Post-Cyber Punk

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Where Cyberpunk is dystopian and Grimdark with a disillusionment for Utopian science fiction, Post-Cyber Punk is positive yet more realistic than both cyberpunk and utopian sci-fi. Where Cyberpunk is anti-corporate and anti-government, Post-Cyber Punk is willing to give both parties redeeming features. Where Cyberpunk portrays the future as a Crapsack World, Post-Cyber Punk posits society will probably be about the same, just with cooler gadgets. Where Cyberpunk is futuristic, forward thinking and on the cutting edge...so is Post-Cyber Punk.

Post-Cyber Punk is the reaction to the Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy of Cyberpunk. Of course, Post-Cyber Punk involves Reconstruction of concepts Cyberpunk deconstructed, or deconstruction of Cyberpunk Tropes (such as the Dystopia). The Cyberpunk genre itself was meant as a reaction to utopian fiction popular in the 1940s and 1950s while exploring technology's possibility for abuse Twenty Minutes Into the Future (tech from Star Trek will just result in Brave New World), but as the genre itself got so Darker and Edgier to the point of being just as unrealistic, it was predictable that Cyberpunk itself will get a deconstruction.

What the old and new Cyberpunk genres share is a detailed immersion in societies enmeshed with technology. They explore the emergent possibilities of connectivity and technological change. What Post-Cyber Punk has that separates it from pure-Cyperpunk works, is an emphasis on positive socialization. In Lawrence Person's Notes Toward a Postcyberpunk Manifesto he describes typical Post-Cyberpunk protagonists as "anchored in their society rather than adrift in it. They have careers, friends, obligations, responsibilities, and all the trappings of an 'ordinary' life." For this reason, character goals also differed characteristically, "Cyberpunk characters frequently seek to topple or exploit corrupt social orders. Postcyberpunk characters tend to seek ways to live in, or even strengthen, an existing social order, or help construct a better one." In other words, there is a notable absence of 'punk' elements as found in most other Punk Punk genres. And in recent years several works that rely heavily on the post-cyberpunk conventions and tropes and have a strong post-cyberpunk atmosphere managed to drop most of the 'cyber' aspects as well. (see Inception and Mirror's Edge as examples.)

Aside from this main difference, the two sister-genres share many themes, tropes and story elements to the point that many question the legitimacy of this genre as separate from Cyberpunk, and contend that Post-Cyberpunk is simply Cyberpunk expanded beyond its base and taken further logically. Purists, however, see a definite difference.

The progression of the genre mirrors how society in Real Life viewed technology. In the 1980s, some people argued that the dystopian future of Cyberpunk was probable, that technology was not going to improve life; instead it was going to help 'The Man' institute a world similar to that feared by the likes of George Orwell, only with more consumerism, mindless hedonism and porn advertising. Megacorporations were going to stomp out individual rights and enslave creativity for the sake of Profit. And Japan was going to take over the world. In the 1990s and 2000s Real Life, the Internet did not just become a corporate tool but fostered a community-centric individuality, allowing ordinary people the freedom and resources to express themselves and share ideas like never before. In the 1990s, giant corporations were still extremely powerful, but they didn't become the big bad guys, and the Internet increased corporate and government scrutiny. Additionally, the open-source movement provided a grassroots technological base to ordinary people, who in turn embraced some key open software.

Additionally, the Internet fostered the development of small businesses and firms by lowering barriers to market entry. International commerce became a matter of having an Ebay account. Instead of collapsing back to the anti-entrepreneurial centralized model of economic organization, technological change became a decentralizing force that encouraged entrepreneurial, venture-capital-based innovative firms rather than management-based stagnant corporate behemoths.

Meanwhile, the Asian economic crisis turned the highly-regimented code-bound economic steamroller that was Cyberpunk Japan into the cuteness-saturated neophile Anime Japan of Post-Cyberpunk. Further in the economic realm, the advance of technology and continued lowering of manufacturing costs meant that ownership of capital became much more decentralized. For instance, the means of production of music became much cheaper.

Of course, the free individuality offered by the Internet has some problems, while Big Business and government are hard at work to take advantage of these technologies and bring us the centralized, monopolistic telephone-Internet-cable TV that we were promised by the dystopian punks and hippie techno-prophets in the '70s, but that was hardly as scary as predicted.

Basically, if you have a Crapsack World modeled on Japanese Zaibatsu where (most critically) technology is a method by which the power elite control the people, and the protagonists are entirely against said society, you have traditional Cyberpunk. If, however, you have a world that has some redeeming features, is not controlled by the State and/or Mega Corp, technology isn't screwing everything up, and the protagonists are trying to fix social problems from within rather than rebelling against society from without, you have Post-Cyber Punk. Of course, there is plenty of overlap.

A simpler and more cynical view is that "Post- CyberPunk" is a subset of generic Sci-Fi that assimilated noticeable amount of Cyberpunk aesthetics and/or Cyberpunk Tropes into its palette.

Compare Cyberpunk, Punk Punk and Post Something Ism. See Cyberpunk Tropes for tropes found in Post-Cyber Punk works and shared with its cousin Cyberpunk.

Examples of Post-Cyber Punk include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Though Shiro's less famous manga Appleseed starts with two soldiers scavenging for food in the wake of a nuclear holocaust fighting against gangs of mercenaries, they are soon taken to a city of Crystal Spires and Togas, where they are hired as paramilitary police officers.
  • Summer Wars is a shining example of this, what with the fact that a virtual world is the thing that connects everything together. Not to mention the Twenty Minutes Into the Future setting.
  • Dennou Coil, which is best described as "Ghost in the Shell as done by Hayao Miyazaki".
  • Real Drive, which is basically "Dennou Coil as done by Shirow Masamune".
  • Kurau Phantom Memory
  • Perhaps the earliest example of Post-Cyber Punk predates Cyber Punk itself - Astro Boy. It has many of the themes present in Post-Cyber Punk works, where technology causes massive social upheaval and change that is rough, but ultimately good and a symbol of hope as cyborgs and robots experience discrimination, contemplate rebellion - but are ultimately integrated into society.
    • Urasawa's Pluto fits the bill as well, essentially being a Darker and Edgier version of the original Astro Boy
  • The .hack franchise.
  • The Digimon series is perhaps an extreme example of Post-cyberpunk characterization. The main heroes are just normal kids with families and friends, who happen to also restore order to the Digital World, not to mention forge unbreakable bonds of friendship with sentient computer programs capable of materializing in the physical plane. Also, there is a important focus on relationships as much as world saving.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has elements of this. Corrupt corporations and conspiracies? Check. Cyberspace? Check. Normal kids fighting evil? Check. While fighting consist of card games instead of high-tech action, the characterization and goals match.
  • Ergo Proxy straddles the line between classic Cyberpunk and Post-Cyber Punk
  • Time of Eve
  • To Aru Majutsu no Index
  • Paprika, for the same reasons as Inception below.
  • Zegapain


Comics[edit | hide]

  • Transmetropolitan borders this: While science has brought great wonders to humanity, humans are still the same old assholes. The most popular fast food franchise of the future serves cloned human meat.
    • Note that this key factor is what makes Transmetropolitan Postcyberpunk - the technology does not alienate people; people alienate people. The bizarre transgenic modifications actively help to bring about social good and fight the apathy choking the system.
  • The Surrogates isn't bleak enough to qualify as Cyberpunk and in the comic technology comes pretty close to solving all of society's problems, but even a society where (most) people can possess the perfect body and the worst crimes are damaging property has its own flaws.
  • Wildcats 3.0. A huge Mega Corp answerable to none buying out entire conglomerates, technological advances leading to social upheaval, and ineffective governments looking out for their own economic interests. All the elements of a Cyberpunk world, but with a twist; the Mega Corp is entirely altruistic. Interestingly, most of the characters are Genre Savvy enough to be very aware of the implications. Even the two people who know the Mega Corp best wonder if a Mega Corp can actually be anything but malicious.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Although the late '90s had a string of sci-fi movies that dealt with the Platonic Cave idea and virtual reality, eXistenZ (which also contained aspects of Biopunk) was perhaps the only one to present the Cave as a good thing.
  • Arguably Inception. It has some of the hallmarks of cyberpunk- burnt out protagonist and powerful Japanese Corrupt Corporate Executive who hires him to brainwash a business rival, but the Japanese guy turns out to be not so bad and is actually trying to prevent a monopoly, the protagonist gets better, sort of, and the brainwashing plays out as Epiphany Therapy.
    • Extraction/inception itself is simply a different take on hacking in Cyberspace only with dreams instead of computers. Inception mostly achieves post-cyberpunk status by avoiding the 80's-influenced look of cyberpunk, not the story and feel thereof.
  • Despite pre-dating Cyberpunk (or at least most of it), Woody Allen's "Sleeper" could fit.


Literature[edit | hide]


Live Action TV[edit | hide]


Music[edit | hide]

  • Machinae Supremacy has a lot of songs made of this trope.
  • Devo. They were mocking cyberpunk in the early 70's, and still do it today.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Free Market based on Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is bright and shiny and just plain awesome about how future technology will be. It does really crank up the "humans will be humans" aspect with an entire social structure/economy based around how much people like you, similar to Facebook.
    • Viva la adhocracy!
  • The third edition of R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk RPG is set in a Post-cyberpunk world. The irony of a post-Cyberpunk game called "Cyberpunk" is not lost on anyone.
    • These thematic changes are also what caused fans of the game's previous editions to react negatively to this one. The fact that the corebook's artwork consisted entirely of Photoshopped images of posed action figures in ridiculous costumes didn't help, either.
  • Transhuman Space is a post-cyberpunk setting for GURPS. Although the Broken Dreams sourcebook lends itself to a more classic cyberpunk feel.
  • Eclipse Phase is generally post-cyberpunk; though some areas of the setting are closer to classic cyberpunk, there are plenty of likable and understandable groups of traditional governments, anarchists, and even a few Hypercorps. The most uniformly dystopian society arounnd is the Jovian Republic, who in a twist, make the least use of the setting's signature Brain Uploading, nanomachines, and other cool tech.
  • Cthulhu Tech is very much a post-cyberpunk setting, and despite the nature of the universe, has a government that despite its flaws is trying to save humanity, an economy which is approaching post-scarcity with nanofactories and the D-Engine, and themes of transhumanism (though not of the kind that you necessarily like).
  • Shadowrun straddles this, having evolved along with the genre. The original1989 game was a typical Cyberpunk dystopia, with evil megacorps running things. By the 4th edition, the corps are generally more neutral and there are far greater threats than them. while still dystopian, its far less so than the earlier edition.
  • Sufficiently Advanced, a game almost entirely about how far flung future technologies effect society and how ideas change the world, has so much hope and wonder at what science can achieve that even the more disturbing cultures, like those that use meshes to make everyone a willing slave of everyone else, are able to sit down with the rest and have a civil discussion about why their way of life is the most moral and correct.
  • Traveller, in a limited form. As interstellar communication is impossible (without being actually carried in a ship that is, with several weeks lag time), each planet has it's own net assuming it to be of sufficient technology and each starship has an onboard net.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Chaos Fighters II-Cyberion Strike and Chaos Fighters: Cyber Assault-The Secret Programs. However,the guardians (similar to navis in Mega Man Battle Network) are originally designed as virtual humans, but due to crimes the research project switched its focus to develop fight able guardians so that the crimes can be solved quickly.


Western Animation[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Megami Tensei series has many cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk elements.
  • Deus Ex's world was incredibly dystopian. But the heroic characters and their goals? So very much aimed at improving the existing system.
    • The endings are pretty bleak though: humanity is either controlled by a powerful AI as a benevolent world dictator, or controlled by a "democratic" group of rich old men, or not controlled at all by anyone but as a side-effect technology takes some dramatic steps back.
    • Deus Ex: Human Revolution has plenty of explicitly post-cyberpunk themes (probably due to the fact that the game was heavily inspired by Transhumanist philosophy, which is generally optimistic about the possibilities of new technology, unlike traditional cyberpunk); traditional Cyberpunk portrays technological advancement and unregulated free markets as leading to the destruction of liberty. Human Revolution does precisely the opposite; the game portrays the anti-regulation advocate David Sarif as a sincere transhumanist who genuinely believes in making augmentation widely accessible, his company develops a way to make augmentation substantially cheaper through removing dependence on the expensive anti-rejection drug Neuropozyne, and the advocates of augmentation regulation are part of a worldwide conspiracy bent on global domination; technological advancement and unregulated markets are thus portrayed as a threat to those in power rather than as methods by which the powerful maintain their position.
  • The .hack franchise.
  • Flashback has you playing a government agent who must stop an alien invasion. New Washington is delightfully dystopian, and at one point you must compete in a televised deathmatch for money.
  • Mega Man Battle Network takes place in an Everything Is Online world where Internet browsing is accomplished by using sentient programmes called Network Navigators (also known as Net Navis, or just Navis). While the world is generally bright and cheery and the protagonist and companions never stray into AntiHeroism, viruses, which serve as the game series' Mooks, are horrifically common and cyber-crime is a very real threat.
    • Add all-encompassing Wi-Fi connectivity, angst, and aliens attracted to loneliness and you get Mega Man Star Force.
  • The Metal Gear Solid series (with the exception of MGS3, which takes place in the 1960s) features a lot of post-cyberpunk themes and technology, and it becomes really strong with the introduction of the Patriots in MGS2.
  • Mirror's Edge: Both the plots and the visuals are straight from the core concepts of the post-cyberpunk genre. Yet there's no technology that hasn't been around for years, and neither technology nor science play any part in the plot or gameplay.
    • The game actually sits right on the edge (no pun intended) of old-school cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk with the main character Faith being a member of the underground who resist the oppressive and authoritarian government who tries to rescue her sister, who is a police officer working for the very same corrupt politicians. As a kind of minor twist in the later parts of the game most of the Runners realize that they are the only ones who still believe their world follows the conventions of cyberpunk, while everyone else has accepted that reality is much more like post-cyberpunk. With their feeble rebellion against the establishment being both futile and pointless, many chose to rejoin society rather than hiding from cops in air shafts all their life.
  • The Terran society in StarCraft is a crossover between this and Space Western.
  • Chaos;Head, and especially its successor Steins;Gate.
  • Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • So, how are we doing? Certainly, technology may be getting annoying but it's far from the leading cause of social problems. Post-Cyberpunk itself is basically what happened to the genre when some things from Cyberpunk came true in real life, but not others.
    • In addition, humanity seems to be quite Genre Savvy about Cyberpunk and dystopia, making humanity more conservative about technology in general.
  • bOING bOING.net - "Media culture brainwash for now people" & a "directory of wonderful things."
  • David Brin's The Transparent Society is an attempt by the author to convince the world that we have a choice between technology creating a utopian society or dystopia. The first can only be brought about by embracing technology and making it available to all. The second by attempting to fight technology, because the technology is so useful that it cannot be resisted, attempting to limit its availability to proper authority means that it will be available only to proper authority and to the rich and powerful and to the criminal class that knows how to access and use it illegally. Essentially, it straddles the divide between Cyberpunk and Post-Cyber Punk and argues that the two are the inevitable result of our choices now.