Well, for this article in my series about writing cyberpunk fiction, I thought that I’d take a brief look at how you can improve your cyberpunk stories by using influences and inspirations from different genres.
This was something that I was reminded of when I wrote this short story that was posted here late last year. My first idea was to write a dystopian story about some kind of police robot, since I’d watched an absolutely brilliant TV miniseries called “Robocop: Prime Directives” on DVD. I was in the mood for some good old-fashioned dystopian science fiction. With heavily-armed robots.
But, before I wrote this story, I remembered an extract from a short horror story I’d read somewhere on “Too Much Horror Fiction” [NSFW] a few weeks earlier. Although I can’t seem to find the exact page or remember the author’s name (I think he was the son of a famous horror author), the extract was especially interesting because it was a vampire story that was narrated using just 1-2 word sentences.
This gave me the idea to narrate my short story from the perspective of the robot. After all, this kind of terse, abrupt narration has a slightly “robotic” sound to it. However, I soon realised that I wouldn’t be able to use this exact style in the story because I also wanted to include slightly longer things like descriptive error messages in the story too.
But, the idea of it helped to turn what would have been a generic sci-fi story into something a bit more interesting. By using something similar (but different) to this style, I was able to write something that was only about 400 words long, which told a reasonable-length story and which left enough details to the reader’s imagination to be either chilling or hilarious (depending on your sense of humour).
And this never would have happened if I’d only taken inspiration from the cyberpunk genre.
One of the problems with the cyberpunk genre is that it’s a relatively small genre. There just aren’t that many things in it, when compared to many other genres. It’s a tiny sub-genre of the science fiction genre, whose heyday was 20-35 years ago. It’s amazingly cool, and it’s had something of a resurgence within the past few years, but it’s still fairly obscure. So, taking inspiration from other genres is especially important.
In fact, many of the classics of the cyberpunk genre do exactly that. For example, the 1982 movie “Blade Runner” takes huge amounts of inspiration from old 1930s-50s “film noir” movies. Likewise, the brilliantly distinctive narrative style in William Gibson’s “Sprawl Trilogy” has strong echoes of both hardboiled detective fiction and thriller fiction.
Likewise, Warren Ellis’ excellent “Transmetropolitan” comic series is very clearly inspired by the unique journalism of Hunter S. Thompson. Plus, the original “Deus Ex” computer game takes a lot of influence from pre-existing conspiracy theories, alongside more traditional cyberpunk influences (like “Ghost In The Shell“).
What I’m trying to say here is that, if you’re writing cyberpunk fiction, then you need to look outside the genre for inspirations and influences. In fact, this is true for whatever type of fiction that you are trying to write.
“Unique” and “distinctive” fiction usually just means that someone has been inspired by something that the audience didn’t expect them to be inspired by. So, if you want to make your fiction stand out more, then try looking outside of your genre of choice for inspirations.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂