As a casual pop culture observer you may have noted the recent trend in movies and books of gluing gears and goggles on everything. Or a slight bump in our collective fascination with things such as “Inglorious Bastards,” a recent film combining an alternate history of WWII with spaghetti-western styling. Whether you knew it or not, punk culture is creeping its tendrils into the crap factory of the American Idol age (extending from Madonna to Gaga.)
While scientists have yet to determine (what will certainly be) the catastrophic effects of such a mutant matching (think Michael Jackson’s Thriller meets the Sex Pistols at a Hogwarts reunion), for now we can all sit back and enjoy the ride. But to enhance said enjoyment you’ll need a primer on the evolving punk cultures/genres. So here goes!
First, the rules: Each of the sub punks is not as punky as actual punk. Some are barely punk at all (think Punky Brewster). So if you are less than punk, never you mind. Second, the culture/genre titles stem from defining artifacts or technology of an era (and nerds such as myself love debating about the delineations). Third, people are making new ones up all the time, so if you don’t see what you like just check back tomorrow or create it yourself.
Cyberpunk was the original diversion, so it is more punk than most of its siblings. If the word computer hacker is synonymous with “nerdy champion of liberty” in your lexicon and you like to use words like lexicon (and you fear the inevitable singularity) you were meant for cybernetic punk. As far as novels, start with anything by William Gibson. For films watch Blade Runner, The Terminator and The Matrix.
Atomicpunk is next as we move back through history. (Cyber usually happens in the hear and now or not-to-distant future.) If you still live and die for a classic commie-killing shoot ‘em up or just know that the USSR never really dismantled you could be atomicpunk. If your idea of a fun middle school science project is exposing earthworms to uranium then “Danger, Will Robinson,” you’re atomicpunk. Think of Batman, Goldfinger, Superman, ray guns, etc. Start at Mass Panic’s webpage.
Dieselpunk covers the span between the world wars (roughly). If you lay awake at night wondering what the world would be like if Hitler had died as a young boy, or retired to the Caribbean during the sixties then this is the punk for you. Bullet trains and tommy guns, prohibition cocktails, art deco and film noir are the calling cards of the dieselpunk. This punk is generally for those of us who enjoy delving into the worst aspects of the human psyche and reflect today’s grim realities in yestermorrow’s rearview mirror. Check out dieselpunks.org.
Steampunk is the most trendy punk for the moment. It covers everything from Victorian England to the wild West, but usually ends by WWI. Steam power rules. Gears and goggles and speculation about the Civil War mash-up with unbridled human hubris and technology. If you grew up on 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea or The Time Machine, then Steam is your flavor. The Golden Compass and the Wild, Wild West represent steam in movies while novels include H.G. Wells’ stuff and Boneshaker.
While there are many others, these will get you going. So get your punk on. Everybody’s doing it. (And we have a good ten years before the trend hits reality T.V.)