Cablepunk is a derivative of cyberpunk. It is an aesthetic dominated by cables and cords — transmission or mechanical — and a nostalgia for the media and consumer electronics of the 1980s and 1990s. Its overarching theme is connectivity, albeit with tethered and Web 1.0 technologies. Cablepunk is distinguished from cassette futurism in that it not only references the technology of the 1980s but also the technology of the 1990s. While cassette futurism’s focus is on the analog, cablepunk additionally incorporates the digital. It is a 21st century punk suffix aesthetic plugging itself into the 20th century era which birthed the first punk suffix aesthetic: cyberpunk.
The first known appearance of the word “cablepunk” on the Web was from Rob Beschizza divining “a fashionable subculture” of the future in a January 2007 article in Wired.
In October 2008, Stephen Oravec registered the domain cablepunk.com.
Shortly thereafter, in March 2009, Oravec would produce and publish the first two works explicitly designated as cablepunk: the photographs Cablepunk #1 and Cablepunk #2. Later, in September 2009, Oravec would take the name Cablepunk as his PlayStation Network gamer alias on the PlayStation 3.
Stephen Oravec published Cinderella Cablepunk in February 2014, the first published work of cablepunk fiction. As with the previous photographs, Oravec included the word in the title giving prominence to “cablepunk” as marking a deliberate artistic style.
The founding of independent publishing studio Cablepunk Press would follow in January 2015, and it would republish Cinderella Cablepunk in October of that same year. Cablepunk Press is owned and operated by Stephen Oravec.
In October 2015, video game developer Housemarque announced they were making a game with Eugene Jarvis. In December 2015, they shared a piece of concept art by Jakub Rozalski for this “Jarvis Project.”
In 2016, Housemarque teased, previewed concept art for, and then revealed gameplay footage of their cablepunk “Jarvis Project.” The game was released digitally in June 2017 for the PlayStation 4 and Windows as Nex Machina with Housemarque as publisher. Nex Machina is the first cablepunk video game. In 2019, Limited Run Games pressed a physical edition for PS4.
Since 2018, a variety of artists have labeled their work as cablepunk. Much of this artistic output is linked under its relevant medium below. Additionally, the subreddit r/cablepunk was created in 2019. Artists are encouraged to post their work there.
The artworks included here are by those artists who have deliberately labeled their work as cablepunk. While there are arguably many more works of art with a cablepunk aesthetic, they are not included here. Not all cablepunk works by a given artist are listed and linked to. Also not included are works by artists that have since been removed from the Web.
- tengu.fdi, junkyard scissors and Oni girl, 2018, Vector.
- Yutacustoms, Untitled, 2019, Brushpen.
- Matt Coleman, 🔋, 2023, Digital.
- Brushpen-Cablepunk by Yutacustoms.
Photographers creating cablepunk images include BuganiniQ and Stephen Oravec. The 2009 photographs Cablepunk #1 and Cablepunk #2 by Stephen Oravec are the first two artistic works to take the cablepunk label.
- Cablepunk by Stephen Oravec.
Synthography, also known as AI Art, is the emerging art, application, and practice of creating images with the assistance of artificial intelligence, commonly with works prompted from a chat box input (text-to-image) or modified from an existing image (image-to-image). Artists creating cablepunk synthographs include Stephen Oravec and proxima centauri b.
- proxima centauri b, close to the source, 2022, Synthograph.
- Stephen Oravec, meta·cable·verse·punk·v2, 2022, Synthograph.
- Stephen Oravec, Cinderella Cablepunk #5, 2022, Synthograph.
The only author of cablepunk fiction is Stephen Oravec. Cinderella Cablepunk was first published in paperback and for Kindle by the author in 2014. Cablepunk Press (which is owned and operated by Stephen Oravec) republished the novel in paperback in 2015 and for Kindle in 2018.
- Stephen Oravec, Cinderella Cablepunk, 2014, Novel.
- Grimm Arcadia by Stephen Oravec.
In July 2016, use of the term and growth of the subgenre were no longer limited to Stephen Oravec’s works when Finnish game developer Housemarque revealed they were calling the visual style of their forthcoming Nex Machina “Cablepunk.”
In May 2023, Simon Lenain, Thomas Florent, Sacha Epry, Maëlys Daubié, and Aida Menheim published their game Cablepunk on itch.io.
Stephen Oravec takes cablepunk as the inverse of cyberpunk. If cyberpunk is thought of as a “combination of lowlife and high tech” in Bruce Sterling’s words (originally pertaining to “Dogfight” by William Gibson and Michael Swanwick), cablepunk for Oravec is a “combination of highlife and low tech” where highlife refers to high culture, haute couture, high fantasy, and even higher education, and low tech refers to the representative technologies of the 1980s and 1990s, particularly regarding consumer electronics.
In July 2016, Finnish game developer Housemarque revealed they were calling the visual style of their forthcoming Nex Machina “Cablepunk,” with game director Harry Krueger explaining, “Cablepunk is basically retro-cyberpunk.” In previewing Nex Machina for Endgaget in December 2016, Aaron Souppouris described cablepunk as “a darker take on the cyberpunk climes of Akira and Ghost in the Shell.” Nex Machina would release on June 20, 2017 as the first cablepunk video game labeled so by its creators.
Works from tengu.fdi take inspiration from horror and gore, one illustration referencing Pyramid Head from the Silent Hill franchise. Additional works are labeled as kowa kowaii (scary cute).
Yutacustoms notes the resulting Cthulhu-look of their Brushpen-Cablepunk series. However, they view scratch building more as an influence, and the illustrations resulting from having “absorbed all the look of the industrial, rusty, and cable heavy stuff I seen on my commutes.” Two of the works (including the select one linked to above) were “based on street wear” particularly “parkas and puffers.”
Cablepunk from Simon Lenain, Thomas Florent, Sacha Epry, Maëlys Daubié, and Aida Menheim was entered in the Ludum Dare 53 game jam, the theme of the event being delivery. In the submission from Lenain and Florent for their survival-adventure game, they write of your playable character: “You’re just a cargo porter, but people prefer to refer to you as a Cablepunk. You’re the bridge in charge to link the people between their shelters.”
Updated May 16, 2023.