Cyberpunk is a science fiction genre that has primary themes of hyper-corporatism, online intrigue, virtual reality and a black market underground with heroes that are often labeled as criminals by their society. All of these elements do not have to be present to classify a creative work as cyberpunk. Sometimes, it’s more about visuals or a feeling than a strict definition.
Some people differentiate cyberpunk literature by adding the post-cyberpunk label for works that were written much later and in a different style than William Gibson’s ‘Neuromancer,’ which is considered as one of the first cyberpunk novels and a prime example of the genre. My view is that the cyberpunk label should be as broad as possible to create a greater sense of community among fans and creators. Therefore, I label post-cyberpunk novels as cyberpunk. Categorizing creative works is more of an art than a science. The following examples are my opinions of what creative works belong in the genre.
Good cyberpunk literature is good literature, period. The stories and characters must not be cookie-cutter science fiction tropes. Cyberpunk readers have been spoiled by some great novels and anthologies.
Books: ‘Neuromancer’ trilogy by William Gibson, ‘Snow Crash’ and ‘The Diamond Age’ by Neal Stephenson, ‘Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology’ edited by Bruce Sterling, ‘Hardwired’ by Walter Jon Williams. ‘Halting State’ by Charles Stross.
While the following cyberpunk films have good scripts, the movies also add visuals that define the genre. For example, ‘Blade Runner’ depicts cyberpunk buildings such as huge apartment complexes with hundreds of floors. ‘The Matrix’ highlights cyberpunk fashion such as dark, urban sunglasses and full-length black trenchcoats.
Films: Blade Runner, the Matrix films, Inception, Hackers, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Strange Days, Tron.
Cyberpunk has been less well-represented in television than in film, but there are a few worthwhile series. ‘Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG’ are considered as the best cyberpunk TV series by many fans of the genre. Blurring of the line between man and machine is a primary focus of that series.
Television: Ghost in the Shell, Dark Angel, Max Headroom, Harsh Realm.