At the B&N SCI-FI & FANTASY BLOG, Sam Reader discusses Bruce Sterling’s PIRATE UTOPIA in Why “Decopunk” Deserves to Be Bigger than Steampunk.
A couple decades and a few art movements down the road from steampunk lies the world of decopunk. Drawing from the sleek, streamlined, futuristic aesthetic of the art deco movement, decopunk takes the glitz and glamor of the Roaring ’20s in science-fictional directions, frequently sprinkling in glittering elements of the weird and pulp fiction of the era.
Decopunk worlds are sleek and stylish, full of danger, awesome gadgets, strange magic, and high-flying action. More than that: the best of them go beyond the glimmer and gloss to provide elements of satire and social commentary that drawn a line between the world of today and a past that walked the line between social and scientific revolution and a fearful attempt to maintain the status quo at any cost.
Bruce Sterling’s raucous, satirical alternate history has a leg up on most decopunk novels, seeing as it’s both set during the rise of art deco, and focused on the futurist movements that invented the aesthetic in the first place. But while he makes use of the trappings of the genre, his aim is more to demystify the time period and deconstruct the usual gee-whiz trappings of super-science. Instead, Sterling presents the terrifying, still slightly comic and cartoonish fable of Fiume, a tiny post-World War I republic whose quick rise to power as an anarcho-syndicalist nation leads them first to form a military dictatorship, and then get swept up in the worldwide rise of fascism. The result is a ruthless, pinpoint satire that keeps the “punk” in “decopunk,” and overflows with cool technology and occult intrigue.
In January for the third consecutive month, the book appeared on the Borderlands Books best seller list.
1. KINDRED: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL by Octavia Butler and John Jennings
2. BABYLON’S ASHES by James S.A. Corey
3. EMPIRE GAMES by Charles Stross
4. MINIATURES: THE VERY SHORT FICTION OF JOHN SCALZI by John Scalzi
5. INVISIBLE PLANETS edited by Ken Liu
6. PIRATE UTOPIA by Bruce Sterling
7. THE COLD EYE by Laura Anne Gilman
8. REJECTED PRINCESSES by Jason Porath
9. LOVECRAFT COUNTRY by Matt Ruff
10. EVERFAIR by Nisi Shawl
On his site IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE RIGHT…, Ian Sales writes about maintaining a positive balance on the TBR.
I try to read more books than I buy each month – or buy less books than I read, I guess it depends on how you look at it. Otherwise, the To Be Read pile would just continue to grow, and it’s already stupidly large. And this month, I’ve actually been quite good, and not bought a silly number of books.
Four recent sf novels. They were actually published in 2016, but I only got around to buying them this year. PIRATE UTOPIA is the first novel-length work from Sterling since 2009’s The Caryatids (which I liked a lot). The Corporation Wars 2: Insurgence is the, er, second book in a trilogy. Daughter of Eden is the third book of a trilogy. And Survival Game is the sequel to 2014’s Extinction Game.
For more info on PIRATE UTOPIA, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover and illustrations by John Coulthart