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Unraveling the Roots of Cyberpunk: A Dive into the Proto-Cyberpunk Movement

Updated: Jan 18


Proto-cyberpunk is a term used to describe works of science fiction that predated the rise of the cyberpunk movement in the 1980s. These works featured many of the elements that became characteristic of cyberpunk, such as the combination of advanced technology with a decaying society and oppressive.


Proto-cyberpunk originated in the 1960s and 1970s and was influenced by significant cultural shifts, including the hippie movement, the counterculture, and the Vietnam War. Science and technology also played an important role, with the emergence of personal computers, computer networks, and other technological advances.


One of the main characteristics of proto-cyberpunk is the description of a decadent and oppressive society that uses advanced technology to control and repress the population. This society is often portrayed as a dystopia, with characters struggling against a corrupt and authoritarian system.


Another significant feature of proto-cyberpunk is the merging of technology with everyday life, with advanced technology being used to transform human and social relationships. Technology is seen as a disruptive and potentially liberating force, but it can also be used to maintain control over people.





The use of urban and nocturnal environments is another common characteristic of proto-cyberpunk, with dirty, dark and labyrinthine cities serving as settings for the stories. Drugs are also frequently portrayed as part of the culture of these decaying societies, with characters often using drugs to escape the oppressive reality around them.


Some films often cited as examples of proto-cyberpunk include:


"Blade Runner" (1982), directed by Ridley Scott, is frequently considered a cornerstone of the cyberpunk movement, but features proto-cyberpunk elements in its depiction of an uneven and decaying future society. (I wrote about this movie here).


"Tron" (1982), directed by Steven Lisberger, which presents a virtual universe in which computer programs fight for freedom against the control of the human user.


"Alphaville" (1965), directed by Jean-Luc Godard, which presents a dystopian environment in which technology is used to control and repress the population.


In short, the proto-cyberpunk movement is an important precursor to the cyberpunk movement and focuses on a decadent and oppressive society that uses advanced technology to control and repress the population. It presents a dystopian vision of the future, where technology is seen as a potentially liberating force, but it can also be used to maintain control over people.




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