Do You Need To Be Tech-Savvy To Write Cyberpunk Fiction?

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As regular readers of this site probably know, these recent articles about writing cyberpunk fiction were originally written when I was busy writing a series of cyberpunk stories that I posted online last year. So, for today, I thought that I’d look briefly at one of the main questions about writing cyberpunk fiction.

Do you have to be tech-savvy in order to write cyberpunk fiction?

The answer, simply put, is “not as much as you might think”. Whilst having some experience with using computers, using the internet and/or playing computer games will help you write cyberpunk fiction, you don’t exactly need to be the kind of person who actually knows how to use a programming language or anything like that. In other words, knowing a few things about computers is recommended, but being a literal expert isn’t necessary.

I mean, I’m the kind of person who feels like some kind of elite super-geek when I do something as basic as replacing a DVD drive or burning and running a Linux Live DVD. But, if you were to ask me to write a computer program that contained much more than “ 10 PRINT “Hello World”/ 20 GOTO 10“, I wouldn’t have a clue about it (however, I was able to use one of the few other things I know about programming languages in the formatting for this story). So, a bit of knowledge can be useful, but you don’t have to be an expert.

Think about it this way – the first major cyberpunk novel (but not the first piece of cyberpunk fiction) was William Gibson’s “Neuromancer“, which was published in 1984. It’s a massively influential novel, but it was written at a time when computers and the internet were considerably more primitive than they are today. The bulk of “Neuromancer” is just pure imagination – very well thought out and very well-written imagination, but imagination nonetheless.

Yes, it helps to know or have met a few people who are more tech-savvy than you, since you can pick up a lot of interesting ideas and terms that you can add to your cyberpunk stories but, you don’t have to be ultra tech-savvy yourself.

Likewise, if you don’t know anyone who is an expert with computers, then even a bit of basic research will give you the grounding you need to write cyberpunk fiction. So, look at the “tech” pages of reputable news sites. Watch technology-based TV shows like the BBC’s “Click” program (which is broadcast both within the UK and internationally). Likewise, be sure to watch Youtube videos about computer game design etc…. too.

But, more importantly than researching basic technology, research the cyberpunk genre itself. Knowing how to tell stories that make technology seem like magic is something you mostly learn from reading, watching or playing things that tell those kinds of stories. In other words, you can tell a convincingly good cyberpunk story if you get the “storytelling” parts right and just make up all of the technology.

Yes, knowing a bit about technolgy will help you to give your cyberpunk fiction a slightly more “realistic” flavour. It might even help you to come up with story ideas or story concepts, but it matters less than being a fan of the genre and/or studying the storytelling techniques used in cyberpunk novels/games/comics/films etc…

In other words, being savvy about storytelling matters more than being tech-savvy.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂