Cyberpunk is a specific kind of sci-fi that relies on contrast for its full impact. To be exact, it relies on the contrast between technological advancement and social breakdown, which stood out in comparison to more optimistic kinds of sci-fi. In other words, true cyberpunk lives up to the “punk” its name in the sense that cyberpunk protagonists tend to be people on the peripheral struggling to make their way in a world with the odds stacked against them.
With that said, cyberpunk can refer to the look of true cyberpunk as well as the kind of story that show up in such works. Generally speaking, cyberpunk has more of a near future rather than a far future look, meaning mega-corporations striding the Earth like a colossus rather than space ships venturing out into the furthest reaches of the universe. Such settings tend to have a post-industrial feel, with passionate counter-cultures bubbling beneath the surface of what is considered to be normal. In particular, it is interesting that cyberpunk often has an improvised look because one of the most common trends is the idea that people will find new and unexpected uses for the new technologies that they can get their hands on.
Summed up, cyberpunk doesn’t tend to be very pretty. In fact, it can be downright rough and clunky. However, there can be no doubt about the fact that cyberpunk often possesses a certain kind of vitality that is missing in cleaner, more optimistic kinds of sci-fi, which explains much about why it is so fascinating.
Check Out Hiroto Ikeyuchi’s Cyberpunk Gallery
For proof, look no further than the Japanese designer Hiroto Ikeyuchi’s gallery below, which is an excellent example of how cyberpunk can look. His works are by no means the limit on what can and can’t be called cyberpunk, but they are nonetheless useful for interested individuals to get a general idea of what the genre looks like.