Cyberpunk science fiction emerged in a decade that saw an unprecedented ascendency of visual and virtual media in popular culture. Within the expansive mediascape of the 1980s and 1990s, cyberpunk’s aesthetics took firm root, relying heavily on visual motifs for its near-future splendor saturated in media technologies, both real and fictitious, such as video games, music videos, computer-generated worlds, augmented realities, consensual hallucinations, data networks, and many other technologies. As today’s realities look increasingly like the futures forecast in science fiction, cyberpunk speaks to our contemporary moment and as a cultural formation dominates our 21st century techno-digital landscapes.
The 15 essays gathered into Cyberpunk and Visual Culture engage the social and cultural changes that define our cyberpunk moment(s) and address the visual language and aesthetic repertoire of cyberpunk – from cybernetic organisms to light, energy, and data flows, from video screens to cityscapes, from the vibrant energy of today’s video games to the visual hues of comic book panels, and more. Unlike other anthologies that limit their analytical apparatus to literary cyberpunk, the essays of Cyberpunk and Visual Culture provide critical analysis, close readings, and aesthetic interpretations of exactly those visual elements that define cyberpunk today, moving beyond the limitations of merely printed text to also focus on the meaningfulness of images, forms, and compositions that are the heart and lifeblood of cyberpunk graphic novels, films, television shows, and video games.
Table of Contents
- Scott Bukatman – Foreword: Cyberpunk and its Visual Vicissitudes
- Graham J. Murphy and Lars Schmeink – Introduction: The Visuality and Virtuality of Cyberpunk
I: “Image/Text Concatenations”; or, From Literary to Visual Cyberpunk (and back again)
- Christian Hviid Mortensen – Beyond the Heroics of Gonzo-Journalism in Transmetropolitan
- Timothy Wilcox – Embodying Failures of the Imagination: Defending the Posthuman in The Surrogates
- Graham J. Murphy – Cyberpunk Urbanism and Subnatural Bugs in BOOM! Studios’ Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- Stina Attebery and Josh Pearson – “Today’s Cyborg is Stylish”: The Humanity Cost of Posthuman Fashion in Cyberpunk 2020
- Pawel Frelik – “Silhouettes of Strange Illuminated Mannequins”: Cyberpunk’s Incarnations of Light
II: “Tactics of Visualization”; or, From Visual to Virtual Cyberpunk (and back again)
- Christopher McGunnigle – “My Targeting System is a Little Messed Up”: The Cyborg Gaze in the RoboCop Media Franchise
- Ryan J. Cox – Kusanagi’s Body: Dualism and the Performance of Identity in Ghost in the Shell and Stand Alone Complex
- Mark R. Johnson – The History of Cyberspace Aesthetics in Video Games
- Stephen Joyce – Playing for Virtually Real: Cyberpunk Aesthetics and Ethics in Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- Jenna Ng and Jamie Macdonald – “We Are Data”: The Cyberpunk Imaginary of Data Worlds in Watch Dogs
III: “Emerging World Orders”; or, Cyberpunk as Science Fiction Realism
- Evan Torner – 1980s German Cyberpunk Cinema: Kamikaze 1989 and Nuclearvision
- Mark Bould – Afrocyberpunk Cinema: The Postcolony Finds its own Use for Things
- Anna McFarlane – Cyberpunk and “Science Fiction Realism” in Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days and Zero Dark Thirty
- Sherryl Vint – Cyberwar: The Convergence of Virtual and Material Battlefields in Cyberpunk Cinema
- Lars Schmeink – Afterthoughts: Cyberpunk Engagements with Countervisuality
Words of Praise
Since its inception, cyberpunk has been haunted by the notion that it represents only a very brief moment of the science fictional imagination, a moment which quickly passed. Murphy and Schmeink’s smart collection proves the opposite is true: cyberpunk never ended, and in fact its vast transmedia landscape of images, icons, visual artifacts, and technological apparatuses has completely taken over our world.
The report of cyberpunk’s death was an exaggeration, clearly, as the essays in this vibrant collection demonstrate. The ambiguities, complexities and excitements of this intermedial genre are explored here in riveting detail: the legacy of Gibson’s ‘lines of light’ are demonstrated to be, indeed, unthinkably complex.
In addition to offering the fullest documentation to date of the range of visual media infiltrated by and responsive to the cyberpunk aesthetic, this collection offers bold new arguments about the relation between print and visual narratives and the convergent, cross-media character of contemporary science fiction in general.