Why do we love cyberpunk? What is so special about it?

Why do we love cyberpunk? What is so special about it? Let’s first define what Cyberpunk is: a genre of dystopian science fiction based in a near future (or present time, more than 30 years passed since cyberpunk emerged) in high tech low life setting. CP

Now let’s talk about cyberpunk’s form and substance.

The form

When we talk about the form (e.g. setting) classic cyberpunk takes inspiration from 70s pop-culture, politics and economy of that era, e.g. rapid development on Japan as industrial power, raise of US financial sector as evil corporations; pushes those to extreme and adds sci-fi elements such as AI, cyborgs, virtual space. CP

Visually style borrows a lot from film noir (night scenes, neon lights, rain, fog or snow, etc). CP

The substance

Talking about substance, most cyberpunk works are perfect examples of transgressive fiction and hardboiled detective fiction. E.g. it focuses on characters, who are social outcasts feeling confined by the norms and expectations of society. CP

Cynical and violent anti hero protagonists here contrasted to featureless evil corporations. Also there are few philosophical sci-fi topics observed in cyberpunk: is our world real or is it a simulation? Which reality is true reality? If AI would have feelings, what is the difference between humans and androids? Could AI be more human than human? Where is the boundary between being human and being robot for cyborgs? Probably lots of such philosophical topics are inspired by Philip K. Dick works. CP

Based on description above there are few reasons why people love cyberpunk:

  1. Cyberpunk emerged as an alternative to overly optimistic sci-fi of its time, which felt too utopian and sugar-coated ignoring actual human nature. So if you love sci-fi, but do not believe in Star Trek communist-like utopias or future humans pursuing common good over personal selfish interests, than cyberpunk is for you.
  2. You may love transgressive fiction, hard-boiled fiction, existentialism or other darker forms of literature and thus like cyberpunk too, since it is virtually the same, just in futuristic setting.
  3. Lots of people just love cyberpunk aesthetics with its neon lights, constant rain and futuristic urban setting of skyscrapers and slums. Maybe you love dark aesthetics in general (e.g. Gothic, film noir, etc) and thus cyberpunk fits your taste perfectly.
  4. Also let’s not forget about punk element in cyberpunk. There are groups of people (especially angst-fueled youth) feeling pissed off about their lives and believing it is because of the “system”. Those groups may associate themselves with cyberpunk protagonists and thus enjoy cyberpunk.