Hey all! I don’t know if anyone else out there is a newb to Cyberpunk like me, but if you are, then this is for you!
I’m so pumped to dive into a new genre under the ICRPG banner. I also realized that of all the genres out there, cyberpunk is the one I’ve had the least exposure to. I’ve never read Neuromancer, I’ve never played Shadowrun, and I only recently realized Altered Carbon is a book AND a series on Netflix.
Just kidding, of course.
Actually, the point of this post is to celebrate the beginner mind on a new genre and talk about how I took a sideways leap into it over the last few weeks. It’s also an open invite for you to do the same if you are interested in cyberpunk but are also a bit unsure about venturing into unknown territory (conclusion: it’s worth it!).
Finally, I’m hoping everyone who reads this (old pro or not), will share some of their own cyberpunk inspirations so us new aficionados can have awesome stuff to gobble up while we wait for AA and Hank to work their writing and art magic.
So empty your cup of all expectations, fill it back up with some synthetic sake, and jack into The Matrix with me!
Here’s a list of my unconventional cyberpunk encounters so far (I haven’t yet dived into the classics like Snow Crash and Neuromancer), how I approached ingesting them, and my thoughts on how you can achieve some pretty decent cyberpunk knowledge based off of them in a short time period, too.
Transmetropolitan graphic novels by Warren Ellis. Fast reads, gorgeous, and somewhere in the middle of late-80s cyberpunk and more recent transhumanist (“do our bodies define us or not?”) writing. These are worth reading and staring at closely, in my opinion – all of it is inspiration. These are what I spent the most time on in this entire list. I love how much Spider Jerusalem both hates on and thrives in his deteriorating, close-future world.
Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams, audiobook version. The narration on this is brilliant (narrator’s voice is magical), and it’s a speedy listen. This, to me, was my idea of classic 80s cyberpunk, full of neon grunge, jacks and wires, and mega-corporations. I think this might be adjacent to Neuromancer as far as a classic hit of genre goodness.
Ghost in the Shell Vol 1 (manga) by Shirow Masamune. The main character, Motoko Kusanagi (the Major to you, sah!), is a badass woman who is vivacious, commanding, and mostly made out of cybernetics. Her team of anti-terrorist crime fighters is delightful and varied. Critically important, these are blazing fast reads with incredible visuals. A further honest opinion: avoid Vol 1.5 and 2… they made me pine for the lively and cheeky Major from Vol. 1. I also have the unpopular opinion of not liking the movie for the same reasons. I have a different movie recommendation below.
Shadowrun Second Edition by FASA Corporation. This was the most “classic” cyberpunk media I picked up and am still looking through. My impressions so far: The included short fiction and Chapter 3 (And So It Came To Pass…) do more to establish a cyberpunk world in a few pages than any primer I’ve ever seen. Brilliant. I’ve been scanning through the art and intermittent fluff in the latter chapters, taking interest in titles, sidebars, and the names of gear without spending time on game mechanics. Quickly absorbing fluff ideas and images has been breezy and delightful with this book. Mechanics were not.
Akira movie by Katsuhiro Otomo and Izo Hashimoto. A couple hours of gobsmacking visuals, plus a very cool story. This will put your mind straight into cyberpunk faster and harder than probably anything else I’ve encountered so far. If I had to recommend one single cyberpunk movie, I might place this one above The Matrix, Bladerunner(s), and other highly notable films. I don’t know why, but this one got me.
So! That is my honest, rapid, and dirty intro to cyberpunk. I’m still learning and absorbing, but the above five for me were the most bang for my buck in the shortest time, and all things that will stick with me well and beyond the scope of cyberpunk itself.
That’s the whole story! I hope this list is helpful to anyone new, and I’m so excited to hear what other folks think about these and other “sleeper hits” that will give us neophytes a supercharged dive into this new world.