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⚠️ I consider this in need of expansion; please bear this in mind. ⚠️

A Cyberpunk Reality

I don’t engage with much cyberpunk media these days. It’s not that I’ve lost interest in it - it’s because I felt it having a non-negligible effect on my mental health. Cyberpunk, as a genre, is similar to other dystopian media in that it is a warning - a statement declaring what path should not be taken. Unfortunately, I can’t ignore the feeling that the warnings of cyberpunk are not just being ignored, but seemingly being used as guidance.

Sci-Fi Author: In my book I invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale

Tech Company: At long last, we have created the Torment Nexus from classic sci-fi novel Don’t Create The Torment Nexus


Suffice to say that reading warnings about this specific flavor of tech-late-capitalism while watching said dystopia come to fruition in real life wasn’t great for my general mood. Make no mistake - while some of the aesthetic qualities of cyberpunk might be a few years out, it’s rotten dystopian heart yet beats in this world.

Aesthetic Cyberpunk

It’s at this point I’d like to divide off a section of cyberpunk: “Aesthetic Cyberpunk”. I feel like this might come off a little gatekeep-y, so I’d like to clarify that this isn’t my intention; instead, my intention is to make clear that when I talk about cyberpunk, I’m not talking about how cool rainy, neon-lit alleyways look. Even though cyberpunk has a very strong (and admittedly cool) aesthetic, I think that it is easy to reduce cyberpunk to only this aesthetic; hence “Aesthetic Cyberpunk”.

I see this somewhat often around the internet; sometimes, it isn’t even Aesthetic Cyberpunk that is declared “cyberpunk”; other tangentially related aesthetics such as the 80s-esque Outrun might get mixed in too. Perhaps this is a little pedantic, but I feel that such a muddying of the waters might make the warnings of cyberpunk vanish in the appealing aesthetic.

Cyberpunk Desire

The culmination of the erasure of cyberpunk from genre to aesthetic, I feel, is people who enjoy cyberpunk declaring that they would like to live in the cyberpunk dystopia. I get it; it’s a great aesthetic; but cyberpunk is a dystopia, for good reason. For a person to make this claim, I feel, means either:

  1. Said person is not cognizant of the widespread suffering under such an arrangement; likely as a result of the collapse of cyberpunk into Aesthetic Cyberpunk; or

  2. Said person is cognizant of it, and believes it to be desirable or at least of little concern.

I think part of the reason for the reduction of cyberpunk into it’s aesthetics is the defanging of it’s anti-capitalist themes so that it becomes a palatable, marketable aesthetic rather than any real critique.

Wider Context

I feel as though I have been unnecessarily harsh thus far; not that I feel my frustrations are misplaced. I’m sure that, were I to delve more deeply into cyberpunk, I could produce more nuanced takes on the genre in context wider than my frustrations with it’s mainstream perception today. Unfortunately, I think I would be better served with utopian fiction, such as solarpunk, for my escapism. For now, cyberpunk feels less like an escape and more like a grim reminder. Perhaps that is the intention.