What Kind Of Sci-Fi Punk Are You?

A recent discussion sparked by Flint Dille (who excels at getting the creative juices flowing with brain teasers like this) brought up the question as to certain visual styles in sci-fi. Now, there are no hard and fast lines of demarcation, but I think there are five classic style schools for sci-fi.[1]

Steampunk is the most famous/easily identifiable of the four:  Classic late Victorian stylings & sensibility.[2] Velvet and goggles, brass pipes and rivets, dials and gauges.   Steam inspired even if steam is not the actual power source.  Covers a period from the Great Exhibition of 1851 to end of WW1; significant literary influences include all of Verne, early Wells, Frank Reade Jr and Tom Swift.  Divine right.  Manifest destiny.

Quintessential example:

punk sf Nautilus

Walt Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

"That Crazy Buck Rogers Stuff"[3] occupies the space between the end of WW1 and somewhere between the 1933 Chicago and 1939 New York World’s Fairs.  Big bright gaudy impractical machines and buildings.  Chief artists:  Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank R. Paul.  Buck Rogers.  Hugo Gernsbach.   Unbounded optimism.

Quintessential example: 

punk sf Modern-Mechanix-airship

Modern Mechanix

Dieselpunk is the world Raymond Loewy midwifed.  Officially starts with 1939 New York World’s Fair, continues thru WW2 and well into the 1950s, ending with 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.  Relentlessly uniform and utilitarian.  Gray steel and burnished aluminum.  Streamlined with rounded edges.  Chief literary influence:  John W. Campbell's Astounding Stories & his astounding stable of writers including Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Clifford Simak & Frank Herbert among others.

Quintessential example: 

punk sf Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet

Transistorpunk has space age lounge music playing in the background, instrumentals with exotic sounds and arrangements.  While the roots are found in the 1950s, it only really flourished after the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair with stops along the way in New York 1964-65 and Montreal for Expo ’67.  Bright!  Open!  Airy!  For those who think young.  James Bond.  Star Trek.  Space Angel.  Spaaaaaaace Ghost.  "Thunderbirds are GO!"

Quintessential example: 

punk sf syd-mead

Syd Mead

Cyberpunk is the granddaddy of the other "-punk" genres, but like a time paradox comes in last on our time line.  Derived from the musical use of the term “punk,” which was a repudiation of and rebellion against the phony soulless glitter of disco.[4]  dark dank decrepit despair  Trash filled, ruined, and retrofitted.  No center, no soul.  A world inhabited by Mad Max and Tron.

Quintessential example: 

punk sf Blade_Runner_6

Blade Runner




[1]  With whatever we're using currently that isn't one of the following being considered post-modern science fiction or po-mo sci-fi.

[2]  Though the stories and characters need not reflect actual Victorian values and attitudes.

[3]  We need a "-punk" name for this but so far no one has suggested a good one.  Buckpunk?  Paulpunk?  Decopunk?

[4]  In 1975, Time magazine reported on a contest to predict T-shirt slogans of the year 2000.  The winner was “Disco Still Sucks”.



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