhaps the most complete work of Cyberpunk. It may not be a book, but true cyberpunks do not stay at home on staerday and read, they watch movies and listen to music. If you examine GITS you will see that almost every story centers on a social issue. Why does the laughing man do what he does? Why has the scientist downloaded his ghost into tank? These story's are entertaining, but more importantly they ask us questions about how society will respond to these technologies. They address the "Social Morality".
From: Greg Bear
I agree, GITS is a fine example, and definitely cyber-punk--but we can't define cyberpunk by social awareness alone. Most of the best SF takes a long, hard look at one or more social issues. Are THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, FAHRENHEIT 451, FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON, or THE FOREVER WAR cyberpunk?