Your basic Cyberpunk 101 reading list

Cyberpunk 2077‘s more regrettable & problematic design choices prompted some discussion–well, a lot of discussion, really–over on Twitter. And one thing led to another and people started discussing the genre of cyberpunk and not just the macho wankery of Cyberpunk 2077.

Now, I wrote my Master’s thesis on cyberpunk (“The Evolution of the Myth of the Frontier in Cyberpunk”, Bowling Green State University, 1995) and read, if I recall correctly, the entirety of the genre published up to 1995 as part of the research for it. So I have Opinions on cyberpunk.

So I briefly vented about Cyberpunk 2077 and What Cyberpunk Literature Really Is (get off my lawn, kids), and I was asked to provide my reading list. So here’s a slightly trimmed-down version of it, including the most important and relevant pre-1996 cyberpunk texts. I’m undoubtedly leaving out a number of good stories and novels, but I had to stop the list somewhere or it would be unreasonably long. Also, “important and relevant” =/= unproblematic or good by 2020’s standards.

Proto-cyberpunk texts (i.e., published before 1983, containing cyberpunk elements, and were influential on later cyberpunk writers):

Bernard Wolfe’s LIMBO (1952)

Alfred Bester’s THE STARS MY DESTINATION (1956)

William S. Burroughs’ THE SOFT MACHINE (1961)

John Brunner’s STAND ON ZANZIBAR (1968)

Philip K. Dick’s DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP (1968)

James Tiptree, Jr’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” (1973)

John Brunner’s SHOCKWAVE RIDER (1975)

Thomas J. Ryan’s THE ADOLESCENCE OF P-1 (1977) [thanks to Bill Higgins for correcting my mistake on the book’s publication date]

John Shirley’s CITY COME A-WALKIN (1980)

Bruce Sterling’s THE ARTIFICIAL KID (1980)

William Gibson’s “Johnny Mnemonic” (1981)

Vernor Vinge’s “True Names” (1981)

David Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME (1982)

William Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” (1982)

Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER (1982)

1983 & post-1983 cyberpunk texts (1983, of course, being the year when the word “cyberpunk” became widely distributed thanks to Bruce Bethke’s short story):

Bruce Bethke’s “Cyberpunk” (1983)

William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER (1984)

Victor Milan’s CYBERNETIC SAMURAI (1985)

John Shirley’s ECLIPSE (1985)

Bruce Sterling’s SCHISMATRIX (1985)

George Stone, Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton’s MAX HEADROOM: 20 MINUTES INTO THE FUTURE (1985)

William Gibson’s COUNT ZERO (1986)

Bruce Sterling’s MIRRORSHADES: THE CYBERPUNK ANTHOLOGY (1986)

George Alec Effinger’s WHEN GRAVITY FAILS (1987)

Candas Jane Dorsey’s “(Learning About) Machine Sex” (1988)

William Gibson’s MONA LISA OVERDRIVE (1988)

Richard Kadrey’s METROPHAGE (1988)

John Shirley’s ECLIPSE PENUMBRA (1988)

Bruce Sterling’s ISLANDS IN THE NET (1988)

Joan Vinge’s CATSPAW (1988)

George Alec Effinger’s A FIRE IN THE SUN (1989)

Kim Newman’s THE NIGHT MAYOR (1989)

John Shirley’s ECLIPSE CORONA (1990)

Pat Cadigan’s SYNNERS (1991)

Tom Maddox’s HALO (1991)

Pat Cadigan’s FOOLS (1992)

Ernest Hogan’s HIGH AZTECH (1992)

Neal Stephenson’s SNOW CRASH (1992)

Len Kaminski, Chris Bachalo, Jim Daly’s GHOST RIDER 2099 (1994-1995)

Melissa Scott’s TROUBLE AND HER FRIENDS (1994)

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3 Responses to Your basic Cyberpunk 101 reading list

  1. Clifton R says:

    Great list, with quite a few I’ve never read even as a life-long SF fan.

    One more late/post cyberpunk novel I’d throw on there is Michael Swanwick’s ‘Vacuum Flowers’, in the same general kind of solar-system wide setting as ‘Schismatrix’. If you’ve never read it, it’s a treat.

  2. Of course, this needs a quarter century of additions.

  3. Emma says:

    Thank you so much for compiling this – I was one of the people who asked about a list the other night. I will gladly spend some time reading through, particularly the proto- ones as these also seem to dovetail with some of my other SFF reading.

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