Steampunk and dieselpunk have both entered mainstream culture. So they’re no longer cutting-edge, they’re now closer to blunt instrument. And that means it’s time for science fiction’s fertile minds to spunng! into creative action once again. We need a new movement, a new aesthetic, a new subgenre. And I have just the one. I call it:
Hang on, I hear you say. Steampunk was alternate history, in which the world’s technology remained at Victorian levels. We have jets now. We have jets in the twenty-first century, we’ve had them for seventy years, in fact. What’s alternate about that? What’s sfnal about that? Well, yes, that’s true. But we don’t have all those amazing supersonic jets they had during the Cold War. Like, well, the Avro Vulcan Bomber. Or the Convair B-58 Hustler. North American XB-70 Valkyrie. TSR-2. Tupolev Tu-22. All those planned Supersonic Transports and spaceplanes.
That was proper science fiction, that was. Not the pointy magic rockets they used to put in sf novels of the period. No, they were proper engineered aeroplanes made out of titanium that could fly at silly speeds like Mach 3.5. And jet-packs. Flying cars. Giant Computer Brains – er, giant mainframe computers in giant data processing centres. Jetpunk. It’s the future they were designing and building fifty years ago, when a base on the Moon by the end of the century looked like a very real prospect. It’s the future we might have had, the one where we wear silver jumpsuits and eat food-pills.
It was a time of progress and of austerity, of paranoia and of trust, of innocence and cynicism. And, let’s face, those supersonic jets and spaceplanes looked pretty damn cool. It’s not steam engine time, it’s jetpunk time.
So who’s going to write the first jetpunk sf story?