An Overview of Cyberpunk Science Fiction


For my thesis project I have chosen to look at the concept of transhumanism in Cyberpunk fiction. In particular, I will look at representations of the female body and technological enhancement. This is a common occurrence in the Cyberpunk genre, and it is usually portrayed in a dystopian light. In these narratives the technology that allows one to enhance their body is usually a commodity and a symbol of high status. The genre also looks at the risks associated with leaving behind the human body and attempting to transcend what is natural. My research will also attempt to discover whether transhumanism is emancipatory for women. For this research I have chosen to look at three novels in particular. These are Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) by Philip K. Dick, Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson, and The Stone Gods (2007) by Jeanette Winterson. The first two novels were chosen as they are highly influential and foundational pieces of Cyberpunk literature. The third novel is lesser-known and gives a feminist perspective of the genre. In my research I will attempt to compare and contrast the representations of women in these novels. The following Knightlab tools used illustrate some findings of the research done so far on this.

Visualisation 1Timeline

This visualisation attempts to show a general timeline of the development of the Cyberpunk genre. The timeline shows that the genre came from the New Wave Science Fiction movement of the 1960s to the 1970s. Authors from this time include Ursula K. Le Guin, J.G. Ballard, and Harlan Ellison. This movement infused the Science Fiction genre with elements of post-modernism and experimentation. It was also during this period that the first “proto-cyberpunk” novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) was released. The timeline also notes the first appearance of the term “Cyberpunk” in 1983 and the subsequent release of the first definitive novel of the genre, Neuromancer, in 1984. The timeline also goes on to look at post-cyberpunk and situates the genre in the present day.

Visualisation 2 Map

This map attempts to visualise the locations used in the novels chosen for this research. As is common in the genre, these novels portray dystopian or post-apocalyptic versions of real cities or geographical locations. Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) is set in the San Francisco area in 1992, which was changed to 2021 in later editions in order to continue to appear futuristic. William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer portrays a futuristic and corrupt Chiba City, Japan, which lies east of Tokyo. The final novel, Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods (2007) portrays an 18th century Easter Island destroyed by its inhabitants. This novel also portrays completely fictional planets and cities that cannot be located on a map.