The Birth of a Genre

by Karen Walch | Oct 02, 2021

From a handful of novels, the cyberpunk genre has expanded to include tabletop gaming, blockbuster movies, and triple-A videogame titles.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
by Philip K. Dick

Published in 1968 and set in 1992, Rick Deckard is working for the San Francisco Police Department in a world scarred and society tainted by devastating nuclear fallout. This novel laid invaluable groundwork for the common conception of the cyberpunk genre. Society is stratified like never before and technological advancement has run away from humanity. The idea of a manufactured android being indistinguishable from a genuine human is especially poignant against Dick's constructed world. In 1982 Ridley Scott turned this idea into the movie "Bladerunner" with a sequel following almost 40 years later by Denis Villeneuve with "Bladerunner 2049".

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Neuromancer
by William Gibson

Published in 1984 and set in an indeterminate future year, Neuromancer is considered a landmark novel for establishing vast swaths of the technologies and societal textures now accepted as common if not essential for the genre: the grungy punk-infused subcultures, a backdrop with a blend of aesthetics from the world over (most notably coastal America, Japan, and Soviet Russia), and of greatest importance, the existence of cyberspace. Cyberspace is a shared virtual construct a la the internet which "console cowboys" can jack into to explore visual and sensorial representations of all uploaded data the world over. Sound familiar? In 1999 the Wachowskis brought this idea of cyberspace to the big screen with the film "The Matrix". Neuromancer is the first in a trilogy, all of which do more to flesh out this fantastic world.

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Snow Crashby Neal Stephenson

Published in 1992 and set in 21st century Los Angeles, this book perfectly rounds out the three titles to introduce yourself to the cyberpunk genre. Against the backdrop of an impending yet nebulous doom, the main character aptly and cheekily named Jiro Protagonist navigates gangs, hackers, and life-or-death pizza delivery. Corporations are vastly more powerful than nation states and navigating the highways of Los Angeles is taking your life into your hands as you can in so many blocks drive through Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong where your Kongbucks buy you protection from chasing mafias and spill out on the other side of the parking lot in foreign territory. This novel is a real treat of an immensely flavorful world that still manages to be menacing and dystopic.

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