The next big punking

Caren Gussoff writes urban science fantasy, whatever that is. She’s also co-founder of Brain Harvest: An Almanac of Speculative Fiction. She lives in Seattle with her husband, the SFF artist Chris Sumption, and their two cats, Molly Bloom and Paul Atriedes.

I’ve been thinking about steampunk lately.

I haven’t been able to escape it, really—it was steampunk month at Tor. Two weekends ago, my hometown hosted its first SteamCon. And now, tonight, I am going to hear VanderMeer* (who, as you know, Bob, has been an influential cog in the steampunk editing machine) himself read with Cat Rambo (a fine fantasy writer who integrates elements of steampunk in her fiction) and Cherie Priest (whose steampunk novel, Boneshaker, has made it onto everyone and everything’s “must read” lists).

In fact, it seems like all of you have been thinking about steampunk quite a bit and that no one’s been able to escape—there are even web pages dedicated to propelling, um, naughty adult toys with Tesla turbines (seriously. Just Google it, if you dare).

This had led me to wonder what’s next.

Steampunk has probably passed well beyond any coolness statute of limitations (should there ever exist a thing, and far be it for me to access coolness, really), but I’m type of woman who remembers the Hindenburg, knows the Nautilus was propelled by electricity, and abhors corsetry. I’m anxiously awaiting the next big punking.

There’s been some quiet, interesting work in clockpunk and I know a few good writers who are pushing greenpunk. Allow me to propose a relatively untouched sub genre: plaguepunk. While potential, future plagues are the staff of SFF, alternate medieval histories are undeclared territory, unless, of course, you count The Doomsday Book, which squarely saints Connie Willis as its patron saint. Now, I’m only half-serious, and I know that the death of 25 million within a 5 year span is poor fodder for a half-baked comedy stick, but think about it–the loss of that large of a percent of the population in such a short time seems like a historical pivot point where you know things could have gone really, really differently. Sure, plaguepunk costuming wouldn’t be as fun as steampunk—tunics, doublets, and latex buboes, anyone?–but there were underestimated scientific strides being made within monastery walls and in agrarian technology (girl’s gotta eat).

You read about it here first, right here on Ecstatic Days.

Anyway, I’d like to hear from you now. What do you think (or wish or joke) will be the next big alt-history punk craze?

*I’ll say hi to him from you!

25 comments on “The next big punking

  1. *Blitzpunk – WWII drags on several decades past its sell-by-date and Luftwaffe flying-wings cruise over the V2-pocked, irradiated remains of London while beneath them survivors trade dead men’s ration cards for recreational drugs and resistance code-engines salvaged from Bletchley Park whir away in the dark next to piles of souped-up black-market tommyguns, decoding stolen secrets from the ageing Fuhrer’s mainframes.

    Not sure if I’m joking or not, having written it I actually kind of like the idea now…

  2. Here’s my list of future ‘punk trends, including bunnypunk, werepunk, and panpunk:


  3. Eden Robins says:

    The “punk” trend reminds me of the “sexy” trend in Halloween costumes. Who knew you could make so many random things sexy? Or punk, for that matter?

    That said, I’m still bemoaning the death of the mix tape, so I vote for Analogpunk. Down with digital!

  4. @Randy: Love Seusspunk! Think that consumption of “green eggs and ham” would keep most of its devotees incapacitated with food poisoning. On that topic, I can imagine a few overenthusiastic Sam-I-Am cosplayers ending up in jail on stalking charges. When you look at it in the cold light of adulthood, that story’s actually a disturbing tale of a man’s will driven to the limit and broken by an unswerving psychopath. The final lines become haunting, reminiscent of the end of Nineteen Eighty Four: “I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you, thank you, Sam-I-Am!”

    BTW I still think that Stonepunk, using The Flintstones as a formative text, has a lot of possibilities. Club-wielding cops, mobsters and multinationals chase our hero through the alleys and nightclubs of Monolith City as they try to get their hands on the top secret ‘wheel’ technology that’s fallen into his unsuspecting hands!

  5. Patton McGinley says:

    Not really alt-history – more “SF&F conceit + rock sub-genre:” I was looking forward to a “bio-glam” movement back in the 90s… but, as usual, “where’s my damn flying car?”

  6. Mark Bukovec says:

    Punkpunk. Alt-history where Sid Vicious and Darby Crash don’t overdose. Darby becomes Emperor of America, nukes Russia and China. Sid leads European faction to oppose the dictatorial Darby. Darby’s got the weapons, but Sid’s army has better uniforms, courtesy of Vivian Westwood. Commanding Iggy Pop’s loyalty will decide the fate of the world.

  7. Mark Nelson says:

    Amusing that you mention plaguepunk. For NaNoWriMo, I’m actually working on an alternate history “origin” of the Second Opium War. It involves cholera, and arsenic.

  8. I am enamored by the aesthetic of early twentieth century experiments in high energy physics, the so called “Atom Smashers.”

    Since “Atompunk” is already used to refer to the cold war era aesthetic, I’m calling this look “Atomic Steampunk.”

    Projects are upcoming.

  9. Lon says:

    Preppiepunk – the subgenre where conforming to societal norms and buying in to status myths and conspicuous consumerism IS the new subversive.

  10. Rachel Swirsky says:

    I think there’s quite a bit of writing about the plague. Tanith Lee comes to mind. Must everything be punk, grumble grumble?

    I’m also curious about what in Cat Rambo’s writing you attribute to steampunk.

  11. Angela Slatter says:

    There’s rumblings of MonkeyPunk in Oz …

  12. Daemon says:

    I’m still fond of MagiPunk.

  13. Bob Lock says:

    It has to be Squidpunk. Eight-legged monsters from Planet Octo invade Earth, set up a puppet dictator as King Of The World (a chap named VanderMeer springs to mind) and alter our genetic make-up so that they can farm and milk us for the precious squid ink that they use for writing Steampunk novels on their own planet.

  14. GlenH says:

    Sure, plaguepunk costuming wouldn’t be as fun as steampunk—tunics, doublets, and latex buboes, anyone?
    Since when were latex buboes not fun? And then there’s lymph and blood flecked spittle and…

    Nerdpunk is the next big thing though. Guys and girls with customised glasses building time machines on a DIY ethic out of grimy basements while occasionally emerging to steal food from the frat boy and sorority girl ruled world.

  15. Caren says:

    You all have made my holiday card list. Genius. You are geniuses.

    Rachel–have you read Cat’s new collection?

    Mark, I would love to see that book. Go, man! You have 25 days left!

    Mark B. I think I love punkpunk.

  16. Rachel Swirsky says:

    Yeah, I blurbed it.

  17. Too much punk, not enough metal.

  18. cleek says:

    how about Woodpunk: read all about the daring exploits of a master carpenter and his ragtag team of apprentices as they attempt to build the greatest armoire in all of Chiseltown, while beset of all sides by the evil FurnitureBots who seek to undermine their livelihood by streamlining production and reducing cost by using cheap MDF (Mind-Dimming Fiberboard) instead of the good living Oak of Virtue.

  19. jeff h says:

    No more punks! I’m tired of them. And now we’re just creating them out of the blue? It’s ridiculous. We’ve got cyberpunk and we’ve got steampunk. Let’s end it there.

  20. Aether indeed!

    Actually our new project’s alternate history lends itself quite well to the steam and clock ethos.

  21. John Chu says:

    What’s wrong with Punkpunk?

  22. Climatepunk: after the charge from Kim Stanley Robinson that all future scenarios should include a nod to climate change, I think we’ll see a dramatic shift away from ANY other probably science fiction futures that don’t include a drastic change in climate, and that for the next ten years it will be called Climatepunk.

    After ten years, though, this same period will be called HadNoClueWhatReallyWouldHappenpunk for our inability and wild speculation of what climate change would do or how much it would change society. The next ten years then would be called Hindsightpunk.

    Climatepunk will also be the first bridge genre, since it will affect the Literary world as well. Which means all genres would merge at one moment in time until science fiction figured out how to switch tracks from thinking of the way we’ve been thinking–of an Earth pretty much as we liked it but advanced–to one that was radically, radically different. Then, science fiction will begin again, predicting from a new data set.

  23. TrunkPunk – Add clockworks and a touch of brass (or the ilk) to any unsold “trunk” story you might have. Send it off to the latest *punk revival anthology. Voila.

  24. Meta Jording says:

    sooo fake, Meta Jording

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