Pop culture is fragmenting. Even as the Internet pulls us together, unites us with millions of others who love Battlestar Galactica or Lost, our tastes and interests are fragmenting. It used to be that a small town nerd had only the other nerds in his small town. Nerds would huddle in bathroom stalls and trade nerdery generously. Sci-fi, fantasy, metal, stuff with ninjas on it, all this was nerd currency. One had tastes, but one wasn’t picky. Even if you wanted nothing more in life than to be the wax in Legolas’s pointy ears, you still hung out with people who spoke Klingon, or wore Iron Maiden t-shirts. You didn’t have a choice. The nerds, you stuck together.

As the comedian Patton Oswalt argues here, then the Internet happened. Suddenly, millions of bathroom stalls were connected by a series of tubes. Suddenly, everyone loved Star Wars. Suddenly, there were too many nerds.

So, nerdery fragmented. It formed subcultures within subcultures. Now if you go to a Renaissance Faire, you won’t just see geeks in medieval armor, or pimply dorks in pantaloons. No, now there will be Steampunk kids, too, wearing goggles and carrying large wrenches.

It can be confusing. Which is why I’m here to help. I will be the Geek Virgil to your Dork Dante as we traverse the darkest pits of the Nerdferno.

Now, you probably know the major nerd subcultures. There are the Trekkies, the Trons, the Tolkienites, the X-Philes, the Otaku, the Star Warsians, the Batmen.

What you may not know are the historical-era/technology aesthetic subcultures that are currently blooming all over the nerd landscape. I mentioned the largest above, Steampunk. Steampunk is a sci-fi/fantasy aesthetic movement based on the idea that wearing goggles is neat and that the spaceships would be cooler if they were powered by steam. It is, in other words, the grafting of Victorian Era fashion and technology onto futuristic themes and stories.

The name “Steampunk” itself is spin on the oldest, most venerable of the oldtechpunks, Cyberpunk, which was invented by Williams Gibson, and is characterized by cyberspace technology, noir plots, grim urbanscapes, neon, and unrealistic amounts of rain. Think Blade Runner, think The Matrix (but try not to think about the Matrix sequels, as that will hurt your brain and you have more learning to do before this post is done).

But as nerd culture simultaneously congeals and fragments even further, new oldtechpunk genres and subcultures are forming. It’s overwhelming. Which, again, is why you have me. Below you’ll find a convenient breakdown of the oldtechpunk sub-cultures. After reading it, you will be fully prepared to mock your local nerds with greater insight, knowledge, and effectiveness. I mean, “hey dork!” is hurtful, but “hey dork, Steampunk is lame!” will land like a quaint, steam-powered nuclear bomb in their soul.

To wit:


Historical Era of Inspiration: Neolithic Era

Characterized by: Spaceships made of rocks

Iconic Clothing: Sabre-tooth tiger tooth necklace

Object of Lust: Raquel Welch poster that serves as plot device in The Shawshank Redemption; Betty Rubble

Foundational Text: The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas


Historical Era of Inspiration: Whenever it is that the Amish wish they lived

Characterized by: Spaceships made of yarn

Iconic Clothing: Sweaters

Object of Lust: Betsy Ross

Foundational Text: Martha Stewart and the Conquest of Crobolo VII


Historical Era of Inspiration: 19th Century

Characterized by: Steam-powered spaceships; goggles

Iconic Clothing: Goggles

Object of Lust: Queen Victoria in her later years

Foundational Text: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind


Historical Era of Inspiration: Great Depression

Characterized by: Oil-powered spaceships

Iconic Clothing: Fedoras

Object of (Secret, Unspoken) Lust: Don Draper

Foundational Text: There Will Be Blood on Mars


Historical Era of Inspiration: Now

Characterized by: Rocket fuel-powered spaceships

Iconic Clothing: Jeans

Object of Lust: Taylor Swift

Foundational Text: Justin Bieber YouTube Videos


Historical Era of Inspiration: The 1920’s; The 1980’s; The Future

Characterized by: Rain, poor lighting

Iconic Clothing: Black trench coats

Object of Lust: Trinity

Foundational Text: William Gibson’s Neuromancer


Historical Era of Inspiration: 23rd Century

Characterized by: Dilithium Crystal-powered spaceships

Iconic Clothing: Colorful unitards

Object of Lust (Spoken): Uhura; Object of Lust (Unspoken): Spock

Foundational Text: The Empire Strikes Back


Historical Era of Inspiration: The Apocalypse

Characterized by: Divine Radiance-powered spaceships

Iconic Clothing: Togas

Object of Lust: Whore of Babylon

Foundational Text: The Bible v. 2.1


3 thoughts on “Etsypunk

  1. * slow clap *

    Wow, like, so much to say. Bullet points (i guess):

    1. I am going to try very hard to make etsypunk happen. VERY hard.
    2. The line about ‘unrealistic amounts of rain’ made me laugh so hard/took me by surprise in such a way that my cold lunch pizza would have sprayed out my nose in a milk-like fashion, were that physically possible. Instead i nearly choked to death, so win/win?
    3. lara and I just started watching Battlestar yesterday. And I’m currently reading Dead Until Dark. we might just be on the verge of a western Mass nerd blackhole.
    4. Ze goggles! Zey do nothing!
    5. how is it that David Bowie could function happily in any of these genres?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s