Literary and Critical Theory Cyberpunk
Lakhimai Mili, Rasik Usean F
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0132


Studies in cyberpunk, a subgenre of science fiction, evolved in 1980, and it has retained its relevance due to the increasing advancement in science and technology where a world of high-tech tools with sophisticated machines, artificial intelligence, robotics, and cybernetics are involved. Cyberpunk can be taken as a genre that visualizes a chaotic, dystopian future full of disparity that needs a revolutionary repulsion. The earliest use of the term cyberpunk traces to Bruce Bethke, who used it as a title for one of his short stories. He was followed by writers like Gardner Dozois who used it to describe the futuristic worlds of science fiction that heavily relied on computerized global economic culture. In The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), John Clute uses the term “noir” to define cyberpunk. Cyberpunk studies emphasize issues that weave around a society where conflicts of interest arise between the government and the corporate society that controls the rest of the less privileged population at the cost of freedom and democracy. As a result, there is the birth of the countercultural antiheroes or the “punks,” characters drawn from the popular culture movement who are supposed to be divergent and rebels and are wizards in hacking through high-tech machines with their skill in computer applications. The importance of theoretical research in cyberpunk as a subject of study has become necessary in the contemporary world, which is influenced by technology in every aspect of human existence—from the entertainment industry to economic conditions, power structures in society, geopolitical conflicts, and human memory. Contemporarily, the literary trends in cyberpunk fiction have branched out into different fields of study. Some of the areas of study taken here are Postmodern Cyberpunk Fiction; Afrofuturism and Postcolonial Cyberpunk; Feminist Cyberpunk and Queerpunk; and Anime, Manga, and Techno-Orientalism. The article also encapsulates other emerging theoretical areas in cyberpunk under the labels of Memory and the Cyberspace, Cyberpunk and Psychology, Posthumanism, Cyberpunk and Culture, and Marxist Ideas in Cyberpunk.

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