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Sunday, August 12, 2012

On Atom Punk

1958 paperback edition of a Ray Cummings sci fi novel
Photo Credit: Amazon/Ace Books




There's been a heat wave here in the Sacramento valley for the last two days. It reached 104 degrees today is what I understand. I know that's nothing compared to other regions in the nation and throughout the world, but if you're a native of this part (like me) you would think the sun is moving closer to the earth at rapid speed! Kind of like in the 1951 movie When Worlds Collide. Which brings me to my discussion here.

For the past week I've been working on a new short story of mine that's supposed to be an atom punk story. A lot of you probably don't know what atom punk is. It's just another -punkism of science fiction that derived from cyberpunk like steam punk did, only instead of cyber futures and alternative steam powered futures, it deals with alternative futures based on the 1950s/'60s anticipation of future society. Examples would be similar to what you would see in the cover illustrations of sci fi pulp novels and magazines of the '50s: cities of glass tube towers and bullet shaped rockets. As far as anything made today goes, the sci fi web series Mercury Men is a good example of atom punk. It's really good. Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to finish the whole series of what has been produced to date. To add to the atom punk style, it was deliberately filmed in black and white yet with a good balance of today's special effects. It's reminiscent of 1950s sci fi TV but also1930s and '40s movie serials (e.g. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers).

An example of a full length atom punk film is Matt Mercury [http://www.mattmercury.com/] that's supposed to be releasing either in theatres or on streaming television. It's an indie film and so there hasn't been a whole lot of talk on it, but based on what I've read it seems to have promise. You may want to check the movie's official web site periodically for updates.

Examples of atom punk literature? Unfortunately there's really not a whole lot out there, and the little there is is very obscure. They say that William Gibson's short story "The Gernsback Continuum" is a good example, but in my opinion it only comes close. The alternative future in that story is based more on the 1930s perception of future society which gets more closer to the art deco style of that time, though the '50s did inherit a lot of art deco elements. It's a great story, but it may be more correctly classified as diesel punk. What kind of punkism is that? The movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a good example. Diesel punk involves alternative futures based more on World War II era air crafts more than on space crafts.
But here's an author's website, Philip Reeve's, who is not only very knowledgeable of atom punk but is also one of those few authors (besides mwa) who is coming out with a story in the sub-genre, particularly a series of novels for young adults. But don't make the mistake of thinking only teens and pre-teens will get enjoyment out of this series. Look at what happened with Harry Potter in the fantasy genre!

The story I'm working on I consider to be atom punk. However, probably the only overt element of that sub-genre in this story is a vacuum tube that a person's holographic image is stored in. But I am in the process of putting in predominantly transparent glass architecture scenes so maybe that will give it a more atom punk flavour. I'll let you know what happens next time. You're probably wondering why I want to put my story in an atom punk setting. I'll go over that next time too. Now you have an even better reason to come back here next week! So . . .

Until then . . .

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