Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Hey guys, first post here beyond introducing myself.  

In my introduction, I mentioned that my budding interest in the concept of airships drew me here.  I spend most of my days in class, and from time to time a fellow gets bored and either stares out the window, or idly doodles in the margin of his notes.  

During these spells of daydreaming, I've begun to think it would be entertaining to write some short pulp-esque stories about a ragtag crew of an 'airship for hire'.  This leads me to a problem.

I honestly don't have much idea of how an airship would work, what manner of airship I would want my group to be in, or even how many it would take to run such a thing.  In my head, I'm seeing a light freight carrying ship, something of a 'tramp ship'.  No fixed routes, no home base to operate from.  Simply going where the work takes them, and getting into wild adventures along the way.  

I've seen some steampunk concepts of airships, which seem to mostly consist of wooden vessels below a large gas bag.  I'm looking for something more robust.  However, if I stick with large engines and props to keep my vessel aloft (and abandon the hydrogen/helium), it seems like there should be something else producing lift as well. 

I'm not sure if this is posted in the right section or not.  However, all I'm looking for are some suggestions, and maybe some insight as to what would define a dieselpunk airship.  I've seen some designs ranging from the zeppelin to the vanships in the anime show The Last Exile.  


Also, some links!



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If you want to learn how an airship works, go down to the dollar store and buy a helium balloon.

Take it home.  Play with it.  Try to float things with it, and watch the way it moves when it's weighted down.

When you see a WWII era airship, it was usually just a big outer casing for a bunch of inner "bladders" filled with lighter-than-air gas.  Think of it like putting a nice looking bag over your helium balloon to keep it protected from the elements (and enemy fire).

The next thing to do is to think of the air as a vast invisible ocean.  It has currents and storms, and it is too great to be conquered by man's tinker toys.  All we can do is dive in (or take off), and hope against Fate that the winds were going our way.  You can force yourself against them for a short while with your motors, but it's like swimming against the waves.  Sooner or later, you're going to get tired, and the only way to go at that point is with the winds or straight down.

To get a better idea of the logistics behind real airships, I recommend "The Story of the Airship" by Hugh Allen.  It's a good book that doesn't get loaded down in minutiae.

Here are some more links that might be helpful.

"The Great Dirigibles" by John Toland

"The Zeppelin in Combat: A History of the German Naval Airship Division" by Douglas H. Robinson

"Golden Age of the Great Passenger Airships: Graf Zeppelin and Hinde..." by Harold G. Dick

Tome beat me to the punch with the advice and links, so I'll just add a link to the basics of buoyancy and suggest that you take note, as an airship is all about bouyancy in air.  The exact same rules apply to an airship floating in air that apply to a submarine floating under water. Think of the airship more like a flying submarine than a flying ship: it has a certain bouyancy due to its hydrogen (H) or helium (He)*, which will make it want to float at a certain altitude.  High enough and the air pressure will be lower, so it'll be less bouyant and have less lift until it reaches a "ceiling" it can't ascend above.  Temperature will affect this, affecting both the lift of the H/He and the pressure of the surounding air, adjusting the ceiling. You need to add balast or downward thrust with your engines to descend from the airship's natural float point.  Real airships often carried water as ballast and could expel this water in emergencies when losing lift (note: possible action point!).  I might also suggest researching submarine travel and combat as a potential analog to what your crew will face.

* Note: He is safer but rarer & less bouyant (usually only found in the Diesel era as a byproduct of certain types of oil wells), H is readily available by electrifying water to seperate the H from the O and is more bouyant, but is highly flamable (see Hindenburg, fate thereof) which means more danger and therefore drama for the crew.

Naturally, GREAT suggestions from Tome and the Cap'n! 

I would suggest that you also might want to take a look at some of the fiction already on the shelves that contain some of the same elements as you are entertaining. = The Tales of the Ketty Jay series by Chris Wooding. The Crimson Skies series, by various authors, with Crimson Skies by Eric Nylund and Pirate's Gold by Stephen Kenson in particular.

We Sky Junkies ALWAYS need more high flying adventures so PLEASE WRITE!!!

Thanks for the fantastic responses!  I don't often try and put my daydreams to paper, and it's good to know I've found a place where I can consult people more knowledgeable and resourceful than myself. 

Honestly, it never even occurred to me to think of an airship as a submarine.  It makes a remarkable amount of sense though, and I'm somewhat embarrassed I never considered that similarity before.  That definitely makes the zeppelin concept a little more appealing, especially if I can somehow building around main body.  Also, keeping those concepts in mind I could make my own airship seem at least somewhat physically possible.  I'm a biology major, not a physicist, and don't want to get too bogged down in details and math (ugh!).

Also, I've been looking at Interbellum and WWII bomber designs, and have been thinking of incorporating some of those elements into my airship as well.  Something about the domed turrets of a B17 just appeal to me.

Yeah, if ya can't be in the cockpit, there ain't nothing like a big plexiglass bubble sporting a pair of heavy cals to make ya feel like you're in the center of the action!  LOL

There are a lot of fantasy airship designs scattered about the net and bookshelves as either fiction or artwork. Everything from dreadnought carriers to small craft. I tend to think of them as an Airborne version of Star Wars. Star Destroyers vs the Millennium Falcon and/or Luke's X-Wing. With Sci-Fi/ Tekno Fantasy just about anything goes. And ~ I ~ sure don't have a problem with that!

It seems that the REAL challenge for a writer these days is stepping back from the Fantasy and spinning a story/ universe around a technology that is more ~ Reality ~ based. I guess you would call it "Hard Sci-Fi". Not very much of that seems to surface within the Steam or Diesel fired multiverses currently on the market. In fact, I can only think of one that has tried. = ZRS. More Military Fiction based than you are looking for perhaps, but still an interesting read for anyone with Airship Combat on their minds.

Either way, if you write it . . . THIS Sky Junkie will be sure to read it!

I tend to lean more on the 'anything goes' end of the spectrum, but I still like to see some sort of justification for why something flies (no matter how fantastic the reason might be!).  

Upsidaisium ??? 

There is ALWAYS a a perfectly rational "reason" why something ~ works ~ within the hallowed halls of Sci-Fi. If the writers don't come up with one, then the fans certainly will.  LOL

Thus my personal preference for the term = Teckno-Fantasy. It beats the heck out of always having folks telling me to, "Sit back. Shut up. And just enjoy the bloody ride!"  LOL 

Monty said:

I tend to lean more on the 'anything goes' end of the spectrum, but I still like to see some sort of justification for why something flies (no matter how fantastic the reason might be!).  

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