Postcyberpunk describes a subgenre of science fiction which some critics suggest has evolved from cyberpunk. Like its predecessor, postcyberpunk focuses on technological developments in near-future societies, typically examining the social effects of a ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, genetic engineering, modification of the human body, and the continued impact of perpetual technological change. Unlike "pure" cyberpunk, however, the works in this category feature characters who act to improve social conditions or at least protect the status quo from further decay.
The term "postcyberpunk" was first used circa 1991 to describe Neal Stephenson
's Snow Crash. Lawrence Person
argued that the term should be applied to an emergent subgenre of science fiction, which he proceeded to identify. In 1998, he published an article called "Notes Towards a Postcyberpunk Manifesto" in the small-press magazine Nova Express
; the next year, he posted the article to the technology website Slashdot
The article proposed the idea that postcyberpunk should be seen as the evolution of the cyberpunk genre
of science fiction
popular in the late 1970s and 1980s characterized by movies like Blade Runner
like William Gibson
Like its predecessor, postcyberpunk depicts realistic near-futures rather than space opera-style deep futures. The focus is on the social effects of Earth-bound technology rather than space travel. Not all readers or critics agree on its precise meaning. Some authors to whom the label has been applied have endorsed and adopted it. However, classification is always difficult.
Person argues that postcyberpunk is distinct from cyberpunk in the following ways:
- Postcyberpunk tends to deal with characters who are more involved with society, and act to defend an existing social order or create a better society.
- Protagonists of postcyberpunk are more often young urban professionals with more social status.
- In cyberpunk, the alienating effect of new technology is emphasised, whereas in postcyberpunk, "technology is society".
- Includes a sense of humor, as opposed to the frequently hardboiled nature of cyberpunk.
Postcyberpunk possibly emerged because SF authors and the general population began using computers, the Internet, and PDAs to their benefit, without the extensive social fragmentation of this Digital Revolution predicted in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 2007, SF writers James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel published Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology.
Examples of postcyberpunk
Television and Film
The term has also been applied to other media works, such as Person's description of the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
as "the most interesting, sustained postcyberpunk media work in existence.