Thursday, March 29, 2007


Plok and I have created a new science-fiction subgenre. I am astounded.

Indeed, as the Bard put it: "My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention." That's from Resplendent Buttock-Cradles, one of his lesser-known works. No, really, it's in the same collection as Titus Andronicus and Troilus and Cressida. Would I lie to you?

Since I "invented" Heliumpunk, I feel authoritative enough to define it: "A future or near-future setting where anachronistic and obsolete technology is given a new lease on life, not just because it is cool, but for plausible reasons within the setting."

It's called Heliumpunk because Plok has posited an intriguing view of the future involving Zeppelins and circumpolar freight routes, made feasible by the excess helium created as a byproduct of the fusion process. I was immediately fascinated by the thought of obsolete technology suddenly re-emerging as once again viable, and thus was born a new subgenre.

It's not meant to be tongue-in-cheek the way Steampunk is, though it can be wryly amusing at times. Firefly did similar things with its "Wild West Space Travel" idea; I'm thinking specifically of the holographic saloon window that people could be thrown out of without damage to the bar fixtures.

Off the top of my head: The resurgence of the polearm as a melee weapon. The polearm, as you may or may not know, was originally a farm implement that the peasants put on a long stick when they decided to revolt. It was only after several of these revolts that it became clear that a polearm was really, really good at unhorsing knights, and from there it became a standard infantry weapon until finally being replaced by the rifle.

Fast-forward to the setting of Heliumpunk. Unless robotics and automation has increased remarkably, you're still going to have humans loading and unloading cargo. I can see many, MANY uses for a long stick (now perhaps made out of carbon fiber reinforced composite) with a curved hook, a cutting blade, and a sharp point: hooking cargo, cutting tow lines, etc. And I would further expect that both longshoremen and Zeppelin pilots would find a way to turn these into weapons again.

Again, all of this is very rough, but it's been consuming my thoughts all day. Plok and I are already sharing our ideas over email. Eris willing, maybe we can turn this into a novel.

A novel with polearm-wielding Zeppelin pilots flying over the Arctic whilst being pursued by multinational Helium conglomerates.

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