SF, Postmodernism, and Cyberpunk

Postmodernism presents "a denial of order [and] highly fragmented universes in the created world of art..The typical protagonist has become not a hero but an antihero" (Harmon 403). That cyberpunk bears the marks of postmodernism's influence is part of the novel's popularity outside the usual SF readership. A few of the markers of postmodernism recurring in cyberpunk include: the commodification of culture, the invasive development of information technology, a decentering and fragmentation of the "individual"; and a blurring of the boundaries between "high" and "popular" culture. Jenny Wolmark would also add the "disappearance" of a sense of history and a fascination with surfaces (9) .

Postmodernism (and cyberpunk) are characterized by the endless recycling-to-rebuild called bricolage, to be discussed under the "motifs" of cyberpunk. Neuromancer abounds in intertextual references to popular films, especially "film noir," as well as somewhat dated references to punk and heavy metal music and the youth culture of the 1970s and 1980s.

The "cyberpunk/postmodernism" connection has been invoked so often that it may be useful to question the extent to which the novel does indeed exemplify a postmodernist sensibility. It may well be that, compared to novels that came later, Neuromancer may be more of a "modernist" than a "postmodernist" work.


Defining SF
Defining Cyberpunk
SF and Postmodernism
The Motifs of Cyberpunk
A Short Bibliography

Amelia A. Rutledge
English Department
Updated 1/17/2005