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.
Punk-punk genres with their own pages include:
To be sorted:
- Stone Punk
- Sandal Punk
- Dungeon Punk
- Clock Punk
- Diesel Punk
- Gothic Punk
- The Apunkalypse
- Cattle Punk
- Desert Punk
- Fantastic Noir
- Phlebotinum-Induced Steampunk
- Gaslamp Fantasy
- Urban Fantasy
Punk Punk has become rather loose label, mostly owing to the difference between the original two genres. Whereas the name Cyberpunk was very clearly a nod to the genre's Punk Rock roots, Steampunk had few, if any "punk" influences, and was generally much more idealistic in tone. This created a lot of confusion over what "-punk" as a suffix really means.
Unfortunately, that confusion only caused Punk Punk to spread further. Because of the ambiguity and malleability of -punk as a naming convention, other works unrelated to the original genres also took up the -punk suffix, whether because they had a punk rock aesthetic or because they were in some way or another subversive.
At this point Punk Punk is too far gone to be a clear and meaningful term. All we can do is create a semblance of order from the chaos. To this end, we've sorted the most well known Punk Punk genres into three categories: The Cyberpunk Family, the Steampunk Family, and the Misfits.
Note that while Punk Punk technically describes any instance of calling a genre "Something-Punk," for the sake of clarity only well known examples should be used.
The suffix "-punk" has become popular when naming various subgenres of Speculative Fiction. There are now many such subgenres, and collectively, they are referred to with the umbrella term "PunkPunk". Some of these genres have their own pages here on TV Tropes, but other, smaller ones, do not. For historical reasons, there are basically two main categories of PunkPunk genres: The first is derived from Cyberpunk, the granddaddy of them all, and tends to be gritty and edgy—the "punk" really means something. The second category is derived from Steampunk, and generally refers to Alternate History stories which heavily feature Schizo Tech.
The term "Steampunk" was actually coined by a Cyberpunk writer, and early examples were just as "punk" as Cyberpunk. However, over the years, the term evolved in a completely different direction, and the punk part was almost completely forgotten. Instead, it became, basically, "alt-history high-tech Victorians".
Then, and only then, long after the two founding "-punks" had become almost completely unrelated, the snowcloning began. Most variants are derived from Steampunk (alt-history), but several still link back to the now-unrelated Cyberpunk.
The Cyberpunk Family:The Cyberpunk Family covers cyberpunk and its derivatives. These genres tend to be dark and dystopian, with rebellious underground heroes. The name tends to reflect the technologies focused on by the stories of the genre. [expand this]
- Cyberpunk: The granddaddy of all the PunkPunk genres, it was a Punk Rock-inspired backlash against the perceived "hippy-dippyness" of the earlier New Wave Science Fiction movement.
- Biopunk:A subset of cyberpunk focusing less on the 'cyber' aspect, and more on biological technologies like cloning and genetic engineering.
- Post-Cyberpunk: A deconstruction of cyberpunk adressing the possible social consequences of future tech without creating a full dystopia.
The Steampunk FamilyThese genres are either Alternate History, or a fantasy counterpart thereof. They usually feature some form of Schizo Tech. They are also more likely to include magical elements (see Gaslamp Fantasy and Magitek), and generally fall much lower on the Sci-Fi Hardness Scale than cyberpunk.
- Steampunk: Perhaps the most well developed alt history genre, it depicts an alt-Victorian era where the science fiction of the day was in full effect. Expect to see a lot of Gadgeteer Geniuses , Lightning Guns and Cool Airships.
- Dieselpunk: Steampunk set in the World War era (1914-1945) This can contain more idealistic examples, but more often explores the enormous loss of life and harsh transition to modernity from revolutionary advancements in military technology.
- Clockpunk: Steampunk set in the Rennaissance. Expect at least one of Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions, clockwork atomatons, etc.
- Deco Punk
- Cattle Punk:
- Atom Punk:
- Sea Punk
- Elf Punk