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What is cyberpunk fiction? Cyberpunk is:
  • a genre of science fiction set in a lawless subculture of an oppressive society dominated by computer technology.
  • speculative scifi set in a future where computerized technology has in some way overpowered humanity.

This is a guide that defines the many cyberpunk derivatives that are now being considered proper subgenres of speculative fiction. Although some of these do not share the same computer focus present in cyberpunk, they all share the same theme of a world with highly sophisticated levels of a certain type of technology. This will serve as a 'dictionary' for the derivatives currently listed as tags on Iwaku as of the 15th of May, 2016.

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  • Atompunk, also known as atomicpunk gets inspiration on the pre-digital short twentieth century, or more specifically the time period between 1945 to 1965. This includes the Atomic Age, Jet Age and Space Age. Common themes include the Space Race between Russia and America, the paranoia of Communism, superhero fiction and comicbooks, as well as the events of Chernobyl. Popular example would be the Fallout series.

    Many aesthetics of atompunk come from Raygun Gothic, which depicts a retro-futuristic world where everything is slick and streamlined, emphasizing on geometric shapes. There are jet packs, flying cars, video phones and strange space clothes. Everything is powered by atomic power.

  • Biopunk is a subgenre that revolves around synthetic biology. Common themes are bio-hackers and corrupted corporations and governments that manipulate human DNA and keep it away from the general public. Biopunk explores the possible dangers of genetic engineering and biotechnology in a dark setting also used in cyberpunk. It also explore the idea of biotech being misused for profit and how the rich and powerful control it. Human enhancement, the value of life and what it means to be a human are common ideas as well.

    Because science heavily applies here, the science here is considered ‘hard’ than ‘soft’. Generally there is no violence in biopunk stories but betrayal, jeopardy and hostility.


  • Clockpunk portrays technology that are based off pre-Industrial Revolution, but it tends to be set in Renaissance-type settings. Typically Clockpunk does not include electricity or steam to power their world, but instead uses natural elements like the sun and water, as well as springs in clocks to power them. Simple structures such as gears are the main stars here, creating wonders in a world that makes one think what it would be like if this was the way of life. In clockpunk, clocks serve as a way of life and as its philosophy. Clockwork structures are often inspired by Da Vinci designs.

    It is also easier to incorporate magic into clockpunk if authors do not wish to get into the complex workings of clockwork, mixing it with functional magic that has a somewhat logical explanation to detail the inner workings. Keys may also play a big part in clockpunk, as they are fundamental to watches and clocks and can serve as a powerful item.

    Clockwork creatures are also very common in clockpunk, animals and people that function like robots would be created from gears and powered with a source to serve as the general population.


  • Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction that focuses on the society of a ‘high tech low life’, usually set in the future in a post-industrial dystopia that have advanced technology and scientific achievements like information technology and cybernetics. Conflict between artificial intelligence and megacorporations are explored as well the exploration of humans and computers. The atmosphere is always troubled and dark, which compliments the usually nihilistic electronic society as technological advances cause social decline.

    Protagonists tend to be loners that are not content with their dystopian world but do nothing to change it. Most of them are manipulated and end up in situations that they have little to no choice but to continue, which serves as development. Usually these protagonists turn out to be anti-heroes.

    Science is a key feature in cyberpunk, focusing on the ‘perfection’ of technology. Cybernetics, prosthetics, cyborgs and the internet are used often, creating a detailed story.


  • Dieselpunk bases its aesthetics that were popular in World War I and the end of World War II. It combines diesel-powered technology with retro-futuristic technology and postmodern beliefs. Often, the narrative is about conflict verses the undefeatable, for example nature or society. There is almost always a gray morality in characters. Unlike other genres it may not be very visual if the author chooses it not to be, but it does have elements of grime and glamour, prominent during the war eras. There was vast exploration, vast everything. Zeppelins, modern battleships, ocean liners, skyscrapers. This was also around the time the first mega corporations were beginning to make a name for themselves, and when mass political moments occurred.

    Fantasy can be applied to dieselpunk with flying fortresses, air pirates and early UFO serving as elements within the story. It can be adventurous, characters going to 'exotic' places such as Antarctica. Fictional places like the Shangri-La can also be explored, since the genre is quite broad and flexible.

    Dieselpunk can be separated into two categories: Ottensian or Piecraftian.
    Ottensian - An optimistic version of dieselpunk that focuses on a bright future and unstoppable growth in technology. Things are stylish and efficient and the setting leans more towards an utopia.

    Piecraftian - A more grim version of dieselpunk that focuses on the ongoing war, usually WW2. If it isn't then the world is based around one central government that rules the majority of the human race. They are usually the antagonist, portrayed as ruthless and violent to 'protect the people'. The setting leans towards a dystopia.


  • Magipunk is the cousin of cyberpunk with a magical element. In cyberpunk, stories are set in the future and feature advanced technology and scientific discoveries such as cybernetics and is juxtaposed with changes in society and social classes / order. Magipunk follows the same structure, but focuses on the use of magic with technology. Technology is powered by magic, and magical research and magical items are common in stories.

    Magical augmentation is the result of cybernetics and magic. Characters will often use magic to enhance their own bodies or even replace entire body parts with machinery. There may be certain items that one can use to enhance performance, tattoos, charms and more.

    Social structure in magipunk is usually very dystopian-like. The aristocrats and those who can afford it often live in safety away from the dangers of magic abusers, usually inside anti-magic barriers while the lower class live in slums that surround the aristocrats and never allowed in.

  • Solarpunk is a new eco-futurist speculative movement that focuses on a positive future where nature and technology coexist side by side. In solarpunk, themes such as renewable energy, peace, sustainability and green politics are explored. Solarpunk is different in that while other cyberpunk derivative subgenres, solarpunk stories feature an utopian society and not a dystopia like steampunk and biopunk.

    In solarpunk, the stories emphasize the vibrancy of the world, mixing in the naturalistic elements with technological ones. The usual antagonists are the government or large corporations that pollute the utopian world. People who dismiss green ideas and caring for the environment, or support the use of fossil fuels are considered the villains while environmentalists are the heroes of the story.


    Splatterpunk is a controversial movement within horror fiction from the 1980s that still sparks controversy up to today. It is distinguished by extreme depictions of violence, gore, often all graphic with no limits. It has been regarded as a revolt against the traditional horror story and defined as a literary genre characterized by 'graphically described scenes of an extremely gory nature'. It has been criticized as a genre that induces more 'nausea' than actual fear, but has also been praised for its survivalist themes and moral chaos in humans.

    Simply put, splatter and splatterpunk focuses on graphic portrayals of gore and graphic violence. It tends to display an interest in the vulnerability of the human body, and the theatricality of its mutilation. There is emphasis on visuals and descriptiveness, on detail and on technique. Splatterpunk thrives on a lack of social or moral order, where violence is the main spectacle to be beheld.

    A famous example of this in film is Blood Feast, a 1964 film that is also known as the first splatter film.

    This genre is not for people who are uncomfortable with graphic depictions of gore and violence and squeamish to such details, and those who prefer a more structured plot.

  • Steampunk is a popular subgenre of science fiction and science fantasy that focuses on technology from the 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery. It also takes inspiration from the fashion from that era. Steampunk works are often set in Victorian England or a similar location or in a fantasy world that is powered by steam, for example an apocalyptic future. Stories are written so that the level of sophisticated technology matches the modern era, but the overall environment has a more historical feel.

    While technology is a prominent component in steampunk, usually it ignores scientific plausibility simply because the construction of some inventions are too hard to explain. Steampunk themes focus on creativity and self-reliance, but with the Victorian influence there is also room for mystery and darker themes. Steampunk stories is also known for its sense of optimism. As a very visual genre, world-building is more focused on than characters. However, steampunk has a lot of character archetypes players can explore.


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wandering thoughts
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This reminds me that I need to work on the Horror subgenres I offered to help you with x_x
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[*screaming into the void intensifies*]
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@Sen, great job again! Might want to mention that clockpunk tends to have Renaissance-type settings and is often inspired by Da Vinci designs.

It's not really a derivative per se, but perhaps give splatterpunk a mention. Just to get all the -punks in one place. 8D
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Erotica, Dark Fantasy, High Fantasy, Steampunk, Victorian Era

Waaahhhhh *falls in love with the -punks!* Beautiful description and explanation! Just a heads up that the Biopunk image isn't showing up for me.
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Would you call James Cameron's "Avatar" a biopunk or a solarpunk work??


wandering thoughts
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Would you call James Cameron's "Avatar" a biopunk or a solarpunk work??
Judging by the movie premise, Avatar does use some heavily biopunk themes but the theme isn't centered on synthetic lifeforms or biology, or manipulating the DNA. I would call it solarpunk since it focuses on more environmental messages and themes as well as the need for cleaner and newer reserves for energy calling humans to the new planet, which kicks off the plot and drives the human side of the movie.
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