Thursday, April 5, 2007

I Will Punk If I Goddamn Want to

Oh dear. It would seem that some people have taken issue with my use of the "-punk' suffix, following Warren Ellis's link to He@ in his blog. This complaining seems to come in two flavors:
  1. Why must everything be "x-punk" these days? It's a tired old term.
  2. Oi oi oi! I'm a punk! I object to you using that term when there isn't any punk attitude or sensibility!
To which I say: Quit yer whinging, ye wee sodding wankers.

Actually, I don't really care if they complain or not (though it did give me a chance to use my "Belfast voice", which is always fun), because any publicity is good publicity. Call me what you like, I don't really give a shit, just so long as you link back to me. But since this is a literary blog, and I'm feeling pedantic, I might as well address these "concerns".

It's a tired old term.

Well, it's old, I'll grant you that. The term cyberpunk was created by Bruce Bethke back in 1980 for his short story of the same name... as a marketing term, so that his story would have more appeal to readers. Tired? Considering that we're using the term 27 years later, I'd say it's pretty damn effective.

Why must everything be "x-punk" these days?

For the same goddamn reason that everything Apple puts out these days is "iWhatever": it's an instantly recognizable shorthand with built-in audience appeal. Besides, which is easier to say: "A work set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date" or "Steampunk"?

If you want to be mad at someone, blame K.W. Jeter for starting it with a 1987 letter to Locus magazine where he said:
Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like "steampunks," perhaps ...
You may not like the nomenclature, but it's here to stay. Get over it.

I'm a punk and I object to you using that term...

Ah, the delicious taste of hypocrisy!
Punk ideology is concerned with the individual's intrinsic right to freedom, and a less restricted lifestyle. Punk ethics espouse the role of personal choice in the development of, and pursuit of, greater freedom.
In other words, by trying to censor me, you are oppressing my right to express myself, and thus you are just as bad as the Establishment. And by staying true to myself and refusing to conform to what you want, I prove myself more punk than thou. So go fuck yourself.

...when there isn't any punk attitude or sensibility!

Which punk sensibility?
Considering that there are mutually exclusive schools of thought there, this is not a coherent argument. In fact, the only unifying theme for punk that I can find is once again "Individual freedom at any cost". By that logic, Firefly is punk.

So chwee ni duh, you ai chr jze se duh fohn diang gho. I'll call it Heliumpunk if I fucking well want to, and you can't stop me.

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