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Monday, August 31, 2009

Punking Everything in SF/F (Part One): The Present

Cyberpunk, steampunk, biopunk, and now greenpunk? When will it end? Fans have been punkifying science fiction and fantasy for decades, and it doesn't seem like it will let up any time soon. With each passing moment, new ideas spring into the collective consciousness of SF/F fans, who, in turn, impart their selective, subgenre-crazed minds on all of us by bringing to task the next stage in science fiction and fantasy's evolutionary ride.

But are we getting ahead of ourselves, and is this constant segmentation of SF/F pointless or, at least, premature? What flaws are inherent in the frequent punking of speculative fiction?

Publishers have yet to grasp onto the punk genres, and neither have bookstores, independent or otherwise. Subgenres have little use outside of the relatively isolated, and sometimes rabid, fanbase. Realistically speaking, it would be impossible to incorporate even a pinch of the subgenres in existence today into bookstores, with logical exceptions to the Internet--after all, Amazon has been kind enough to narrow the science fiction and fantasy sections into nebulous, cross-pollinating subcategories.

So what is our obsession with subgenres (and sub-subgenres)? Are we inherently segmentative, meaning do we have an innate desire to categorize? That might be true, because it is without hindrance that we can see the makings of our own segmentarian nature in the desire to isolate ourselves. But here we might consider the distance of prejudice, which exists only insofar as personal grudges permeate the subgenre sphere. How many of those sub-subgenres are created simply to get rid of an unwanted swath of books? None? Perhaps we can only see prejudice as it exists in the academic, the purist academic who longs for the demise of science fiction and fantasy with an unhindered gaze. You can see the joy in his eyes when he looks down upon those who so willingly accept Margaret Atwood into their ranks. Or maybe he is a she, and the bitterness is just as strong. Who knows?

What we do know is that punk, in its newest, and historically disjointed (disconnected) form is science fiction and fantasy fans' greatest tool. Isolate the good, the bad, and the ugly, put them in the little jar of context-less wonder, and consume them as readily as a meat pie (or a veggie pie, should your personal inclination be to the earth). Punk is dead, perhaps, but alive too, reborn as a suffix with a mysterious past.

And all this, the thoughts presented here, the continued arrival of punkified sub-subgenres, makes me wonder if we need to educate ourselves as to what punk actually is, or was, to properly evaluate whether our suffix-obsessive punking nature is well served in a genre so clearly complicated by its weaving in and out of popular culture and literature itself. Yes, that is where we should go next. To the punk-mobile. Let's take our Peabody-and-Sherman-style journey into the past to unravel the not-so-distant history of a forgotten genre (forgotten, at least, by those not steeped in the rather confusing realms of cultural criticism and literary theory). Expect that post soon.

For now, consider, if you will, the nature of subgenres, the drive to create them, and the question of whether doing is has a purpose other than for our amusement. And if you have thoughts, share them here, because your thoughts are of interest to me. I must consume them, like candy.

Creepiness aside, comments are welcome.


Continue to Part Two (Punk), Part Three (Cyberpunk A), Part Four (Cyberpunk B), and Part Five (Cyberpunk C).

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  1. It would probably defeat the supposed purpose, but I suggest creating the all-encompassing "Subgenrepunk" subgenre. Gdenre fiction swallowing its own tail...

  2. Now that would be something, wouldn't it?

  3. I'm interested in seeing more of the "Punk" series. I'd love to hear your ideas on "Steampunk" but more to the point steampunks ugly cousin "Diesel Punk":

  4. BlaqueSaber: Parts 2 throguh 4 are online. Just follow the links on this post, or somewhere else...wherever they are. My computer is broke or I'd easily link you...

    I may or may not have thoughts on Steampunk and Dieselpunk. Not sure yet. It will take some time to research those things to understand their movements. Cyberpunk is easy for me because I've studied it.

    Feel free to leave more suggestions!