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March 18, 2012 / Wythe

Funguspunk: new game, new name(s)

Steampunk, steampunk, steampunk… It’s everywhere today. But what is it? I mean, how do we decode steampunk pur sang from simply “olde schoole” kitsch, from art made of leather and metal that in no way implies a reimagining of the colonial/steam era, a defiance of history and freeing-up of the possibilites engendered or implied by the dynamic of fading Romanticism + rapidly intensifying technologism?

From The Tasneem Project: A Muslim Steampunk Handbook:


The steam engine is a culturally and sensually refulgent technology. It crosses the threshold of machine and nature, roaring like a thunderous beast in a timbre crafted from human angles and planes and joints. It epitomises the leap from agrarian to industrial technologies, and grabs at the senses with its engineered edges and surfaces, its vaporous hushes, its sweet tang of soot and smoke, and its repetitious cacophony of creaks and clunks and snorts and rattles.

Maritime turbine technology pervades the mythopoetic universe of Muslim steampunk and the direction of its fantasy-historical narrative. Like the steam engine of the industrial revolution, the steamship of the twelfth century Mediterranean is civilizationally transformative. Steamships provide both a cheaper and more rapid means of transport, as well as military advantage. Both these pluses are themes to explore in Muslim Steampunk stories.


Punk means homemade, rules are for fools, fuck the establishment. The “punk” in Muslim Steampunk is thus the place where familiar steampunk tropes are subverted and the traditional short story and novel formats are forced to analyse contemporary issues of culture, identity and meaning. This is the place where the boundaries of creative writing and essay become irrelevant, and the realms of fact and fiction and reason and description blur into one another other; where the border between biography and social analysis is indiscernible, and cynicism and despair are smashed aside in favour of revolutionary hope.

I love this definition: Steam implies an organic, man–machine assemblage, a primitive cybernetics that already implies future technologies. Punk implies DIY, anti-hierarchal, anti-state strategy. In general, I think “steampunk,” read this way, works.

And yet… for my purposes, “steampunk” is limiting. Really what we’re talking about are dinosaurs, spores, nanofluids, quasicrystals, the ghosts of millennia-dead computer-insects… Here are some new, non-steam based punks (punx?):

  • Funguspunk (funkpunk?) – Biopunk gone spore-ific. People eat weird, extreme microbes and bugs. People wear fungal armor. Dark Sun halflings. Underground life. Spore-clouds and slime molds.
  • Futurepunk – Androids, replicants, Gibson, steampunk with lasers. Necromunda. Warhammer 40K: Inquisition, with more rats. Swarms of aliens, eyelessly impregnating people. Nanoswarms reshaping ecology on a whim.
  • Grimpunk – Dinosaurs and zombie dinosaurs. Chainsaws everywhere. Conan meets Tarantino. Skeleton dinosaurs with laser eyes! Fuck yes!
  • Sporepunk – Infected, venom-fungus, spore-zombies, shades of Halo. The station is infected. The nation is going yellow with rapidly replicating alien microbes. Transition from weirdpunk or futurepunk to the post-apocalyptic funguspunk.
  • Weirdpunk – Lovecraftian nemeses with strange names and wack, mean cults. Some government agencies know; others (the presidents, prime ministers), kept dumb. The shoggoth tanks are grown under the megalopoli, by the dark agencies and the DIY witchdoctors. Both routinely go missing… You are an investigator? A sorcerer combatting something let loose that should not have been?

Other X-punks out there…?


One Comment

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  1. Widsith Workshop / Mar 18 2012 3:29 pm

    Very well written and entertaining. Though, I wonder if “punk” has diverted from it’s original meaning and is now a term paired with anything considered a sub-culture, e.g. cyberpunk, dieselpunk.

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