These days, ‘punk’ is added to a whole host of different genres, sub-genres, and words never before used to indicate book genres before. But there was once only one kind of literary punk: cyberpunk.

Pioneered in the 1980s by authors like Pat Cadigan, William Gibson, and Bruce Sterling, cyberpunk imagined a dystopian world of advanced technology and crime. In the face of unprecedented levels of corruption on an incredible scale, cyberpunk stories are populated with down-on-their-luck rebels intent on overthrowing the ruling classes, usually by way of their expert tech skills.

Borrowing heavily from tropes in film noir, cyberpunk tends to be gritty, dark, and pessimistic. But has the genre changed since it first came on the scene? Are we finding more optimism in feminist cyberpunk narratives? And why is thriller cyberpunk’s the natural genre companion?

“Cyberpunk is tech in conflict with its creator.”

Kimberly Unger
The Extractionist by Kimberly Unger book cover

Texts and authors mentioned in this episode include:

  • Johnny Mnemonic
  • Ex Machina
  • Mad Max
  • Blade Runner
  • William Gibson
  • Cyberpunk RPG
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Total Recall
  • The Matrix
  • Minority Report
  • Altered Carbon
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • Forbidden Planet
  • Omnitopia by Diane Duane
  • I, Robot (and yes, it came out more than a few years ago but time plays tricks on us all…)

“There’s a lot of gloopyness in cyberpunk”


In this episode, Kimberly mentions the representation of people with disabilities. We previously had an episode on this very subject with Melissa Lingen that we recommend you listen to if you are interested in the subject. For too long creators have used disability as shorthand for being evil or less than human – this is something that needs to stop.

Kimberly Unger

Kimberly Unger created her first videogame back when the 80-column card was the new hot thing. This turned a literary love of science fiction into a full-blown obsession with the intersection of technology and humanity.

Today she spends her day-job time in VR, lectures on the intersection of art and code and writes science fiction about how all these app-driven superpowers are going to change the human race. You can find her on Twitter at @Ing3nu or on her blog at

The Extractionist is out July 12th from Tachyon Publications.