Punking Speculative Fiction
Sean Guynes, editor
Special issue of Deletion: The Open Access Online Forum in Science Fiction Studies
Volume 14, May 2018
William Gibson, the godfather of cyberpunk, is credited with the phrase “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed,” or some variation thereof. He’s been using it at least since the 1990s, with seemingly no source for its first usage, and it has since become a maxim used to describe the contemporary situation of hyper-futuristic technological modernity living alongside the massive systems of wealth and income inequality that structure global neoliberal life. In a word, the maxim defines neoliberalism. Its intent, not coincidentally, was to define the ethos of cyberpunk. “High tech. Low life,” as the online cyberpunk collective Neon Dystopia puts it: cyber- and -punk. Cyberpunk in its maximal manifestation signals a revolt against, within, and from the underbelly of the systems of power that allow science-fictional futures to coexist alongside ever-expanding economic and ideological gaps between the haves, the have-nots, the boot-strappers, and the never-will-haves. It channels the energy of punk in the era of digitality.
But cyberpunk is not the only subset of speculative fiction to embrace the “-punk” nomenclature and to attempt to capture that musical scene’s polysemic rebelliousness. There is, in fact, a lexicon of “punked” subgenres networked throughout the speculative fiction of the past quarter century—and once those subgenres were given names, fans and creators and critics used newly identified subgeneric traits to plunder the history of speculative fiction for further examples of cyberpunk, steampunk, solarpunk, dieselpunk, and so on.
This special episode of Deletion is about punked sf and its proliferations, mutations, and radical experiments with genre over the past three decades. As the contributions suggest, cyberpunk remains central to how we think about punking sf today, both because cyberpunk texts hold a significant place in sf studies and because the legacy of the subgenre has been immense in sf as the relationship between humans and computer technologies becomes much more complex than it was in the 1980s heyday of cyberpunk. But the contributors in Punking Speculative Fiction explore other mutations of and experiments with punked sf, including biopunk, mannerpunk, neuropunk, and likely the newest one: Trumppunk. What the list above demonstrates, and what Punking Speculative Fiction as a whole grapples with, is that the many and versatile punked sf subgenres provide a glimpse at the ways in which creative communities and consumers of sf recycle the genre’s history in order to develop new meanings and possibilities for generic play, while at the same time offering insight into the ways in which the symbolic uses of “punk” mutate in the literary mode, occasionally becoming infused once again with the radical political sensibilities “punk” originally meant.
Table of Contents
Sean Guynes, “Introduction: On Punking Speculative Fiction”
Andréa Gilroy, “Cyberpunk Horrors: Neoliberal Capitalism and Global Sprawl in Otomo’s Manga”
Patrick Whitmarsh, “Neuromancer to Neuropunk: Science Fiction’s Disenchantment of the Mind”
Ashley Gordon, “Blinded by the Light: Neuropunk, Nihilism, and the ‘Blind Brain’ in R. Scott Bakker’s NeuroPath”
Lars Schmeink, “The Utopian Potential of Biopunk”
Brian Willems, “Punked Objects: Salvagepunk in Perdido Street Station and Crumbs”
Megen De Bruin-Molé, “‘I had no idea dragons were so well mannered’: Politeness Gets Political in Mannerpunk”
Marleen Barr, “Trumppunk Resists Presidential Bunk; Or, Updating Obscuring Mirrorshades with Revelatory Magnifying Glasses Enhances Seeing the Forces of Normalcy”
Anelise Farris, “Young, Punk, and Disabled: New Worlds for Marginalized Bodies”
Anna McFarlane, “Could the Climate Crisis Spell the End for the ‘Punk’ in ‘Cyberpunk’?”