Oct 6 2010 11:25am

Caprica: Atompunk on Television

I’ve always been fascinated by the politics and social issues of the post-WWII era: McCarthy and the war against Communism, the beginnings of Women’s Lib, the arrival of television. These things changed the American landscape forever.

And this is one of the many reasons why I latched onto Caprica so fiercely.

The design of the show was an easy indication that it would be something I’d like. The men wear suits and fedoras for crying out loud! The women are always impeccably put together, usually in a full skirt or some kind of knit ensemble. The cars are enormous and covered with chrome. Everyone smokes like a chimney and drinks lots of brightly-colored alcohol. It’s like Mad Men with better technology–except for the televisions, which are still 13” for a lot of people.

But there are other things about the show that evoke that particular era. It begins in a period of hysteria, but instead of Communists, the populace fears a fringe group called the Soldiers of the One. It is set during a time when technology is on the brink of major change, and their society will go from virtual avatars in a contained, online space, to those avatars becoming self-aware and being able to exist in the real world; like when televisions became a fixture in homes and led to things like TV dinners and remote controls and microwaves, a new industry called Advertising that started making people want things they never knew they wanted before. And with all that political and scientific upheaval going on, there are all the social ramifications that come along with it. Will the idea of a One True God do away with the established polytheistic ideals? How will people deal with the morality of semi-sentient cylon slaves (say that three times fast!)? And how involved will the government get in regulating any of this? Who are Caprica’s “McCarthys”? If Caprica is Team U.S.A., does that make Gemenon the Soviet Union?

In thinking about Caprica, I wondered if there was a name for a movement that examines culture, science-fiction, and life through the lens of the Space Race, or the Atomic Age. If there wasn’t, I would have made up my own! However, in digging around teh intarwebz, I discovered that it did, indeed, already have a name although it’s not a terribly popular one. Not yet.


Atompunk seems to have started in the Netherlands, is devoted to the cultural period between 1945 and 1965, and is still so young that there’s no real agreement yet as to what it includes. All of the writing I’ve found using the word “atompunk” only goes back a couple of years. Yet there are Tumblrs devoted to it, blogs about it, there’s a mailing list, and there was a festival in the Netherlands devoted to it last year. And it’s fascinating to me in its newness. I love that it’s still being figured out. And now, SyFy has provided us with an atompunk sci-fi television show in Caprica.

I’ll be continuing to examine Caprica through an atompunk lens…just because it’s fun and no one else seems to be doing it! There’s also the DIY aspect of any “punk” movement, be it punk music, steampunk, or atompunk. I’ll be exploring that, too, and have already asked artists, writers, musicians, and designers to explore Caprica and atompunk through various mediums. Lastly, there’s atompunk in general: what it’s all about? What qualifies? Why might it be important both as an alternative, and a partner to, steampunk?

Caprica returned last night, giving us a chance not just to enjoy a fabulous science-fiction drama, but also a chance to contemplate our future by examining our past. I know a lot of your have your noses in a Jules Verne novel right now, which is all very well and good. I’ll be over here drinking a martini, Daddy-o.

Teresa Jusino was born the same day Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is a freelance writer in New York City who is a regular contributor to websites like ChinaShop Magazine, Pink Raygun, and Newsarama. In addition to her geeky online scribblings, she also writes prose fiction and screenplays. Teresa is the author of a chapbook of short stories called On the Ground Floor, and she is working on a webseries called The Pack, coming in 2011. She is also the last member of WilPower: The Official Wil Wheaton Fan Club. Visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

Kenn Gentile
1. nachtwulf
I like Caprica as a sci-fi drama, it's well written and well acted, and largely superior to much that Skiffy has offered since... well, ever. However it suffers the problem of being a good idea and sound concept, and then having a "known quantity" liscense draped around its shoulder instead of simply allowing it to stand on it's own.

Caprica would have impressed me more if it had dropped the "Galactica" pretense all together, and just be a damn good sci-fi drama. Unfortunatly, as long as it holds up the periphreal trappings and claims of being a"prequal" to Battlestar Galactica, it keeps disappointing.
Alex Brown
2. AlexBrown
@Teresa: Atompunk. Nice :) Going to have to do some reasearch on this...

@Nach: My problem with Caprica isn't that it is functioning as a prequel because I don't see it at all as a prequel. It is completely independent from BSG (in my mind) and you don't have to see either show in order to fully understand the other. does seem to be faltering, and I'd argue it's a lack of proper execution. Sister Clarice is boring and stodgy and a different (better?) actress would've played her the way she was written: funny (she was supposed to be Gaius-esque). I don't give a flying frak about the Joseph Adama Guilt Machine or watching Willie Adama be a moody tween. Sam Adama doesn't have nearly enough scenes (particularly scenes with his husband), and something seems to be missing in the relationship between Zoe and Daniel. And will someone tell Amanda to go take a nap or something? I get exhausted just thinking about her.

That being said, I still watch it and enjoy it overall.
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Teresa Jusino
4. TeresaJusino
I don't understand why it would be difficult to see it as a prequel. It's introducing elements that will be important in Battlestar, but it happens over 50 years before Battlestar. It makes sense that we're getting that stuff in drips and drabs, and in the meantime, we get a whole other world to explore. What else is a prequel supposed to do?

@Milo1313 - where did you see/read that Clarice was written as funny? Because if you're just going by dialogue in the episodes...?

I AM glad, however, that Joseph Adama seems to be going away from grieving and toward something more badass. He's been great these last two episodes. Amanda, too (and I realize that you commented before this week's ep, so we'll see what you have to say about that).

These are people who are grieving, and less than a month passed in the world of the show during the first half of the season. They didn't experience stuff that one just "gets over."

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