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What the Hell is Cybergoth?
A Look at Cyberpunk's
Bastard Children

by Andrew Mayer

Splatterpunk. Cybergoth. Steampunk. Ribofunk! There's no doubt that one of cyberpunk's greatest legacies to genre fiction has been its ability to generate evocatively named spin-offs. In the last few years, a number of anthologies and publishers have co-opted the phrase in an attempt to generate interest in other genre "revolutions".

Much of what defines cyberpunk is an attitude, a stance taken, not only in relation to the world, but to the sacred cows of the SF, as well. Horror's response to this style revolt is a movement called "Splatterpunk" (The anthology is edited by Paul M. Samron.) Led by Clive Barker ("Books of Blood," "Damnation Game," "Weaveworld," "The Great and Secret Show"), the authors brought together under this title share a love of gore and a fearless glee in dismembering not only their characters, but hopefully, their reader's defenses.

Recently two well-known names in c-punk, K.W. Jeter and Lewis Shiner, have been putting out horror novels. (In Shiner's case, the move looks permanent.) While they obviously bring the same sensibilities to their horror writings that they did to SF, their recent works do not fit the Splatterpunk category. The "punks" of horror are swallowing whole the ideology and aesthetics of cyberpunk, while the authors who created the parent genre are trying to move beyond it.

It was Bruce Sterling and William Gibson's book "The Difference Engine" that was first called "Steampunk", but many older titles, such as K.W. Jeter's "Infernal Machines", and even Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" could probably fit this category. It's a term now being used to describe stories about the dark underside of the industrial revolution and its repressive Victorian period. Steampunk is about the masses first abusive marriage to sophisticated machinery.

As a term, "Cybergoth" may be the most meaningless. It was first used by the British roleplaying game company "Games Workshop" to describe their "Dark Future" series, an alternate Earth that has been ruined by Eldritch magic. It might best be described as "The Road Warrior" meets Stephen King. The quality of Dark Future is slightly higher than might be expected, due mainly to the firm hand of David Pringle, editor of "Interzone" magazine.

It may be that new variations on
"Cyberpunk" will taper off, as science fiction lurches towards the next "big thing". But many people claim that the above offshoots aren't movements anyway, but rather, the opportunistic creations of publishers and advertisers attempting to generate cross-sales between otherwise unrelated genres. The fact is, much the same thing was said ad naseum about the term cyberpunk itself. In light of the intensity with which these terms and movements continue to take hold, its seems likely that there's more to it than marketing

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