In the 1980s, authors like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling wrote dystopian novels set 20 Minutes into the Future, where they explored themes such as the impact of modern technology on everyday life, the rise of the global datasphere as an arena for communication, commerce, conflict, and crime, and invasive cybernetic body modifications. The heroes of these dark and cynical stories were marginalized, disillusioned, and rebellious "punks" striving for survival against overwhelming odds, often futilely, in corrupt megacities and surreal cyberspace realms. Bruce Bethke called this Cyberpunk, and it had tremendous influence on the entire Speculative Fiction community, spawning a whole fountain of derivatives.
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine was a landmark book that was inspired by Cyberpunk but took things in a different direction. It eschewed Cyberpunk's gritty future setting for a more optimistic Alternate History Victorian one, but paralleled Cyberpunk's focus on the social impacts of computers with a world transformed by highly sophisticated steam engine-based technology. This created the Steampunk genre, and opened the floodgates for a whole legion of new -punk genres, all of which responded to cyberpunk in some way. They varied considerably, but all have one of the following in common with cyberpunk:
- A world built around a particular technology that is pervasive and extrapolated to a highly sophisticated level.
- A gritty or transreal urban style.
- A cyberpunk-inspired approach to exploring social themes within a Speculative Fiction setting.
Humongous Mecha and Powered Armor are not a part of these settings per se, but they're an easy visual shorthand to show how far technology has developed. Similarly, they and their derivatives (Chicken Walkers, Walking Tanks, Cool Airships, etc.) tend to show up sooner or later, particularly in Lighter and Softer works.
It's worth noting that Punk-Punk is not its own genre, but rather an umbrella term used by TV Tropes to describe the entire web of genres that stem from Cyberpunk.
Punk-punk genres with their own pages include:
- The Apunkalypse
- Atom Punk
- Cattle Punk
- Clock Punk
- Desert Punk
- Diesel Punk
- Dungeon Punk
- Fantastic Noir
- Gaslamp Fantasy
- Gothic Punk
- Sandal Punk
- Scavenged Punk
- Stone Punk
- Urban Fantasy