Cyberpunk is often mischaracterized as being science fiction about computers and hackers. It is true that some of the best golden age cyberpunk contains the features identified by participants in a Twitter #Cyberpunkchat discussion in early 2011 as core to the genre: “science fictional setting; use of computer technology core to the plot (the ‘cyber’); preferably a dystopian or hyper-corporate society; protagonists who are anti-establishment rebels, activists, underdogs, or hackers (the ‘punk’).” These are, as the group recognised, almost entirely features of William Gibson’s Sprawl novels rather than of any coherent genre. The editors of and contributors to the Mirrorshades cyberpunk anthology, published at the height of the cyberpunk craze in 1986, included many stories with no computer elements at all, and in some cases highly Weird or Fantastic rather than science fictional. (Indeed there are more computer tech stories in Rewired, the 2007 “post-cyberpunk” anthology, who claim to rebel against their cyberpunk roots, than in Mirrorshades.)
As defined by Sterling, cyberpunk is a movement in science fiction that was inevitable in, and perhaps technically restricted to, the 1980s. It combined the New Wave ethos of Ellison, Delaney, Moorcock and Ballard, with the surreal or psychedelic techno-literacy of Farmer, Dick and Pynchon. The Cyberpunks were a generation of writers who came of age in a decade that was science fictional (at least by the standards of all earlier generations): personal computers made their way into every household, portable communication devices became commonplace, electronic communication entered the public consciousness; all of these things were a source of great excitement (techno-fetishism), but also of social vertigo, fear of rapid change, and a certain anarchic, revolutionary danger. Most importantly, they were obviously going to change the world, whether you believed that would turn the old power structures upside down in favour of a democratic utopia, or that it would destroy everything. (Obviously it has done neither, because the old élites, the capitalist rich and the privileged, are still in power, but it has also changed everything.)
Whether we live in a cyberpunk or a postcyberpunk world, therefore, writing about these changes, whether they be informatic, biological, cybernetic, economic or social-political requires real foresight into the way the modern world works and the way we interact with it. If you have a streetwise sympathy for the underdog, a penchant for questioning conservative mores, the vision to extrapolate these changes into the future, the energy for a rock n’ roll lifestyle, and the courage to question every level of your perceived reality, then you are probably a cyberpunk, and you will probably write the kind of speculative fiction that The Future Fire is looking for.
 The consensus was that cyberpunk literature or film needs to have some elements of: science fictional setting; use of computer technology core to the plot (the “cyber”); preferably a dystopian or hyper-corporate society; protagonists who are anti-establishment rebels, activists, underdogs, or hackers (the “punk”). In addition to these fairly basic requirements, it was generally felt that certain settings and flavours helped set the cyberpunk theme for a piece, including: “used world”, graffiti, garbage, derelict neighborhoods, music, young protagonists, body art/modification, home-made/modded tech. Likewise some genres and settings are so strong that even if the story otherwise fit the criteria defined above, they would overshadow it and not really feel like cyberpunk (e.g. space opera: Alien and Firefly/Serenity both have cyberpunk elements, but we don’t really call them cyberpunk shows per se). It was also recognized that a lot of these features are part of our consciousness as a direct result of the “canonical” cyberpunk text, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and this is not necessarily a weakness of this definition. (Carlisle 2011)