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Dark Futures


Cyberpunk is a subgenre of both the Science Fiction and Thriller reading categories. Though there were examples of what could be defined as “Cyberpunk” as early as the 1960s (by such authors as Philip K. Dick), it truly came into its own as a popular literary niche with the works of Bruce Sterling (Schismatrix), William Gibson (Neuromancer), and John Shirley (Eclipse) in the early-to-mid 1980s. Novels that can fully be considered part of the Cyberpunk movement flourished in the 1980s and early 1990s, but by the mid-1990s the concepts and temperaments of Cyberpunk stories were already becoming “mainstreamed”…thus losing the unique edgieness that clearly identified them as “Cyberpunk”. Today, elements of Cyberpunk have joined the popular conciousness through such movies as The Matrix, however the Cyberpunk movement as a literary force has pretty much dissolved…although occasional novels still surface that “feel” like the Cyberpunk of 15 years ago. 

Cyberpunk is all about “attitude,” and the mindset of characters in a generally downbeat environment. One of the best definitions of Cyberpunk as a literary form can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions for alt.cyberpunk: Cyberpunk literature, in general, deals with marginalized people in technologically-enhanced cultural “systems”. In cyberpunk stories’ settings, there is usually a “system” which dominates the lives of most “ordinary” people, be it an oppresive government, a group of large, paternalistic corporations, or a fundamentalist religion. These systems are enhanced by certain technologies (today advancing at a rate that is bewildering to most people), particularly “information technology” (computers, the mass media), making the system better at keeping those within it inside it. Often this technological system extends into its human “components” as well, via brain implants, prosthetic limbs, cloned or genetically engineered organs, etc. Humans themselves become part of “the Machine”. This is the “cyber” aspect of cyberpunk. 

However, in any cultural system, there are always those who live on its margins, on “the Edge”: criminals, outcasts, visionaries, or those who simply want freedom for its own sake. Cyberpunk literature focuses on these people, and often on how they turn the system’s technological tools to their own ends. This is the “punk” aspect of cyberpunk. 

The best cyberpunk works are distinguished from previous work with similar themes by a certain style. The setting is urban, the mood is dark and pessimistic. Concepts are thrown at the reader without explanation, much like new developments are thrown at us in our everyday lives. There is often a sense of moral ambiguity; simply fighting “the system” (to topple it, or just to stay alive) does not make the main characters “heroes” or “good” in the traditional sense. 

We’ve included a number of titles in this list which are not currently owned by the Lincoln City Libraries. These appear here to identify classic Cyberpunk novels which may be out-of-print. All books owned by Lincoln City Libraries are hotlinked to their entries in our library catalog, so that you may check on their current availability. If you see a title on this list that is not hotlinked to our collection, please consider ordering it through our Interlibrary Loan department. 

Piers Anthony – Total Recall [1989]

J.G. Ballard – Crash [1973]

Steven Barnes – Street Lethal [1991]

Alfred Bester – The Stars My Destination [1956]

Bruce Bethke – Headcrash [1995]

John Brunner – The Shockwave Rider [1975]

Pat Cadigan – Synners [1991] – Tea From an Empty Cup [1998] – Dervish is Digital [2000]

Richard Calder – Dead Girls [1992]

Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (a.k.a. Bladerunner) [1968]

William C. Dietz – Matrix Man [1990]

Cory Doctorow – Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom [2003]

George Alec Effinger – When Gravity Fails [1987]

Greg Egan – Diaspora [1997]

Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson – Transmetropolitan [1997-2002 comic book]

Peter R. Emshwiller – The Host [1991]

Mark Fabi – Wyrm [1998]

Mick Farren – The Long Orbit [1988]

Alan Dean Foster – Cyberway [1990]

William Gibson – Neuromancer [1984] – Burning Chrome [1986] – Count Zero [1986] – Mona Lisa Overdrive [1988] – Virtual Light [1993] – All Tomorrow’s Parties [1999]

Eric L. Harry – Society of the Mind [1996]

K.W. Jeter – The Glass Hammer [1985] – Farewell Horizontal [1989] – Bladerunner 2: The Edge of Human [1995] – Bladerunner 3: Replicant Night [1996]

Richard Kadrey – Metrophage [1988]

Marc Laidlaw – Dad’s Nuke [1985]

Jonathan Littell – Bad Voltage [1989]

Tom Maddox – Halo [1991]

Lisa Mason – Arachne [1990]

Larry McCaffery, ed. – Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction [813.08 McC] [1991]

Laura J. Mixon – Glass Houses [1992]

D.K. Moran – Armageddon Blues [1988]

Richard Morgan – Altered Carbon [2002]

J. Noon – Automated Alice [1996]

Mel Odom – Lethal Interface [1992]

Katsuhiro Otomo – Akira [manga and anime versions]

Charles Plah – The Silicon Man [1991]

W.T. Quick – Dreams of Flesh and Sand [1988] – Dreams of Gods and Men [1989] – Systems [1989] – Singularities [1990]

Rudy Rucker – Software [1987] – Wetware [1988] – Freeware [1997] – Realware [2000]

Douglas Rushkoff – Ecstasy Club [1997]

Melissa Scott – Trouble and Her Friends [1994]

Lewis Shiner – Frontera [1984]

John Shirley – Eclipse [1985] – Eclipse Penumbra [1987] – A Splendid Chaos [1988] – Eclipse Corona [1990]

Masamune Shirow – The Ghost in the Shell [1989]

David Skal – Antibodies [1988]

John Sladek – The Müller-Fokker Effect [1973]

Michael Marshall Smith – Spares [1997] – One of Us [1998]

Sara Stamey – Wild Card Run [1987]

Neal Stephenson – The Diamond Age [1995] – Snow Crash [1992]

Bruce Sterling – The Artificial Kid [1980] – Schismatrix [1985] – Mirror-Shades: The Cyberpunk Anthology [813.08 Ste] [1986] – Islands in the Net [1988] – Crystal Express [1989] – Heavy Weather [1994] – Holy Fire [1996]

Charles Stross – Accelerando [2005]

Michael Swanwick – In the Drift [1985] – Vacuum Flowers [1987]

Thomas T. Thomas – Crygender [1992]

James Tiptree Jr. (a.k.a. Alice Sheldon) – The Girl Who Was Plugged In (novella) [1973]

Joan Vinge – Cat’s Paw [1988]

Walter Jon Williams – Hardwired [1987] – Voice of the Whirlwind [1987] – Angel Station [1989] – Aristoi [1992]

Robert Charles Wilson – Memory Wire [1990]

Jack Womack – Ambient [1987]

Printed List August 1992 alc
Posted to BookGuide November 2004 sdc | Last updated in June 2016 sdc
Updated to include part of the content of The Essential Cyberpunk Reading List (June 2015 on io9 website)