Is Dreadpunk a new subculture?

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Image copyright Admirion. Used with permission.

There are a couple of articles doing the rounds at the moment covering Dreadpunk. It was announced at DragonCon 2015 by Derek Tatum as a way to describe the bout of modern Gothic Horror that is becoming more popular by the year. Tatum is quick to defend Dreadpunk because it’s seen a lot of people denounce it as trying to steal away Gothic Horror and Gaslamp Fantasy Horror. He writes on his website “dreadpunk is used as shorthand for contemporary Gothic horror, suspense, and fantasy works set in an often stylized past. It’s a tongue-in-cheek term derived from the penny dreadfuls.”

Similarly steampunk is a tongue-in-cheek name to describe modern day written science fiction with a late 19th century element. Dreadpunk is used to describe the myriad of new television programs, films and books that are being produced featuring some kind of horror themed story set in a bleak Victorian era landscape. Well known stories bearing this description are the Penny Dreadful programs starring Eva Green and Timothy Dalton, Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp and The Woman in Black starring Harry Potter.

Unlike steampunk, Dreadpunk has three rules – or laws – which is surprising given that the name “Dreadpunk” is simply used by Tatum and his friends to easily identify a genre as opposed to it being an actual subculture requiring definition and borders. Still, I’ve found two articles on Dreadpunk on Daily Dot and n3rdabl3 and they both list these laws:

  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.

The website that Tatum set up (www.dreadpunk.com) is a blog style and interestingly he’s been posting on it from as far back as 2012, so these articles which say there’s a newly created genre are a little off course. It’s been newly announced only, it seems.

One thought on “Is Dreadpunk a new subculture?

  1. Thanks for writing this. While a lot of the reports meant well, it became like the telephone game with few people bothering to go back and read what I actually wrote.

    The “three laws” came out of the Dragon Con panel. Someone in the audience asked what “the three laws of dreadpunk” were, and me and the panelists yanked them out of thin air, expecting that to be the last we’d ever hear of it.

    As far as I’m concerned, dreadpunk is just shorthand for the revival of Gothic horror in modern movies, books, television, et al. The term has been adopted by some fans of that style of media, but it was never intended as a subculture.

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