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Science fiction may seem like a monolithic genre to outsiders, but experts in the field have long distinguished a variety of sub-divisions. Perhaps the most famous of these is the cyberpunk school of the eighties and nineties, an umbrella term for stories of a dystopian and dreary future with governmental control enforced by information technology and in which individuals are frequently augmented by mechanical or electronic means. The cyber- part of the name derives from cybernetics (and its use here was a key stage in the taking up to extremes of that prefix in the early and mid nineties); the punk part derives from rock music, and refers to young people who are aggressive, alienated and offensive to convention. In the early nineties there grew up biopunk, a derivative sub-genre building not on IT but on biology, the other dominating scientific field of the end of the twentieth century. Individuals are enhanced not by mechanical means, but by genetic manipulation of their very chromosomes. Perhaps the most characteristic writer in this field is Paul Di Filippo, though he called his collection of such stories ribofunk, with the first element being taken from the full name of RNA, ribonucleic acid. Neither name has had the impact of cyberpunk and probably never will.

Page created 13 Sep. 1997

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Last modified: 13 September 1997.