Your Cart is Empty

Cyberpunk, Steampunk And Other Punk Universes.

7 min read

We're going to take you cover the Universe neighboring Style Steampunk in just a few minutes. Do Cyberpunk and Steampunk have something in common? Discover seemingly separate genres that are very close in community and ideas. Discover little known sub-genres, some of which are extraordinary. So here we go, starting with the granddaddy of them all...



This is the science fiction literary genre that created the trend of adding "punk" to various words to describe a new genre. Cyberpunk is characterized by a dark and dystopian vision of the future. Technology has reached a point where it has merged with humanity.

The world has become unhealthy by pollution, overpopulation and oppression of the so-called corporations that have surpassed the nation-states which are now empty shells. In the street it's the matrix (an ultra-connected internet) and implants, ghettos and gangs, fluorescent lights and digital fights.

This vision has become so ubiquitous in books and movies that it is the default way we think about the future, even though we live it in many ways. And for good reason, we are soon to be in the period described by the 80's in Neuromancer, the quintessential example of the cyberpunk novel, by William Gibson. Although it came out two years after Blade Runner and is not recognized as the first cyberpunk novel, it is arguably the best example of the genre and has become synonymous with cyberpunk.

And if the analogy with our time is shocking, we are still far from the extremely darkuniverse of Riddley Scott's movie, which is the cinematic reference of the cyberpunk universe. Curiously, Blade Runner is much more cyberpunk than the book on which it is based, "Do androids come from electric sheep?" by Philip K. Dick.114

Little by little the genre has sat down to almost disappear today. The genre needs to reinvent itself and to get away from our present which has joined fiction on too many points. Our present becomes even darker in many aspects. In contrast to the futuristic style ...


So what do the two genres have in common except the ending. Well, not much in terms of style, aesthetics or even themes. Of course technology is at the center of the genres, cyberpunk is about the future that could be, steampunk is about the past that could have been. But apart from that, the term was poorly chosen by K.W. Jeter. You probably know the story, he just wanted to make a mark and split the genres.

The strength of Steampunk is a timeless uchrony, although it is marked as rolling off the Victorian era. Thus it is easy to play with the codes of the industrial revolution, steam and gears and to place all this in another universe. Another strength is the magic, the fantasy, included in the steampunk. Everyone is aware that to make this machinery work would have been impossible in the Victorian era (automatons, computers etc...). Fantastic and supernatural elements are often integrated in futuristic fictions without any problem. But isn't there any similarity?

What brings the two genres together has more to do with the community and the soil that gave birth to these dystopian universes. It is the refusal of conformity, of the consumerist world and of a dark vision of the future. Where cyberpunk predicts that the future could be dehumanized and gives up, steampunk is a bit more optimistic and committed. It is possible to manufacture oneself, to recycle, to reuse and to be each one responsible of its future, without waiting that one works us.

Now let's see the neighbouring universes which are most of the time, sub-genres of the cyberpunk or the steampunk.


This type of science fiction is a product of the 21st century, which started around 2001, although various movies and books have played with this idea for decades. The simplest way to describe Dieselpunk is steampunk, where the technology of the industrial revolution is replaced by the combustion engine. The technology is more recent and the learning of styles and worldviews are those of the late 1930s until the 50s. Instead of airships made of wood and brass, think of zeppelins made of steel.

The reference period is the Second World War with all the clichés of the period sprinkled with fantasy. It is about big improbable machines and diesel engines emitting a black smoke. Dieselpunk is much more present in movies and television than in books, like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow or The Rocketeer. There is, however, a growing contingent of novels, of which the best known is probably the series of Lives of Scott Westerfeld.

Dieselpunk ends where peace and the Cold War takes place . ...

The Atompunk

Yes, there is a genre for almost every decade of the 20th century. The Atompunk takes the mid-century modern style, the nuclear revolution and the space Sputnik and mixes them all together to create something quite slick and glossy. The humor is more than welcome in this peculiar period that is sometimes post-apocalyptic or all-encompassing.

The Fallout, Futurama, The Jetsons and The Incredibles movies are good examples of this genre. Orbit City, from the cartoon The Jetsons, is a great example of the genre. Atompunk has its own punk elements, taking place in the context of McCarthyism, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war. Technology was advancing rapidly and society was struggling to keep up. The genre has a fertile ground to re-imagine these social struggles.

One wonders if Atompunk is a synonym for Raypunk and Teslapunk. The main difference is that they don't usually include nuclear energy, but have the same aesthetic.It is not surprising that they have been popular in recent years. There is also a real renaissance in mid-century modern inspired architecture and design, so perhaps we will see the popularity of Atompunk grow?

Speaking of acidic and colorful worlds, here is another. ...


An unclassifiable style that is quite different and has its roots in the imaginary and the world of dreams. The reference is like any other steampunk story from the Victorian era in Lewis Caroll's famous Alice in Wonderland. Another classic comes to mind, the Wizard of Oz by L.F. Baum. The Dreampunk is therefore routing or even joking, we are dressed as a mad hatter or as Tinkerbell. The accessories come from magical universes and finally the only limit is our imagination.

These are colorful and surreal universes populated with mystical creatures, unicorns and dragons are quite well represented. Little by little they have moved away from magic and towards technology, often mechanical. A kind of steampunk associated with the fairy world. A more recent example of these alternative worlds is Arthur and the Minimoys or the adaptations of Philip K. Dick's novels (Total Recall, Minority Report or Blade Runner, here you go). These works have in common the imaginary, the conflict between reality and reality... do the characters have an imaginary? Am I really "me" or the memories of another?


Biopunk is the biological cousin of Cyberpunk. They often run in a very similar time period, or Biopunk is the successor of Cyberpunk. Metal and technology are replaced by biological hacking, genetic modification and organic enhancement. Biopunk asks existential questions further than Cyberpunk. Technologies such as genetic tracking, custom-made buildings and massive cloning are common themes. Welcome to Gattaca.

Cyberpunk is often about man versus machine, but biopunk addresses the themes of man versus post-human. The big question that biopunk asks is: where does the human end? When neither genre is pushed to the extreme, you can find biopunk and cyberpunk elements in the same framework.

But many authors imagine the cyber technology of cyberpunk as the more primitive cousin of biopunk's bio-engineering. Jurassic Park or the Activision game Prototype both embrace the implications of biopunk's bio-engineering, but not its aesthetic. The short films Love Death and Robots on Netflix, is a recent example that embraces both technology and aesthetics.

Western punk or Cattlepunk

Different names for the same thing, the little-known science fiction genre describes a futuristic western, a Wild West that never existed. Many examples in this genre are underground, some gems and others a bit bizarre. If you'd like the Lone Ranger to be equipped with unlikely gadgets, the Cattlepunk genre may be for you.

The most famous example isWild Wild West, it is technically the first steampunk TV series. Just imagine an alternative Wild West that has advanced technology, based on steam engine. Other examples of films in this genre, Cowboys & Aliens and of course the standard Rand Back to the Future 3.

Here you go for all these universes often abundant, which compete of ideas and ingenious concepts. We did not mention the most famous and sometimes anecdotal ones.

The sub-genres in "Punk"

  • Clockpunk : a steampunk centered on the renaissance which likes anachronistic mechanisms. We often find Da Vinci's onard as in the TV series Da Vinci's Demons or the game Assassin's Creed 2.
  • Décopunk: a pure, brilliant and very art déco version of steampunk. The fantastic films or with this aesthetic of the 30s are representative, as the Shadow (1994). Nanopunk: a version of cyberpunk close to biopunk where the central theme is nanobiology.
  • Raypunk: very close or even similar to atompunk. This genre focuses on space and has little interest in atomic energy. Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon are very representative.
  • Rococopunk : close to clockpunk and therefore to steampunk, the aesthetics is that of the rococo period of the 18th century. Used especially in fashion by Vivienne Westwood.
  • Solarpunk :a sub-genre of cyberpunk, which is the opposite of its model. The future is optimistic. The themes are technology and social inequality.
  • Steelpunk: a modified dieselpunk where technology is closer to the 80s. The universe is often post-apo like in Transperceneige or Terminator.
  • Stonepunk : an anachronistic story as in The Flintstones which serves as a pretext for a satire of the current era associated with a humor of the past.
  • Teslapunk : named after the famous inventor. A science fiction where the magnet and the electric energy is in the center of the story and the visuals.

I hope that you have covered new universes, you just have to explore them. Thanks for reading ...

Stay in Touch