What You Can Get Away With » the sky road

Greenpunk

A couple of weeks ago, Matt Staggs suggested a new SF movement which he dubbed Greenpunk (it was also discussed on IO9) which would be:

a technophilic spec-fic movement centered on characters using and being affected by the use of DIY renewable resources, recycling and repurposing. GreenPunk would emphasize the ability of the individual – and his or her responsibility – for positive ecological and social change.

It’s an interesting idea, though one I doubt will achieve much success beyond a niche, partly because genres tend not to be very successful when someone defines them, then waits for the stories to come along and fill in the gap. Cyberpunk and Steampunk were both terms coined to describe already existing trends within SF, rather than Gibson, Sterling or whoever declaring they were creating a whole new movement before putting pen to paper.

Besides that, for me the proposed ‘greenpunk’ has a problem in its definition – and not just a silly-sounding name – in that it’s presupposing that anyone who wishes to write something within the nascent genre has already chosen their side in the ideological debate. While SF can occasionally work as ideological polemic, I find the idea of a genre that demands writers ‘emphasize the ability of the individual – and his or her responsibility – for positive ecological and social change’ oddly didactic, even if it is assuming that everyone agrees what that ‘positive ecological and social change’ might be. After all, for some SF authors replacing the Earth with an equivalent mass of computronium nanobots while humans become solely electronic patterns in information space is a very positive change, though there may just be some debate as to how green that outcome might be.

Of course, the interesting thing is that while no actual greenpunk stories appear to exist as yet, you could argue that novels critical of the genre already do exist. Ken MacLeod‘s The Sky Road, for instance, is almost a satire on some of Staggs’ suggestions, especially as it depicts a society where those who would be the most avid proclaimers of support for greenpunk being the Elite who run it.

But maybe I’m wrong, and greenpunk will sweep the world of SF before it, replacing what came before with its True Knowledge. And then, as Michael Moorcock notes, like dominant waves before it, it will likely collapse on itself and die:

These days, you can barely pick up a speculative fantasy without finding a zeppelin or a steam-robot on the cover. Containing few punks and a good many posh ladies and gents, most of these stories are better described as steam operas.

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