Criticism: Social Issues And Cyberpunk - Essay

Terence Whalen (essay date 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Future of a Commodity: Notes Toward a Critique of Cyberpunk and the Information Age,” in Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1, March, 1992, pp. 75-87.

[In the following essay, Whalen explores the cyberpunk notion of “information” and its place in post-industrial society.]

Imagine an alien … who's come here to identify the planet's dominant form of intelligence … What do you think he picks? The zaibatsus, Fox said, the multinationals. The structure is independent of the individual lives that comprise it.

—William Gibson, “New Rose Hotel”

Near the end of the...

(The entire section is 6166 words.)

Lewis Shiner with Larry McCaffery (interview date 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Skating Across Cyberpunk's Brave New Worlds: An Interview with Lewis Shiner” in Critique, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3, Spring, 1992, pp. 177-96.

[In the following interview, Shiner and McCaffery discuss cyberpunk, skatepunk, and post-industrialism.]

You can't sit around and cry because they cut down some trees and pave everything. Concrete is radical. Concrete is the future. You don't cry about it, you skate on it.

These words are spoken by Bobby, a teenage skatepunk in Lewis Shiner's 1990 novel, Slam. Bobby is commenting about the whining attitude of his dad—and, presumably, of other...

(The entire section is 10383 words.)

Claire Sponsler (essay date 1993)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Beyond the Ruins: The Geopolitics of Urban Decay and Cybernetic Play,”1 in Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2, July, 1993, pp. 251-65.

[In the following essay, Sponsler discusses dystopic predictions in cyberpunk.]

For better or for worse, “cyberpunk” no longer needs much introduction. Used as commonly and casually as its cousins “cyborg” and “postmodernism,” “cyberpunk” has become a widely accepted term for describing a specific kind of cultural production found in music, film, and fiction in 1980s America.2 A fusion of high-tech and punk counterculture characterized by a self-conscious stylistic and ideological...

(The entire section is 7469 words.)

Ronald Schmitt (essay date 1993)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Mythology and Technology: The Novels of William Gibson,” in Extrapolation, Vol. 34, No. 1, Spring, 1993, pp. 65-78.

[In the following essay, Schmitt discusses William Gibson's mythologizing of technology in his fiction.]

With only three published novels and a collection of short stories, William Gibson has quickly risen to the top of his field, winning the Nebula, Hugo, and Philip Dick awards for Neuromancer. Even more important is the fact that Gibson is considered one of the principal, formative forces in a movement within science fiction known as “cyberpunk.” I see “cyberpunk” as an appropriate label for Gibson's heroes since they share...

(The entire section is 6175 words.)

Steve Jones (essay date 1994)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hyper-Punk: Cyberpunk and Information Technology,” in Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 28, No. 2, Fall, 1994, pp. 81-92.

[In the following essay, Jones discusses cyberpunk's place in the “information marketplace.”]

What is it you're after?

Uh, information?

Oh. Another one. Life was simple before the first war. You wouldn't remember. Drugs, sex, luxury items. Currency in those days was no more than a sideline … Information. What's wrong with dope and women? Is it any wonder the world's gone insane, with information come to...

(The entire section is 4323 words.)

Tom Moylan (essay date 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Global Economy, Local Texts: Utopian/Dystopian Tension in William Gibson's Cyberpunk Trilogy,” in Minnesota Review, Nos. 43 & 44, 1995, pp. 182-97.

[In the following essay, Moylan examines contradictory views of future sociopolitical events in William Gibson's writing.]


In 1990, in his speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, George Bush invoked the utopian figure of the millennium as he called for a new world order, an order of peace and prosperity that would remove the darkness of the Cold War.1 In 1980, Ronald Reagan invoked another utopian figure: the “city on the hill” that recalled the dream...

(The entire section is 7166 words.)

Claudia Springer (essay date 1996)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Deleting the Body,” in Electronic Eros: Bodies and Desire in the Postindustrial Age, University of Texas Press, 1996, pp. 16-49.

[In the following essay, Springer discusses the social implications of the disembodiment celebrated by cyberpunk.]

Can thought go on without a body?

—Jean-François Lyotard1

When René Descartes compared human beings to machines in the year 1637, he maintained that humans would always be superior to machines because humans possess the unique ability to reason. He wrote that although “machines could do many things as well as, or perhaps even...

(The entire section is 11320 words.)

Robert Latham (essay date 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Post-Bodied and Post-Human Forms of Existence,” in Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 24, No. 2, July, 1997, pp. 344-49.

[In the following essay, Latham reviews Cyberspace/Cyberbodies/Cyberpunk: Cultures of Technological Embodiment and discusses the merging of human and machine known as cyborgs.]

Simultaneously published as a special issue of the journal Body & Society, Cyberspace/Cyberbodies/Cyberpunk: Cultures of Technological Embodiment offers further evidence that cyberpunk sf has now crossed over into the terrain of mainstream critical inquiry, especially studies devoted to the relation between the human body and electronic technologies,...

(The entire section is 2587 words.)

Joseph W. Slade (essay date 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Postmodern Sublime: Technology and American Writing from Mailer to Cyberpunk, in Technology and Culture, Vol. 38, No. 4, October, 1997, pp. 957-59.

[In the following essay, Slade briefly discusses notions about the “technological sublime” in Joseph Tabbi's Postmodern Sublime: Technology and American Writing from Mailer to Cyberpunk.]

In a 1932 essay that was once standard reading for students of American literature, Hart Crane insisted that writers had to “absorb” the machine by “acclimatizing” it instead of “pandering” to readers awed by technology. Crane's own awe overwhelmed his hope that literature could domesticate...

(The entire section is 767 words.)

Geoffrey C. Bowker (essay date 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Modest Reviewer Goes on Virtual Voyage: Some Recent Literature of Cyberspace,” in Technology and Culture, Vol. 39, No. 3, July, 1998, pp. 499-511.

[In the following essay, Bowker reviews several volumes of cyberpunk theory and maintains that the writing of cyberspace has global social significance.]

What is this thing called cyberspace? According to some, we are witnessing the emergence of the global mind: a revolutionary change in human practice of no less import than the invention of printing, or, before it, of language. Most of the contributors to the five books under review here adopt this position—though, like a box of fireworks into which a lighted...

(The entire section is 6112 words.)