A Tentative Definition of Kudzupunk

At first, we tried to continue as before: hacking our cars free of the clutching tendrils which grew up every night, bumping along highways until our combined weight pulverized vines into a grimy sludge. One-by-one, buildings blacked out as the weight of growth downed power lines. We left our offices and tried to support the linemen. Then cell towers choked. Signal not found.

We drove plows 24/7 to keep the roads clear. We salted the roads. We salted the earth. The blacktop crumbled. Creepers curled into machinery and slowly cars, buses, trains all failed. Skyscrapers fell…

Good morning, I’d like to pitch a genre called kudzupunk where the built world is utterly wrecked by plants, led by the indefatigable kudzu. - @ruthbrarian

My head churns full of southern gothic, of solarpunk, of Afrofuturism, of cyberpunk. I see it expanding ever outward, an irresistible transformation. The despairing let the Green swallow them up. A few fight back, armed with goats or flamethrowers, dedicating themselves controlling a patch of earth. Many adapt, slowly and variously. And some… some embrace it, merging biology and technology. Humans and animals develop strange mutations — through evolution? through magic? Or perhaps it’s the nefarious dealings of strange corporations…

I would expect an anthology to contain no less than three stories completely devoted to goats. In fact, at least one should be involving some kind of goat worship as new saviors - @ruthbrarian

Kudzupunk includes:

  • apocalypse — unstoppable plant growth as violent change (past/present) to a space humans thought under their control
  • attempts to stop plant growth using military or industrial force
  • themes of isolation and alienation — joyful? desperate?
  • searches for missing friends or family, for solutions, for land beyond the space
  • religions, new forms of community, recovered wisdoms for changing times
  • explorations of humanity’s engagement with animals — wild and domestic
  • strange new forms of life — plant, animal, human — mutating as menace or promise
  • new generations and creative souls finding beauty and hope in the changed earth
  • re-learning ways to meet a community’s needs for shelter, food, medicine, and care in an utterly new world, perhaps with opportunity to scavenge the old

In a few words:

  • peace
  • renewal
  • despair
  • destruction
  • loss
  • catastrophe

Themes in kudzupunk run against:

  • capitalists and corporations
  • human hubris toward our environment
  • technology as currently imagined

…like any “-punk” genre, it can’t be limited by some kind of strict definition (although I comfortably assert “corporations are actually good” is not cyberpunk). Some of the above may conflict. That’s ok.

More tentatively than the rest, I assert that its heart rests in the southern United States. When I think of Triffids, or Graham Walmsley’s chilling The Dead White World, it’s similar and yet a little off from what I mean above. When I think of it in Latin America, I imagine it tinged heavily with magical realism.

In the Kudzupunk Vein Capillary

one story should just be a book of handwritten recipes featuring goat meat, goat milk, kudzu greens, kudzu flour, and very little else - @allanaaaaaaa

These are some books, works, and stories which have been suggested as falling within the kudzupunk genre. I welcome gentle suggestions of others. I am trying to think, particularly, of some Afrofuturism stories which I’ve read that may fall under this category too, but I’ll need to check my anthologies. Ordering represents whim:

…and not

I’ve been considering what isn’t kudzupunk but seems like it. I think the book The World Without Us, while a wonderful source guide for kudzupunk imaginings isn’t actually that itself. Why? No more humans left. And that’s ok, we need space for that kind of imagining too.

…and miscellany

I’ve been reminded about the Kudzu Project, which proposes that Confederate statues, if not removed, should be covered in kudzu—real or textile.

Ruth Kitchin Tillman
Sally W. Kalin Early Career Librarian for Technological Innovations

Card-carrying quilter. Ham. Mennonite. Writer. Worker.