'High Tech, Low Life'
Cyberpunk does not present a happy future. It borrows many elements of the Hard- boiled Detective genre, a bleak, gritty atmosphere colored by the neon lights of high technology. The central conflict often takes place between the trifecta of Hackers, A.I. and mega-corporations, which have either absorbed, control, or overshadow any government systems that still exist. Its protagonists are often antiheroes, as rough around the edges as the world they live in.
A Brief History of Cyberpunk:
"The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." – William Gibson
The term 'Cyberpunk' came from a 1980 short story by Bruce Bethke that centered on a group of teenage hackers. However the good ship cyberpunk would take a few years to set sail as a true sci-fi sub genre, helmed by such works as William Gibson's Neuromancer, Greg Bear's Blood Music, Walter John Williams's Hardwired to name a few. While these novels were written during the early eighties, pioneers of the sci-fi genre had already envisioned futures of technology and the meandering decline of mankind, such as Philip K. Dick, Thomas Pynchon and Alfred Bester. While their works are now part of the growing cannon of cyberpunk, they did not give birth to the culture the way the early '80s did. You can also thank Ridley Scott. With the release of Bladerunner in 1982, cyberpunk sprung from the page onto the screen in a visually stunning love letter to sci fi. There is a reason this movie has maintained a cult status over 30 years later and has gone on to inspire many works of the genre.
Elements and themes of Cyberpunk have been used in dozens of films in the past few decades, from The Matrix to Max Headroom to the Ghost in the Shell anime. Some more successful than others, though dozens of variations of Cyberpunk have cropped up in television over the years. Cyberpunk might be making a full blown cinematic comeback. This year (2017) will see a Ghost in the Shell live adaptation and a long awaited sequel to Bladerunner.
Cyberpunk has long had a strong foothold in gaming culture as well, thanks to the such games as Deus Ex, Technobabylon, Transistor, and the long standing Shadowrun. Shadowrun has been around since the late '80s, first as a role playing game that expanded into several video games over the years.
As corporations continue to rise and the reach of the internet expands, the reality of Cyberpunk doesn't seem so fantastical or far off as it once was.
"Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a human being." – Bruce Sterling