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Cyberpunk , formed from the terms cyber (from ancient Greek κυβερνάω for control or direct ) and punk , is a dystopian branch of science fiction literature that emerged in the 1980s. The term first appeared in 1980 in a short story of the same name by Bruce Bethke and was eventually coined by Gardner Dozois to describe the works of William Gibson (specifically the Neuromancer trilogy ). Cyberpunk is considered the film noir among the science fiction genres.

Sony Center in Berlin as an example of an architecture associated with cyberpunk

In contrast to the classic utopias of many other science fiction genres, the world of cyberpunk is not shiny and sterile-clean, but gloomy and characterized by violence and pessimism . Originated in the 1980s, it reflects the emerging criticism of the increasingly felt commercialization and urbanization . In this dystopia, the states are controlled by large corporations who abuse the state monopoly power for their own purposes, whereby the physical and economic security of the individual (previously existing in developed countries) has been lost. The promise of a better world through technological progress has not been kept. The high technology does not serve the well-being of the people, it is used for general monitoring and tuning of living organisms by means of cyberware .

Some readers and critics see influences of the criticism of capitalism in this scenario : The corporations have taken power, governments no longer exist or play a very subordinate role. Private, paramilitary security services ensure “order” . The boundaries between reality and fiction are often blurred with technology, such as with the concept of cyberspace coined by William Gibson - a similar technology is called Metaverse by Neal Stephenson - or SimStim.

Against this background, cyberpunk often paints the picture of a subculture that emerged as a counterpoint to a new world order without social and personal security; Hackers are popular in this role . The main characters are usually the losers in this development. They are adventurers and adventurers who - often involuntarily - lead a life away from the large corporations "in the shadow" of society. Many narratives oppose them as protagonists of the power and ruthlessness of the unleashed corporations.



In the 1960s, Philip K. Dick , who took androids with dreams of electric sheep? (1968) provided the novel for the film Blade Runner , anticipating many important topics of the later cyberpunk, although he was not a protagonist of cyberpunk (due to his much earlier work) . John Brunner was also pioneering , especially with his novels Morgenwelt (1968) and Der Schockwellenreiter (1975). Thematic ancestors of cyberpunk are also Daniel F. Galouye , especially his novel Simulacron-3 (1964), David R. Bunch with Moderan (1972) and John Shirley with Transmaniacon (1979). Harlan Ellison and Harry Harrison also provided important influences .


Intersection in Shibuya
William Gibson wrote that Japan is simply cyberpunk.

Cyberpunk in the narrower sense can initially only be described as films and novels from around 1980 to around 1994, as the term was later expanded significantly. The first works for which the term cyberpunk was used are probably the film Blade Runner (1982) by Ridley Scott and the novels Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson and Software (1982) by Rudy Rucker . Also the mangas Akira (1982) by Katsuhiro Otomo and Ghost in the Shell (1989) by Masamune Shirow , the anime Bubblegum Crisis (1987) by Hiroshi Ishiodori and Hiroyuki Fukushima, the television series Max Headroom and the radio play series The Last Detective (both 1984) can be considered early examples. The collaboration and joint appearance (with mirrored sunglasses and black leather jackets) of John Shirley, Bruce Sterling and William Gibson as the Mirrorshades group at the beginning of the 1980s contributed decisively to the genre's breakthrough . From 1983 they published the fanzine Cheap Truth .

Boom time

Around 1985 a real boom set in in the science fiction sector, as a result more and more authors and also works by "classic" science fiction authors were assigned to cyberpunk, such as Greg Bear's Blood Music (1985). If the authors were rather unhappy with the cyberpunk drawer before, a real countermovement set in: Once again the "death of science fiction" was announced, cyberpunk should be its last expression. In the meantime, the writers turned to new fields, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling first switched to steampunk with The Difference Machine (1990) , then moved more and more towards contemporary literature , other authors such as Michael Swanwick increasingly integrated fantasy elements into their novels, as in The Daughter of the Steel Dragon (1993).

The first wave of cyberpunk can be declared over in 1994, although with Neal Stephenson in 1992 a new author brought a breath of fresh air to the genre. In the manga and anime area, Blame! (1997) Cyberpunk influences in connection with newer motifs of transhumanism and borrowings from space operas like the Ringwelt the genre in a different direction. During the boom period, one of the first PC adventure games, Neuromancer , appeared in 1988, which was to influence many later cyberpunk role-playing games on the PC.


Meanwhile, cyberpunk themes were about to go through music, role-playing games , comic books and computer games ever further into the mainstream - pop culture penetrated. Shadowrun (1989) can be regarded as the most popular cyberpunk role-playing game , whereby the PC game classic Deus Ex (2000) should also be mentioned, which so far represents cyberpunk on the PC most plausibly. With the release of Billy Idol's album Cyberpunk (1993), but at the latest with the film Matrix (1999), cyberpunk had become common property and thus more difficult to define as an independent sub-genre of science fiction. Typical cyberpunk technology topics such as nanotechnology , genetic engineering and virtual reality are now also dealt with by mainstream authors such as Frank Schätzing , Michael Crichton and Stephen King .


“I have my doubts that the Cyberpunk label is more than a sales aid. I don't know what the common denominator between Greg Bear, Lucius Shepherd, Norman Spinrad, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling ... I would be very concerned about evaluating cyberpunk as a literary movement or literary school. It is more about a circle of friends whose members praise each other. The best of these authors, for example Gibson, actually have something new to say ... "

- Darko Suvin : in an interview with Horst Pukallus


Digitization is used as a source of literary motivation. Stylistically, the genre consists of a mixture of characteristics of the hard-boiled-style crime novels and the literature of magical realism . The human ego that connects with technology appears as the central motif. It becomes a memory and processor issue. The biological structure of humans is increasingly linked to the functioning of the computer (brain = memory, processor). The medium of the computer and the Internet become a parallel world in which the individual (re) constructs himself. The dissolution of the ego in the data world can be accompanied by a loss of identity. The desire for eternal life can resonate in cyberpunk. The human ego is reproduced in or through the computer and thus made independent of the original connection to the body. The individual can be deeply interwoven with the data world, so that this state is interpreted as natural. In the 1980s the genre experienced a boom, which also led to the development of a proper inventory of characteristics. These features include:

  • urban dystopias
  • virtual, computer-generated worlds
  • Implants and technical modifications of the human organism
  • psychological integration into the data world
  • artificial intelligence
  • a world ruled by trusts, weak or non-existent state
  • Information control
  • criminal underworlds
  • drug consumption

The world of data is increasingly appearing as a black, romantic universe that has been transfigured by technology. In this context, the genre also sees itself as a revived neo-romanticism . The most famous novel of the genre Neuromancer coined the term as a word formation from Neuro , Romancer ("Fantast") and Necromancer .

List of well-known works in cyberpunk literature and those that are significantly influenced by it:

The quota machine is considered the first cyberpunk hypertext novel in German, published around 1995. In 2015, the quota machine 2.0 was created as a reconstruction in collaboration with Steffen Fritz at the German Literature Archive in Marbach


Cyberpunk can be classified with other genres under the umbrella term Dark Future . The genre is thematically related to film noir and science fiction , which is why cyberpunk can also be referred to as SF noir.


title year References
12 monkeys 1995
A scanner darkly 2006 Based on the novel The Dark Screen by Philip K. Dick (1977)
Aachi & Ssipak 2006
Alita: Battle Angel 2019 based on the manga Battle Angel Alita
Akira 1988 some references to Blade Runner
Avalon - game for your life 2001
Babylon AD 2008 is based on the novel Babylon Babies
Blade runner 1982 The literary source is the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Blade Runner 2049 2017 Blade Runner movie sequel
Brazil 1985 The original title was "1984 and ½" - an allusion to both George Orwell's famous novel 1984 and Federico Fellini's film
Chrysalis - Deadly Memory 2007 The authors used the horror film Eyes Without a Face as a template
the rattlesnake 1981
Equilibrium 2002
existence 1999 Similar to the book Simulacron-3 , Cronenberg's film raises the question of what is reality and what is merely sensory input with which an individual is fed.
Freejack - hostage of the future 1992 based on the 1959 novel Immortality, Inc.
Ghost in the Shell 1995 based on the manga of the same name Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell 2 - Innocence 2004 based on the manga Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell (2017) 2017 based on the manga Ghost in the Shell
IKU 2000 the plot can be seen as a sequel to the American film Blade Runner .
Networked - Johnny Mnemonic 1995 is based on the cyberpunk short story The Mnemonic Johnny
matrix 1999 cites cyberpunk films like Blade Runner , Total Recall - Total Recall, and Brazil .
Metropolis of Osamu Tezuka 2001
Minority Report 2002 is based on the short story The Minorities Report
Natural City 2003 clear parallels to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner
Nirvana 1997
One Point Zero - You are programmed 2004
Renaissance 2006
Sleep dealer 2008
Strange days 1995
Surrogates - My second self 2009 is based on the graphic novel of the same name
Tank girl 1995 based on the cartoon series Tank Girl
Tetsuo: The Iron Man 1989
Terminator 1984 see Terminator (film) #Screenplay
The 13th Floor - Are you what you think? 1999 It is based on the science fiction novel Simulacron-3 , published in 1964 .
Tron 1982
Tron Legacy 2010 Successor to Tron
Videodrome 1983
world on wire 1973 It is based on the science fiction novel Simulacron-3 , published in 1964 .

Anime and Manga


Tabletop and RPG

Video games

Typical scene in a cyberpunk game

Radio plays


In the 1980s and 1990s, there were several bands dealing with cyberpunk, particularly in the field of electronic music, including Manufacture , Skinny Puppy , Severed Heads , Front 242 , Front Line Assembly , Revolting Cocks , The Beatnigs , Haujobb and Clock DVA .

Individual albums that are thematically dedicated to cyberpunk are:


  • Jiré Emine Gözen: Cyberpunk Science Fiction. Literary fictions and media theory , transcript Verlag , Bielefeld, 2012, ISBN 978-3-8376-1701-6 , publisher's advertisement .
  • Thomas Ballhausen: Cyberpunk in the service of metafiction. Liesl Ujvary's "Controlled Games" and the poetological principles of reflexive prose, in: Quarber Merkur 103/104, Franz Rottensteiner's literary magazine for science fiction and fantasy, Passau 2006. ISBN 978-3-932621-91-8 .
  • Martin Holz: Traversing Virtual Spaces. Body, Memory and Trauma in Cyberpunk , Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg, 2006, ISBN 3-8253-5210-2 , publisher's advertisement
  • Guntram Geser: Cyberpunk: Techno-Pop / Techno-Fiction. In: Wolfgang Jeschke (Ed.): The Science Fiction Year 1997 , Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich, ISBN 3-453-11896-0 , pp. 511-530.
  • Hilmar Schmundt: Modems, myths, neo-romanticism . In: Language in the Technical Age , No. 135 (September 1995).
  • Wolfgang Neuhaus : At the zero point of posthumanity. Cyberpunk fragments. In: Wolfgang Jeschke (Ed.): The Science Fiction Year 1995 , Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich, ISBN 3-453-07967-1 , pp. 537-583.
  • Joe Haldeman , Bruce Sterling , Tom Maddox: Cyberpunk - 10 Years Later , in: The Science Fiction Year 1992 (Vol. 7), Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich 1992, pp. 393-407. ISBN 3-453-05379-6
  • George Slusser: Literary MTV: A Foray through Cyberpunk. In: Wolfgang Jeschke (Ed.): The Science Fiction Year 1991 , Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich, ISBN 3-453-04471-1 , pp. 349-363.
  • Usch Kiausch: Cyberpunks: Yesterday's whizzkids? A conversation with Tom Maddox. In: Wolfgang Jeschke (Ed.): The Science Fiction Year 1990 , Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich, ISBN 3-453-03905-X , pp. 213-219.
  • Norman Spinrad : A reunion with cyberpunk. In: Wolfgang Jeschke (Ed.): The Science Fiction Year 1990 , Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich, ISBN 3-453-03905-X , pp. 190–212.

Web links

Commons : Cyberpunk  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Bruce Bethke: Cyberpunk - a short story by Bruce Bethke. In: infinity plus. 1997, accessed March 15, 2017 .
  2. ^ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica: Cyberpunk. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. January 9, 1999, accessed March 16, 2017 .
  3. ^ David Suzuki: Good News for a Change: How Everyday People Are Helping the Planet . Greystone Books, 2003, ISBN 1-55054-926-X , pp. 332 ( online in Google Book Search).
  4. It was not that there was a cyberpunk move-ment in Japan or a native literature akin to cyberpunk, but that modern Japan simply was cyberpunk. from William Gibson: The Future Perfect . In: Time Asia . tape 157 , no. 17 , April 30, 2001 ( online ).
  5. Jiré Emine Gözen: Cyberpunk Science Fiction (2012), p. 76f.
  6. The Science Fiction Year 1990 . Wilhelm Heyne, Munich, ISBN 3-453-03905-X , p. 268 f .
  7. ^ "Neuro from the nerves, the silver paths. Romancer. Necromancer. I call up the dead. "William Gibson, quoted from Gerald Alva Miller, Jr .: Understanding William Gibson , Chapter 3. University of South Carolina Press 2016, ISBN 978-1-61117-634-6 .
  8. ^ Stephanie Kuch: The quota machine. May 3, 2016, accessed April 24, 2018 .
  9. ^ Stephanie Kuch: The Odds Machine 2.0. August 24, 2015, accessed April 24, 2018 .
  10. ^ Postmodern Metanarratives: Blade Runner and Literature in the Age of Image. by Décio Torres Cruz. 2014. Cyberpunk section
  11. ^ Review of episode 4 of HumAnemy , created on December 12, 2013, accessed on February 27, 2015.
  12. Official website of the radio play series
  13. English-language cyberpunk documentation from 1990 (section music from the 21st minute) on Google Videos, see web links