Panellists: Ian Keeling, Angela Keeley, Gemma Files
AK: What is a –punk?
IK: Punk, to me, is an attitude. Skate punk, for instance. It’s anti-authoritarian. You find it in video games and anime.
GF: When you punk a genre, you’re deconstructing it.
AK: Punk comes from the music of the same name but is most closely identified with industrial and Goth sub-cultures. It’s an aesthetic. You can have diesel punk, steam punk, and desert punk (think Tank Girl or Mad Max).
GF: It can also transfer from fashion into fiction. “I’ve made this persona and I want a story that this persona can exist in.”
Q: How do you world build in a punk setting?
GF: There’s an element of alternative history. What if the industrial revolution had gotten stuck in the steam age? You look to the relevant historical period and research.
IK: You have to do enough research to make your world feel authentic.
AK: It’s retro-futurism. In fiction, look to H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), and Marlowe (Faust).
Q: I’d like to write in a(n) (Art) Deco punk setting. What should I aim for in terms of aesthetic?
GF: The aesthetic of an age is always attached to other things.
AK: Think of Gotham in Tim Burton’s Batman. The tortured but beautiful body was a fascination of the age. The 20’s were glittery and then the Great Depression happened.
Q: We haven’t mentioned cyberpunk yet. What about The Difference Engine?
AK: Charles Babbage was the inventor of the Babbage Engine, or the difference engine. In fiction the invention/thing itself is aware.
Q: Are there any contemporary punks?
AK: It’s hard to write an alternative history about now.
GF: Karl Schrader is a futurist, or rather an “ambiguist.” His question is, how do we make complicated ideas simple/accessible through story? The future is the only period that is wholly ambiguous.
AK: Colonialism belongs in this conversation. It has the transgressive and rebellious aspects required for a punk. Punk is always dystopian. Otherwise it’s gaslight fantasy. The prevailing mood of a dystopia is distrust of government.
IK: I’d argue that we live in a flawed society, not a dystopia.
GF: The horror iteration is splatter punk. It’s extreme in everything. It’s a response to mainstream horror authors like Stephen King, whom some people view as “tame.”
IK: Has punk lost its meaning?
AK: I don’t think so. Look at A Knight’s Tale. That’s medieval punk.
GF: Punk is intended to be offensive and in your face.
IK: Chaucer was a rowdy, irreverent writer. Was he punk, or meta? Is postmodernism the original punk?
GF: The Dadaists, maybe.
AK: Punk lacks the self-awareness of meta or postmodernism. A Clockwork Orange was not punk. It was a visceral reaction to the direction Burgess saw society heading in.
Q: Can you punk gender? How do you write a gender neutral being?
IK: Choose a pronoun/word and use it consistently, but realize that it will make your book more obscure/niche.
And that was time.
This was one of the most interesting panels I attended. It had a distinctively academic/intellectual bent that I kind of appreciated.
Tomorrow: How to get published with M.H. Callway, and Wordstock Sudbury. And things might get a little miscellaneous 😉