There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Cyberpunk. Big cities, lots of neon holograms, etc. As I have stated in my previous post, Cyberpunk was first popularized by Canadian writer William Gibson. But you’ve probably also heard of other “punks.” Steampunk is the most likely candidate (see this post for more details), with Dieselpunk being somewhat less famous, but there are many other derivatives besides these. Wikipedia alone can name eighteen. You have things ranging from far-future Raypunk to Classical era Sandalpunk, and even fantasy variants like Elfpunk.
Now, the naming of these subgenres of sci-fi/fantasy are somewhat misguided. The term “cyberpunk” was originally coined by Gibson to describe his world: “cyber,” because of the advanced state of technology, and “punk” because of society’s degeneration and the rampant criminalism described in his books. However, this doesn’t apply to many of its derivatives. Steampunk, also popularized by Gibson, often describes the middle to upper class. Raypunk often depicts a near-utopian society, and Mythpunk takes place in our world.
So why are they called this?
As you can probably guess, Gibson only coined the term “cyberpunk.” The word “steampunk” was first used by author K.W. Jeter, as a riff on cyberpunk. After this, many authors simply used the suffix “-punk” as a way to describe a subgenre of sci-fi based around one core aspect of technology or aesthetic. Biopunk is based off organic technology, Nanopunk nanotech, and so on. Eventually, others began to build their own ideas off of these, and we eventually reached the present, with derivatives in the double digits.
Arguably the most famous variant of Cyberpunk after Steampunk is Dieselpunk. The genre was first introduced in a tabletop roleplaying game called “Children of the Sun,” and further expanded on. While Steampunk is set in a future version of the nineteenth century, and Cyberpunk set in a futuristic 1980, Dieselpunk is set in a future version of the interwar period. However, there is some controversy over the line between Dieselpunk and Steampunk. Some argue that Dieselpunk takes place from a sci-fi 1914 to a sci-fi 1945, but others argue that it takes place only during and slightly after World War II, saying that it represents the point where war became unpleasant, no longer about chivalry but about machinery.
Aside from Dieselpunk, most other derivatives of Cyberpunk are pretty small-time. Solarpunk, though, is relatively well-known. The basic premise of Solarpunk is a future where humanity attempts to create or have achieved an eco-friendly society, typically powered only by renewable energy.
What I have talked about are only a few of the many variants of Cyberpunk. I recommend you continue to explore this topic.