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Quackcast 375 - Categories, genres and rants

Ozoneocean at 12:00AM, May 22, 2018


In this Quackcast we chat about the categorisation of work by specific genres and how it makes it easier to promote your work to people, while for fans it makes it easier to find what you're into, but it can also be a bad thing when people categorise too specifically and narrow their audience to nothing or just pointlessly confuse the crap out of people.
I came to this topic because I saw a post on Facebook which was very badly explaining “Steampunk” and “Dieselpunk” while introducing the two utterly superfluous sub-genre names of “Ray-punk” and Atom-punk".


-Utter bullshit-

Let me explain…
First there was “Cyberpunk”. A sub-genre of SciFi that really started in the early 1980s, famously championed by William Gibson among others. The “punk” suffix originally referred to it's gritty nature and the fact that it focussed on young people and the technology of the streets. The characters also wore the punk fashions popular in the early 1980s, it tended to feature cybernetic body modification and focus heavily on computers and “cyberspace”. It was largely inspired by things like Blade Runner and Tron. Obviously there was a need for this sub-genre categorisation because nothing like it had really existed before.

“Steampunk” is mainly 19th century but can be set at any time. Steam and clockwork are the basis for all technology, the aesthetic is usually based in the 19th century with modern touches. It takes some inspiration from the works of Jules Verne and HG Wells. Again, this was a totally new style and needed a name.
“Dieselpunk” is from about 1900 onwards and encompasses the time of the birth of the internal combustion engine which is used as a basis for high technology, just like Steampunk does with steam. Movies like Mad Max 2 among others can be seen as inspiration. Once again it was a new style.
Steampunk and Dieselpunk stole the style of their names from cyberpunk. They use “punk” to refer to the unusual hybrid nature of being pre-hightech SciFi as well as the fact they often include punk type fashions and body augmentation which was a popular feature in Cyberpunk.

Then we have “Atom-punk” and “Ray-punk”, both of which describe work that is already fully encompassed by conventional mainstream SciFi from the 1920s onwards. ALL Scifi including fantasy space Operas like Star Wars can be included in these (Apart from the original aforementioned “punk” styles), even retro post apocalyptic alternative history like fallout or Bioshock. I feel that this type of categorisation is very, very pretentious, ignorant and counter-productive: since it dilutes and trivialises the “punk” brand; imagines it does something novel while ignoring all the millions of works on the same theme; and confuses audiences precisely because it IS so dilute and superfluous. Dieselpunk and Steampunk by contrast are weird, they don't fit at all with normal SciFi and so need to be described in an unusual way.

Our guest Emma Clare offers up a spirited defence, so it's not all one sided and I don't have it all my own way on this! Listen to the Quackcast to see what she says.

This week Gunwallace has given us the theme to The Adventures of Tildie and Chewie. We’re greeted by the imposing strains of the Imperial march on heavy bass guitar… before we’re rocketed off into a pink heavenly dream cloud filled with rainbows and Teletubbies!

Topics and shownotes

Featured comic:
Tethered from Dusk to Dawn -

Special thanks to:
Gunwallace -
Tantz Aerine -
Banes -
Emma Clare -
Pitface -
Ozoneocean -

Featured music:
The Adventures of Tildie and Chewie -, by Patricklind, rated E.



Ozoneocean at 6:22PM, May 23, 2018

Oh and sticking gears on something, yes! That always annoyed me about steampunk cosplay. Surely a good steampunk cosplay or illustration is when your character looks like they come from that world rather than simply wearing 19th century clothes, a top hat, goggles and having useless cardboard cogs stuck in your hatband. XD

Ozoneocean at 6:20PM, May 23, 2018

HAHAHA! That video was fantastic! Subscribed ^_^ To be honest, I aways thought that expanding "punk" outside of cyberpunk is even a bit much... My Steampunk IS legitimately different enough to need its subgenre whatever the name. Dieselpunk is jussssst barely there. I can't make the argument for others I think "retro" is the best you can stretch for but the whole "punk" thing wasn't meant to mean that.

Amelius at 10:50AM, May 23, 2018

AW man, no sooner you mention this pet peeve and I see an article about "Solar Punk" and my eyes rolled out of their sockets! They're pitching it as "positive sci-fi" and all I can think is "then there's no reason for the "punk" part, duderino. Call it Solar-Fi." I agree, the Punk suffix has a meaning. This was running through my head reading this though!-

Ozoneocean at 4:20AM, May 23, 2018

It seems there are two distinctly different aspects to genre: Writing for a genre; and using it as a descriptive term. Thinking in terms of music you might describe StepenWolf's "Born to be Wild" as "Heavy Metal", but it was produced before either the term or that style of music existed. It wasn't created as a Heavy Metal track (they use the phrase "heavy metal in the lyrics but it's in reference to the sound of a motorbike engine). Is it right to describe it as "Heavy Metal"? I would say not. The same would go for the music of Led Zeppelin too- again they have a song with the phrase "heavy Metal" in it but it's talking about an engine not music... and it's some sort of coded reference to sex XD

Ozoneocean at 4:10AM, May 23, 2018

Ha! I think I'd call them all SciFi myself :) You do get into tricky waters though when you describe things in terms of a genre (to make them relatable to your audience) when they were never meant to be written around that genre. It's really weird when you think about it! Like Emma Clare mentioned Fallout as being a big part of the "atom punk" genre, and I don't think it was ever meant to have anything to do with that... though people may try and sell it in terms of that now that the sub-genre name has gained a following. It was just your run-of-the-mill standard post apocalyptic SciFi survivalist fiction (like a million others) with touches of retro in there for aesthetics. But now people will retrospectively connect the whole series to that "subgenre" as it it's a core feature.

bravo1102 at 2:59AM, May 23, 2018

And Nemo's Nautilus was nuclear powered. One of Vernes villains was working on a cannon and explosive using the building blocks of matter.Atomic energy. I didn't just read Verne, I wrote a report on a critical biography that included ALL his works. Wells lived long enough to see the term science fiction coined and his works after the turn of the 20th century were science fiction. Things to Come? But that's more dieselpunk with internal combustion engines whereas steampunk is more akin to the Steam Man of the Plains.

bravo1102 at 2:50AM, May 23, 2018

I was only listing influences. It was invented by the role playing game. That's what inspired the first author's to explore it. I had a friend who was corresponding with the game designers and a few of the first author's to write in the genre.

Ozoneocean at 9:13PM, May 22, 2018

@Bravo- yes, there are a lot of pro-steampunk precedents, but the style was never a real genre till it was. Jules Verne and HG Wells are really just spiritual influences. Their stories weren't even written as SciFi at the time, but they did use speculative high technology based on the highest tech that was available at the time- mostly internal combustion engines and diesel electric drives rather than strictly steam. Morcock's Oswald Bastable books would better fit as proto-deiselpunk. The character existed in the time of Zeppelins... Strictly though it was written as a time-slip fantasy.

Ozoneocean at 9:05PM, May 22, 2018

Shutup Jason XD (JK)

Jason Moon at 7:09PM, May 22, 2018

Raypunk all the way man

bravo1102 at 4:18PM, May 22, 2018

There was also the newly discovered Verne story Paris:2000 as well as all the etchings of future life. Another work that heavily influenced the look was the Czech movie The Fabulous World of Jules Verne.

bravo1102 at 4:16PM, May 22, 2018

Psst- Steampunk actually originated with a role-playing game Space:1889 which went with spaceflight as described in Verne, Wells and Burroughs as well as the classic early sf story Thomas Edison Conquers the Martians. That story was 1890s hard sci-fi featuring the first conception of airlocks and space suits! John Carter of Mars is part of it as he was originally a Civil War soldier. It's also inspired by one of the alternate worlds of the Oswald Bastable stories by Michael Moorcock. Before Space:1889 there was nothing but some ideas for GURPS or Call of Cthulhu (I participated in a 1920s Call of Cthulhu campaign where the characters did the whole Flash Gordon thing. Never got into Cthulhu by gaslight as the Victorian Era adventuring was called) There was also the whole idea of the thin red line or French Foreign legion in space fighting aliens rather than Zulu or Berbers.

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