Cyberpunk vs. Post-cyberpunk: Do these definitions seem about right?

ludomastro

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#1
Cyberpunk vs. Post-cyberpunk: Do these definitions seem about right?

I was wandering through Deviant Art the other day and stumbled upon these definitions for cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk. There aren't bad in my opinion but was wondering what the rest of the community thought of them. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Original art by EspanolBot can be found at this link.

For those that don't feel like going to an outside link, here's my best attempt at a transcription:
espanolbot said:
The thing with science fiction is that it often reflects the time it was written more than the futuristic environment that they might be intending to depict. As such, cyberpunk, the genre that inspired all the preceding sorts, might have started as a way to react against the science fiction of the Fifties and Sixties, but it really reflects worries and styles of the 1980s and 90s much more than the creators probably intended. The fear of the Japanese corporations taking over the world, for example, made more sense when Japan was in a boom economy, and less so when the bubble burst. In this genre expect to see antiheroes rebelling against the System, either the State or a Corporation, and the fear that technology might be dehumanizing people is also present. Expect lots of rain, dirt, unnecessary cybernetics and arcologies.

While Cyberpunk often takes place withing a world that is fundamentally broken, with a cynical hero fighting against a dystopian cityscape, post-cyberpunk often takes place within similar worlds that aren't entirely horrible and the protagonists are trying to make them better still. The difference being in a cyberpunk story, a hacker might be out to avenge a wrong the State has done to them, while in a post-cyberpunk story, a group of hackers working for the police would be out to stop the protagonist of the first (cyberpunk) story, and bring down higher up bad guys in the process. The difference between an utter dystopia and a world that's merely crap. Often influenced by post-Cold War and the War on Terror in terms of tone.
 

jsnead

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#2
While Cyberpunk often takes place withing a world that is fundamentally broken, with a cynical hero fighting against a dystopian cityscape, post-cyberpunk often takes place within similar worlds that aren't entirely horrible and the protagonists are trying to make them better still. The difference being in a cyberpunk story, a hacker might be out to avenge a wrong the State has done to them, while in a post-cyberpunk story, a group of hackers working for the police would be out to stop the protagonist of the first (cyberpunk) story, and bring down higher up bad guys in the process. The difference between an utter dystopia and a world that's merely crap. Often influenced by post-Cold War and the War on Terror in terms of tone.
That works, but what I've more often seen in post-cyberpunk of the sorts written by various authors and most notable Cory Doctorow, is where the protagonist(s) work to improve a fairly crappy but not overly dystopian world by working outside of an against the system, but in a manner that's considerably more constructive than attempting to burn it down with lots of violence, and with a viable hope of succeeding. The most recent novel of this sort that I read was The Peripheral - William Gibson's latest novel - the further future in that setting had experienced serious crash, but was now a very comfortable world ruled by kleptocrats, while the nearer future was pretty much a somewhat but not overwhelming crappier version of the modern US (seen from the PoV of the inhabitants of a poor US rural area where the local version of meth was the primary income source, which not unlike some similar locations in our era).

Honestly, I'd call most of the novels where the protagonists are working within the system to solve problems transhumanist rather than post-cyberpunk, and typically in these novels they are either attempting to spread the benefits of their own society fairly positive (at least in comparison to our world) society to other crappier societies or they are attempting to protect their society & or world from external threats. A good example here is Alastair Reynolds' Blue Remembered Earth and On the Steel Breeze.
 

Xeno

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#3
I remain convinced that the biggest problem with Cyberpunk is that the modern world is basically trying as hard as it can to turn into a cyberpunk dystopia while convincing us that's a good thing.
 

jsnead

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#4
I remain convinced that the biggest problem with Cyberpunk is that the modern world is basically trying as hard as it can to turn into a cyberpunk dystopia while convincing us that's a good thing.
Pretty much. The only difference is that instead of governments withering away, we have a mixture of a few authoritarian governments, and a wealth of plutocraticlly biased democracies, and I don't see corporate citizenship or anything similar ever happening - buying government officials is vastly more efficient. Of course, we're also noticably less dystopian than cyberpunk like the Cyberpunk/Cyberpunk 2020 RPG, Shadowrun, or Walter Jon Williams' Hardwired. OTOH, if you assume (as it strongly suggested) that most of the action in Gibson's Sprawl trilogy takes place in their version of the developing world, then we're less far from that sort of world.

However, OTOOH, the world looks increasingly like a cyberpunk dystopia from the POV of members of the working and middle classes of the developed world, but for most of the population of the planet, the world is looking increasingly utopian, and it has been getting better on many different fronts for some time.

Here's perhaps the best graphical representation of the overall economics of the modern world - from 1988 to 2008, incomes have been rising drastically for almost everyone on the planet, except for the developed world working and middle class, where incomes have been largely stagnant.
 

Baulderstone

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#5
I'd take issue with the idea that cyberpunk was reacting against 50s and 60s science-fiction. I talked to William Gibson at a poorly attended book signing in the '80s (There was a really bad snow storm). He said he wasn't so much reacting against anything as reaching back to the authors he admired in 50s and 60s like Bester, Burroughs, Delany and Pynchon. He seemed to regard the idea of cyberpunk as rebellion against the science-fiction status quo more as promotional chest-thumping by Bruce Sterling than anything else. He just saw it as part of an ongoing continuity.

Personally, I think people are more often influenced by things they like than by things they don't like.

As to the larger question: are books written in a particular time period often influenced by the concerns of the time they are written in? Well, yes.

The whole problem with Post-Cyberpunk as a label is that you can find stories running concurrent with Cyberpunk its definition. Look at Eon by Greg Bear from 1985. One year after Neuromancer and it already checks all the boxes for post-cyberpunk before most geeks have even wrapped their head around the idea of what Cyberpunk is.
 

Ratman_tf

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#6
I really like the idea of post Cyberpunk being a reaction to original Cyberpunk. The "heroes" lived long enough to become the villians. I think that idea is cynical enough to qualify as Cyberpunk. :D
 

LatwPIAT

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#7
I really like the idea of post Cyberpunk being a reaction to original Cyberpunk. The "heroes" lived long enough to become the villians. I think that idea is cynical enough to qualify as Cyberpunk. :D
If a genre is labelled "post-X", it's almost be definition a reaction, response, of markedly different development of X, whatever X is. In the case of post-cyberpunk, this usually comes in the form of looking at the genre-conventions of cyberpunk and setting out to do slightly different. In the case of post-cyberpunk, it often comes in the form of keeping the elements of society-changing technological developments in computer science, while toning down the elements of cyberpunk that rail heavily against corporate deregulation and consumer culture. (US-written) Cyberpunk is largely a reaction to the growth of East Asian economics, Reaganomics, and the shadier dealings of the US government. Post-cyberpunk is a reaction to that again, often pointing out that the Trenchcoat-and-Katana-protagonist isn't doing anything to make the world a better place.
 

TheMouse

garmonbozia
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#8
Perhaps this is a little simplistic, but I tend to draw the line between cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk as follows: In a cyberpunk story, the protagonist is some sort of outsider who rails against the system or someone who has their place in society inflicted on them. In post-cyberpunk, the protagonist is a member of society and thus part of the system. To some degree the first sort of story often feels a bit like teen rebellion, while the second comes across as someone who grew up and got a job.

Put more simply, the difference is membership.
 

Rainfall

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#9
Perhaps this is a little simplistic, but I tend to draw the line between cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk as follows: In a cyberpunk story, the protagonist is some sort of outsider who rails against the system or someone who has their place in society inflicted on them. In post-cyberpunk, the protagonist is a member of society and thus part of the system. To some degree the first sort of story often feels a bit like teen rebellion, while the second comes across as someone who grew up and got a job.

Put more simply, the difference is membership.
*Ponders the protagonists of Neuromancer and Snow Crash*... That's a good way to look at it.

Wonder if part of the evolution comes from familiarity, these days the cyberpunk future just isn't as scary now that we partly live in it. It's a kinda scary world but it's also much better than the past in many ways. My sister married her girlfriend this summer. :D
 
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Baulderstone

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#10
If a genre is labelled "post-X", it's almost be definition a reaction, response, of markedly different development of X, whatever X is. In the case of post-cyberpunk, this usually comes in the form of looking at the genre-conventions of cyberpunk and setting out to do slightly different. In the case of post-cyberpunk, it often comes in the form of keeping the elements of society-changing technological developments in computer science, while toning down the elements of cyberpunk that rail heavily against corporate deregulation and consumer culture. (US-written) Cyberpunk is largely a reaction to the growth of East Asian economics, Reaganomics, and the shadier dealings of the US government. Post-cyberpunk is a reaction to that again, often pointing out that the Trenchcoat-and-Katana-protagonist isn't doing anything to make the world a better place.
I think people should really start citing works here, because none of this is really lining up with what I read back in the '80s. You had the Gibson model, which was largely structured as crime fiction, where there was never even the slightest suggestion that the protagonists were making the world a better place. On a related note you had stuff like Effinger's When Gravity Fails which was the hard-boiled detective model. Then you had stuff like Shirley's Eclipse series and Williams' Hardwired where the protagonists were basically the Rebel Alliance and were actively and successfully making the world a better place, striking a blow against the powers that be.

That's without getting into stuff like Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist stories which is outside either paradigm. These would be considered straight up Transhumanism now, involving the extended history of a world and humanity that is completely changed in largely positive ways. Of course, these stories came out from 1982 to 1984, right at the forefront of Cyberpunk, screwing up the idea that Transhumanism is some kind of response to Cyberpunk. More accurately, they show how Cyberpunk has always embraced the idea of rapid technological change bring periods of disenfranchisement followed by a new, more stable status quo.

None of these models really seem in need of corrective fiction pointing out that the characters aren't helping as the characters in actual cyberpunk are either never implied to be helping or actually are helping.

Perhaps this is a little simplistic, but I tend to draw the line between cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk as follows: In a cyberpunk story, the protagonist is some sort of outsider who rails against the system or someone who has their place in society inflicted on them. In post-cyberpunk, the protagonist is a member of society and thus part of the system. To some degree the first sort of story often feels a bit like teen rebellion, while the second comes across as someone who grew up and got a job.

Put more simply, the difference is membership.
Discussions of Cyberpunk here often feel like discussions of Lovecraft (with less racism) where people who have never read Lovecraft talk about how all his stories end with the protagonist dead or completely insane. The problem comes from the fact that both Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun are basically broad parodies of the genre they are representing and are so many gamers only exposure to it. It leads to the idea that works of Cyberpunk were far more limited and facile than they actually were.
 
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