Cyberpunk and Visual Culture: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Cyberpunk and Visual Culture

1st Edition

Edited by Graham Murphy, Lars Schmeink


300 pages

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Within the expansive mediascape of the 1980s and 1990s, cyberpunk’s aesthetics took firm root, relying heavily on visual motifs for its near-future splendor saturated in media technologies, both real and fictitious. As today’s realities look increasingly like the futures forecast in science fiction, cyberpunk speaks to our contemporary moment and as a cultural formation dominates our 21st century techno-digital landscapes.

The 15 essays gathered in this volume engage the social and cultural changes that define and address the visual language and aesthetic repertoire of cyberpunk – from cybernetic organisms to light, energy, and data flows, from video screens to cityscapes, from the vibrant energy of today’s video games to the visual hues of comic book panels, and more. Cyberpunk and Visual Culture provides critical analysis, close readings, and aesthetic interpretations of exactly those visual elements that define cyberpunk today, moving beyond the limitations of merely printed text to also focus on the meaningfulness of images, forms, and compositions that are the heart and lifeblood of cyberpunk graphic novels, films, television shows, and video games.


"Since its inception, cyberpunk has been haunted by the notion that it represents only a very brief moment of the science fictional imagination, a moment which quickly passed. Murphy and Schmeink's smart collection proves the opposite is true: cyberpunk never ended, and in fact its vast transmedia landscape of images, icons, visual artifacts, and technological apparatuses has completely taken over our world." -Gerry Canavan, Marquette University

"The report of cyberpunk’s death was an exaggeration, clearly, as the essays in this vibrant collection demonstrate. The ambiguities, complexities and excitements of this intermedial genre are explored here in riveting detail: the legacy of Gibson’s ‘lines of light’ are demonstrated to be, indeed, unthinkably complex." -Stacy Gillis, Newcastle University

"In addition to offering the fullest documentation to date of the range of visual media infiltrated by and responsive to the cyberpunk aesthetic, this collection offers bold new arguments about the relation between print and visual narratives and the convergent, cross-media character of contemporary science fiction in general." -Thomas Foster, University of Washington

"This collection demonstrates the breadth and depth of the subgenre through intriguing and accessible essays on the diversity of cyberpunk media, offering unique and important new arguments about the visuality of cyberpunk." - Kathryn E. Heffner, University of Iowa, in FOUNDATION: The International Review of Science Fiction

Table of Contents

Scott Bukatman

Foreword: Cyberpunk and its Visual Vicissitudes

Graham J. Murphy and Lars Schmeink

Introduction: The Visuality and Virtuality of Cyberpunk


I: "Image/Text Concatenations"; or, From Literary to Visual Cyberpunk (and back again)

  1. Christian Hviid Mortensen 

    Beyond the Heroics of Gonzo-Journalism in Transmetropolitan    

  2. Timothy Wilcox 

    Embodying Failures of the Imagination: Defending the Posthuman in The Surrogates

  3. Graham J. Murphy 

    Cyberpunk Urbanism and Subnatural Bugs in BOOM! Studios’ Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


  5. Stina Attebery and Josh Pearson 

    "Today's Cyborg is Stylish": The Humanity Cost of Posthuman Fashion in Cyberpunk 2020  

  6. Pawel Frelik 

    "Silhouettes of Strange Illuminated Mannequins": Cyberpunk’s Incarnations of Light

  7. II: "Tactics of Visualization"; or, From Visual to Virtual Cyberpunk (and back again)

  8. Christopher McGunnigle 
  9. "My Targeting System is a Little Messed Up": The Cyborg Gaze in the RoboCop Media Franchise 

  10. Ryan J. Cox 

    Kusanagi’s Body: Dualism and the Performance of Identity in Ghost in the Shell and Stand Alone Complex

  11. Mark R. Johnson 

    The History of Cyberspace Aesthetics in Video Games   

  12. Stephen Joyce 

    Playing for Virtually Real: Cyberpunk Aesthetics and Ethics in Deus Ex: Human Revolution

  13. Jenna Ng and Jamie Macdonald 

    "We Are Data": The Cyberpunk Imaginary of Data Worlds in Watch Dogs  

  14. III: "Emerging World Orders"; or, Cyberpunk as Science Fiction Realism 

  15. Evan Torner
  16. 1980s German Cyberpunk Cinema: Kamikaze 1989 and Nuclearvision

  17. Mark Bould 

    Afrocyberpunk Cinema: The Postcolony Finds its own Use for Things   

  18. Anna McFarlane 

    Cyberpunk and "Science Fiction Realism" in Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days and Zero Dark Thirty


  20. Sherryl Vint 

    Cyberwar: The Convergence of Virtual and Material Battlefields in Cyberpunk Cinema 

  21. Lars Schmeink

    Afterthoughts: Cyberpunk Engagements with Countervisuality

About the Editors

Graham J. Murphy is Professor with the School of English and Liberal Studies (Faculty of Business) at Seneca College (Toronto). He co-edited Beyond Cyberpunk: New Critical Perspectives with Sherryl Vint (2010), co-authored Ursula K. Le Guin: A Critical Companion with Susan M. Bernardo (2006), and authored several articles that have appeared in numerous anthologies and peer-review journals. He is an Associate Editor for Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts and sits on the editorial advisory boards of both Science Fiction Studies and Extrapolation.

Lars Schmeink is Professor of Media Studies at the Institut für Kultur- und Medienmanagement, Hochschule für Musik und Theater (Hamburg) and is currently the president of the Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung (Association for Research in the Fantastic). He is the German section editor for media in the Open Library of the Humanities, the author of Biopunk Dystopias: Genetic Engineering, Society, and Science Fiction (2016),and has published in Science Fiction Studies, Science Fiction Film and Television and Journal for the Fantastic in the Arts.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies