By Pathum Punchihewa
“You are dreaming… You see a tranquil meadow with lambs browsing grass under the wide bluish empyrean. The skyline is mysterious with a thousand various cloud patterns thus the enchanting and picturesque scenery was complete.”
“Indeed you are dreaming… You are about to wake up to the reality far far away from the blissful meadow, you are in a city where bums are strolling around, the dark and eerie city core where the sun shine will never be able to touch you. You are a citizen of this future city which means you are a loyal servant of the corporation and you are even prohibited to dream about a meadow under the radiant sky. Technology is high, but life is low…. You are witnessing the near future man made, post-industrial dystopia… a Cyber punk world…”
A futuristic or a sci-fi writer will nod to the above sentences and acknowledge them as the perfect “Cyber-Punk” plot which elaborates a dystopian world that humans become slaves to. Technology is absolutely in a high phase but it used to stabilize dominance. Artificial intelligence, mega-corporation or a ruthless dictator is behind the world authority and under the boot of despotism; the world is corrupted and destructed.
"Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous data sphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body."
~ Lawrence Person
What is ‘cyberpunk’, really? For what does that movement stand for? It’s better to have a definition for such word rather than taking the reader through a psychedelic tour of a crepuscular future world. “Cyberpunk is about expressing ideas -often dark- about human nature, technology and their respective combination in the near future.”
Negative Impact of technology on humanity: In a cyberpunk near-future, technology runs rampant, and usually manipulates most societal interactions. This was the idea of cyberpunk literature. Some believe that ‘Cyberpunk sub genre’ is a relic of the 80s but we still witness cyberpunk themed masterpieces from time to time and those creations keep reminding us to take care of our their planet, about avoiding the dystopian dreams!
The term cyberpunk was first coined by “Bruce Bethke” in his short story ‘Cyberpunk’ published in 1983. "Cyber" was derived from cybernetics, a control theory that studies, for example, human/machine interaction and is often used in connection with information technology. "Punk" was taken from punk rock music, suggesting an urban anti-establishment sensibility.
Cyberpunk visuals, ideally, are dirty, hyper-realistic “lived in” looks at the near future. Often cyberpunk films will have a single dominating colour that permeates the film. We also see patterns of dark motifs contrasted with shocking neon colour schemes. And just as important, a sense of slick style often pervades a cyberpunk movie.
When the Cyberpunk themes collide with literature, most people would like to describe cyberpunk as a sub genre of science fiction. William Gibson with his novel ‘Neuromancer’ in 1984 is likely the most famous writer connected with the term cyberpunk. Then his ‘Count Zero’ and ‘Mona Lisa Overdrive’ arose to the peak, completing ‘The Sprawl’ trilogy.
‘The Marîd Audran’ series by George Alec Effinger, ‘Bridge’ trilogy by William Gibson and ‘Chimera’ by Will Shetterly also represent the cyberpunk literature among many other fiction and short stories.
If you wish to understand the Cyberpunk themes and styles, I would like to recommend you some. “Matrix Trilogy” “Blade Runner”, and “Terminator franchise” are most influential cinema creations that adopted the Cyberpunk genre.
In Video games, there is one of my favourite, Deus Ex game trilogy that perfectly elaborates a cyber punk theme, a dystopian world and the revolution arose against the hegemony from inside the system.
There are several other role-playing games called ‘Cyberpunk exist: Cyberpunk’, ‘Cyberpunk 2020’ and ‘Cyberpunk v3’ which runs with the same genre. In fact ‘Cyberpunk 2020’ was designed with the settings of William Gibson's writings in mind as developers speak.
There are a few other subcultures that arose with the influence of the core ideas of Cyberpunk movement and literature. ‘The Cyberdelic’ counter culture of the late 80s and early 90s is a fine example. Cyber-Goth is a fashion and dance subculture which draws its inspiration from cyberpunk fiction, as well as rave and gothic subcultures.
Personally, I would like to construe the word ‘cyberpunk’ as not only a film noir and literature genre but as a Political movement also. The cyberpunks have been the most powerful single influence on science fiction over the past two decades. And I believe that it’s not just an illusory world created by writers. I believe there is a potential of future cyberpunk worlds.
Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.
Published on Daily Mirror (21st April 2011)