The latest version of the legendary alt.cyberpunk FAQ document.
Precursor: This article was updated since it was last online on the /cyb/+/sec/ wiki, but is overall the same document. You can find the original page here.
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- What is Cyberpunk?
3.1. The Source of the Label
3.2. The Literary Movement
3.3. Style and Setting
- What is Cyberpunk the Subculture?
4.1. Cyberpunk Lifestyle
4.2. Cyberpunk Fora
4.3. Cyberpunk in Academia
4.4. How do I Get into Cyberpunk?
4.5. Do We Live in a Cyberpunk World?
4.6. What is Cyberspace?
- Cyberpunk Media
5.1.3. Early Cyberpunk
5.1.4. The Golden Age of Cyberpunk
5.1.5. The Silver Age of Cyberpunk
5.1.6. The Bronze Age of Cyberpunk
5.2. Movies & Shows
5.2.2. Golden Age
5.2.3. Silver Age
5.2.4. Bronze Age
5.2.5. The Blade Runner Series
5.2.6. Japanese Cyberpunk
5.2.7. Et Cetera
5.2.8. Similar Media
5.3. Comics & Manga
- Related Genres
7.1. Old Technology
7.2. Present Day Tech
7.3. Future Tech
7.4. Military Tech
- FAQ History
The legendary newsgroup hierarchy alt.cyberpunk has been hibernating for a few years now but that is no reason why this FAQ should not be useful. Usenet itself is rather dormant and not all ISPs provides access.
Google Groups, formerly Dejanews, provide web access to the alt.cyberpunk hierarchy, though do note in the much recent years this and many other Cyberpunk Usenet groups have been taken over by spambots. Please exercise caution.
So here it is, dusting off the info dump and readying it for a world that is like the 1980’s all over again. This means much of the contents is radically reorganised.
This is Version ?? of the alt.cyberpunk FAQ. History is a little foggy but it appears that previous maintainers/editors and version numbers are as given at the end. Presently the maintainer follows alt.cyberpunk (which is easily done) and 4chan’s /cyb/ general when operative.
I would also like to recognise and express my thanks to earlier FAQ maintainers, all known listed at the end. This FAQ, as with Cyberpunk literature, is a living document. If you have any comments, criticisms, additions, questions please send them to one of the above email addresses. (I especially welcome reports of “broken links”, either in the ASCII or HTML versions). Send to that address as well if you would like the latest version of this document. The vast number of the “answers” here could be predicated by “in several peoples opinion.” The general consensus is however that no one person is the ultimate Cyberpunk authority.
What is Cyberpunk?
First off, it is the number one most asked question in the newsgroup. And it is forever recurring since the answer is forever changing. Its origins were in a literary movement.
The Source of the Label
Gardner Dozois, one of the editors of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine during the early ’80s, is generally acknowledged as the first person to popularize the term “Cyberpunk”, when describing a body of literature.
Dozois doesn’t claim to have coined the term; he says he picked it up “on the street somewhere”.
It is probably no coincidence that Bruce Bethke wrote a short story titled Cyberpunk in 1980 and submitted it Asimov’s mag, when Dozois may have been doing first readings, and got it published in Amazing in 1983, when Dozois was editor of 1983 Year’s Best SF and would be expected to be reading the major SF magazines.
But as Bethke says, “who gives a rat’s ass, anyway?!”. Bethke is not really a Cyberpunk author; in mid-1995 he published Headcrash which he calls “a cybernetically-aware comedy”. (Thanks to Bruce for his help in this issue.) For unknown reasons, the name Bethke is misspelled Bepkie in several places on the net.
In an alternative story by Pat Cadigan, told by Michael Swanwick, she heard the word used in 1979 by a DJ or VJ, after playing Cars by Gary Numan.
This also means that analysing “Cyberpunk” as “Cyber plus Punk” will be misleading.
The Literary Movement
More importantly it was a literary movement looking to revitalise science fiction which at the time was full of stale space opera, much like noir and hard boiled crime was revitalising rather stale “Oh dear, there is a dead body in the library” crime literature.
Before its christening the “Cyberpunk movement”, known to its members as “The Movement”, had existed for quite some time, centred around Bruce Sterling’s samizdat, Cheap Truth.
Authors like Sterling, Rucker and Shirley submitted articles pseudonymously to this newsletter, hyping the works of people in the group and vigorously attacking the “SF mainstream”. This helped form the core “movement consciousness”.
Next Cyberpunk was a label used on the works of the members of the Cyberpunk Movement and those that followed the aesthetics.
Style and Setting
Cyberpunk literature, in general, deals with marginalized people in technologically-enhanced cultural “systems”.
In Cyberpunk stories' settings, there is usually a “system” which dominates the lives of most “ordinary” people, be it an oppressive government, a group of large, paternalistic corporations or a fundamentalist religion. These systems are enhanced by certain technologies, particularly “information technology” (computers, the mass media), making the system better at keeping those within it, inside it.
Often this technological system extends into its human “components” as well, via brain implants, prosthetic limbs, cloned or genetically engineered organs, etc.
Humans themselves become part of “the Machine”. This is the “cyber” aspect of Cyberpunk.
However, in any cultural system, there are always those who live on its margins, on “the Edge”: criminals, outcasts, visionaries or those who simply want freedom for its own sake. Cyberpunk literature focuses on these people, and often on how they turn the system’s technological tools to their own ends. This is the “punk” aspect of Cyberpunk.
The best Cyberpunk works are distinguished from previous works with similar themes, by a certain style. The setting is urban, the mood is dark and pessimistic. Concepts are thrown at the reader without explanation, much like new developments are thrown at us in our everyday lives.
There is often a sense of moral ambiguity; simply fighting “system” (to topple it, or just to stay alive) does not make the main characters “heroes” or “good” in the traditional sense.
The Cyberpunk visual style as we know it was inspired by Blade Runner and The Long Tomorrow, and was pretty much cemented by Neuromancer.
Neon-lit, dark and drizzly urban sprawls seem to be the most common environment in Cyberpunk works.
Interestingly, the neon style was implemented early on in Vancouver, where [William Gibson](William Gibson) lives.
Back in the 80’s these settings were considered dystopia, but by the standards of today it looks fairly typical.
The main characters are typically inspired by hard boiled noir with ambiguous ethics caught up in a plot far bigger than themselves. Femme fatales are commonly seen and some, such as Molly Millions from Neuromancer, are recurring characters in the story.
Societies depicted are a marked contrast to the techno optimism of the 60’s where the bright future just left. Governments are hardly visible but corporations control everything. This mirrors the expectations of the 80’s that Japanese mega corporations would essentially run the world. Occasionally the scene was set to Japan.
It seems you cannot launch a movement without a manifesto or two. In the case of Cyberpunk the samizdat Cheap Truth was effectively the manifesto for the literary Movement.
Later came A Cyberpunk Manifesto written by Christian As. Kirtchev.
Related to this came A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto by Eric Hughes who then disappeared from the net.
Following this, Timothy C. May wrote the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto as well as the Cyphernomicon.
There is also the Hacker Manifesto written shortly after the young anonymous author’s arrest.
In the spirit of “Information wants to be free” came the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto by Aaron Swartz.
The list is not complete without PixieFuel’s Manifesto (original) (updated).
There is a collection of Cyberpunk related manifestos, including Bruce Sterling’s retrospective about the early days titled Cyberpunk in the Nineties published in Interzone in June of 1991, heralding the end of the era as a movement.
What is Cyberpunk the Subculture?
Spurred on by Cyberpunk literature in the mid-1980’s, certain groups of people started referring to themselves as Cyberpunk, because they correctly noticed the seeds of the fictional “techno-system” in Western society today, and because they identified with the marginalized characters in Cyberpunk stories.
Within the last few years, the mass media has caught on to this, spontaneously dubbing certain people and groups “Cyberpunk”. Specific subgroups which are identified with Cyberpunk are: Hackers, Crackers, Phreaks and Cypher-punks
“Hackers” are the “wizards” of the computer community; people with a deep understanding of how their computers work, and can do things with them that seem “magical”.
“Crackers” are the real-world analogues of the “console cowboys” of Cyberpunk fiction; they break into other people’s computer systems, without their permission, for illicit gain or simply for the pleasure of exercising their skill.
“Phreaks” are those who do a similar thing with the telephone system, coming up with ways to circumvent phone companies' calling charges and doing clever things with the phone network. With the end of in-band signalling came the end of most of the phreaking activities.
“Cypher-punks”: These people think a good way to bollocks “The System” is through cryptography and cryptosystems. They believe widespread use of extremely hard-to-break coding schemes will create “regions of privacy” that “The System” cannot invade. Much of the activities take place on the Cypherpunks mailing list, started by the late Timothy C. May. The old Cypherpunks site fell off the net in 2018. It was felt necessary to inform the public that he died of natural causes, and that natural causes was specifically not a hail of bullets.
Some other groups which are associated with Cyberpunk are:
“Transhumans” are actively seeking to become ‘Posthuman’. This involves learning about and making use of new technologies that can potentially increase their capacities and life expectancy. They follow Transhumanism, a set of philosophies of life (such as the Extropian philosophy) that seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and limits by means of science and technology, guided by life-promoting principles and values, while avoiding religion and dogma. The H+Pedia covers much of these issues.
“Biohackers” are closely related to Transhumans, experimenting on biotech to learn and develop.
“Extropians” are dedicated to the opposition of Entropy, or lack of balance in human society. Politically, extropians are close kin to the libertarians, including some anarchists, some classical liberals, and even a political neoconservative or two. But many extropians have no interest in politics at all, and many are actively anti-political. Extropians have a principle called ‘Spontaneous Order’, but politics is by no means the only domain in which they apply it.
“Cybergoth” are dedicated to partying in colourful clothing with fancy accessories. It is not clear how this goes beyond an alibi for latex and a chippier attitude than goths in general. These days they seem to be in decline though numerous online shops are dedicated to supplying the dwindling members with even more accessories.
So are cyberpunks any or all of the above? Well, not really.
One person’s cyberpunk is another’s obnoxious teenager with some technical skill thrown in, a self-designated cyberpunk looking for the latest trend to identify with or yet another mass media label used as a marketing ploy.
Whilst most cyberpunks understand, and some have a a good working knowledge of the above definitions, these pursuits are seen as a means, rather than an end. The end of course depends upon your own personal goals.
There are those who claim that cyberpunk is indefinable, which in some sense it is.
Moreover, most regulars on alt.cp are uncomfortable about even implying that there actually are any cyberpunks.
The point being that we all live in a cyberpunk society today, after all Gibson himself said, “The future has arrived; it’s just not evenly distributed”.
Therefore, by definition most some people are already cyberpunks. That is why when someone posts on alt.cp claiming “I am a cyberpunk” they don’t get flamed to death, just ignored, whereas statements such as “survival through technological superiority” get flamed from here to eternity and back.
In the end, anybody insisting they are a cyberpunk will probably get flamed in alt.cyberpunk. Think of it as a trial by ordeal. John Shirley (noted cyberpunk author) didn’t make it through the entrance exam. Chairman Bruce might just hack it, but AFAIK he’s never come visiting.
There are a lot of posts to alt.cyberpunk asking what cyberpunks like, do, wear etc. These posts are seen as inane due to the reason they are asked, i.e., “Cyberpunk sounds cool, how can I become one”. Cyberpunk is not a fashion statement, therefore little of this FAQ is taken up with such matters.
In late 1993 Billy Idol released an album called ‘Cyberpunk’, which garnered some media attention; it seems to have been a commercial and critical flop. Billy made some token appearances on the net in alt.cyberpunk and on the WELL, but his public interest in the area seems to have waned. No matter how sincere his intentions might have been, scorn and charges of commercialization have been heaped upon him in this and other forums.
Back in the day the Future Culture mailing list was the place to be, also Usenet News alt.cyberpunk hierarchy was big. Both are rather silent these days (mid 2017). The Chatsubo (alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo) was a shared reality news group that also published two anthologies. The name comes from the Chatsubo, an expat bar in Neuromancer, The main cyberpunk newsgroups were:
- alt.cyberpunk High-tech low-life.
- alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo Literary virtual reality in a cyberpunk hangout. It was started by alias Liralen Li and others, early on. Some archives exist as well as an FAQ.
- alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo.d Meta discussions about the Chatsubo.
- alt.cyberpunk.movement Cybernizing the Universe.
- alt.cyberpunk.tech Cyberspace and Cyberpunk technology.
The regulars of these newsgroups were the subject of a publication in Mots Pluriels.
These days 4chan’s /cyb/ general is back with a vengeance, to quote some anons. Topic covers Cyberpunk and security, a marriage of convenience to keep the thread alive. Threads are archived, searchable via the terms /cyb/, /sec/ and /cyb/+/sec/.
There are also a few other image boards with focus on cyberpunk such as:
and many others.
Some cyberpunk imageboards which are currently inactive are:
Purely text based fora can be accessed through secure shell at
ssh firstname.lastname@example.org with password
ssh email@example.com with password
Currently ftp://ftp.cybsec.io is the home to the FAQ and a wiki with the FAQ in wikified form.
Some information was stored on an open FTP server at CollectiveComputers where preview versions of this and also related FAQs have been published.
While CollectiveComputers is down, files were uploaded to ftp://184.108.40.206/pub, which currently is also down; open FTP sites tend to be ephemeral.
Further spare copies are stored on whisper.onthewifi.com.
Reddit has a few Cyberpunk related subreddits such as /r/Cyberpunk, especially /r/Cyberpunk_Room tend to deal mostly in arts, /r/CoreCyberpunk/ and /r/cyberpunkheads/ cover also discussions.
The /r/cyberpunkgame subreddit seems to deal with the Cyberpunk 2077 video game released in 2020, if one is so interested to dicuss it.
Cyberpunk in Academia
Cyberpunk didn’t get old before it was embraced by the more post-modern parts of academia.
Of particular interest is Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction and also Cyberspace: First Steps with contributions from fiction and non-fiction writes.
Many of the non-fiction writes were the leading intellectuals in the field such as Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida, Arthur Kroker and Jean-François Lyotard. Kroker edited CTheory, a peer reviewed academic journal that covered a lot of related material.
Much to the surprise of many, Cyberpunk lived beyond the generic 15 minutes of fame, in fact it outlived many of the intellectuals now holding the equally generic Dead White Men status. Cyberpunk, meanwhile, has permeated society.
How do I Get into Cyberpunk?
You start by reading. A lot. Much of the below is described in some detail below.
Start with Cheap Truth since that is what started the Movement.
Next read everything by William Gibson, starting with the Burning Chrome collection that includes stories co-authored with other early Cyberpunk authors, and then Sprawl trilogy which is where more of the ideas are fleshed out.
Then read most of what Bruce Sterling, John Shirley and the early members of the Movement wrote. Later works by all these authors change course and John Shirley for instance writes horror.
There is very little new Cyberpunk being written today. After all Cyberpunk was very much a result of its times, a troubled 1980’s with unrest and financial turmoil, the yuppie era of fast money and subsequent crash as well as the fall of the Berlin Wall.
You might want to sample early and proto-cyberpunk works like Shockwave Rider, and Stand on Zanzibar, and Tiger! Tiger! also known as The Stars My Destination.
There is also Cyberpunk manga worth reading such as Battle Angel Alita, known as Gunnm in Japan and the Ghost in the Shell series.
Demonstrating the versatility of Cyberpunk genre, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is recommended (stealthily cyberpunk - very slow, very good).
Cyberpunk movies have been very influential. Blade Runner is non plus ultra both in contents and visuals. From Japan we have their unique take such as Tetsuo the Iron Man and others from that collective (if you can stomach the gore).
For tech non fiction, read up on topics such as:
- network and communications, including wire line and RF
- RF and optics including stealth, and read the radio primer paste or the [Radio FAQ page on the /cyb/+/sec/ wiki](the site).
- bio including gene tech, CRISPR/Cas9 is about to blow the roof off society
Cyberpunk is much about how society works, or does not work.
Useful works include Cargo Cult Science by Feynman and general introductory organizational theory (both will tell you how messed up society and humanity really are).
For more critical thinking, check out Ivar Giaever’s talk on other forms of bad science.
Do We Live in a Cyberpunk World?
While we have not reached the technological level of the Sprawl as William Gibson envisioned it, much of the rest seem to fit the world we live in today.
Media and mega corporations dominate Cyberpunk fiction while governments are far less visible, much like the current day. Media sets the agenda and while “fake news” is a topic now, it has been a part of society since before we had a word for propaganda. The difference now is that propaganda is in the hands of the private sector.
Also, the rate of technological development has escaped political control a long time ago. The mainstreaming of the Internet shows that political control over people’s use of technology is not that firm either. Many factors have been there for a while - it is only now that it is generally acknowledged.
We have already seen a few cyber heists that could have been the plot of a Hollywood action movie, such as the Athens telephone interception, The Stuxnet computer worm incident and the Chinese chip infiltration.
As a sense of balance there should be noted that there are also trends to a bright shiny and ambiguous future.
On one hand the future is bright and shiny and the children are well behaved, and going to work is smooth. Work itself is smoother, almost liquid. In fact the computers will probably and already are doing most of the “jobs”. That is, if there really are any jobs left for humans.
What is Cyberspace?
To my knowledge, the term cyberspace in this context was first used by William Gibson in his story Burning Chrome.
That work first describes users using devices called cyberdecks to override their normal sensory organs, presenting them with a full-sensory interface to the world computer network. When doing so, said users are in cyberspace.
The concept had appeared prior to Gibson, most notably in Vernor Vinge’s story True Names.
Cyberspace is thus the metaphorical ‘place’ where one ‘is’ when accessing the world computer net. The first use of Cyberspace was possibly used around 1970 in artwork (via).
“There’s no there, there. They taught that to children, explaining cyberspace. She remembered …pilots in enormous helmets and clumsy- looking gloves, …providing a touch-world of studs and triggers… As the technology evolved, the helmets shrank, the video terminals atrophied." - Mona Lisa Overdrive - William Gibson 1988
Even though Gibson’s vision of how cyberspace is in some sense, surreal, it has stimulated many in the computing community.
The word ‘cyberspace’ is commonly used in the mainstream world with reference to the emergent world-wide computer networks, especially the Internet.
Also, some researchers in the virtual reality arena of computer science are trying to implement something like Gibson’s matrix into a more general computer generated environment, even if its purpose is not accessing the net.
Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash describes a more near future version called the Metaverse. This was the inspiration of many early VR projects.
Possibly the best way of getting a feel for Cyberpunk is about as a whole is to skim through Cheap Truth to see the why of cyberpunk literature and then William Gibson’s collection Burning Chrome.
Cyberpunk was originally a literary movement so the list below will be divided by eras. Much of this is plundered from the Cyberpunk Timeline by Patrick Clark.
In hindsight much can be related to the ideas of Cyberpunk, like grittiness as found in the writings of Charles Dickens from the underside of Victorian UK.
Pulp literature of the 1930’s with its purple prose is also a source of inspiration. One notable and also voluminous example is The Shadow, brutally dispatching crooks with never ending ammunition.
It is worth nothing that hard boiled detective stories did to the golden age detection fiction what cyberpunk later did to space opera.
Note that quite a few works written before 1980 have been retroactively labelled cyberpunk due to stylistic similarities, e.g. Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, or similar themes such as Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider or Delany’s Nova.
Close relations are more visible in the writings of Alfred Bester, especially The Stars My Destination, featuring augmented humans, mega corporations wielding powers putting nation states in the shadows.
There is also the writings of John Brunner, especially the dystopian Stand on Zanzibar, the corporate world of The Sheep Look Up, and The Shockwave Rider with an early description of computer intrusion over a network.
At this point all the pieces were in place, just awaiting ignition.
The early works were published from the late 1970’s and onwards but made little impact outside a narrow segment.
William Gibson published short stories such as Fragments of a Hologram Rose, Johnny Mnemonic and more. Philip K. Dick wrote many stories that are relevant to Cyberpunk, such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? that formed the basis for Blade Runner. Vernor Vinge wrote True Names featuring a cyberspace. He is also well known for A Fire Upon the Deep involving a type of Usenet News, that with A Deepness in the Sky and The Children of the Sky make up the Zones of Thought series.
The Golden Age of Cyberpunk
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. - Neuromancer
While many of the books in the following section were enormously successful it is strange that very few were ever turned into movies or films, though the inspirations are clearly there.
William Gibson is probably the author who has made Cyberpunk best known. He has worked mainly as an author of short stories and books but also contributed to movie scripts. He has also contributed many articles on Wired.
What really lit the fire was the release of Blade Runner and William Gibson’s book Neuromancer, about a cracker operating in cyberspace, a cybernetically-enhanced bodyguard/mercenary, and a pair of mysterious AIs. The book cleaned up the prize table in a way no one has done before or ever since: It won the Hugo, Nebula, P. K. Dick, Seiun, and Ditmar awards, something no other science fiction work has done.
Gibson also has a collection of short stories, Burning Chrome, which contains three stories in Neuromancer’s setting, as well as several others, such as the excellent The Winter Market and Dogfight. Several stories are co-written with other Cyberpunk authors.
He followed up with Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, later known as the Sprawl Trilogy.
A few characters appear in more than one book and Molly Millions is one of the most memorable characters and probably the inspiration for Trinity of the Matrix movies.
Molly Millions is in turn inspired by Chrissie Hynde and an acquaintance of William Gibson and John Shirley.
It is also alleged parts of her appearance (short black hair) is a reference to PKD who used his late sister as a visual model for several characters in his books.
His later books, called the Bridge Trilogy, comprise Virtual Light, Idoru and All Tomorrow’s Parties, and are all set in the near future.
They share settings (San Francisco, Tokyo, San Francisco respectively, of the near future) and a few characters, but were otherwise independent until the third book, much like The Sprawl trilogy.
Compared to his first trilogy, the technology they posit is less advanced in some ways and they are more theme-driven than plot-driven, but they deal with many of the same concerns as other cyberpunk works.
‘Idoru’ is a Japanese borrowing of the English ‘idol’, and refers to a media-company-manufactured pop-music star, a virtual example of which plays a prominent role in Idoru.
After the Bridge Trilogy, Gibson went on to write the Blue Ant Trilogy, comprising of Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History. The Peripheral is set to become a streamed series made by Amazon and has been in development since 2018.
His latest books are a part of the Jackpot Trilogy, though currently there are only 2 books, The Peripheral and Agency.
Gibson also wrote Agrippa: A Book of the Dead, the textual component of an art project. He wrote wrote a semi-autobio graphical poem, which was placed onto a computer disk.
This disk was part of a limited release of special reader screens; the reader units themselves had etchings by Dennis Ashbaugh which were light-sensitive, and slowly changed from one form to another, final, form, when exposed to light. Also, the text of the poem, when read, was erased from the disk - it could only be read once.
On the net, opinion on the Agrippa project ranged from “what an interesting concept; it challenges what we think ‘art’ should be” to “Gibson has sold out to the artsy-fartsy crowd” to “Gibson is right to make a quick buck off these art people”.
Naturally (some would say according to Gibson’s plan), someone got hold of the text of Agrippa and posted it to Usenet.
Extensive information is available on the William Gibson aleph.
Bruce Sterling, aka “Chairman Bruce” from his time as the editor of Cheap Truth under the alias Vincent Omniveritas, remained a big ideas author.
Like William Gibson he has also contributed to articles on Wired.
He wrote The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Order on the Electronic Frontier, a non-fiction free book about America’s electronic underground. He also wrote a retrospective about the early days titled Cyberpunk in the Nineties published in Interzone in June of 1991. Presently he runs the column Beyond the Beyond at Wired.
After Cheap Truth he contributed to different zines, especially the column CATscan as part of Science Fiction Eye, the magazine that in many ways took over the position held by Cheap Truth as the house organ of the Movement. He also wrote columns for FSF and Interzone.
Bruce Sterling’s anthology Crystal Express contains all of the ‘Shaper/Mechanist’ short stories about the future humanity and post humanity.
Those short stories are also available with Schismatrix, a Shaper/Mechanist novel, in the combined volume Schismatrix Plus.
Also to be found in Crystal Express is Green Days in Brunei, a story which shares the setting of Sterling’s novel Islands in the Net. Both are near-future extrapolations in worlds very similar to our own.
Sterling also has another collection in print, Globalhead.
Sterling’s novel Holy Fire, set in a ‘gerontocratic’ late 21st century Earth dominated by the ‘medical-industrial complex’ and focuses on a group of young European artists, hackers, and intellectuals determined to go their own way in a world dominated by elderly wealth.
Lewis Shiner wrote his debut novel Frontera about a corporate controlled world.
He also wrote The Hacker Files, a 12 issue mini comics series. The name Sue Denim from Cheap Truth also appears here.
John Shirley, called cyberpunk’s patient zero by William Gibson, wrote Eclipse followed by Eclipse Penumbra and Eclipse Corona, together known as A Song Called Youth Series or Eclipse Trilogy.
Shirley is perhaps the author closest connected to punk as a lifestyle but also contributed to the goth epic The Crow.
He has later written horror stories.
He is probably the only one of the original Cyberpunk authors to have actual roots in punk and heavy substance abuse.
Shirley has stated that he escaped OD only thanks to being badly paid and not being able to afford a large enough dose. It is likely he is the inspiration for Case in Neuromancer.
He has since gone sober and has written about his life on his blog. He is also writing scripts and has blogged extensively on the art of making scripts and why so many are bad.
Rudy Rucker is probably the most academic of the cyberpunk authors, having worked in mathematics and computer science as professor at UCSD.
He wrote The Ware Tetralogy comprising Software, Wetware, Freeware, and Realware.
He also wrote the Transrealist novels comprising White Light, Spacetime Donuts, The Sex Sphere, The Secret of Life, The Hacker and the Ants, Saucer Wisdom and The Big AHA.
Pat Cadigan wrote Mindplayers, a story that would set the common themes of her works: exploring the human mind, perception, reality, and technology.
She also wrote Synners, a story about hackers and other misfits pursuing a deadly new virus when direct brain interfaces first appear in near-future LA.
She has written for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine several times, one of her short stories being Nearly Departed.
Walter Jon Williams
Walter Jon Williams is particularly known for the Hardwired trilogy, comprising Hardwired, Solip:System and Voice of the Whirlwind.
In Hardwired, a smuggler who pilots a hovertank decides to take on the Orbital Corporations that control his world. In Voice Of The Whirlwind, a corporate soldier’s clone tries to discover what happened to his ‘original copy’.
Greg Bear wrote Blood Music(https://wikiless.org/wiki/Blood_Music_(novel)?lang=en) first as a short story published in the science fiction magazine Analong Science Fiction and Fact before expanding it as a novel. In these stories, a genetic engineer ‘uplifts’ some of his own blood cells to human-level intelligence, with radical consequences.
Richard Kadrey has written several books, though not all in the Cyberpunk genre. He was an early contributor to Cyberpunk literature with Metrophage. He has also been an editor and contributor to several magazines, such as Wired, as well as various art magazines.
The Silver Age of Cyberpunk
A new generation took over with authors who had not been part of the original Movement, authors such as Neal Stephenson and Jeff Noon.
Neal Stephenson cyberpunk publishing comprises of Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Cryptonomicon. He tends to have problems concluding his works, they are often dense and yet finish abruptly. He has also written a few short stories, which by his standards are shorter than his typical works, such as the semi non-fictional In the Beginning…Was the Command Line,Spew, The Great Simoleon Caper and Jipi and the Paranoid Chip.
In Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson carries cyberpunk to a humorous extreme, what else can one say about a work where the Mafia delivers pizza and the principle character’s name is ‘Hiro Protagonist’?
This is based on his earlier stories The Big U and Zodiac: An Eco-Thriller.
Jeff Noon wrote Vurt, Pollen, Automated Alice, and Nymphomation, together known as the Vurt Series.
Vurt is a Clockwork Orange-esque tale taking place in an alternate version of England, where virtual reality is truly the opiate of the masses.
The Bronze Age of Cyberpunk
While no cyberpunk movies got anywhere outside a few abortive script, yet another group of authors appeared.
Richard K. Morgan
Among them was Richard K. Morgan most notable for writing Altered Carbon, a cyberpunk action story steeped in vast amounts of blood in a future where people can be killed, repeatedly. Altered Carbon was later adapted into a Netflix series in 2018.
Altered Carbon is a part of what is known as the Takeshi Kovas novels, which besides Altered Carbon itself includes Broken Angels and Woken Furies.
Morgan also wrote Market Forces as well as a series of novels known as the Black Man series, which compromises of Black Man, also known as Thirteen in the US and UK, and Thin Air.
Movies & Shows
William Gibson has had a fair bit of impact outside literature.
Gibson’s short story Johnny Mnemonic was made into a big-budget full- length motion picture.
Gibson himself wrote the screenplay and was a close consultant to the director; the result “has his blessing”, so to speak.
As might be expected, there are many additions to the short story as well as outright differences. The film contains elements not only from the original story, but also from Neuromancer and Virtual Light; there is much more violent action and the ending is more upbeat.
Very significantly, Molly does not appear in the film; her place is taken by a character named Jane, who has no inset eyeglasses or retractable claws, due to issues surrounding use of the Molly character in any future Neuromancer production. The film was not a critical or box-office success in the U.S., which Gibson has partly blamed on the post-production editing; he claims the longer Japanese release is the better one.
The Gernsback Continuum was adapted into a short 15-minute film in the UK called Tomorrow Calling, starring Sarah Stockbridge, Toyah Wilcox, and Don Henderson. It has been shown on some European TV networks, but I don’t know if it’s available in the US.
New Rose Hotel was also adapted into a movie, directed by Abel Ferrara and staring Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe and Asia Argento.
William Gibson wrote one of the many scripts for Alien 3 in 1989.
According to him, only one detail from his script made its way to the actual film: the bar codes visible on the backs of the prisoners' shaved heads. A synopsis of Gibson’s script can be found in part 3 of the Alien Movies FAQ list. Alternatively, try the Internet Movie Database. The script was later turned into a comics.
There is an hour long documentary called Cyberpunk that features some interview-style conversation with Gibson, is generally low-budget, and the consensus opinion on the net is that it isn’t really worth anyone’s time. Gibson is apparently embarrassed by it.
At one point a fly-by-night operation called ‘Cabana Boys Productions’ had the rights to Neuromancer; this is why the front of the Neuromancer computer game’s box claims it is “soon to be a motion picture from Cabana Boys”.
The rights have since reverted to Gibson, who is sitting on them at the moment. Even now we still have rumours but nothing ever materialises. It is probably too late now as the contents has been pillaged for other movies already.
No Maps for These Territories is another film, a biographical documentary about Gibson himself. There are also appearances by other cyberpunk authors such as Bruce Sterling, as to be expected. Gibson has also been in several documentaries since (not including the above).
There have been rumors that claim that Count Zero will be made into a film titled The Zen Differentia, though these rumors have been going for decades.
Brave New Virtual World was a 80 minute long theatre production performed in Oslo, Norway. It was based on the works of William Gibson, Aldous Huxley and William Shakespeare. The music was released on cassette.
TV gave us the late, lamented Max Headroom which featured oodles of cyberpunk concepts, based on the earlier film Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future.
Bonus Cyberpunk points were clocked up in the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion, where the pirates were never caught.
Tron is an early VR movie where the protagonist was transported into his own game world. In the sequel Tron: Legacy his son follows his father’s footsteps a bit too closely.
The franchise was followed by the animated TV series Tron: Uprising, where the world of Tron is explored more in depth. Unfortunately it was cancelled after it’s first season. There was a planned sequel to Uprising called Tron: Ascension which seems to be in development hell. It is planned to be streamed via Disney +.
TV also gave us the somewhat bloated Wild Palms, with a ‘cyberspace’, evil corporations, and a cameo by William Gibson.
Also shown on the Sci-Fi Channel is TekWar, a series which evolved from a set of TV movies based on William Shatner’s Tek novels.
While possessing some traditionally cyberpunk elements and extended ‘cyberspace runs’, they (or at least the TV movies) tend to boil down to good guys vs. bad guys cop stories. TekLords features a central plot element that those who have read Snow Crash will recognize.
eXistenZ by Cronenberg is one of the more notable biopunk movies and is heavy on virtual reality.
Cyberpunk got a shot in the arm with the Matrix Franchise, comprising the Matrix Trilogy made up of The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions; as well as animations, games and even screen savers(!). There is a fourth movie set to come out in December 2021 titled The Matrix Resurrections.
Technotise: Edit & I is a Serbian animated film, involving a brain implant.
Inception by Christopher Nolan takes virtual reality to the insiders of someone’s dreams.
Netflix has adapted Altered Carbon into a streamed series which has 2 seasons, but was cancelled after season 2. There is an anime prequel film titled Altered Carbon: Resleeved that was released in 2020.
The Blade Runner Series
Blade Runner has a special position in the history of Cyberpunk and deserves its own section. The movie is based loosely on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and is considered the archetypal cyberpunk movie. Few other movies have surprassed it in terms of visuals and content. Gibson has said that the visuals in Blade Runner match his vision of the urban future in Neuromancer.
K.W. Jeter has written three novels which are sequels to the movie: Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human and Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night, and Blade Runner 4: Eye and Talon.
One’s judgement of the “appropriateness” of these may be influenced by the fact that Jeter was a good friend of Philip K. Dick’s. The first sequel deals very directly with the extra replicant and Deckard a replicant? issues.
The second sequel involves Deckard’s participation in making a movie about his experiences hunting Roy Batty et. al. (as seen by us in the movie). More sequels by Jeter are apparently to come.
In 2017, the sequel Blade Runner 2049. Along with it came several of it’s own prequels. These are Blade Runner Black Out 2022, an anime OVA, 2036: Nexus Dawn and 2048: Nowhere to Run, both live action short films.
There are several alternate versions of the first film. The original theatrical release In the US omitted the Batty - Tyrell eye-gouging sequence and a few other bits; these were added back in Europe and the video release.
In 1992, a ‘director’s cut’ was released, now available on video, which omits the Deckard voiceover and the happy ending, and reinserts the ‘unicorn scene’.
Before that, however, a different cut (known as the workprint) was shown at two theatres, one in LA, the other in San Francisco, for a brief period; this had a different title sequence and soundtrack, some different dialogue, no voiceover and no happy ending, but no unicorn sequence.
The 5/6 replicants problem: This is widely accepted as an editing Glitch which slipped through to the release.
The film originally featured a fifth live replicant, Mary, who was later deleted.
In the workprint, the line “one got fried” is changed to “two got fried …”. Bryant does not include Rachel in the original six escaped replicants.
However … internal clues, such as lack of emotion, the photographs, and the reflective eyes, do suggest that Deckard is a replicant. However, this is not explicitly stated in any cut. The unicorn scene gives this theory more weight.
An excellent resource for any fan is Paul Sammon’s in-depth book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, which goes over the differences between the various version in minute detail. You can also read the Blade Runner FAQ available here.
Japan has from the early days had a special position in Cyberpunk culture, often being the setting in many stories, so it is no surprise [Japanese Cyberpunk] has delivered. Loud metal music and motorcycles in a dystopic future are frequently seen.
Akira is a multimedia work that was one of the first to demonstrate to the West what serious manga and anime was about. Katsuhiro Otomo wrote and illustrated Akira, originally a manga which was turned into a full length animated film in 1988. Akira the film not only revolutionized Cyberpunk genre anime, but is considered one of the greater anime films of all time.
Masanori Ota, more known as his pen name Masamune Shirow has created several works in the Cyberpunk genre. Early work includes Black Magic, Appleseed, and Dominion.
His most well-known work is Ghost in the Shell, which has turned into a major franchise.
It started with manga, specifically Ghost in the Shell followed by Ghost in the Shell 2: Manmachine Interface and Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human Error Processor. Since then it has turned into anime films, TV series and OVA (original video animation), and a live action movie. The latest so far is a computer animated show, Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 on Netflix.
Yukito Kishiro created who made Battle Angel Alita, better known in Japan as Gunnm and the franchise is still ongoing. The latest is a live action filmed titled Alita: Battle Angel, aimed primarily towards western audiences.
Serial Experiments Lain was a 13 episodes anime series dealing with virtual reality and the question of reality. It also features many esoteric themes and imagery, and is noted for it’s heavy atmosphere over dialog or action. SEL is considered a cult classic amongst both cyberpunk and anime fans, even earning a large fanbase that’s still active to the current day. It has a visual novel game for the Playstation 2 with a story that heavily differs from the anime. You can read the English translation here
Megazone 23 is a 4 part OVA series, set in a futuristic space society about a delinquent who comes across a strange bike prototyped by the government and slowly learns the truth over the false reality he lives in.
Tetsuo the Iron Man was an underground movie that kick started Shinya Tsukamoto’s career. Metal music and gore and splatter made the movie unforgettable. The movie was a success and he proceeded to remake it as a colour movie in the remake/sequel Tetsuo II: Body Hammer and a third installment Tetsuo: The Bullet Man.
There have also been a few pornographic Cyberpunk movies, such as Latex and its sequel Shock. Both of these films, surprisingly, released game tie-ins. I.K.U. is another pornographic Cyberpunk film which appears heavily inspired by Blade Runner.
Cyberpunk also hit advertising. An ad called “The Thief” was shown for the launch of Sega Saturn back in 1999.
There is a 60 seconds and an expanded 90 seconds version, about a futuristic thief stealing a Sega unit and being chased from Cyberspace.
Cyberpunk involves a lot of parts where each alone do not Cyberpunk make. Movies along these lines can still be of interest.
The Terminator franchise comprising The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation, and Terminator Genisys are often mentioned along with cyberpunk movies.
While it is hard to argue these movies are cyberpunk in and of themselves, it is clear that these belong to the Tech Noir genre where also Blade Runner and Minority Report fit in.
Movies about Virtual Reality (VR) are also often mentioned but might not necessarily be Cyberpunk themselves.
Examples of that are The Lawnmower Man and Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace, Virtuosity and many TV series such as VR.5.
There are also more bizarre takes such as Existenz and Resurrection of the Little Match Girl.
Computer intrusion, hacking and phreaking are the basis of many movies and shows.
WarGames is a well known early movie example. It has more Cold War inspired themes (hacker gets access to a nuke programmed to hit the Soviet Union) rather than a cyberpunk, dystopian future. It was followed many years later by WarGames: The Dead Code.
Sneakers features a lot of this with many big name actors and in-jokes. The Net was more about identity theft and less amusing.
Hackers, Enemy of the State and Blackhat and Mr. Robot can also be placed in this category.
Track Down, known outside the US as Takedown is a semi documentary about Tsutomu Shimomura and Kevin Mitnick.
There are the non-fictional movies such as The Fifth Estate.
Some (web)magazines that are popular amongst many cyberpunk fans are:
Many cyberpunk fans had an uneasy relationship with Mondo 2000, their esteem for it varies according to the amount of technical content and affected hipness in the articles. Nonetheless, if anything could claim to be the cyberpunk “magazine of record” this was it.
With the departure of many of those providing creative impetus (notably Ken Goffman, aka “R.U. Sirius”), its days was expected to be numbered. And indeed it folded.
Recently however it has reappeared at its old web address, complete with a Twitter account.
R. U. Sirius is the current editor of the agazine. He has been interviewed by Jon Lebowsky for CTheory.
Alison Bailey Kennedy (“Queen Mu” and “Alison Wonderland”) was later Editor in Chief.
Jude Milhon (a.k.a. St. Jude) was also senior editor.
Bart Nagel, R. U. Sirius, and St. Jude together wrote The Real Cyberpunk Fakebook.
Oirignally titled [bOING-bOING], Carla Sinclair and Mark Frauenfelder were co-founders of the magazine in 1988. Frauenfelder later joined Wired magazine.
bOING-bOING’s status changed from print issues to blog format; most of its writers now work for Wired, it has ceased newsstand distribution and no longer offers subscriptions. However, if one can get a copy, it’s worth looking at. It is currently regularly updated on its own website.
Old archives of the printed issues 1 - 15 are available to read online.
Wired started in San Francisco in 1993 and covers politics and technology including cyberpunk fields.
It has published many articles by and about cyberpunk authors such as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
Hotwired was one of the first web magazines from 1994 to 1999, used to be at http://www.hotwired.com/. It has since been absorbed into Wired. It is archived, so one can still read it if they so wish to.
Phrack is one of the longest running hacker magazines, but is infrequently updated. The latest issue was released in 2016.
It has had a rocky history which lead to one of the editors getting arrested..
Phrack has many articles and sections regarding topics like phreaking, cracking, and crytography. It also has many articles dedicated to the social side of hacker culture like anarchism and counter culture as a whole.
Suspiciously enough, for a hacker zine, it does not respond using HTTPS but that is a topic for another time.
2600 Magazine is another long running hacker magazine. It covers many similar topics as Phrack (hacking, crytpography, digital rights, etc).
Starting in 1984, there are still many articles being posted as of 2021 and it shows no sign of stopping.
There is a book titled The Best of 2600: A Hacker Odyssey which is a compilation of articles from the site. Funnily enough, 2600 has also dealt with a legal case in the past, but on a lesser scale than Phracks.
This magazine published many early short stories by William Gibson and others, but went defunct in 1997.
It was relaunched October 2017 after it was acquired by Penthouse Global Media..
Back issues are available in the Omni Media archive. You can also read them on The Internet Archive.
The magazine seems to have a very unsteady publisher history as many urls have come and gone, and the current domain doesn’t seem to cover the same topics as before.
Neon Dystopia is a recent web magazine. It features primarily current cyberpunk news and media reviews. It has been going since November 2014. They also host a cyberpunk media database as well as forums.
Active Wirehead was once a web magazine that featured many atuhors writing about games, society, IT, robots and even sport articles.
It appears to have started June 2014 and the last article was in July 2016. Some activity can be found published elsewhere, as announced on their Twitter.
Not to be confused with Wirehead that also has a Cyberpunk category. At least one person wrote for both publications.
CyberPunks.com has its roots in Active Wireheads, and features news and reviews.
Machete Girl is another revived magazine. In its original run 2009 - 2016 it was published by Dark Media.
The original home page had a different address and is currently down, but archives of it exists.
The Dork Web
The Dork Web is an online email-subscription web magazine that features articles about cyber, hax, privacy and tech subcultures.
SF Eye, AKA Science Fiction Eye, is a now defunct magazine. [Described](The old site is available on Archive but the magazine itself does not appear to have been archived. An overview of contents is available.) by some as the house of origin of the cyberpunk movement.
Founded by Stephen P. Brown at the urging of his friends Gibson, Shirley and Sterling.
Published bi-annually, 15 issues (1987 – 1997) and contained a regular column by Sterling called CATScan.
The old site is available on The Internet ARchive but the magazine itself does not appear to have been archived.
This was a magazine in the 90’s covering a wide range of topics. Some issues have been archived.
Neometropolis - Cyberpunk Web Magazine
This was a cyberpunk and speculative fiction magazine that operated January 30th, 2004 - April 10th, 2009. An archive exists.
Some magazines were not available on news stands but had a less official publication method, usually sent by postal mail and were called zines. Nowadays they are posted on the web to read freely, though some zine makers still prefer the old method of physical, hand-printed copies.
Lainzine is a series of web zines originating from the imageboard Lainchan. It describes itself as “a small, community-driven, freely-distributed magazine”. At present time there are 4 issues in the archive. The 5th issue still in progress.
Line Noiz was an e-Zine by Billy Biggs, 25 issues were published.
Edge Detector: A Magazine of Speculative Fiction was a zine by Glenn Grant with contributions from several noted Cyberpunk authors.
Settore Cyberpunk has a single issue but the archive has some interesting contents.
Shadow Wolf Cyberzine has been going since 2014, stylized similar to ASCII art from the BBS era.
Paged Out! is a non-for-profit zine about programming tricks, hacking, retro computers, demoscene and topics relating to them. Issues are free to read, download, share and print.
Comics & Manga
The Long Tomorrow is frequently cited as an early visual reference for the cyberpunk future for both Ridley Scott when making Blade Runner and also William Gibson.
Transmetropolitan frequently cited as typical Cyberpunk comics. There are also derivatives such as a never completed comics version of Neuromancer.
As for manga, many Japanese Cyberpunk movies have also started out as manga first, or had manga adaptations later on.
Hitoshi Ashinano made Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, a rare example of Cyberpunk blended with a cozy, warm atmosphere. The story takes place in a post-apocolyptic world, where a robot girl runs a coffee shop.
It started as a manga series and has several OVAs, each adapting different chapters of the manga.
Gunslinger Girl, although not cyberpunk in scenery, features young girls modified into cyborg, fighting against terrorism in Italy. It has an anime adaptation, like most series, but the manga is the superior version.
There are also many cyberpunk webcomics. This list will be incomplete as web comics typically come and go:
- Sammy - about an android in a desert punk future.
- Centralia - about a lost girl without her memories in the hi-tech metropolis of Centralia,
- The Lightstream Chronicles - a cyberpunk, crime drama set in the year 2159.
- Ghost 2138 - a near future cyberpunk story in the style of Snow Crash, lots of odd humour.
- Drugs and Wires - set in an alternative 1995 dystopian east European country.
- Evocronik - set in a near future Los Angles.
- Overflow - a cyberpunk/neo-noir detective story.
- Android Blues - about an android woman.
- Black and Blue - rather noir.
- Outrunners - set in a post industrial dystopia.
Much has been written about Cyberpunk and the people and times. Here is a selection of some works. Also see the section on Cyberpunk in academia above.
Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier by Katie Hafner, with John Markoff, describes hackers and phreakers.
There is little agreement on what makes a game a Cyberpunk game. The easiest category is the tie in to other Cyberpunk franchises such as Blade Runner, Akira and TRON.
Some are considered Cyberpunk due to the ambience and feel, such as Flashback, System Shock and Ruiner.
Related to these are hacking or computer intrusion games such as Uplink.
There are also several role playing games. One such is Sindome, a text based MOO set in year 2103.
There is even less agreement on what makes for Cyberpunk music. Sometimes the music video can be the key such as for the GitS inspired music video for Taylor Swift’s “…Ready for it?”. Billy Idol’s album “Cyberpunk” tanked hard and was declared to be Cyberpunk in the title only.
Lainon.life operates an Internet radio station with Cyberpunk music. Also Lainchan has a radio stream. There is also #/g/punk’s Cyb Radio Channel.
Extensive lists can be found on Wikipedia Cyberpunk music category and TV Tropes Cyberpunk article linked earlier.
Also visual artists have been inspired by the neon lit imagery of Cyberpunk literature.
One example is Tony Skeor. Much can be found with keyword search on Artstation and DeviantART.
Pixelart is also a popular medium for Cyberpunk art, especially animated images such as by Valenberg.
Cyberpunk burst into the lime lights in the 1980’s and was quickly an inspirational source for cliche fabrications and other genres. First amongst these was Steampunk.
The origins were in the William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s collaborative novel The Difference Engine.
In it much of today’s technologies and cyberpunk tropes have been reset into an alternative Victorian age Britain using steam engine powered calculating engines inspired by Babbage who also is an important character.
The name was invented by K.W. Jeter in a letter to Locus in 1979.
In hindsight, existing literature has been retroactively relabelled as steampunk precursors such as works by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley.
Steampunk can also be found in manga and anime, such as Steamboy, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.
TV Tropes has an entry for Biopunk with more examples.
Still emergent, and the nanotech cousin to Biopunk. Both often have undercurrents of out of control processes leading to disaster, such as Grey Goo.
More details are on TV Tropes entry for Dieselpunk.
Polished (emission free?) Dieselpunk with a touch of Art Deco (or “Jugend” style) of the early 1900’s. One example is the movie The Rocketeer.
Atompunk is even newer and relates to the post WWII optimism of a bright atomic future.
Since Cyberpunk is supposedly post modern it was only a matter of time before we got Post-Cyberpunk (which might be Post-postmodern). Note that wiki did a hatchet job of the old entry since someone didn’t like an author.
There is also Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, a collection of postcyberpunk stories featuring the usual Cyberpunk authors like Bruce Sterling and William Gibson.
Not all punk has to be like lying in the gutter looking up at the neon lit rain from a sky the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. Sneakers and Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou fit into this category, that also might be post ironical.
A pendulum swings back and after a lots of nihilism someone felt it was time for the sun to shine, cue Solarpunk. It even comes with a reference guide.
Bruce Sterling was positive but Wikipedia editors preferred to stay with the nihilism and reacted in predictable manner, twice. Fortunately they are not the only shop in town and TV Tropes had no problems in setting up a Solar Punk page, and someone also made a Solarpunk Wikia page.
Goodreads has a reading list. There is of course also a manifesto.
Somewhere between the future and the past we find ourselves 15 minutes into the future. Some books here are the Bridge trilogy and the Blue Ant trilogy by William Gibson, and The Zenith Angle by Bruce Sterling, described by himself as Nowpunk.
Mr Robot is a TV series that ran from 2015 to 2019. One can consider this to be an example of Nowpunk.
Few things age worse than science fiction but some times also the technology ages and expires or become a small niche.
Phreaking or telecom hacking used to be all the rage back in the day, starting in the 1960’s when people like John T Draper, aka Captain Crunch realised a 2600 Hz tone into a telephone could control the exchanges.
This knowledge reached a wider audience with a 1971 article Secrets of the Little Blue Box in Esquire that inspired also people like the Woz.
This activity relied on in-band signalling but with the arrival of out-band signalling the blue boxes, or tone generators used to control the exchanges, ceased to work.
Radio amateurs, or hams for short, were probably the original hardware makers and hackers. Many of the early phreakers were also hams and made their own blue boxes.
With a license you are allowed to make all sorts of equipment and communicate across the world.
More information is on the FTP site under Tech/Radio/.
Present Day tech
PGP is short for “Pretty Good Privacy”, a public-key cryptosystem that is the mainstay of the Cypherpunk movement.
However, before you rush off and obtain a copy of PGP, I think it may be of useful to explain why it should be used, and the best reason I’ve heard comes from the guy who developed it, Phil Zimmerman.
“It’s personal. It’s private. And it’s no one’s business but yours. You may be planning a political campaign, discussing your taxes, or having an illicit affair. Or you may be doing something that you feel shouldn’t be illegal, but is. Whatever it is, you don’t want your private electronic mail (E-mail) or confidential documents read by anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with asserting your privacy. Privacy is as apple-pie as the Constitution.
Perhaps you think your E-mail is legitimate enough that encryption is unwarranted. If you really are a law-abiding citizen with nothing to hide, then why don’t you always send your paper mail on postcards? Why not submit to drug testing on demand? Why require a warrant for police searches of your house? Are you trying to hide something? You must be a subversive or a drug dealer if you hide your mail inside envelopes. Or maybe a paranoid nut. Do law-abiding citizens have any need to encrypt their E-mail?
What if everyone believed that law-abiding citizens should use postcards for their mail? If some brave soul tried to assert his privacy by using an envelope for his mail, it would draw suspicion. Perhaps the authorities would open his mail to see what he’s hiding. Fortunately, we don’t live in that kind of world, because everyone protects most of their mail with envelopes. So no one draws suspicion by asserting their privacy with an envelope. There’s safety in numbers. Analogously, it would be nice if everyone routinely used encryption for all their E-mail, innocent or not, so that no one drew suspicion by asserting their E-mail privacy with encryption. Think of it as a form of solidarity."
These days OpenPGP is the standard and the OpenPGP Working Group was formed in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to define this standard.
PGP used to be at http://www.pgpi.com/but that is now a dead link.
Cypherpunks seem to have disappeared, including much of the original infrastructure.
Instead there is the Crypto Anarchy wiki and the Cypherpunk Mailing List that was started in 1992. Some of the early Cypherpunks were also involved in blockchain and crypto currencies such as Bitcoin.
Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML) was directly inspired by cyberpunk literature and the description of Cyberspace/Metaverse.
Unfortunately it imploded in politics that went out of control when all commercial parties agreed this was the next big thing and wanted a land grab.
Earlier versions of Netscape had VRML support built in. Plug-ins for browsers and VRML browsers still exist such as FreeWRL.
VRML is now superseded by X3D maintained by the Web 3D Consortium. While 3D printing is now hugely popular X3D remains fairly dormant.
Software Defined Radio (SDR) has put advanced wide band radio technologies into the hand of the hobbyists, technologies that previously were limited to governmental services.
People have made things like cell phone base stations, radio direction finders and bi-static radars.
Many resources are available at rtl-sdr.com.
Biohacking and body modifications have been part of the Cyberpunk literature for a long time such as in Alfred Bester’s book The Stars My Destination.
Modern day biohackers have done a lot of experiments including on themselves, these are known as grinders.
One such example was an attempt to extend human vision into infrared though there was some doubts. Lepht Anonym is another well known biohacker and grinder.
Also The Thought Emporium has a YouTube playlist on biohacking and also DIY biology and genetics.
Since CRISPR kits are available as mail order, experimentation may very well be more common in the future.
Josiah Zayner is known both for his YouTube channel with experiments and also for crowdfunding CRISPR kits to the public.
Stelarc is a performance artist know to use body modifications in his performances. He is also an acquaintance of William Gibson.
This is a sub set of biohacking focusing on the brain. Several avenues of research are being pursued by hobbyists and professional scientists alike.
Electric stimulation: Electrodes on the scalp apply a current across the brain.
Several types exist such as Cranial electrotherapy stimulation, Transcranial direct-current stimulation, and Cranial electrotherapy stimulation using pulsed and/or alternating currents.
Direct stimulation of the visual cortex has succeeded in generating phosphenes.
Electroencephalography (EEG): This is a more established field that goes more than 100 years back.
Nootropics or smart drugs can be considered as a form of brain hacking using chemistry.
Some are used for health issues such as for ADHD, some are prescription drugs, others quite illegal and much is of uncertain efficacy. The brain is complex and the field is young so the jury is still out on nootropics.
The military is also looking into nootropics, especially for sleep control, typically using go pills and no-go pills.
While much is synthetic and illegal the chemicals found naturally in food consumed for a long time are considered generally recognised as safe (GRAS).
Examples include Japanese green tea with theanine.
To my knowledge, the term cyberspace was first used by William Gibson in his story Burning Chrome.
That work first describes users using devices called cyberdecks to override their normal sensory organs, presenting them with a full-sensory interface to the world computer network. When doing so, said users are in cyberspace.
The concept had appeared prior to Gibson, most notably in Vernor Vinge’s story True Names. Cyberspace is thus the metaphorical ‘place’ where one ‘is’ when accessing the world computer net.
“There’s no there, there. They taught that to children, explaining cyberspace. She remembered …pilots in enormous helmets and clumsy- looking gloves, …providing a touch-world of studs and triggers… As the technology evolved, the helmets shrank, the video terminals atrophied." Mona Lisa Overdrive - William Gibson 1988
Even though Gibson’s vision of how cyberspace is in some sense, surreal, it has stimulated many in the computing community.
The word ‘cyberspace’ is commonly used in the mainstream world with reference to the emergent world-wide computer networks, especially the Internet.
Also, some researchers in the virtual reality arena of computer science are trying to implement something like Gibson’s matrix into a more general computer generated environment, even if its purpose is not accessing the net.
Some of the more prominent technology in Cyberpunk is the direct brain interface to cyberspace.
It is not quite here yet, though bioelectric neural interfaces are being researched and some applications like artificial vision is available, see below.
William Gibson also mentions phosphenes in some of his texts.
Intruder Counter Electronics (ICE) was a way of stopping cyberspace intruders by neurological attack that could also be fatal. The concept was invented by Tom Maddox and made popular by William Gibson.
As for real life equivalents you can get far by flashing lights at specific rates. Some are more sensitive to this than others.
Electro-neural interfaces are found in literature and increasingly also tech.
British Telecom had the Soul Catcher project which can be recognized in the Altered Carbon literature.
A present day use is for prosthetics for the blind where a camera reading “projects” images as phosphene on the brain using electrodes. A problem is that the electro-neural interfaces are unstable and damages the nerves over time.
Alternatives, that also are far less invasive, uses the brains enormous capacity for reconfiguration or sensory substitution by way of seeing with the tongue.
This has been commercialised by Wicab under the name Brain Port. In earlier experiments digital images were used to drive an array of actuators touching parts of the back.
Other forms of visual prothesis rely on interfacing with the visual cortex.
DARPA has announced an initiative under the name Bridging the Bio-Electronic Divide announced in 2015, aiming for fully implantable devices able to connect with up to one million neurons.
One approach is the Less Invasive Neural Interface, such as the Minimally Invasive “Stentrode” that shows potential as neural interface for brain.
The idea is to use adapted stent technology to create a less-invasive neural interface that can be implanted in blood vessels to record brain activity.
Also the Neural Engineering System Design program sets out to expand neurotechnology capabilities and provide a foundation for future treatments of sensory deficits.
Nerve signals, from these or other sensors, can ten be used to control artificial libs such as a bionic arm. These can even be provided with a sense of touch.
Also commercial companies like Sony have filed patents on “Method and system for generating sensory data onto the human neural cortex” from 2000, using acoustic stimulation of the brain. It was presented in the news as being “prophetic”.
Work has continued using non-invasive transcranial stimulation of rat abducens nerve by focused ultrasound.
Deep brain stimulation places a neuro stimulator in the brain, AKA “brain pacemaker”.
This is used in treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Tourette, as well as research. Even after 30 years use much remains unclear about how the mechanism works.
A major problem is that currently neuro-electric interfaces are primitive and destroy the interfaced nerve cells over time.
Research is continuing in biocompatibility and bioresorbable silicon electronic sensors for the brain, electrode arrays, and more.
CRISPR / Cas9
The technology is shaping up, the patents wars are on, and the potential to edit gene sequences like word processors process words has obviously a lot of promise.
It is not quite there yet, and it will take a little while for the street to find its own uses for this as there are side effects, as in processing genes also like food processors process food.
Since the street finds its own uses for things it is worth remembering that it takes only 3.2 KB data to code for a lethal biological virus.
There are a few news sources relevant to Cyberpunk technology.
What is present tech and what is future ambition will always be uncertain in organisations that rely on secrecy.
Mil tech used to be driving technology in general up to around the 90’s when Commercial Off The Shelves (COTS) became the norm.
There are a few branches of the military that are relevant here:
For every means there is a counter means and when radios were used in war so come electronic warfare, or EW for short.
Electromagnetic waves were first used for communications and we got electronic support measures (ESM) for listening in and direction finding (DF) as well as electronic counter measures (ECM) such as jammers.
Next was of course electronic counter counter measures (ECCM) such as scramblers, wideband or spread spectrum modulation, frequency hopping and more.
Inevitably we got electronic counter counter counter measures (EC3M) at which less mathematically inclined officers feared exponentiation along the lines of the Ackermann function and declared it stops at ECM.
Next we got radars with the same set of abbreviations, this time for locating targets, imaging and more.
To distinguish from radio communications this is some times called non-com EW.
ECCM is typically stealth and flares and is a hot topic with F-35 selling stealth for all it is worth, which is a lot, while others claim they have EC3M. It might be interesting but it certainly will be expensive.
A newer arena is electromagnetic waves for navigation, positioning and time transfer, by most people known as GPS.
To distinguish from com- and non-com EW this was called nav-war. A lot of countries have their own systems and the frequencies used are very, very close.
Since received power is low, in fact below the noise floor, it does not take much power to jam GPS.
A more sophisticated approach is spoofing, feeding receivers signals that make them believe the position or orientation is different from reality.
The more primitive approach to ECM is massive jamming.
There are however many problems like you will notice being jammed and the more resourceful will know how to defeat this which is why it takes time to learn signal service.
A more insidious approach is feeding the systems false data or inject false orders. Finesse trumps raw power most of the time.
This is a relatively new branch and with the enormous importance the net plays the funding has been forthcoming in many countries. Interestingly Cyber Commands are more visible than EW.
Terminology and culture differs from EW though destruction (hard kill) or incapacitation (soft kill) are used. Where EW tends to work on the physical level, at the lowest layer of the OSI model, Cyber warfare tends to work on the upper layers.
Ever since nuclear tests surprised people with the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) as a long range side effect, it was quickly realised this in itself could be a suitably devastating weapon if it could be removed from the otherwise messy nuclear effects.
The EMP induces damaging currents in power lines as well as finer electronics and causes serious material damage but little fatalities unless you rely on hospital machines, pacemaker etc.
Several mechanisms for generating EMPs are know, presumably others remain classified. Some publicly known are massive microwave emitters, explosive compression of huge solenoids and explosive breaking of energised superconducting toroids.
One common factor here is that these weapons are single use only, after use they are destroyed beyond repair.
This weapon quickly brings in the issue of Asymmetric Warfare: high tech western countries have a lot to lose in an EMP while terrorists and local warlords have practically nothing to lose.
EMP weapons see little use. Note that newspapers have confused the issue and called carbon fibre bombs for EMP weapons. That is incorrect.
The carbon fibre “bombs” simply disperse long conductive fibres over electrical plants to short out conductors. Such weapons have seen limited use.
Much of the current thinking in defence and offence relies on the unstated assumption that both parties are equal.
After the Cold War this has increasingly been seen as a questionable assumption, where one party is loaded to the hilt with high tech and the other rides camels. To the surprise of the power point rangers this does not mean certain victory to the high tech side.
For more information see the Millennium Challenge 2002 exercise – it did not end well though the official report is more upbeat.
RMA - Revolution in Military Affairs
The military is not the place one would expect to be subjected to revolutions, far less across the globe.
Yet that is what happened when younger officers in the 1980’s around the world started reconsidering use of technology, and the name RMA was coined in the US, helped by Andrew “Yoda” Marshall of Pentagon think tank Office of Net Assessment.
The Western idea was to take advantage of networking both for interconnecting forces as well as enabling new functionality, such as a fighter downloading aiming data to artillery in order to attack an enemy ship. This Network Enable Warfare would as the example suggests connect all branches.
The small, fast and intelligent approach was a major contrast to the old school thinking where “cost plus” projects were meant to be huge and isolated, and where large scale acquisitions would assure general/admiral rank and thus cost overrun was more an advantage than a problem.
Obviously the contrast was too big and in the subsequent internal conflict in Western countries, RMA was branded communism and rejected.
The huge F-35 project demonstrates that old school thinking survived. “Network enabling” lived on, but again in terms of gigantic projects including network enabling of F-35 itself. The equally huge surveillance projects are also part of this.
The RMA proponents also realised the importance of actions prior to war and thus also stepped on the toes of the diplomacy, considering also this to be integral to strategy rather than means for quaffing cocktails in quantities.
Surprisingly the Trump administration has shocked both the military industrial complex for cost overruns, and diplomacy for talk overruns, the latter now being changed into “transaction orientation”.
It is worth noting that much of these are similar to hacker culture where diplomacy is social engineering.
Military Tech News
Since the topics here are somewhat underground it is not easy to find good news sources.
One that has been cited from time to time is Aviation Week and Space Technology, also known as Aviation Leak and Space Mythology.
This is a list of various libraries of information out there. It is not complete by a longshot, but it is a good starting point.
Beyond Cyberpunk (bcp) is a web version of a 1991 HyperCard version, compiled by Gareth Branwyn and Peter Sugarman.
Anachron City Mark-Space is an old archive with extensive interlinked information on Cyberpunk and related topics.
Voidspace has collection of older articles
Fuchsia Shockz: More old articles, archived.
The Cyberpunk Educator: A 2003 documentary study of mainstream Cyberpunk films of the 1980s created by director Andrew J. Holden.
Jinteki.industries is occasionally offline but an archived version is quite comprehensive. There is also a document archive. Latest news is that it will be down for a while but is expected to return with an updated archive. Meanwhile there appears to be a forked version at cyberpunk-life.neocities.org/.
The Cyberpunk Database has a lot more links to resources.
TV Tropes has a lot of links and a far more relaxed attitude than Wikipedia and has an extensive list of Cyberpunk tropes and a main article on Cyberpunk with extensive lists of media.
EFF used to have an extensive Cyberpunk library. This is now gone but is available on archive.
Cyberpunkonline appears to have a library that is more up to date.
(This was a part of the original document, I don’t really want to consider this a “new version” of the FAQ since in my opinion there is nothing overly different about the document. I am leaving this here for historical reasons.)
Earlier editions of this document were not allocated version numbers. In an attempt to clarify matters, Goobs has retrospectively numbered these versions. This is Version 5 of the alt.cyberpunk FAQ. History is a little foggy but it appears that previous maintainers/editors and version numbers are as given below:
- Version 5.0 anon
- Version 4.2.5 Sourcerer
- Version 4.2.4 Iain x & Aurora Slyde
- Version 4.1 Shirkahn & Goobs
- Version 4.0 by Frank (last update April 1998)
- Version 3 Erich Schneider (last update December 1996)
- Version 2 Tim Oerting (last update January 1993)
- Version 1 Andy Hawks
We would also like to recognize and express our thanks to Jer and Stack for all their help and assistance in compiling the early versions of the FAQ. The vast number of the answers here could be predicated by “in several peoples opinion” The general consensus is however that no one person is the ultimate cyberpunk authority. This FAQ, as with cyberpunk literature, is a living document. If you have any comments, criticisms, additions or questions, please post a note on alt.cyberpunk or 4channel.org/g/cyb and check for feedback. It can take a little while to respond.