Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Is Sci-Fi and/or fantasy a requirement to call something Dieselpunk?

Hey there guys & gals!
We had a great discussion on the Diesel Powered Podcast about Sci-Fi and Fantasy in Dieselpunk. Boss Larry Amyett asked the question whether it is a required element of the genre?

We'd love to get your feedback! Take a listen to the episode and let us know what you think!


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I guess it was mostly sword and sorcery stuff like Conan the Barbarian and high fantasy like Lord of the Rings. There were still other fantasies like marry poppins and peter pan, but honesty, I don't think there's a certain CHARACTERIZATION they can all share. Unless it's from the pulps, then that would be "big dude with a bigger weapon going around and slaying monsters".

I will still stick to my comment on how the Diesel Era fantasy is different than the Steam Era fantasy. All I am saying is that DieselPUNK fantasy should have a name like Steampunk's gaslamp.

I suggest the term "Diesel era fantasy".

I was going to post my opinions, but I think Larry expressed most of them for me! The classic definition is classic for a reason.

Besides, limiting even just the genre parts to SF/fantasy nicely excludes the World of Manana, a world that I feel forces us to come to terms with the technological, social, and ethnic/racial realities of our world and history by looking at an alternate path that turns all three on their heads. And who wants to live in that Dieselpunk world?

Not me, though I am biased in that regard. ;-)

Larry said:

Alright folks, here's my blog post on the subject. "Your Dieselpunk is Too Small"

I'm with Larry and Cap'n Tony on this one. I prefer the classic definition to this version.

Damn youngsters and their newfangled ideas. ;P

"Tex"! A good thing I ain't so easily riled or we might just need to have some words. (LOL) I'm a Montanan and while them Texicans are all some stand-up folks in and of their own right, I don't reckon that they have seen nearly as many 'incursions' (as them scientist type folks like to refer to them) as we have over the years. Shoot, it seems we're almost as popular as Roswell use to be before it fell out of favor with the Pan-Galactic & Inter-Dimensional Tourist Board. 

BTW (Just on the QT) = If you think them Graboids are something you should get a glimpse of what's holed-up under the Yellerstone!  ;-)

Erwin "Blacky" Blackthorn said:

Dan: Sorry there, Tex. I love rifleman and all the John Wayne flicks, so don't think I look down on westerns. I was just saying that in those times, all westerns took place in the late 1800s after or during the civil war. So they were technically steampunk for not having much vehicles to drive around in and a lot of steam powered trains to rob from.

Dan: Sorry, Monty ;)

But, in all seriousness, another question popped into my head today. I would like as many people to answer as possible, because it is more about opinion than anything.

What do we, as Dieselpunks, prefer? Do we like the time era itself, or sci-fi/fantasy based on the time era?

What if, say, titles like Godfather or Gangster Squad or LA Noire had sci-fi or fantasy elements in them. Would that make them better, worse, needlessly added, and why? Would you, as a Dieselpunk, like a story that is down to earth like LA Noire, or would you rather play it if it was "Dick Tracy: The Game" with everything away from reality- to have everything from imagination instead of research. Or instead of Godfather, would you like something like The Darkness, where it is the same thing but with demons and monsters and stuff. Is that MORE Dieselpunk, and/or is that MORE in our interest? What about War games like the first Call of Duty games and movies like Saving Private Ryan? Do we like those more than stuff like Wolfenstien or anything with Nazi zombies?

I know that when something is more down to earth, it has more room and respect to allow it to more or less have a better chance of being a higher quality. That's why I mentioned Saving Private Ryan(award winning movie) and compared it to Nazi Zombies (highly played Call of Duty Mode, and the only reason people bought World at War).

It only just came to me that we haven't been asking the real questions here, and I think we all know the answers that are in our hearts. It should be about what we want and what we like, NOT about what we should allow. I think that is far more important. I almost feel that most of us here are worried about even having the history right, instead of even wondering if it is a good movie or not. Dieselpunk isn't about history or accuracy. It's about taking that time and making it our own, like taking clay and making something out of it. I don't think people in ceramics care about the history of where the clay came from, they just care about if what they're making is going to be good.

I personally think that it should just be high quality AND creativeness, over following our Dieselpunk guidelines. Anyone else agree?

Whereas as I would say the genre of dieselpunk should be about what fits, not about wether we like or prefer it.

If we joined Dieselpunk becaus we liked something about it, then that is where the true debate lies: What did we like about it? And once that question is answered on a personal level, then that is when we can shape it to our liking.

I think Blacky is right about something. There's a strong element of postmodernity in Dieselpunk that makes it difficult to create a firm metanarrative. Instead first-person narratives dominate the genre. Therefore, one tends to emphasize personal interests in their vision of dieselpunk. Some will put more emphasis on historical accuracy than others.

That being said, Atterton is right as well. Some trends have appeared in Dieselpunk’s short existence as a genre that do allow for some objectivity in defining Dieselpunk. So we can discuss, within the limits that postmodernity allows, what fits in dieselpunk and what doesn't.

Erwin "Blacky" Blackthorn said:

If we joined Dieselpunk becaus we liked something about it, then that is where the true debate lies: What did we like about it? And once that question is answered on a personal level, then that is when we can shape it to our liking.

Good question, Blacky. I have to say that for me it’s the vision of dieselpunk as stated on the home page here:

Dieselpunk is an art style that blends the spirit of the 1920s - 1950s with contemporary technology and attitude.

We are inspired by roaring movement and revolution: jazz, modern art, world wars, streamlined technology, pulp adventure, and film noir. Our goal is to combine the zeitgeist of the past with today's ideas in order to build a better tomorrow.

Growing up I loved everything about the Diesel Era. I could never read or watch enough about it. However, I also love cutting edge science, technology, psychology, sociology and more. I never wanted to live without the progress that we’ve made. Dieselpunk meets this for me in that it’s a fusion of what was with what is and what can be. The result of this fusion is this amazing genre that I have such a passion for.

I have the exact same interest, Larry. And with Dieselpunk, it's like hitting the refresh button for nostalgia. I remember reading in a gaming magazine a while back about how WW2 games are done with because "we can only land on Omaha Beach so many times before it is redundant". But, resently, I saw a game where it was Nazis fighting Dinosaurs(a buggy indie game, so it is sadly unplayable :( But that concept should deserve its own TV show lol). The sci-fi element is what made it fun and interesting, so I am kind of inclined towards the sci-fi and fantasy elements of Dieselpunk, instead of the historical accuracy and realisim. A perfect example of Dieselpunk at its most basic is the game Sabatour, where the only sci-fi element was a new gun and tank they made up. But the style of it, where reds and blues were blaring bright and the rest was black and white, that made a style for it in the Dieselpunk way.

So what I'm saying with that is what is more important in that department: the sci-fi, the attitude, or the style?

If you only create say, a Dieselpunk computer, and that's all the sci-fi it has, then is it more Dieselpunk than a movie where the characters are like The Warriors with comic book and pulp like style and attitude(much like the original book) set in the Diesel Era?

Because if the Sci-fi isn't as important as the other elements, then it should just be something around DieselTECH instead of PUNK.

Blacky, I just don't get it. Why are you struggling so hard to pigeonhole Dieselpunk?

Look, I like = GIs, heroes, etc. fighting dinosaurs, giant gorillas, supernatural Lovecraftian horrors, aliens, super-science enhanced Nazis, etc., etc.

I like = Alternate worlds were impossible propeller driven aircraft battle it out in war-torn skies over ravaged battlefields where massive tanks stalk their prey on legs as well as tracks.

I like = Alternate views of history and WWII where the only alternative element is ~ What If ~ so-and-so had done this instead of that.

I like = Studying the Real World development of military equipment and tactics, and the people who made use of them or contributed to that development, and the effects on the world around them.

I like = The Real World stories of our armed forces from WWI to WWII to the launch of the first ICBM.

I like = The gutsy gumshoe fighting it out with hoods in shadow wrapped streets.

I like = The Big Band sound of both vintage and the newer musicians.

I like = The old B&W movies and cartoons as well as modern period pieces placed in that era.

I like = (though I don't much myself) Seeing folks enjoy recreating the look and feel of everything from clothing, to art and architecture, to vehicles, to simple everyday items. 

I like = Stories who's origins are based in the Diesel Era, but are brought forward to impact on our or even far future generations lives.

To ~ ME ~ this is ALL Dieselpunk.

Sure I could break this all down into a bunch of sub-sub-subcategories . . . but WHY should I want to???

If I pick up a book who's cover proclaims it, "An Amazing Steampunk Adventure!" I can pretty well figure that it might contain anything from a simple mystery placed in jolly old 1800s England without even a single mention of an airship passing by over the hero's head, right on up to heroes using steam powered laptop 'Babbage Machines' with hologram projectors and steam powered fully autonomous Geisha robots flying steam or other powered spaceships to the distant planets. . . . And seemingly, NOBODY (other than perhaps myself. lol) has any issues with saying, "Yeah, THAT'S Steampunk!" 

So, I gotta wonder, if THAT is the accepted norm for Steampunk, WHY this overwhelming need to breakdown and redefine any possible variation that any person within the Dieselpunk community might feel fits within his or her own definition of what is or is not DIESELPUNK??? 

For ~ ME ~ if it smells like Diesel, then its good enough to be called DIESELpunk.

I'm not pidgeonholing. I'm trying to stop the pidgeonholing and tell everyone that the most important thing in Dieselpunk is the style vs the actual sci-fi, because that is what this discussion is revolving around.

Your steampunk example is exactly what I was talking about. The more extreme it is doesn't mean it's more Dieselpunk than the other. That thing about DieselTECH was said weird. I barely even remember why I was trying to say with that...

But yes, that is the exact point I've been trying to get across: steampunks allow anything steam related in their community, why can't we? BUT, then others will start saying how it will only bring in all of these random "not-very-dieselpunk" titles that are only related to Dieselpunk by a small thread.

And I'm saying: So? What's the problem with that? If you wanna call something Dieselpunk, then call it Dieselpunk. If you're watching a movie like Star Wars episode IV and want to call it Dieselpunk, go right ahead. I'm sure us Dieselpunks would have no problem dressing up as stormtrooper-like space soldiers.

But, as the actual catagory, as the actual genre, as the actual very idea of Dieselpunk... it has to follow the formula. And to what I've been saying this whole time, Dieselpunk has been used to refer to the community of people that enjoy elements of the 1920s-140s, and it is being used to describe our own little sci-fi genre.

And since that was established as the main problem for us, that's why I'm trying to avert our gaze to the even bigger question: Shouldn't we just care more about style instead?

Because that is what brought me here, the style of Dieselpunk. And, like all the things you mentioned you like Dan, I love all of those things too. WW2, pulp crime fighters, big band music, the clothing. And to say those things aren't dieselpunk "because there's no sci-fi" should be a crime.

Now seriously people, with all of that being said, I think it's time to call this case solved. Haha let us all go back to watching Boardwalk Empire and reading our weird war 2 comics.

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