Monday, March 2, 2015

CYBERPUNK REVISITED: Brief Note on Categories

Now that our first dossier is live, I thought it might be smart to provide a more detailed explanation for how we're categorizing things. To begin, I want to make note that there are a number of ways one can define 'cyberpunk.' A broader reading suggests cyberpunk is anything science fictional in which cybernetics are integrated into the deep structure of everyday life. That's an elegant definition, and I respect those who prefer it. However, for this project, we are defining cyberpunk more narrowly as:
The 1980s science fictional literature in which: (1) cybernetics are integrated into the deep structure of everyday life; (2) narrative focus is placed on the struggles and stories of non-elites; and (3) the world is, at least in some ways, dystopian.
Or, to use the language of our dossiers:
Cyberpunk = High-Tech + Low-Life + Dark Times.
Because these definitional parameters are so tightly focused, we are also using the following labels for categorization:

Protocyberpunk - any work preceding cyberpunk that anticipates cyberpunk thematically or is known to have directly influenced cyberpunk's early practitioners.

Postcyberpunk - adaptations of the cyberpunk idea and aesthetic to later realities, primarily but not exclusively in literature. For a work to be considered postcyberpunk, however, it must be tied pretty closely to cyberpunk. Snow Crash is the paradigmatic example of postcyberpunk.

Cyberpunk Legatee - the next stage of evolution after postcyberpunk--there’s still a lineage there, but the relationship to the original literature is less direct. Paolo Bacigalupi’s Hugo-winning “biopunk” novel, The Windup Girl, would fit here, as it utilizes the approach of cyberpunk and echoes many of its central themes, but centered on biogenetics rather than cybernetics and from the vantage point of the 2000s rather than the 1980s.

Cyberpunk Derivative - the residual category, and may refer to a range of things:
  • Works that use the tropes or sociological backdrop of cyberpunk but are not substantively cyberpunk (or post), for example Strange Days or Judge Dredd (the comic).
  • Nostalgic works, or works that faithfully reproduce the tropes of cyberpunk far after the date of expiry, such as the Shadowrun Returns game series.
  • Anything else that has a relationship to cyberpunk, was produced after Neuromancer and does not fit into any of the other categories.
Within this latter category, we also distinguish between derivatives that are "strong" (i.e. strongly derivative of cyberpunk) and "weak" (i.e. where the derivation is secondary, tangential or limited to mood/atmosphere).


POSTED BY: The G--purveyor of nerdliness, genre fanatic and Nerds of a
Feather founder/administrator (2012).