The Rise And Fall Of Cyberpunk

Illustration for article titled The Rise And Fall Of Cyberpunk

Maybe cyberpunk isn't quite dead, but it definitely peaked a while back. There are way fewer books and movies with cyberpunk themes coming out now than there were in the golden age of the 80s and mid-90s. And we've got the statistics to prove it. We counted up the cyberpunk books and movies for every year since 1980, and charted their rise and fall. Click through to see what we found.

Illustration for article titled The Rise And Fall Of Cyberpunk

Methods: We compiled a complete list of cyberpunk novels and movies, by date, from a variety of sources including Wikipedia, the Cyberpunk Review,'s cyberpunk lists and various other sites. Then we tallied the number of novels (red line) and movies (blue line) per year. We were hoping for a nice smooth curve, but it didn't happen. We're sorry the chart turned out so zig-zag, we were as surprised as anybody.

Results: Cyberpunk has gone in waves, judging from our data. Novels in the genre have had a few high points. The biggest peaks for novels were the late 80s (eight novels in 1988), and then the mid-90s (an average of 6 novels per year from 1993-1996). Cyberpunk films had a peak in the late 80s-early 90s, followed by a brief lull. There were ten cyberpunk movies each in 1993 and 1995, and then another lull. The genre had a resurgence at the movies from 2002-2004, and then quieted down again.

How do we define cyberpunk? We tried not to. We pulled our list from as many reliable-looking sources as possible, and only left out things that seemed like obvious outliers. (On the Cyberpunk Review site, some of the movies on the cyberpunk list were listed as having a "low" level of cyberpunk themes, and seemed to be obviously reaching. So we left those movies out.)

So what does this tell us? Maybe cyberpunk is less of a fad than it used to be. Or maybe because we're now living in a cyberpunk era with virtual worlds, nonstop cybersex and evil corporations, we no longer view those things as elements of science fiction. What do you think?


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Charlie Jane Anders

@wishnevsky: I've heard great things about the Jenny trilogy, which I believe is out of print right now (with a new edition coming soon.) Or is that a different Elizabeth Bear thing? Anyway, I definitely want to check it out. The number of data points was literally just due to the amount of stuff I found listed online. I had expected there to be way more than 8 books published in a single year at Cyberpunk's apex.