Science fiction is my favorite genre. Today, sci-fi is too broad to cover the plethora of subgenres. There is scientific romance, slipstream, social science, space opera, time travel, and first contact just to name a few. Some would argue that fantasy is a separate genre rather than a subgenre of sci-fi. Even Fantasy has many subgenres. There is urban, high, dark, fairy tale and fairy tale parody, mythic, medieval, and historical. I can’t help but wonder why we really need all these labels, but they are interesting to dive into. This is the first post in an ongoing series I want to start that will look into some of the more interesting, at least in my opinion, subgenres as well as review books from these categories.
Steampunk, Dieselpunk, and Decopunk are three examples of the “punk movement” in science fiction. In researching for this post, I had a hard time finding exactly why these labels use the word punk. The reference nods to the punk culture. Think Sex Pistols and early David Bowie. The punk movement emerged in America and England in the mid 70’s. The term was used originally to identify a new type of music. However, the term quickly became a moniker for anyone who believed contrary thoughts from the established norm. I believe the term punk is used in these types of books because they do not necessarily conform to traditional ideas.
For example, Steampunk refers to the Victorian or the early Wild West time periods. The difference stems from the use of technology run by steam. It is very common to read a steampunk novel that includes an airship which is essentially a big boat that flies. Many cite The Difference Engine, by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson as the first steampunk novel. I recently discovered Artifact Hunters, a series by A.W. Exley. This has been my introduction to steampunk literature and I enjoyed it so much, I decided to create a steampunk costume this year for Halloween (come back next week for a review of this series)
This subgenre more than any other has stretched beyond books. Steampunk cosplay is huge. Recently, I perused titles on Netflix and came across this show, Steampunk’d. Makers compete every week to create a winning project. This popularity causes many purists to argue that the genre has been watered down from the original intent of showing a gritty dystopian world. It is now way more shiny and lacy than from the beginning. Being a steampunk virgin, I don’t know any difference.
The need to create a world that paralleled the advances of the time gave rise to Dieselpunk. Dieselpunk moves forward in history; taking place between 1930 and 1950. Technology is now run more by diesel than steam and has been greatly influenced by the needs that arose during two world wars. Technology is more advanced and appropriate for the realities of this time period. One of my favorite examples of this subgenre is Agent Carter. A recent addition to this subgenre is Storming: A Diesel Punk Adventure Novel by K.M. Weiland. (come back next week for a review)
Between these two time-based subgenres, lies Deccopunk. This is one that I am very interested in because I love the 1920’s. Imagine a world seeped in bootlegging, bob haircuts, speakeasies, flashy outfits, and shiny technology concerned with function and aesthetics. That’s Decopunk. Many feel that this is taking the subjugation of steampunk and dieselpunk too far. I don’t hold fast to labels of subgenre anyways, but I love the look and feel of books from this subgenre. I’m having a hard time finding books in this category. I found a couple I want to read. If you know of any please let me know.
Part two of this series will cover the granddaddy of all the punk subgenres; Cyberpunk. Part two will post on October 20.