Cyberpunk is a dystopian direction of science fiction literature that originated in the 1980s. The term first appeared in 1980 in a short story of the same name by Bruce Bethke and was finally coined by Gardner Dozois to describe the works of William Gibson (especially the neuromancer trilogy). Cyberpunk is regarded as the film noir among the science fiction genres.
In contrast to the classic utopias of many other science fiction genres, the world of cyberpunk is not shiny and sterile-clean, but gloomy, marked by violence and pessimism. Originated in the 1980s, it reflects the emerging criticism against the increasingly perceived commercialization and urbanization. In this dystopia, states are controlled by large corporations that abuse state monopoly power for their own purposes, thereby losing the physical and economic security of the individual (previously present in developed countries). The promise of a better world through technological progress has not been kept. High technology is not for the good of mankind, it is used for general surveillance and tuning of living organisms by means of cyberware.
Some readers and critics see influences of capitalism criticism in this scenario: corporations have taken power, governments no longer exist or play a very subordinate role. Private, paramilitary security services provide “order”. The boundaries between reality and fiction are often blurred by technology, such as the cyberspace concept coined by William Gibson – a similar technology Neal Stephenson calls Metaverse – or SimStim.
Against this backdrop, cyberpunk often draws the picture of a subculture that has emerged as a counterpart to a new world order without social and personal security; hackers are popular in this role. The main characters are usually the losers of this development. They are knights of fortune and adventurers who – often involuntarily – lead a life away from the large corporations “in the shadows” of society. As protagonists of the power and ruthlessness of the unleashed corporations, many narratives oppose them.