Atomicpunk by Philip Reeve

A post by author/illustrator Philip Reeve caught my attention today, and I’m afraid  it’s not because I’m pleased with what he’s been saying.

In a post entitled Atompunk, Mr. Reeve takes note of a recent Guardian article about Steampunk, and pronounces his dislike for the genre. Fine, I say. You don’t like Steampunk. To each their own. Could you perhaps, tell me what it is about Steampunk that bothers you so much? Here’s the introductory paragraph to this entirely inane post:

The Guardian sat up and noticed Steampunk this week . The article itself is so cursory that it’s barely worth reading, but there are a lot of interesting comments, including one by Lyndon Ap Gwynfryn which echoes my own growing doubts: “Steampunk is the stupidest of all subgenres of speculative fiction…  To retrospectively associate contemporary Victorian science fiction, which was forward looking and progressive, with a self consciously anachronistic and frivolous genre like steampunk is deeply insulting to great writers like Wells and Verne.

And then he leaves his opinion at that. He doesn’t bother to expound upon why Steampunk upsets him; he simply lets some person on the internet speak for him. Brilliant. Unfortunately, it appears as though Mr. Reeve has to resort to others to form his opinions for him. Fine, that quality is quite common in our society, though not a trait I hold in high esteem. It’s also not very Punk to have other people think for you.

Mr. Reeve goes on for a while qq-ing about how authors only write Steampunk before deciding that he should make his own punk genre named Atompunk (which, mind you, was around long before he conjured up the term) and that this would be a far more interesting topic to explore than the backwards Steampunk.

Never mind that the very comment he cites as being his reason for being against Steampunk, the notion of retrospection and self-conscious anachronism, could easily be used against his precious idea of Atompunk. He’s certain that his Atompunk concept is so much more worthy of your time and imagination because Atompunk is clearly the metaphor for our own times that Steampunk could never be.

People, this is just stupid. Mr. Reeve’s reasons for disliking Steampunk are ethereal and unintelligent. All “period”-punks from Steam and Diesel to Atomic and Ren are bound together by an anachronistic Retrofuturism. We all have a lot in common. Rather than tear one genre down for the promotion of another, why not stand together as Retrofuturists united by the yesterday of tomorrow that never was?

And please, if you’re going to have an opinion about Steampunk, do try to form one yourself. 😉

5 comments on “Atomicpunk by Philip Reeve

  1. Larry Amyett says:

    This is a fantastic post! It is so well written. It’s not just the fact that you ripped his nonsense but you did it creatively and with style.

  2. James says:

    Well said! All Retro-futurists should stand together ,and not just because it’s easier to mow us down with your automatic weapon of Choice! When the revolution comes maybe we’ll let him hang out with the Lawyers.

  3. Adam says:

    Awesome post! Just read it and I completely agree. As Retrofuturists we need to accentuate the ways that we’re the same and respect the diversity within our “movement”. After all, aren’t petty bickering, ideological divisiveness, and clinging to unsupported opinions something that a contemporary “postmodernist” would do? On that note, Ap Gwynfryn (who he quoted) is also potentially wrong about Retrofuturism being trapped in the past. By fusing the technologial ideas of the past with the sensibilities of the present (or vice versa!), this is by definition the creation of something new. Also since the predicted “futures” never really took place, then bringing them to life now is actually making the progress that should have happened but never did. What do you think?


    A die-hard Atompunk from Pennsylvania

    • aeflint says:


      Thank so much for dropping by and leaving your comments. I’m very much impressed by your perspective on retrofuturism and agree entirely. You’ll find in my other posts that I insist upon a division between Neo-Victorian and Steampunk precisely because Steampunk, and the other period-punks are about creating something entirely new. There’s no way these various era-punks are caught in the past, our whole purpose is to subvert that which we see as undesirable and backwards about the past and uplift that which we love into a new, revolutionary present and future. The past is for reenactors and historians.

      Thanks again for saying hello! 🙂

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