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Postcyberpunk

From Academic Kids

Postcyberpunk describes a genre of science fiction which is believed to have emerged from the cyberpunk movement. Like its predecessor, postcyberpunk focuses on technological developments in near-future societies, typically examining the social effects of widespread telecommunication, genetic engineering and/or nanotechnology. Unlike "classic" cyperpunk, however, the works in this category feature characters who act to improve social conditions or at least protect the status quo from further decay.

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History

The term "postcyberpunk" was first used circa 1991 to describe Neal Stephenson's science-fiction novel Snow Crash. Lawrence Person argued that the term should be applied to an emergent genre, 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 popular technology website Slashdot. The article identified the emergence of a postcyberpunk as the evolution of the cyberpunk genre of science-fiction popular in the late 1970s and 1980s characterized by movies like Blade Runner and books like William Gibson's Neuromancer.

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. Person argues that postcyberpunk is distinct from cyberpunk in the following ways:

  • Cyberpunk typically deals with alienated loners in a dystopia. 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.
  • In cyberpunk, the alienating effect of new technology is emphasised, whereas in postcyberpunk, "technology is society" (including more technocracy and cyberprep themes than traditional cyberpunk).

Other possible characteristics:

  • A more realistic depiction of computers, such as replacing virtual reality with a sort of super voice/audio/video/holographic Internet-based network.
  • A change in emphasis from metallic implants to biotechnology.

Postcyberpunk possibly emerged because SF authors and the general population began using computers, the Internet, and PDAs to their benefit, without the massive social fragmentation of this Information Revolution predicted in the 1970s and 1980s.

Examples of postcyberpunk

Some authors to which the label has been applied have endorsed and adopted it. However, classification is always difficult; there are many works which explore postcyberpunk themes in a dystopian way—e.g. Paul McAuley's Fairyland. Some authors are hard to classify. For example, Greg Egan's work is arguably so inventive as to defy classification into a "movement" or "sub-genre".

Postcyberpunk could become an umbrella for all sorts of interesting near-future action in movies and books such as Max Barry's satirical Jennifer Government. Postcyberpunk novels and movies have as of 2004 yet to gain as widespread popularity as their precursors (the Matrix trilogy is usually considered cyberpunk). Somewhat ironically, the technological optimism seen in postcyberpunk work can be traced back to Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics, or even to the sympathetic robots Helen O. Loy and Adam Link, all of which predate cyberpunk by a half-century.

Two role-playing games seem to embody Postcyberpunk concepts. The first to be published is called Transhuman Space written by David L. Pulver, illustrated by Christopher Shy, published by Steve Jackson Games and is part of the "Powered by GURPS" line. [1] (http://www.sjgames.com/transhuman/) The second is Ex Machina, published by Guardians of Order and part of both the tri-stat and d20 gaming lines.

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