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Mythpunk refers to "a subgenre of mythic fiction" in which classical folklore and fairy tales get hyperpoetic postmodern makeovers. Coined by author Catherynne M. Valente, the term describes "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."

Characterized by baroque multicultural fashion, alternative/ queer sexuality, bizarre retellings of familiar faerie tales, pervasive anxiety, fear of inevitable change, elaborate symbolism and radical reinterpretation, mythpunk is a cross-media movement. Although largely defined through literary works like Andrea Jones's Hook & Jill, Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat series and Catherynne Valente's The Orphan's Tales, the mythpunk aesthetic occasionally manifests in music (The Decemberists), film (Pan's Labyrinth), jewelry and other media forms.

Although this (sub)genre shares many elements with Urban Fantasy, mythpunk stories tend to avoid linear or obvious story structures, simple prose and easily-discernible character archetypes. You may find talking dance shoes or carnivorous zebra-satyrs in a mythpunk tale, but lovesick vampires are right out!

(The name "mythpunk" also refers to a fiction blog; see below for details.)



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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • An apparent progenitor of this subgenre can be found in The Sandman (1989), especially the "Season of Mists" story arc and the tales "Ramadan" and "Dream of 1000 Cats."
  • Alan Moore's series Promethea is mythpunk from end to end.
  • Hellboy has shades of this, combining fictional cosmic horrors with real-world mythological figures like Baba Yaga and Hecate.

  • Tim Burton's 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland (2010) treads this territory with gusto.
    • Of course, it can be argued that the original Alice in Wonderland was mythpunk in creepy training pants...
    • It can also be argued that neither one of them are, since they don't use "elements of postmodern fantastic techniques". Although you could consider the 1800's-parts of the story from the perspective of the main character, it still follows traditional fantasy.
  • Although the film predates the term, the 1980 film The Company of Wolves displays this genre in all its best and most excessive elements.
  • MirrorMask. Totally... although it displays a bit more levity than many stories in this style.
  • Americans thought that Pan's Labyrinth (El Labertino del Fauno) was a nice little fairy tale. The "R" rating should have clued them in... And what Guillermo del Toro made of the fable was a heavily layered story about disobedience and grace that counters many conventional fairy tale narratives.
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

  • Most of the elements involved in this genre can be found in the writings of Angela Carter, most obviously The Bloody Chamber, Nights at the Circus, and The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman.
  • Andrea Jones's novel Hook & Jill features a poetically perverse Coming of Age tale. In it, Wendy Darling starts growing up and wanting someone a bit more... serious... than an increasingly callous Peter Pan...
  • Gerald Brom's novel The Child Thief is a nightmarish take on Peter Pan. It begins with a kid running from drug dealers and just gets progressively weirder from there. And for extra spice, it adds zombies, too!
  • In Dragon Pearl, Korean Mythology coexists with futuristic and sci-fi technologies, such as spaceships and galactic empires.
  • Cathyrynne M.Valente
    • The Orphan's Tales features most of the tropes above, wrapped in a Recursive Narrative drawn heavily from Arabian, Danish and Russian fairy tales. Plus pirates!
    • Sei's saga in Palimpsest features some amazing visions of locomotive mythology. As a promotional tour, Catherynne M. Valente toured several cities by train (mirroring the locomotive and city themes throughout the book). During that tour, Valente, her fans and various collaborators staged readings, shows and musical performances, often in costume.
    • The Ajanabah setting from the Orphan's Tales series has been spun off into artwork, jewelry, fire-spinning shows, costumes, and several albums.
  • Francesca Lia Block's novels and short stories practically vibrate with this style, most especially those in her Primavera series and the collection The Rose and the Beast.
  • Talitha Holland's novel Psyche imagines the Greek Princess who becomes a goodness as having a very contemporary point of view, and the gods and goddesses being downright modern in their speech and even dress.
  • Faction Paradox, as a hypertextual Doctor Who spinoff about a cyberpunk voodoo death cult, is built entirely on this trope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who has some examples. Most of them predate the term mythpunk.
    • The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon both take place on a Federation planet with Roman and Medieval elements, and a castle with a king or queen. One of the characters in the second story is a satyr for no particular reason.
    • The Androids of Tara is a futuristic retelling of The Prisoner of Zenda with electric flashing swords! Also includes castles, kings and robots!
    • The Myth Makers takes place in Troy.
    • The Underwater Menace has The Doctor and his companions taken prisoner by the survivors of Atlantis.
    • The Mind Robber takes place in The Land of Fiction.
    • The Deadly Assassin, The Invasion of Time, and particularly The Five Doctors portray the Time Lords in a slightly Romanesque culture.
    • Battlefield is a sequel to the King Arthur legend.
    • The Fires of Pompeii
    • The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang Spoiler—click to reveal 
    • The Faction Paradox spinoff range, as a whole.

  • The Decemberists' 2009 release The Hazards of Love - a concept album based around the tale of a woman, her shape-changer lover, and his Forest Queen mother - is the epitome of this genre in action.
  • The Mechanisms are a Kayfabe Band made up of Steampunk Space Pirates whose Rock Operas are queer, Punk Punk retellings of various myths and fairy tales.
  • Indie musician S. J. Tucker has released, as of 2010, three albums based on Valente's work, toured with her to support Palimpsest, and sometimes performs in costume as characters from Valente's work. The first two albums in this series - For the Girl in the Garden and Solace and Sorrow are based upon the first two Orphan's Tales novels; the third, Quartered, is based on Palimpsest.
  • With the 2009 album :ankoko butoh:, the band Faith and the Muse moved from its original Gothic Rock sound to a more mythpunk aesthetic, including elaborate visuals, dancers, Asian cultural elements, and baroque theatrics.
  • Yuki Kajiura tends to evoke this sensibility in her intensely spiritual lyrics filled with abnormal psychology and references to hands, eyes, kisses, forests, circuses, and moons.
  • Joanna Newsom, especially the songs "Monkey & Bear" and "Colleen" but basically her oeuvre as a whole.

    Tabletop Games 

  • The writer of the webcomic Digger, Ursula Vernon, obviously knows a lot of comparative mythology, much of it apparently gained from doing research for a degree in anthropology, as shown by the story's mix of a variety of mostly Asian sources, but including influences from around the world, including in one memorable case a modification of a myth told by the children of Cuban refugees in Miami, as well as some Vernon made up on her own.
    • This is a staple of Vernon's Verse, and is perhaps most readily appreciated in The Hidden Almanac or Gearworld, where mythic events are frequently mashed together in strange contrasts or placed in the most anachronistic contexts imaginable.

    Web Original 
  • Mythpunk is a blog featuring mythologized stories of historical characters along with dinosaurs, zombies, and the like.
  • Hitherby Dragons features mythpunk takes on Greek Mythology, the Buddha's life story, and various 80s kids' cartoons, among other things.

    Western Animation 
While most of the time Cartoon Network is a Lighter and Softer channel, two shows contain Mythpunk elements.
  • Regular Show, is more of a Urban Fantasy mixed with Formicapunk, however, it does contain some elements from this genre as well, mostly in Skips-centric or special episodes, and there where even a few themes of Cyberpunk in several episodes.
  • Over the Garden Wall is set in a place called The Unknown, a seemingly endless countryside in Antebellum America populated with people and creatures inspired by both American and European folklore. It's theorized that the entire show is a postmodern retelling of Dante's Inferno.