Cyberpunkis more than a movement, even though its prime theorist, BruceSterling, consistently refers to it as the Movement. There areexceptional links between cyberpunk and other crucial building blocks ofthe twentieth century. First, it is possible to analyze cyberpunk inthe light of the contemporary political and socio-cultural scene. Second, the generic structure of cyberpunk can be traced to SF, examining thematic and technical aspects. Third, cyberpunk can also bestudied as a postmodern phenomenon.
First, cyberpunk is the offspringof the contemporary socio-cultural milieu. Culminating after the threatof nuclear energy, the increasing techno-phobia now hovers upon lessobviously destructive innovations, such as micro-electronics, andgenetic engineering. Such fears are addressed in cyberpunk. Thedystopian image presented in Gibson’s world is symptomatic of theparanoia that lurks at the heart of the sociopolitical reality of thetwentieth century.
This paranoia outstretches techno-phobia. Itinvolves fear of secret agency and global conspiracy. Indeed, conspiracytheory spares nothing from political assassination to worldwideschemes. Cyberpunk provides in-depth analysis of contemporary paranoia. Gibson’s multinational corporations are the materialization of thenightmare of a politically abused globalization.
Moreover, Gibson’spresentation of mighty megacorporations tackles the economic disaster ofa world economy exploited by a capitalism that went out of control. This addresses the contemporary fear of relying heavily on a singleeconomic system that has not by any means stood the test of time.
Cyberpunkalso epitomizes contemporary cultural reality. The intertwining ofconsumerism with world economy, the rise of rock and roll from therealms of marginalized subculture, and the technologization of popularculture are issues fundamental to contemporary global cultural. Theseissues are profoundly expounded by cyberpunk.
Second, cyberpunk isdirectly related to SF through the futuristic backDROP of its plot andthe extrapolation of hardcore scientific facts. SF is generally dividedinto broadly distinct ”waves.” These are stages of literary developmentthat alter the thematic and technical structures of SF written in agiven period. Mostly, these waves alternate between extrapolation andinterpolation, hard and soft SF. The alternation usually involves adegree of dependency on scientific facts as opposed to purely literary, non-scientific imagination. Such oscillation, if anything, is indicativeof the contention between the factual and the virtual; a conflictinherent in the human perception of life, with its dualism of mind andbody, spirit and matter, the tangible and the abstract. Cyberpunk doesnot
merely react to any particular previous phase, or ”wave”, of SF. It might bear some direct affinities of one phase stylistically, but italso exhibits thematic traces related to a different phase. This showsthat cyberpunk is SF’s answer to the contention. It carries within itsthematic and technical structure the seeds of both aspects ofcontemporary reality, the factual and the virtual. A case in point iscyberspace. On the one hand, it extrapolates the rigid scientificactuality of cybernetics and fiber optics. On the other hand, it opensup through virtual reality unprecedented dimensions for humanimagination through an entire existence alternative to our physicalreality. Thus, cyberpunk embraces both the factual and the virtual, rather than react in favour of one of them.
Third, cyberpunk isinvariably related to postmodernism, the driving force of contemporarythought. Frederic Jameson, one of the founding figures of postmoderntheory, stipulated that cyberpunk is the crystallization of thepostmodern aesthetic. Indeed, postmodernism and cyberpunk deeply sharethe very core of their existence. Postmodernism advocates outgrowingmetanarratives as despotic imposition of Modernism. This entails theelimination of critical boundaries between modernist highbrow andlowbrow culture. Cyberpunk thrives on this notion. It demarginalises thesubculture of punk and reinstates it at the heart of canonical thought, by linking it to science.
Furthermore, postmodernism propagates anew awareness of spatial power as opposed to temporal dominance. Cyberspace figures out as the manifestation of the spatial element. Thedisembodiment of human consciousness in cyberspace denies time anymeasure of control over the body. Moreover, postmodernism redirectshuman consciousness into the realm of the Other, redefining the Self. This involves a new attitude towards the body. Cyberpunk epitomizes suchbasic shift, as the idea behind cyborgs reinscribes contemporaryreality on the human body.
Finally, cyberpunk is more than a singleliterary movement associated with particular reactionary elements. It ismore of an inevitable evolution that stems from the globalsocio-cultural context of the late twentieth century. It is influencedby the past in its interest in the metamorphosing human consciousness: it stretches off to the future in aspiration to foresee how farhumankind can go, but in both cases cyberpunk lurks at the heart ofcontemporary reality.