Beyond Cyberpunk: New Critical Perspectives

Beyond Cyberpunk: New Critical Perspectives

Beyond Cyberpunk: New Critical Perspectives

Beyond Cyberpunk: New Critical Perspectives


This book is a collection of essays that considers the continuing cultural relevance of the cyberpunk genre into the new millennium. Cyberpunk is no longer an emergent phenomenon, but in our digital age of CGI-driven entertainment, the information economy, and globalized capital, we have never more been in need of a fiction capable of engaging with a world shaped by information technology. The essays in explore our cyberpunk realities to soberly reconsider Eighties-era cyberpunk while also mapping contemporary cyberpunk. The contributors seek to move beyond the narrow strictures of cyberpunk as defined in the Eighties and contribute to an ongoing discussion of how to negotiate exchanges among information technologies, global capitalism, and human social existence. The essays offer a variety of perspectives on cyberpunk's diversity and how this sub-genre remains relevant amidst its transformation from a print fiction genre into a more generalized set of cultural practices, tackling the question of what it is that cyberpunk narratives continue to offer us in those intersections of literary, cultural, theoretical, academic, and technocultural environments.


Graham J. Murphy and Sherryl Vint

Literary cyberpunk has had a tumultuous, conflicted, at times contradictory history. Scholars and fans acknowledge its birth in the fictions of, chiefly, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, only to carbon-date cyberpunk’s origins in such predecessors as J. G. Ballard, James Tiptree, Jr., Joanna Russ, John Brunner, Vernor Vinge, or Philip K. Dick. Almost before the Movement—as it was known in the early-1980s, with a core membership usually argued to include William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shiner, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley and, at times, Pat Cadigan—was firmly established, eulogies quickly followed the subgenre’s meteoric success. Shiner writes in his New York Times editorial “Confessions of an Ex-Cyberpunk” (1991) that “[o]ther writers had turned the form into formula: implant wetware (biological computer chips), government by multinational corporations, street-wise, leatherjacketed, amphetamine-loving protagonists and decayed orbital colonies.” Arthur Kroker and Marilouise Kroker proclaim in Hacking the Future: Stories for the Flesh-Eating 90s (1996) that “Johnny Mnemonic [1995], the movie, is the day when cyberpunk died” (51). Claire Sponsler went so far as to argue that if “cyberpunk has finally arrived, then it has come in crucial ways DOA—dead on arrival—powerless to sustain the socio-political radicalism and representational innovation its champions claim for it” (47). She cites Veronica Hollinger who, in spite of her enthusiasm for cyberpunk, writes in “Cybernetic Deconstructions: Cyberpunk and Postmodernism” (1991) that

cyberpunk—like the punk ethic with which it was identified—was a
response to postmodern reality that could go only so far before self
destructing under the weight of its own deconstructive activities (not to
mention its appropriation by more conventional and more commercial


Even Bruce Sterling, who grabbed cyberpunk’s promotional reins with Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (1986) and perhaps thereby contributed to cyberpunk’s perceived terminal condition, declared in “Cyberpunk in the Nineties” (1998):

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