I created a Facebook page in part to quickly and directly share my thoughts without having to create entire blog posts. One of the things I’m trying to do there is clear up some misconceptions.
Most of the articles I’ve seen about dreadpunk mean well, but I see some misinformation out there. Because I keep seeing some of the same misconceptions over and over again, I wanted to go ahead and address them here.
Misconception: Emphasis on the word “dread” and a preference for “slow burn” stories.
The only reason I went with “dreadpunk” is because “Gothic Punk” was already taken by White Wolf. The “dread” comes from “penny dreadfuls,” which were often reworkings of Gothic tropes and legends. So “dreadpunk” was a cheeky way of describing contemporary reworkings of Gothic motifs. I see way too many people examining the concept of “dread” as it relates to “dreadpunk.”
As for “slow burn” stories, ironically I prefer the opposite when it comes to modern entertainment. I enjoy some slower paced stories; what matters most is if it is a story told well. But when I coined dreadpunk, I was thinking of stuff like Burton’s SLEEPY HOLLOW, RPG settings like RAVENLOFT, and, of course, PENNY DREADFUL. Gothic atmosphere, a historical (or historical-flavored) setting, but also a sense of urgency and action. Even Coppola’s DRACULA preserved the more adventurous aspects of Stoker’s novel.
Misconception: There are “three laws” of dreadpunk.
There aren’t. The “three laws of dreadpunk” cited around the internet were the product of being put on the spot… with a little bit of alcohol (it was Sunday night at a convention, after all 😉 ). At its most basic, dreadpunk is simply another term for contemporary Gothic dark fantasy and horror entertainment as well as its fandom.
Misconception: Lovecraftian horror in general is dreadpunk.
I’m a big fan of Lovecraftian horror, but the only times I remember mentioning it in a dreadpunk context is talking about CTHULHU BY GASLIGHT or “Sherlock Holmes vs. the Old Ones” stories. But the key is that those things have a Victorian setting and attendant atmosphere. Some people have made the case that much of Lovecraft’s horror is actually “anti-gothic” and the beginning of modern horror fiction. But for me, I steer clear of “general Cthulhu” because that stuff already has a large and specialized fanbase. Dreadpunk is all about reinvigorating the older, more Gothic monsters.
Misconception: BUBBA HO TEP is an example of dreadpunk.
BUBBA HO TEP is a good story that will make you think twice about how we treat our elderly, but I don’t know why it keeps getting trotted out as an example of dreadpunk. The random connection plays to my sense of the absurd, but I mean, come on. BUBBA HO TEP may be many things but it is not dreadpunk.
Misconception: Jack the Ripper is a dreadpunk icon.
This is one that I have to be careful with as I don’t want to look like a hypocritical, grandstanding jackass. Like many people, I’m fascinated by the Ripper case and have enjoyed a lot of entertainment inspired by those crimes. There’s no question that the pop culture mythology surrounding the Ripper murders has influenced Victorian-themed horror. But as adults, please keep in mind that whoever committed the Ripper murders was responsible for the deaths of real people. I’d like to introduce more historical true crime content here, but I’d like to be conscientious about it. Characters like Dracula and Mr. Hyde are fun because they didn’t exist. Don’t elevate a real murderer because murderers are dicks.