Fifty Key Figures in Cyberpunk  Culture

A collection of engaging essays on some of the most significant figures in cyberpunk culture, this outstanding guide charts the rich and varied landscape of cyberpunk from the 1970s to present day.

The collection features key figures from a variety of disciplines, from novelists, critical and cultural theorists, philosophers, and scholars, to filmmakers, comic book artists, game creators, and television writers. Important and influential names discussed include: J. G. Ballard, Jean Baudrillard, Rosi Braidotti, Charlie Brooker, Pat Cadigan, William Gibson, Donna J. Haraway, Nalo Hopkinson, Janelle Monáe, Annalee Newitz, Katsuhiro Ōtomo, Sadie Plant, Mike Pondsmith, Ridley Scott, Bruce Sterling, and the Wachowskis. The editors also include an afterword of ‘Honorable Mentions’ to highlight additional figures and groups of note that have played a role in shaping cyberpunk.

Nominated as Best Non-Fiction for the BSFA Award 2022


Fifty Key Figures in Cyberpunk Culture is an extended appendix to The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture in its focus on those makers of our cyberpunk cultural formation. In our focus on the fifty key makers of cyberpunk culture, we’ve chosen our entries with an eye to giving the reader a flavor for the diverse ways in which specific actors working with cyberpunk have helped shape our cyberpunk culture, even if their work may have pre-dated cyberpunk’s official codification. We do, of course, offer a number of entries on those actors who were instrumental in the Movement’s earliest days as it transitioned to cyberpunk, all of whom are included in Sterling’s Mirrorshades anthology: Sterling, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, and Lewis Shiner, for example, all feature here, as well as William Gibson whose novel Neuromancer (1984) is cyberpunk’s ur-text, making him the honorary godfather of cyberpunk. We have also attempted to show the transmedia power of cyberpunk imagery, including figures from film (Mamoru Oshii), comic books (Warren Ellis), tabletop role-playing games (Mike Pondsmith), video games (Warren Spector) and performance art (Stelarc). We also wanted to showcase the feedback between cyberpunk and critical theory because the former has engaged in conversations with the latter and acted as a form of theory in science-fictional form, evidenced in such texts as J. G. Ballard’s proto-cyberpunk Crash (1973) or Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s  The Matrix (1999). In other words, cyberpunk has been inspired by futurologists like Alvin and Wendy Toffler, internet researchers and activists such as Sadie Plant, critical posthumanists like Donna J. Haraway, and transhumanists like Ray Kurzweil, and these close connections between (cyberpunk) fiction and (cyberpunk) theory are instrumental in understanding how the genre has evolved into a cultural mode.


Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Anna Mcfarlane, Graham J. Murphy, and Lars Schmeink
  • 1. J. G. Ballard
    Jaak Tomberg
  • 2. Steven Barnes
    Isiah Lavender Iii
  • 3. Jean Baudrillard
    Michał Kłosiński
  • 4. Lauren Beukes
    Lars Schmeink
  • 5. Rosi Braidotti
    Agnieszka Kotwasińska
  • 6. Charlton ‘Charlie’ Brooker
    Filip Boratyn
  • 7. Pat Cadigan
    Ritch Calvin
  • 8. David Cronenberg
    Matthew Flisfeder
  • 9. Samuel R. Delany
    Jędrzej Burszta
  • 10. Philip K. Dick
    Francis Gene-Rowe
  • 11. Cory Doctorow
    Benjamin Franz
  • 12. Warren Ellis
    David. M. Higgins And Matthew Iung
  • 13. William Gibson
    Keren Omry
  • 14. Donna J. Haraway
    Julia Grillmayr
  • 15. N. Katherine Hayles
    María Goicoechea
  • 16. Nalo Hopkinson
    Rebecca J. Holden
  • 17. Sogo Ishii
    Sasha Myerson
  • 18. Ray Kurzweil
    Nicholas Laudadio
  • 19. Jaron Lanier
    Leighton Evans
  • 20. Marshall Mcluhan
    D. Harlan Wilson
  • 21. Syd Mead
    Pawel Frelik
  • 22. Misha
    Stina Attebery
  • 23. Moebius
    Nicolas Labarre
  • 24.Janelle Monáe
    Lidia Kniaź- Hunek
  • 25. Richard K. Morgan
    Adam Edwards
  • 26. Annalee Newitz
    Wendy Gay Pearson
  • 27. Mamoru Oshii
    Brian Ruh
  • 28. Katsuhiro Ōtomo
    Shige ‘CJ’ Suzuki
  • 29. Marge Piercy
    Christopher D. Kilgore
  • 30. Sadie Plant
    Ania Malinowska
  • 31. Mike Pondsmith
    Evan Torner
  • 32. Thomas Pynchon
    Rob Latham
  • 33. Rudy Rucker
    Jonathan Thornton
  • 34. Joanna Russ
    Jeanne Cortiel
  • 35. Melissa Scott
    Robin Anne Reid
  • 36. Ridley Scott
    Simon Spiegel
  • 37. Lewis Shiner
    Graham J. Murphy
  • 38. Masumune Shirow
    Mark Player
  • 39. Warren Spector
    Christophe Duret
  • 40. Stelarc
    Agnieszka Kiejziewicz
  • 41. Neal Stephenson
    Anna Mcfarlane
  • 42. Bruce Sterling
    Paul Raven
  • 43. Allucquére Rosanne ‘Sandy’ Stone
    Anna Kurowicka
  • 44. James Tiptree, Jr.
    Anya Heise-Von Der Lippe
  • 45. Alvin and Wendy Toffler
    Doug Davis
  • 46. Shinya Tsukamoto
    Mark Bould
  • 47. Vernor Vinge
    Sébastien Doubinsky
  • 48. Lana and Lilly Wachwoski
    Dan Hassler-Forest
  • 49. Norbert Wiener
    Willian Perpétuo Busch
  • 50. Shoshana Zuboff
    Jo Lindsay Walton
  • Honourable Mentions
    Anna Mcfarlane, Graham J. Murphy, and Lars Schmeink

From classic Movement sf writers like William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Pat Cadigan to key precursors like Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., and Philip K. Dick and contemporary practitioners like Charlie Brooker, Lana and Lilly Wachowski, Lauren Beukes, and Janelle Monáe — with a truly global collection of writers, filmmakers, scientists, and philosophers spanning every field of art and innovation over more than a century — McFarlane, Murphy, and Schmeink’s Fifty Figures lays any possible doubt to rest: cyberpunk still rules our world.

Gerry Canavan
Associate Professor of English, Marquette University

Fifty Key Figures in Cyberpunk Culture brings together a truly diverse and global array of entries that explodes the limits of cyberpunk’s perceived „monocromatism,“ and heteronormative, masculine biases. The entries gathered here reveal cyberpunk to be a key cultural formation for investigating the racial, class, gender, and sexual intersections of our increasingly techno-saturated late capitalist present. Your favorite „deep-cut“ author might be missing, but you’ll discover far more than you’ll miss.


Hugh O'Connell
Assistant Professor of English, University of Massachusetts Boston

Fifty Key Figures in Cyberpunk Culture is an excellent introduction to some of the writers, artists, theorists, and scientists whose influence has helped to shape today’s technocultural imaginary. Readers will (re)discover cyberpunk culture’s makers, from J.G. Ballard to Rosi Braidotti, from Marshall McLuhan to Richard K. Morgan, from Rudy Rucker to Joanna Russ, from Vernor Vinge to Norbert Wiener. Fifty Key Figures is both an exciting supplement to MacFarlane, Murphy, and Schmeink’s recently published Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture and an important contribution to cyberculture studies in general.


Veronica Hollinger
Prof. em. of Cultural Studies, Trent University
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