This week, let us consider the theme of exploration in cyberpunk works. How it shapes the world and how it could be expanded.

In classic cyberpunk, the dystopian nature of the world was reinforced by humans essentially being stuck on Earth. Contrary to the optimistic space operas of previous eras where man explored the galaxy, we were stuck on this festering ball of refuse. Every nook and cranny of the planet has been explored, often with technology. There’s no mystery left in the physical world.

Exploration is a major force for humans, particularly in American culture with our cultural stories of the wild frontier. As the long arm of corporations and governments reached everywhere, there was little room for individuals to go and find their own freedom. Even the wide open frontiers of space were denied to them. The most optimistic story is Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy, where humans had at least colonized the orbit around the planet, but it was still mostly the domain of the corporations and their privileged elite. The fantasy of the rugged individual going off to live a life of unfettered freedom is impossible to realize in any way.

This is likely why the cyberspace plays such a big part in the stories, because it’s the only frontier available to the disaffected individual. And, almost miraculously, the network is virtually unbounded so there is no end to this frontier. The loners go off to the last place uncontrolled by the domineering forces to play and plot and explore.

I wonder if you could incorporate more meaningful aspects of exploration into a cyberpunk story without losing the soul of cyberpunk. Could you have characters exploring an unknown space? What could they explore?