Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

I have a question for everyone. When we talk about the "diesel era" for the purpose of dieselpunk what's the latest that we classify it? Would we go so far as to say early 50's? For example, according to Wiki "The first nuclear power plant built for civil purposes was the AM-1 Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant, launched on June 27, 1954 in the Soviet Union. It produced around 5 MW (electrical)." Even if we just look at popular culture according to Wiki, "Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" (1955) became the first rock and roll song to top Billboard magazine's main sales and airplay charts, and opened the door worldwide for this new wave of popular culture."

Would that place 1954 or 1955 as our cut off? If not what should be our guide?

Views: 284

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I probably differ from others, and this is an America-centric view, but to me, it starts with WWI and ends with our entry into WWII, in 1942. This was the loss of our innocence and the beginning of a new world. Studying the graphic art of these eras, I can spot a massive shift away from decodence toward what will resemble a more modernist school. We were fighting fascism, but we ourselves were becoming subconsciously more fascist. You can see this in our art. 


There is a period between 42 and 50 where you still see the diesel zeitgeist, but it's fading, and perhaps its death knell was the Truman Doctrine of 1947 and beginning of the McCarthy Era.



I would to say post-war, late 40's as jets were taking over from propellers in aircraft propulsion and atomic weapons were developing, the iron curtain came down, TV began to slowly take over from radio....In the UK rationing would continue into the 1950's and Europe as a whole began to rebuild itself.

As I see it, if we want to make a clear distinction between Dieselpunk and Atompunk, it probably lies in some atom-related event. That is because while diesel for dieselpunk is a rather generic characteristic for the era (which is important more for streamline, cult of the machine and a faith in a brighter future crushed by the rise of fascism), the atom for atompunk is what really makes the difference. Therefore the best candidates are either 1945 (nuking of Japan) or 1949 (soviet acquisition of the atomic bomb).


A different perspective may be to see the Diesel Era as the era of totalitarian systems in Europe, and therefore draw the line in 1953, the death of Stalin. While USSR survived, it became more similar to an authoritarian system and the shadows of WWIII became somewhat less menacing.

When the bombs dropped, the entire mindset of the planet changed.

That's when I end the diesel-era in my mind.

Going with my head, I'd say 1945 -- or even 1944-45 -- the timespan that the "Wunderwaffen" that people had been having nightmares about for years turned into reality.  The jet plane.  The guided flying missile (V-1).  The ballistic missile (V-2).  And of course the atomic bomb.


Going with my heart, I'd say summer 1937, when the dirigibles stopped flying, Amelia Earhart was lost, and the Japanese Army invaded the Republic of China.  Which, together with the previous year's conquest of Abyssinia by Italy, the remilitarization of the Rhineland, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and Stalin's ongoing series of show trials and murderous purges, were a pretty good sign that the world was going to Hell in a handbasket.  Of course, in a sense everything had been sliding downhill since '29, but in the latter half of the thirties each year's atrocities could be expected to double or treble the next year, culminating of course in the total horror of World War II and the Holocaust. Among those years, however, 1937 for some reason has the feel to me of a tipping point, a point of no return, and everything afterwards belongs to a different era, the War Era -- even though the War in Europe would not start for another 2 years, and the Americans would not get in for another 4 1/2.


Despite all that, I like quite a lot of the styles of the late '40s - early '50s -- the Truman Era -- and I think they can often be fitted quite easily and naturally into dieselpunk, especially noir dieselpunk, since although noir starts during the war era, its heyday was really in the Truman Era.

If it wasn't for the Film Noir period which carried on post war I'd have to agree largely with Tome.... but Film Noir is definitely a mainstay of the late Diesel era and that continued through to the early/mid 50s... I wouldn't consider it in any way Atom...

*thinks soooooo hard his brain cramps*

I guess no 'era' dies overnight... it kicks and struggles as the new era comes to the fore.... Art Deco came about over a period (a relatively short period granted - but hardly overnight) to become a dominant cultural force ...


In the same way the Atom era (if we take Hiroshima as Day One) started without fear.... look at some of the films about Atomic power made in the late 40's and EARLY 50's... Atoms and Gamma rays etc were our friends and would power planes, cars and even toasters!!!!... there was not the fear of technology that came in the second half of the 50's when "them dang Rooskies" had the H-bomb too...


Till then it was full speed ahead... Technology was the hope of mankind... one of the mainstays of Diesel methinks...  but that hope faded over time - not overnight...


There is an overlap methinx

There is an overlap, just like between Steam and Diesel Era. But you have to know where to stop.

Personally, I drive a borderline somewhere in 1948-1949. Of course, we can find a lot of Dieselpunk flavor later, we can even present Korean War as Dieselpunk (giant battleships shelling the coast, Spitfires and Yaks in the air, etc.). But was it really Dieselpunk? I believe the answer is negative.

1948 and 1949 - it's the time of final split between the Allies (Berlin blockade, two German Republics, Maoist victory in China). First Soviet A-bomb, too (8/29/49).

It's new fashion - Dior's New Look, launched in February 1947, conquered the world in a year.

New music - bebop is probably a Diesel Era child but it gained popularity only after the war.

First really new cars with distinctive postwar styling, not just facelifts of 1941/42 models, with reliable mass-production automatic gearbox.

New trends in cinema like Neorealism.

New simplified architecture.

Cheaper-built (wartime experience!) home appliances, furniture, etc.

Civil aviation boom - scores of surplus Dakota make passenger flights numerous and affordable. Beginning of Transatlantic air services (OK, introduced by PanAm and Air France in 1939, but interrupted and reborn with all-new aircraft).

The impact of television (we all know that in London and Berlin broadcasting started in 1936, but if we speak of mass-culture phenomenon, let us begin in 1946).

So if, during WWII, someone hoped to return to the "good old world" and survived - his world could never be the same as before the war. Welcome to Jet Age, Atomic Era, Cold War, frozen food and nylon stockings.

Jean-Luc deVere said:

There is an overlap methinx

I am with Lord K on this one.


There is a shoulder period, from the late 40s through early 50s, that gave full fledged context to the atomic age. Consumer goods got cheaper, more plentiful and yes, more disposable. Automotive and aviation technology evolved, etc.Fashions made a leap, as did social mores.


Actually, in thinking about it more, what if we look away from the First World, to the Third World? Might we have a good grasp on when the diesel age ended and the atomic age rose by looking there?


To a certain extent, many Third World nations were living in a shoulder period longer- someplace between late colonial Steam/war-time Diesel/budding plentiful Atomic. That shoulder age may have reached its pinnacle when diesel tech began to migrate to the Third World in higher numbers, via post-World War II channels (both private and public sector.) Is that when the change over began? Once premiere Diesel-era technologies ended up in the Third World when the First World shed them in the years following the end of World War II, late 40s to early 50s, signaling the change.


To me, the shoulder period is '46-'49, the twilight of diesel and the rise of the atomic/space age.

Good point Redfez! We've all been talking like the US and Europe is the whole world... it ain't!


On a side note... No one's mentioned an end to the Atom era yet.... or a start to the 'puter  era our kids and grand kids will look back to when they become SiliconPunx...

Probably the only way to know where Atom-punk ends is to ask to the atom-punk community; the problem is that you can place the beginning of the computer era anywhere after WWII. The impression I got with a quick research is that atompunk revolves around the '50s and the '60s. In Europe the end of that era is placed in the "sacred" 1968, year that opened an era of joy, freedom, liberation from old rules, political terrorism and daily violence; these were the "years of lead", very different from the years of the space race, the rebels without a cause and the façade of the happy days.

I heard an interesting quote from someone who lived through WWII. He said afterwards that "The whole experience of WWII became a defining moment. Everything became 'before the war' and 'after the war.'" So that would lend support to those who advocate the end of WWII as the end of the Diesel Era.


That being said from all accounts I've read, all documentaries I've seen, my understanding of the timing of cultural changes as well as the technology of everyday life I still think, when you take everything together, it places the post-WWII to 1953 as part of the last years of Diesel. Sure, life is messy so one would also see it as the rising years of what some have labeled Atomic Era.


I still support breaking the Diesel Era as source material for Dieselpunk ending around 1953.

Why does it have to end so early? The problem with hard periods in the criteria. The world of 1910 was more like 1925 than 1825, even though the first and third are clearly Steampunk era. I'd say that Steampunk dies in WWI but ONLY because of WWI. It wasn't a technological leap, it was the destruction of La Belle Epoch. Without WWI, Dielselpunk would just be later Steampunk, because there is really nothing that makes a sharp change. The closest are cars and tractors. Fordist Cars were sold in 1910, to much success and McCormick was making gas and steam tractors since the 1890s. Most of Europe didn't have mechanized agriculture until the 50s.


Deiselpunk has two very distinct feels to it: Classical Dieselpunk and Modern Dieselpunk. Classic is Indiana Jones and Al Capone and Tommy Guns and if you like Lovecraftian Horror. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was classic Indian Jones but those who hated it saw that Indy was in another era and hated it for that reason (the alien scenes needed more work to be fair). Modernist Dieselpunk is movement that begins after Korea and ends in the late sixties. The emphasis is on consumer goods, uncontrollable threats (aliens, Zombies, nuclear war) and plastic. Plastic was all the rage in the late 50s in tables, bed frames. It was cheap and colorful. And so to with Aluminum and advanced computers and the beginning of the cassette era. This stuff does not fit the modern vibe. But Vietnam did not kill Modernist Dielselpunk, Vietnam was a sideshow. The Civil Rights Era and the Free Love movement tore down the traditional structures of educated white men. It could have been handled better. Still, I'd say a hard line on Dieselpunk is actually the beginning of the Nixon Adminitration. It represents a decline into the muck that was 70s style, and a turn in the Cold War that would lay the foundations of American foreign policy until 9/11 in a lot of cases.

Reply to Discussion


Stay in touch


Allied Powers

Diesel powered dieselpunk podcast
Dieselpunk Industries
Seance Media by Tome Wilson
Vnv Nation

© 2019   Created by Tome Wilson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service