Wednesday, November 4, 2015

An Interview With Derek Tatum - The Origins of #Dreadpunk


The Punkettes are thrilled to introduce you to Derek Tatum, the man behind the recently coined term "Dreadpunk". We reached out to Derek via twitter and he very graciously agreed to an interview.

Q1 - Welcome to the blog! We're so excited to have you here! How does it feel to have coined the term "dreadpunk"? We sort of feel like it's history in the making. In case you hadn't guessed yet, we here at The Punkettes heartily approve!

Thanks! It feels kind of odd to have coined a term that people have started to use. I knew it had arrived when I started hearing it used by people who I've never met. I guess there was more of a need for it than I imagined.

Q2 - Can you tell us a bit more about the moment you proposed the term "dreadpunk"? What triggered the thought at the time?

I've long been a fan of horror/dark fantasy with a pre- through early 20th century setting, but presented with a contemporary sensibility. I was at a local science fiction/fantasy convention in January when the name "shudderpunk" came to me. Obviously cyberpunk and steampunk are the most prominent, but I was also seeing mannerspunk, stonepunk... but probably the biggest trigger was seeing D.B. Jackson's "Thieftaker" novels being described as "Tricorn Punk." I haven't read those books (sorry, David!) but the author is a cool guy with a sense of humor, and I thought, half in jest, "maybe I can create a name for period-piece contemporary Gothic horror." I had seen the term "costume horror" before, but I wasn't crazy about using that. My first choice would have been Gothic-Punk, but that term was trademarked by White Wolf Games back in the 1990's. I assume someone still holds that trademark.

I pitched the name "shudderpunk" to a friend of mine, but she thought I was referring to the things on windows. "Dreadpunk" was next; I told some of my writer friends, and it stuck. Sooner or later, someone was bound to do it, so it might as well be me.

Q3 - We have our own opinions on why dreadpunk is vastly different from gothic horror (and why dreadpunk needed its own name), but we'd love to hear yours:

It's better to think of dreadpunk as a subset of Gothic horror rather than a separate genre altogether. I coined dreadpunk specifically to refer to works created within the past 25 years that utilize a period setting, though as a website, dreadpunk.com casts its net a little wider than that. Another reason is because some works do tend to lean more towards historical urban fantasy, while still using Gothic imagery. But I've never seen it as a wholly "new" thing — just a modern extension of an old one. 

I'm curious to hear your take.

Q4 - What do you think puts the punk in "dreadpunk"? What about the dread?

Honestly, I never put a lot of thought into what made it punk; like I said earlier, it started off as a more tongue-in-cheek term. The contemporary approach likely plays a lot into it. Some of my friends say that the punk comes in when they subvert traditional Gothic tropes.

The "dread" in "dreadpunk" comes directly from the penny dreadfuls. Dreadpunk sounded better than shudderpunk, Edgar Allan Punk, or Grand Guignol Punk.

Q5 - You talk about Crimson Peak, Penny Dreadful and Tim Burton on your blogs. Can you tell us a few more of your favorite dreadpunk movies and books?

Showtime's "Penny Dreadful" in my current go-to example for describing to people what I mean by dreadpunk, though I don't want to give people the impression that the term is exclusively used to describe fans of the show. While Tim Burton's overall career has not fallen into what I'll call "proper dreadpunk," "Sleepy Hollow" and "Sweeney Todd" absolutely do. I keep waffling on spinning Burton and related material into its own blog. But "Sleepy Hollow" was a major inspiration behind me looking for a term to describe this more contemporary style of Gothic horror (and, also, why I don't lean on the word "Victorian"). The current Fox series "Sleepy Hollow" has been grandfathered in because of its source material, though it's moved pretty far afield. Francis Ford Coppola's "Dracula" was another inspiration. I liked aspects of the short-lived NBC series "Dracula." The "Wolfman" remake from a few years ago was flawed but I really enjoyed it.

As for books, my friends Leanna Renee Hieber, Cherie Priest, Delilah Dawson, and Clay and Susan Griffith appeared on the notorious dreadpunk panel at Dragon Con.

Dreadpunk is not an absolute; crossover between genres and subgenres is expected, but works I would consider dreadpunk are first and foremost horror or dark fantasy.

Q6 - Do you see dreadpunk aesthetic as being very different from Victorian goth? If so, in what way?


Dreadpunk is an entertainment aesthetic rather than a subculture. There's been some confusion on that point, so I wanted to clear it up. If someone wants a subculture, I recommend they investigate the classic and Victorian Goth scenes.


Thanks for joining us, Derek! To learn more about dreadpunk, you can check out Mr. Tatum's website here