Retro-futurism and why it matters: a foray into alternative futures seen from the past - Deepstash
Retro-futurism and why it matters: a foray into alternative futures seen from the past

Retro-futurism and why it matters: a foray into alternative futures seen from the past

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Retro-futurism and why it matters: a foray into alternative futures seen from the past

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What is Retro-futurism?

  • Retro-futurism can be summarized as the future seen from the past, though sometimes it also incorporates the notion of past seen from the future.
  • Sometimes, retro-futurism becomes a sort of “faux nostalgia” — a nostalgia for a future that never happened.
  • It is a way to envision how different world designs could look like.
  • It works as a retrospection for our society but also often leads to new creative ideas.

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  1. Cyberpunk
  2. Atompunk
  3. Alternate Histories
  4. Steampunk

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Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk depicts a dark and dystopian retro-future with all the advanced technologies we can ever imagine. The world is controlled by evil organizations and is filled with pain, misery, and chaos.

This genre is heavily explored in video games, comics, and popular movies like Blade Runner, Tron, etc.

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Atompunk

Atompunk adds interesting elements to the retro-futuristic version of the 1950s. The industries are shown running on clean nuclear power, and the city life is faster than ever with bullet trains.

Most popular depiction of atom punk is found in Fantastic Four comics, James Bond films, and cartoon shows such as Dexter’s Laboratory.  

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Alternate History

Alternate history explores changed versions of real historical events and reveals the connected consequences. For example, "What if Einstein is erased from history?", "How would our lives have been without the internet?"

Books like Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Years of Rice are based on this intriguing idea.  

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The 19th century marks an era that drastically transformed the human lifestyle. Steam engines ran and new industries emerged.

Steampunk refers to a future that is based in 19th-century settings with grand steam-powered machines (such as steam aircraft, steam cannons, etc) at play.

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The origin and cultural influence of retro-futurism

It it said that the concept was first discussed in a late 1960s book "Retro futurism" by T.R. Hinchliffe. However, there isn't enough evidence to back this up.

In the year 1983, an ad about Bloomingdale’s jewelry got published in the New York Times which said “silverized steel and sleek grey linked for a retro-futuristic look”. This was one of the earliest use of the term.

Retro-futurism has been an active theme for artistic creation and products. For example, Back to the Future II, or the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, many fictional and real events depict retro-futurism.

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