There’s an interesting Mind Meld this week on SFSignal about “The Next Big Trend/Movement in SF/F Literature”. You can find it here. I noticed that my jetpunk (see here) doesn’t get a mention – although it has here in a post by Dr Nader Elhefnawy, which I suppose means it’s sort of arrived…
To be honest, jetpunk wasn’t an entirely serious suggestion, and I wrote the post chiefly because I liked the title “Vulcan Bombers in Space” and I wanted to post some pictures of cool aeroplanes. But I do think there’s room for some interesting fiction to be written in there – especially given that retro sf usually either means visions of the future from the 1930s – 1940s, or, well, steampunk and dieselpunk. The 1950s and 1960s were, I think, more interesting technologically, and some of the futurism from those decades would make for excellent science fiction.
All of which got me thinking about other “movements” and what inspires me to write science fiction and what I try to put into my stories. I like the hardware, I freely admit it – I have all those books about the Apollo programme because I find the spacecraft, and the way they work, fascinating – the technology, the engineering, the science… and how that does what it does for those who use it. The hardware I find inspirational, but it’s the people using it I try to write about it.
And all those books about Apollo I’ve read persuaded me to try writing sf which was as realistic as I could possibly make it. Not Mundane sf – because I want to still use some of the genre’s tropes, like faster-than-light travel or aliens. But I wanted to show that space is a hostile environment, that getting out of gravity wells is difficult, that human beings can only operate in space because of the science and technology and engineering. And since I’d been thinking about trends and movements, I decided this should be called… spacecore.
Then I had an idea for another story, but this time set in the depths of the ocean – which again is as much about technology as it is about people since the ocean depths are as inimical an environment as space. I was going to title the story ‘Base Under Pressure’, but that really is the worst short story title ever. Anyway, I thought, stories set at the bottom of the sea need a name too. How about bathypunk?
At which point, I decided – and had pointed out to me by friends – it was all getting a bit silly. To tell the truth, my sf stories are hardly written down a single line in the genre anyway: the Euripidean Space stories are near-future hard sf; ‘Killing the Dead’ is set in a generation starship; ‘The Amber Room’ features alternate universes; ‘Through the Eye of the Needle’ is near-future post-catastrophe… And the novels I’ve delivered to my agent are steampunk-ish space opera.
Also, movements and labels tend to be applied after the fact by commentators and critics. They point to a group of writings and decide they are enough alike to deserve a common term to describe them. Dreaming up a “-punk” or “-core” and then writing to it is apparently the wrong way to do it. Well, it is if you tell everyone that’s what you’ve done.
So I won’t. I’ll be thinking about jetpunk and spacecore and bathypunk and whatever other ones I dream up as I’m bashing out my stories. I’ll be thinking about the hardware and the people who use it. And if others do the same, if that means there’s a little less magic in sf and a bit more, well, science and technology, then I’ll consider that a good thing. But it’s not like a movement or a bandwagon or anything.
Unless you want it to be.