Splatterpunk is a literary sub-genre – or movement – that rebelled against the typical conformity of horror which is seen as mild by comparison. It was because of this tepid approach to horror that authors took descriptions of violence further and include scene of extreme violence, gore, mutilation and death.
The creation of Splatterpunk runs in a similar vein to how steampunk came into being. The name was coined as a joke by David J Schow, a horror writer who – in 1986 – was attending the twelfth World Fantasy Convention in Rhode Island. While sitting at the bar, it was being discussed that a number of authors along with himself were writing novels that were attacking the traditional structure of horror fiction. Along with Schow, other authors writing in Splatterpunk styles were Clive Barker, Joe Lansdale and Skipp & Spector. The difference between Splatterpunk and steampunk is that the founding steampunk authors were all friends and known to one another, whereas the Splatterpunk authors were simply doing what they were doing because they were fed up of boring, timid horror.
While the style of writing was as individual as each author, the way that they described the violence in each book was essentially the same. They refused to hold back with scenes of horror in order to take people out of the comfort zones of normal horror. There was also usually some weird sex scenes as well.
Because of the popularity of Cyberpunk at the time (the name steampunk wasn’t created) Schow declared “Yeah, I guess they’ll have to call us ‘splatterpunks’ now.” Everyone laughed but the name quickly gained momentum and within minutes it was all over the convention. A few months later and magazines started picking up on it.
Splatterpunk hasn’t been without it’s critics. Most people think that the most effective horror is left to the imagination, whereas Splatterpunk fans seemingly consider that lazy or boring. Robert Bloch said “there is a distinction to be made between that which inspires terror and that which inspires nausea” in a criticism of Splatterpunk. Contrastingly, critics Philip Nutman and R.S. Hadji think that it’s a great sub-genre and think that it “reflects the moral chaos of our times”.
In recent years, Splatterpunk has seen a decline in popularity, some would argue it was after the joke about the name wore off. The last book released with the Splatterpunk tag was in 1995. There is a small Splatterpunk ezine called simply “splatterpunkzine” and it’s updated sporadically with regular editions released.