Cyberpunk derivatives

Cyberpunk derivatives

A number of cyberpunk derivatives have become recognized as distinct subgenres in speculative fiction. These derivatives, though they do not share cyberpunk's computers-focused setting, may display other qualities drawn from or analogous to cyberpunk: a world built on one particular technology that is extrapolated to a highly sophisticated level (this may even be a fantastical or anachronistic technology, akin to retro-futurism), a gritty transreal urban style, or a particular approach to social themes.

Many, but not all, of these subgenres have the suffix -punk in their names, having been added in a continuing play on the habit of creating portmanteau words as in the cyber/steam -punk naming convention. Alternatively, such terms may be considered as mere fandom or marketing labels.

Cyberpunk

American author Bruce Bethke first coined the term "cyberpunk" in his 1980 short story of the same name, proposing it as a label for a new generation of punk teenagers inspired by the perceptions inherent to the Information Age. The term was quickly appropriated as a label to be applied to the works of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Rudy Rucker, Michael Swanwick, Pat Cadigan, Lewis Shiner, Richard Kadrey, and others. Science fiction author Lawrence Person, in defining postcyberpunk, summarized the characteristics of cyberpunk thus:
Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body.

The relevance of cyberpunk as a genre to punk subculture is debatable and further hampered by the lack of a defined cyberpunk subculture; where the small cyber movement shares themes with cyberpunk fiction and draws inspiration from punk and goth alike, cyberculture is much more popular though much less defined, encompassing virtual communities and cyberspace in general and typically embracing optimistic anticipations about the future. Cyberpunk is nonetheless regarded as a successful genre, as it ensnared many new readers and provided the sort of movement that postmodern literary critics found alluring. Furthermore, author David Brin argues, cyberpunk made science fiction more attractive and profitable for mainstream media and the visual arts in general.

Postcyberpunk

As new writers and artists began to experiment with cyberpunk ideas, new varieties of fiction emerged, sometimes addressing the criticisms leveled at the original cyberpunk stories. Lawrence Person wrote in an essay he posted to the Internet forum Slashdot:
Many writers who grew up reading in the 1980s are just now starting to have their stories and novels published. To them cyberpunk was not a revolution or alien philosophy invading [science fiction], but rather just another flavor of [science fiction]. Like the writers of the 1970s and 80s who assimilated the New Wave's classics and stylistic techniques without necessarily knowing or even caring about the manifestos and ideologies that birthed them, today's new writers might very well have read Neuromancer back to back with Asimov's Foundation, John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar, and Larry Niven's Ringworld and seen not discontinuities but a continuum.

Person's essay advocates using the term postcyberpunk to label the new works such writers produce. In this view, typical postcyberpunk stories continue the focus on a ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information and cybernetic augmentation of the human body, but without the assumption of dystopia. Good examples are Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age and Bruce Sterling's Holy Fire. Like all categories discerned within science fiction, the boundaries of postcyberpunk are likely to be fluid or ill defined.

Cyberprep is a term with a very similar meaning to postcyberpunk. The word is a portmanteau combining "cybernetics" and "preppy"), reflecting its divergence from the punk elements of cyberpunk.

A cyberprep world assumes that all the technological advancements of cyberpunk speculation have taken place but life is happy rather than gritty and dangerous. Since society is leisure-driven, uploading is more of an art form or a medium of entertainment while advanced body modifications are used for sports and pleasure. Alternatively, within a cyberpunk world, a stereotypical cyberprep character would be a yuppie living a self-indulgent life in a techno-utopian gated community.

Technology derivatives

Biopunk

Another slightly less popular subgenre of cyberpunk, which emerged during the 1990s and describes the underground of the biotechnological revolution that began to have an impact in the first decade of the twenty-first century, is biopunk. Biopunk fiction typically describes the struggles of individuals or groups, often the product of human experimentation, against a backdrop of totalitarian governments or megacorporations which misuse biotechnologies as means of social control or profiteering. Unlike cyberpunk, it builds not on information technology but on synthetic biology. Like in postcyberpunk however, individuals are usually modified and enhanced not with cyberware, but by genetic manipulation of their chromosomes.

Steampunk

As a wider variety of writers began to work with cyberpunk concepts, new sub-genres of science fiction emerged, playing off the cyberpunk label, and focusing on technology and its social effects in different ways. Steampunk emerged as the most prominent of such deviations of the cyberpunk concept, initially transporting cyberpunk themes into the nineteenth century, combining anachronistic Victorian era technologies with cyberpunk's bleak film noir world view, though gradually developing less dystopian sensibilities.

The term "steampunk" was originally phrased in 1987 as a tongue in cheek reference to cyberpunk to describe some of the novels of Tim Powers, James P. Blaylock, and K.W. Jeter, but by the time Gibson and Sterling entered the subgenre with their collaborative novel The Difference Engine the term was being used earnestly as well. Alan Moore's and Kevin O'Neill's 1999 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series (and the subsequent 2003 film adaption) greatly popularized the steampunk genre and help propel it into mainstream fiction.

The most immediate form of steampunk subculture is the community of fans surrounding the genre. Others move beyond this, attempting to adopt a "steampunk" aesthetic through fashion, home decor and even music. This movement may also be (perhaps more accurately) described as "Neo-Victorianism," which is the amalgamation of Victorian aesthetic principles with modern sensibilities and technologies. This characteristic is particularly evident in steampunk fashion which tends to synthesize punk, goth and rivet styles as filtered through the Victorian era. As an object style, however, steampunk adopts more distinct characteristics with various craftspersons modding modern-day devises into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style. The goal of such redesigns is to employ appropriate materials (such as polished brass, iron, and wood) with design elements and craftsmanship consistent with the Victorian era.

Clockpunk

Clockpunk is a term coined by GURPS. It has been occasionally used to refer to a subgenre of speculative fiction which is similar to steampunk, but deviates in its technology. As with steampunk, it portrays advanced technology based on pre-modern designs, but rather than the steam power of the Industrial Age, the technology used is based on springs and clockwork, in the vein of Jay Lake's novel, Mainspring. and The Whitechapel Gods by S M Peters, Typically, however, clockpunk fiction shares themes and style with steampunk and is it therefore considered rather a subgenre of steampunk.

Dieselpunk

Initially proposed as a genre by the creators of the role-playing game Children of the Sun, dieselpunk refers to fiction inspired by mid-century pulp and set in a world similar to steampunk though specifically characterized by the rise of petroleum power and technocratic perception, incorporating neo-noir elements and sharing themes more with cyberpunk than steampunk. Though the notability of dieselpunk as a genre is not entirely uncontested, installments ranging from the retro-futuristic film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to the 2001 Activision video game Return to Castle Wolfenstein have been suggested as quintessential works of dieselpunk fiction.

Other proposed derivatives

There have been a handful of divergent terms based on the general concepts of steampunk. These are typically considered unofficial and are often invented by readers, or by authors referring to their own works, often humorously.

A large number of terms have been used by the GURPS roleplaying game Steampunk to describe anachronistic technologies and settings, including stonepunk, bronzepunk, sandelpunk, candlepunk, transistorpunk and atomic punk. These terms have seen very little use outside of GURPS..

Elfpunk
Elfpunk was proposed as a subgenre of urban fantasy in which faeries and elves are transplanted from rural folklore into modern urban settings. During the awards ceremony for the 2007 National Book Awards, judge Elizabeth Partridge expounded on the distinction between elfpunk and urban fantasy, citing fellow judge Scott Westerfeld's thoughts on the works of Holly Black who is considered "classic elfpunk — there's enough creatures already, and she's using them. Urban fantasy, though, can have some totally made-up fucked-up creatures.

Mythpunk
Described as a subgenre of mythic fiction, Catherynne M. Valente uses the term "mythpunk" to define a brand of speculative fiction which starts in folklore and myth and adds elements of postmodern fantastic techniques: urban fantasy, confessional poetry, non-linear storytelling, linguistic calisthenics, worldbuilding, and academic fantasy. The term is generally only used by Valente herself, or in reference to her works. Writers whose works would fall under the mythpunk label are Valente and Ekaterina Sedia.

Splatterpunk

Splatterpunk, a term that David J. Schow coined in the mid-1980s at the World Fantasy Convention in Providence, refers to a subgenre of horror fiction distinguished by its graphic, often gory, depiction of violence. It often overlaps with body horror. Though it gained some prominence in the 1980s and 1990s, and attracted a cult following, the term "splatterpunk" is currently used less often than other synonymous terms for the genre.

References

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