The following collection contains a variety of essays on science fiction and fantasy. Each one is short, and explores only a specific element of the genres. These are the elements I find most interesting. I have long been fascinated by science fiction and fantasy, with a slight bias towards science fiction.
With science fiction and fantasy being thrown around so much, I feel that I should explain my views on the two. I see fantasy and science fiction as fundamentally the same thing. Both show a world with otherworldly concepts, and simply portray said concepts in different ways: Science fiction with technology, fantasy with magic. The main appeal of these genres for me are primarily their worlds, and a story with a cool world will usually be my kind of thing.
My first glimpse into the world of science fiction was an hour-long documentary style video about a sci-fi world. I watched this around the time of kindergarten. Before that, I was mostly interested in airplanes, but after seeing that video I began to draw robots and rockets, and began reading abridged editions of the classics, mostly by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. I eventually began writing and creating my own worlds. What follows are some of the discoveries along my journey there.
Cyberpunk: High Tech, Low Life
“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” With a sense of decadence, and references to technology, this opener to Neuromancer can only mean one thing: cyberpunk!
When you hear the word “cyberpunk”, what do you think? The rain-slicked, black-and-chrome of Deus Ex or The Matrix , or maybe the bright, neon, cityscapes of Blade Runner or the recent Cyberpunk 2077. Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about.
Well, cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction--possibly one of the most important. It was the first of all the -punks, such as steampunk, dieselpunk, etc. It also seems to be the only genre that really emphasizes the “punk” bit. The books by William Gibson, the first ever cyberpunk author, focus on the lower areas of society, creating a sense of decay, all the while broadcasting their advanced technology on bright neon holograms.
While the genre mostly focuses on books, it has also blossomed out into the medium of movies, creating such films as The Matrix, Dredd, Robocop, and of course the amazing Blade Runner. This multi-media quality makes cyberpunk extremely accessible to new audiences, and this is one of the reasons the genre is rapidly gaining popularity.
Now, cyberpunk has its roots in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It followed directly after the Atomic Age, that iconic retro period of shiny red and chrome. It presented a much grittier view of the future, with a pervasive sense of decay.
Cyberpunk also differed from the pulps of the Atomic Age in one key way, a difference which defined the genre. Atomic Age stories were written in the space age, and it shows. Their ships are simplistic, analog. When the first cyberpunk books were being written, things like the internet and video games were becoming mainstream. The internet had been established just a year before Neuromancer was written, and games like Super Mario and Pac-Man were created in the ‘80s. Things like this were extremely influential, and this is clear. Many of the battles in stories like Burning Chrome and Neuromancer take place in cyberspace, a virtual world that people jack in to.
Now that you’re familiar with the genre, I’ll give you my thoughts about it. I really like cyberpunk, for several reasons. First of all, cyberpunk is one of the “softer” sub-genres of science fiction. While some people may not be a fan of this, I personally think it allows for a lot of interesting character moments and allows the stories to raise interesting concepts. This can be seen a lot in works like Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as well as William Gibson's books, such as Neuromancer and Burning Chrome. Cyberpunk books often explore the effects of technology on society and the way people are changed because of technology.
Compounding this effect in many cyberpunk stories is the fantastic worldbuilding. You can see this in every iteration of cyberpunk, from the powerful mega-corporations of Blade Runner to the defunct moon mines in Red Star, Winter Orbit.
I believe cyberpunk is a great genre, easy to get into for newcomers and rich with character and world. It's certainly not for everyone, but for those of you who like it or are interested, there is a never-ending stream of games, books, and movies for you to enjoy.