Sunday, April 10, 2011

A punk for every occasion

So many punks! It all started with cyberpunk, which comes from cybernetics and punk. Wikipedia tells me one Bruce Bethke wrote a short story with that title in 1983, and the term was coined. These stories feature high technology and broken-down societies, with marginalized main characters who tend to be hackers of some sort. Well-known examples are William Gibson's Neuromancer and the movie Blade Runner.

Then came steampunk, which is currently a top trend. It features alternate (alternative, dammit!) historical settings, usually Victorian, where electricity was never invented. Anachronistic machinery and technology that we might recognize, such as computers and robots, run on steam power.

We also have clockpunk, which uses clockwork power instead of steam. I have never read any stories in this genre but apparently they tend to be set in the Renaissance, using Leonardo da Vinci-style inventions.

Biopunk is a term I only heard of this year but should have had a handle on sooner, because apparently my Scarabaeus books fit the bill. This subgenre focuses on biotechnology, genetic engineering and the like, and the consequences of such things going Horribly Wrong.

I heard about icepunk for the first time during DABWAHA last month, when Kate Elliott's Cold Magic was up against my book (she beat me, of course). It's "steampunk on ice" according to Kate. I've ordered this book and can't wait to read it.

And now we have bugpunk, thanks to Kameron Hurley and God's War -- which I must read even though it has a kickass female (I find kickass females a bit irritating). She uses this term in her tagline and, for all I know, invented it. The technology and fuel in God's War run on alien bug power, which sounds downright cool.

So did I miss any punks? What kind of punk should sci-fi writers turn to next?


Unknown said...

Magepunk! ...Okay, so this isn't an official punk, but the role-playing Shadowrun is considered magepunk (cybernetics with magic).

I've heard of squidpunk too, lol. At this point, I think people like slapping on 'punk' to an obscure subgenre to make it sound 'edgy'.

Sara Creasy said...

But... but... sci-fi about squids is pretty edgy!

A. B. Keuser said...

There's also Splatter punk - a genre of horror dealing with all things grotesque and gorey.

Unknown said...

Hmm, cephalopods in space - okay, that can be pretty edgy. :P

Sara Creasy said...

This reminds me of the pilot Star Trek The Next Generation episode - jellyfish in space. I have a fond spot in my heart for that episode.

Louise Curtis said...

How could you forget dieselpunk!?!

A lot of books are tagged as steampunk, but are actually dieselpunk - including Cherie Priest, Scott Westerfeld's "Leviathan" trilogy, Philip Reeve's "Mortal Engines" series and Richard Harland's "Worldshaker" series. The difference is that steampunk has mainly steam-powered tech and is loosely based on Victorian times - that is, the second half of the 1800s - (including early electricity*), whereas dieselpunk has lots of diesel tech (zeppelins, early planes, early cars) and its historical roots go from 1900 onwards - especially World War 1.

Louise Curtis

*Several Victorian performers reanimated the corpses and/or severed heads of executed criminals using electricity. (You can see why that tidbit of research stuck in my memory!)

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