Dreadpunk. It’s scary stuff.

I’ve started a new writing project that will definitely be my next published work. And (wouldn’t you know) it isn’t either of the two novels I had begun planning and researching! Oh no, dear friends, this one is far more chilling and belongs in the genre of…

Dreadpunk logo

Dreadpunk is a term coined by horror maven Derek Tatum, who runs a blog of the same name. On it, he defines dreadpunk as:

“current popular culture that draws upon the imagery of pre-through early 20th century horror literature. As a term, dreadpunk is used as shorthand for contemporary Gothic horror works set in an often stylized past. It’s a tongue-in-cheek term derived from the penny dreadfuls…”

Dreadpunk was discussed at last month’s DragonCon. According to attendee reporter Aja Romano of website The Daily Dot:

“…the word implies a subversive take on fog-drenched Victoriana, tales of the supernatural mixed with late 19th-century aesthetics, and the recent wave of Gothic horror…”

Fantasy author Cherie Priest sees dreadpunk as a vehicle for social commentary:

“When you say something is punk, punk is shorthand for transgression,” Priest said to Daily Dot. The prefix describes “the form of transgression. You challenge the dominant paradigm of what frightens you, and you challenge the dominant paradigm of who has power.”

The Daily Dot even went so far as to define the 3 Laws of Dreadpunk, although Tatum himself clearly views the term as something less serious.

  1. Dreadpunk is based in horror or dark fantasy, with a particular emphasis the word “dread”: horror by implication or unseen.

  2. Dreadpunk is set within or informed by pre- or early-20th century horror—definitely no later than Lovecraft, with Victorian London serving as the default touchstone for the Dreadpunk aesthetic.

  3. Dreadpunk is self-aware and subversive, while still emphasizing classic horror traditions.

Here’s what I like about dreadpunk: the idea of using horror to undermine and subvert authority. Especially self-proclaimed authority, of which there was much in the Victorian British Empire. This could mean authority derived from social class, wealth, race, religion, “civilization”, “nobility”, or wielding a big stick. The true horrors of Victorian times were fuelled by new forms of authority, be they the cruel capitalism of the industrial revolution or violent colonial expansion. I see dreadpunk as a conduit through which the ravens can come home to roost.

I’ll reveal more about my dreadpunk work in another post very soon. In the meantime, start thinking about your deepest, darkest fear. Not now, but as you close your eyes for the last time… tonight.

Dreadpunk logo created by Aristotle C. Pramagioulis.

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