What Comes After Steampunk

There were lots of trends that geeks have latched onto in the last decade :

  • Aliens - Big heads, big eyes, big flying saucers and big anal probes
  • Zombies - Who knew that eating brains could be trendy, I just thought it was French
  • Steampunk - Don your rubber masks, men! We set out for the moon!
  • Pirates - I didn't see the fascination of peg legs and pederasty
  • Avatar - Oooh you're blue-- The hold your breath game!

I thought little green aliens were cool at the turn of the century. Likely, the interest came about from a nexus of X-Files, Alien Autopsies and UFO sightings. There are just as many UFO sightings and many of them are more spectacular and well captured. But, I think one day aliens will just arrive en masse to begin shopping and hitting our tourist locations. They won't shake hands with the President and get a ticker tape parade. The alien arrival will be similar to what happened when aliens last set foot on the East Coast of America-- 500+ years ago. Strange people arrived in odd vessels and met with the locals. There wasn't one united peoples of the Americas-- there were hundreds of nations/tribes. The aliens sometimes made contact with the locals and sometimes with the leaders, but mostly they showed up and pressed their alien ways on the people they encountered. The alien ways will be revolutionary and ruin the status quo.

mmm...brains...The next trend I got into were zombies. From a technical standpoint, I was really fascinated by the prospect of what you could do to make the appearance of rotten flesh and decay. I eventually did a line of zombie lawn ornaments because the zombie trend is all about tuned out perversions-- a little girl with a dolly becomes an undead little girl with headless bloodied doll. I made zombie gnomes and zombie rabbits. I think the zombie trend came from Dubya. We should explode with rage when an airport drone tells us to take off our shoes, but instead we sullenly de-shoe for Freedom. We probably do it because we're on drugs. At least 7% of America is on anti-depressants. In North America, there are more people on Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, etc. than there are people living in Canada. That's a lot of zombies; so many so that you either hide in your attic until the crisis passes, or your learn to love the Zombie Life (aka Living La Vida Muerta). Bush is gone. Too many people lost their jobs so they can't afford anti-depressants. The zombies have been decapitated.

Copper and leather is all the rage these days in geek circles. I think this is the one-ups-manship of the SCA lot run amok. You can only show up is so much finery that is loses all its wonder. So, many of them adopted the steampunk concepts like those from the Difference Engine (where Steampunk started after two key Cyberpunk authors, Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, made a book where the Babbage Engine made a 19th century world of wonders) and the works of Jules Verne. Steampunk is a fanciful concept that can be embraced by both Goths and disaffected SCA types. Unfortunately, the Victorian era is an era that is best left in the past. England expanded its culture to the whole of the globe, addicting and weakening the Chinese with opium; solidifying colonial rule in India and generally dividing the world into two camps: the English and the grotty. In the Victorian era, women could not vote and had almost no socio-political voice whatsoever. Workers had horrible conditions and were prone to being mangled or poisoned with no regard for their well being. Globalism, cultural intolerance, corporate irresponsibility and atrocities are very visible in our day-to-day news. In many ways we see as many of these problems as people saw in the 1880s. They lived and suffered with this situation. For us, we see the anecdotes piped through our Friend Feeds on Facebook and Twitter. Beyond the cultural/current events backdrop, we live in a wonder of high tech gadgets. A friend of mine has a tricorder app on his Android phone! The last time so many gadgets were in generous supply was during the by-gone era of Jules Verne and Pulp SF. Between an escapism from today's gadgets and the wonder of today's gadgets, Steampunk has a fertile ground for people's imaginations.

I think there are two possible next waves: Genepunk and Branejumping.
I think the next geek wave may be Genepunk. We see more people interfacing with genetic engineering and stem cells. Cancer treatments come with a stem cell chaser after other phases of the treatments kick in. Testing is underway to see if some gene therapy can turn the leptin sluggish like me into skinny dynamos. People are looking forward to the era where all their ills are cured with an injection and a week of cold-like symptoms. Past that, there will come the fantastic: clones who drudge at the office while you're in Maui; bat wings so that you can do some DIY hang gliding; infra-vision so that you go deer hunting during a lunar eclipse. Like Greys decals from the alien trend; or the zombie survival notebook, there will come geek-related doodads like a t-shirt that reads "Get my clone to do it" or "Fiji was made for gills."

The other concept is Branejumping. A Brane (similar to a membrane) comes from String Theory. The core of the concept is that there could be higher dimensional objects co-existing with our three apparent dimensions. Rudy Rucker's Postsingluar featured creatures from other dimensions that co-existed in nearly the same space as us. The distance between our Brane and another is less than the distance between you and your remote control. In Postsingular, supercomputing was used to calculate how to launch one's self into the other dimension. Arguably, it may be nearly impossible to send a UFO thousands of light years to hover over out little planet while vacationers take blurry video footage, but aliens on another Brane are jumping almost no distance at all. The whole fascination with Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos could be fit into Brane theory. The Fungi from Yuggoth may be much more comfortable one Brane over and visit when summoned by Cultists and their nubile sacrifices. How will this manifest itself in the cultural head-space left for Zombie flash mobs and Steampunk dress up? I don't know exactly. With the licenses for Lovecraft's works lapsed or lapsing soon, all of his extra-dimensional creatures could spill into the forefront of our pop-culture. Me: I'll keep making Cthulhu based trinkets.

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