We’ve all heard about the genres of cyberpunk and steampunk at some point before. Some of you may also be fans of solarpunk and teslapunk, but did you know there are also the likes of dieselpunk, biopunk, and stonepunk? What’s with all of these “punks?!” Well, in this series we are going to take a look at most of these interesting genres and what makes them unique, fun, and worth considering making one of your worlds in.
Now, this first installment is going to be a quick dive in introducing the different flavors of “punk.” Later, we’ll devote individual blogs to take a closer look at each as well as some others that aren’t mentioned here (either due to being pretty similar to another “punk” or me just forgetting to list it here, there’s quite a few!).
Now even though each of these has their own hooks and quirks, there are a couple of themes that they share. One is that they usually focus a particular technological advancement and extrapolate it liberally into society. The technology is applied into everyday life and typically exceeds the quality of living past its source material or is otherwise the engine of adaptation for a civilization to survive and thrive. This element is so tied to the genres, our list of most of the big ones used, sort of make a time-line:
- Stone age technology allows cavemen to live like modern people.
- Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations discovering mystical or alien technologies.
- Usually in a mystical medieval or pure fantasy setting, technology runs on magic. You will probably see things like magical power armor and airships fueled by big glowing crystals.
- Technology and society revolve around surviving at sea. Sometimes called Piratepunk. While flotillas and floating villages aren’t strictly bound to the 1700s (see “Waterworld”), I’m sticking this one here on the time-line.
- Advanced steam engines and clockwork elevate Victorian Era society.
- 1920s-1940s designs create the aesthetic of bombastic Pulp and Noir adventures. The Nazis may have mechs.
- Mastery of the atom and nuclear power couple with the 1950s “red scare” propaganda and irradiated mutants.
- Also called “Cassette Futurism,” the technology and fashion of the 1960s-1990s bring its own flavor of retro futurism.
- Gothic Punk
- The world is just like modern day, but it’s run by goths – typically vampires.
- In a world where nearly everything is eco-friendly and self sustaining, this genre is naturally not as dark and pessimistic as some of the others on this list.
- Dark, gritty, neon lit, corporate controlled future. The common sight of cybernetic prosthetics blur man from machine.
- Synthesis of different organisms, bio-modification, and mutations usually have this one take place in the future or in another world. Also, stuff like weapons and ships are living things.
- The Apunkalypse
- When civilization crumbles, lawless gangs of punks inherit the world. This subgenre is less about a niche technological identity and more about the return to a tribal society after a global disaster.
The other big shared theme is the way society and social issues are explored. The stories within these worlds usually have a protagonist that finds themselves in opposition to a large, controlling power that has rooted themselves in society. Most of the time, this power or corporation has capitalized on the fantastic technological advancements that define the genre, and may have been the reason that technology is so prevalent. Although, the protagonist finds out that the power is taking advantage of their position and it is up to the protagonist to rise up and fight against the corruption. The very essence of the word that is included in the names of these genres. The protagonist is the “punk” fighting against the system.
As this series continues we will be discovering what makes these genres unique from one another in more depth and what others have sprung from these and more. One thing is for certain, as long as there are stories like these, punk will never die.