So. In my string of posts about Fantasy as an overarching genre that covers all things magic and not yet technologically possible, I pose that Science Fiction is but a subgenre of Fantasy. Oh dear! What has happened? How could I possibly say that?!? Well, it really depends on your point of view and how you define certain things.
If you argue that Science Fiction covers fictive narratives that have a possibility of becoming possible in our reality of experience, and that Fantasy covers fictive narratives that have no possibility of becoming possible in our reality of experience…then, I guess it really depends on what you, as an individual, find plausibly possible.
All in all, I see it like this: The real difference between pure Science Fiction and pure Fantasy is magic. In Science Fiction, there is no magic. In Fantasy, there is magic.
But, like I have said in other posts, these genres just won’t stay in their own play pens. Does Steampunk fall under Science Fiction or Fantasy? A lot of the gadgets in Steampunk are actually possible to manufacture right now…so, is it still Science Fiction? It certainly isn’t factual history. I guess it could depart these shores and head off to become Historical Fiction…but, you can ask almost any Steampunk fan and they would tell you that Steampunk falls under the Science Fiction/Fantasy banner. Sooooo….
This is why I put all the piggies in one pen. Sometimes they want to play together, sometimes they don’t.
So, we finally get to the subgenre I know the very least about. I have a few friends and acquaintances who are in love with it, but I honestly never got the bug.
The most important thing I have learned (the hard way) about Cyberpunk is: It is NOT Steampunk. The technology that is the main theme of Steampunk is steam-driven technology. The technology that is the main theme of Cyberpunk is computer technology and cybernetics.
Cyberpunk is usually set in the nearby future, but certainly does appear in far-future settings as well. Here and there cyberpunk even crosses the technology/magic boundary to include races like elves and dwarves and so on (Shadowrun, a role playing system and computer game).
Society is often run by large, heartless corporations (I immediately see Zorg Enterprises from The Fifth Element in my head). Computer technology and cybernetics is a source of power for the establishment and, hence, the resistance often comprises of hackers and the like. Moral values and humane treatment of others are no longer the rule most live by.
Common features of this setting:
Bionic (i.e. electromechanical) and cybernetic limbs or other implants
Society has become dominated by computer technology and cybernetics
The protagonists are often part of a subversive anticulture
Human life has become as expendable as money
Robots (may) rule humans
Giant corporations rule society
Breakdown of moral values
Ghost in the Shell (animé movie)
The Ship Who Sang – Anne McCaffrey
Battle Angel Alita (animé and manga)
The Matrix (movie and comic books) – though, apparently, it’s not considered Cyberpunk by all
Neuromancer – Tom de Haven and Bruce Jensen
Blade Runner (movie)
Honestly, just like any of the other subgenres I have discussed, there is much dispute about the true definition and true examples. I’d love some comments and discussions on this one.
Yes, yes, I know. But I don’t have any of the more “pure” cyberpunk stories out there in my collection just yet. I’ll fix it later if I can.
When I was studying languages at uni, I had to wade through three years of soul-crushing literature analysis courses for English. We tore books apart and analysed aspects of characters that the author never gave a second thought. I hated it with a passion. It felt like we were putting messages in the authors’ mouths and claiming that they had meant to communicate them.
Then, after I had finished my degree, I realised movies and books had ultimately changed for me. I saw patterns and themes. I followed character growth, regression or lack of either. I was far more aware of stilted story telling and (actually mostly) lack of plot. As a matter of fact, for a few years, I didn’t enjoy any of the stories I read or watched. My uni training had made me too critical. Even good stories have plot holes and inconsistencies.
Then came a turnaround for me. My husband was following the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind and I decided to try and catch up to him. Though the main characters’ whining got to me more than the first time I had read the first book, I was just enjoying it. But in book five I found my gripe: I had realised that the underlying moral of every book came down to how people become brainwashed by their community or circumstances to believe things regardless of proof that indicates otherwise.
At first, I was disappointed to realise that all those books had that theme. It took all the fun out of the reading for me. But, then, it dawned on me: Every author has some sort of message. Every author has a need to express some truth about life. For Goodkind, it’s a journey with his readers to lead them to disillusioned awareness about the influences in their lives. For me, it’s most notably about the awareness that people are all broken in some way and that your own, unique brokenness does not have to get in your way to becoming awesome.
Have you found deeper messages buried deep in the pages of the books by your favourite author?
Some of the deeper messages I have encountered:
Things are not what they seem
Do not judge on first appearances
We are destroying the planet with our own ignorance