Repeatedly reproduced and reimagined since the 80s, the tropes of cyberpunk must evolve or die
The future has looked the same for almost four decades. A skyline of densely packed skyscrapers, corporate logos lighting the night sky, proclaiming ownership over the city below. At street level, a haze of neon shines down from the cluster of signs above and shimmers at your feet in the rain that runs down the filthy streets. Here, the have-nots, excluded from the safe, luxurious enclaves enjoyed by the super-rich, are preyed upon by hustlers dealing in illegal tech and street gangs composed of green-haired, leather-clad technopunks, decked out with cyborg enhancements and high on synthetic drugs.
You know this city. You’ve seen it a million times since it was first constructed in the 80s by the pioneers of cyberpunk, most notably William Gibson in Neuromancer and Ridley Scott in Blade Runner. Hollywood recently returned to it with Blade Runner 2049. In the first episode of Netflix’s Altered Carbon, an adaptation of Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 novel, protagonist Takeshi Kovacs gazes upon it from his window; fire flickers from the top of a tall tower, just as it did in opening scene of Blade Runner, prompting a double-take where you wonder whether the window is actually a screen replaying Scott’s movie.