Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction literature, particularly prevalent from the 1980′s. It referred to a particular writing style (characterized by a “high-tech meets low-life” theme) and to a particular group of writers, which included William Gibson, John Shirley, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan (the “Queen of Cyberpunk”), Walter Jon Williams, and others.
Gardner Dozois, an editor of “Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine” during the early ’80s, is generally acknowledged as the first person to popularize the term “cyberpunk” describing a body of literature. Dozois doesn’t claim to have coined the term; he says he picked it up “on the street somewhere”. The term itself was actually coined by writer Bruce Bethke; it was the title of a short story he wrote in 1980, about a group of skilled teenage hackers/crackers. See Bruce’s description of the invention of the word and read the short story here: http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/cpunk.htm
Although the term only started being used in the 1980′s, there are many stories from earlier decades that fall into the sub-genre. However, it was primarily the book “Neuromancer” by William Gibson, and perhaps the Blade Runner film that were the catalyst for this becoming widely recognised as a sub-genre of Science Fiction.
For more information about cyberpunk, the alt.cyberpunk FAQ can be downloaded from the following site: ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/cyberpunk-faq
Posted in: 2. BR & Cyberpunk