Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bamboos and Coconuts

My fab friend, Ay-Leen has a liking for the term "bamboopunk", to refer to steampunk set in East Asian countries like China, where bamboo is plentiful. In further consideration, this is feasible, because the bamboo is extremely useful and it's possible to attain a level of industrialization using water technology supported by bamboo architecture. As stereotypical as it sounds to associate bamboo with China, it does make some sense, judging what resources are available to us.

(By the way, while technically bamboo is a grass, BAMBOO IS A TREE, OKAY. Nobody calls it the "bamboo grass", they call it "bamboo tree". I was at my uncle's place recently and he showed me a book called "Things Chinese" written by some white dude, and the authour very patronizingly said, "the Chinese do not recognize the bamboo as a grass." Well of course not, because nobody calls it "the bamboo grass", and besides which, if you think about grass, it doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence that this plant can, in fact, hold up your house.)

I told this to my cousins yesterday when I went to visit (cousins I don't see often enough; my dad's elder brother's kids, who are geniuses and smarter than me), and one of them said, "but what about the coconut tree?? It's the Tree of a Thousand Uses!" Bantering, we surmised that fuel, wood, architecture, punchcard tech and the like could possibly be supported with coconut trees. I personally would supplement this tech with bamboo myself.

Because the -punk label is overused to the point of ridiculousness, with people taking it too seriously (sorry you got caught in the trap, dieselpunk), I am not going to demean this new idea with the term "coconutpunk". (My friend Tariq wants to use "kelapank" - kelapa (Malay) + punk - but I will publicly veto this idea outright.)

(Except in certain Nusantaran circles.)

What local, region-specific resources have you guys been considering lately for your steampunk?


  1. You know what I heard pop up on a forum the other day for Asian steampunk? Silkpunk. And immediately, I thought, "But you can't build anything out of *only* silk and still have it blow stuff up!" XD

    It's an interesting term that also evokes the Silk Road (thus, extending the geographical region away from East Asia and into the Middle East) and implies the cross-cultural influence via economics instead of say, empire. Still don't like the term as compared to bamboopunk, though.


  2. I've seen silkpunk around, and I am sorry but I think we have to use either kelapapunk or kelapank.

  3. I've always been amused by "ricepunk" but I'm very aware that plenty of people feel uncomfortable about it as a term so I'm happy for it to remain a quirk of my blog.

    The other Surprisingly Useful Far-East-Affiliated substance would be soy. The old joke used to be that soy is secretly an animal as it provides us will all the substances that can be derived from cattle: milk, yarn, candles and oil.

    And google informs me that Ken Liu wrote a silkpunk story which sounds very promising.

  4. The Hero(n) Engine was a Greek form of steam power, and this becomes the basis for steampowered ships in the (high middle ages) Mediterranean setting of my book. Trouble is, the folks back then/there had lots of stuff the Victorian Brits had, especially steel and coal. I think it's perhaps more an issue of the counterfactual notion of Muslim scientists and technicians joining forces, so to speak. But I'm still researching the period...

  5. I've always seen this described as "silkpunk" too.

    "Bamboopunk" is what the Professor got up to in Gilligans Island.

    1. See above at Ay-Leen's comment on what "silkpunk" refers to.