Cyberpunk Romance—A Trend
Welcome to Writing Craft Thursdays. This week we welcome back a regular guest columnist at Writer’s Fun Zone, author Bobbye Terry. Bobbye shares with us a growing trend in fiction, cyberpunk romance.
“I have no idea what cyberpunk is,” you claim. Yet you’ve seen it many times and probably have read it too. Think back to films like Logan’s Run, where everyone over 30 is eliminated and the only life the people have ever known is life without disease to age 30, when they’re “renewed,” which, unknown to the populace, really means they’re incinerated. Then there is Blade Runner in a futuristic society where the runners hunt replicants, advanced humanoids now banned from earth. Finally, you probably remember Minority Report with Tom Cruise as a policeman of the future who hunts down criminals before they commit crimes, begging us to discover if the predictions can be false.
Cyberpunk is characteristically about a dystopian world of the future where advanced technology goes hand-in-hand with the degradation of society and a break with the social order. These societies of the future are often formed and controlled by large mega-corporations or dictatorial governments where civil rights and freedom of choice are strictly limited or eliminated completely.
Cyberpunk has been around for a long time, but it is still a popular and growing trend, which has now entered the romance fiction market. It, and its biopunk cousin (biological and genetic engineering plus advanced technology in same dystopian future) and distant cousin steampunk (advanced technology usually using steam or clockwork mechanisms to run machines to combat society or government in Victorian historical times) have spurred writers’ imaginations making the concepts popular avenues for expansion of romance into the science fiction markets.
To enter this market as a writer, there are some things you need to consider:
- How are you at world building?
There will be a need for a unique vocabulary. New words must be invented, the landscape will be far different than it is today. Methods of travel and life on a daily basis have been altered. What does the citizen of the future do and how much are his activities curtailed?
- Can you invent new technology and machines?
This is the part I enjoy, but it also means making it believable. I have invented packaged meals like MREs that reconstitute with a single drop of water and direct sunlight. My folks fly in waterjets that give off the chemicals needed to reform and make more water. I have an Android that populates the Cash Chronicles, soon to debut in electronic format. He has special talents humans don’t have.
- If bio or genetic engineering is part of your world, do you know enough to make it sound possible so you can suspend the reader’s belief?
- Is cloning part of the new world? How are babies born, in utero or entirely as a separate process? Are your people inventing new species? Has experimentation gotten out of hand? What is a human being’s life span in this new universe, short due to environmental conditions, or long due to scientific breakthroughs?
- If you decide to write steampunk, can you get your history right while doing one through three well at the same time?
To me, this is the hardest, because you have to walk the tightrope of dressing your characters correctly and making them speak without using modern idioms. At the same time, you’re inventing machines and an alternate history gone wrong.
So next time you consider writing a cyberpunk novel, remember what Bruce Sterling says in his article at http://hem.passagen.se/replikant/cyberpunk.htm. It’s about…”inhumane technology, environmental collapse, omnipotent mega-corporations, ruthless commercialism, overcrowded mega-cities, vicious criminality, terminal decay, neon and chrome, violence and death.” Are you up for it? Something to consider: is our society that far away from fitting the profile?
Bobbye Terry is a multi-published author of several different genres. She writes fantasy and science fiction under the pseudonym, Daryn Cross. Her science fiction series, The Cash Chronicles, currently includes two cyberpunk novellas, Frozen Assets and Full Moon Rising, but the prequel to the series is an historical set in mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. The story, Millicent, introduces the villainess who is responsible for the dystopian U.S. of 2145. See just what made her the power-hungry woman she becomes.