Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Hi there Dieselpeople!

I am a great fan of both Steampunk and Dieselpunk; in my country (Italy) I'm trying to promote our beautiful culture by founding the first Italian Dieselpunk page and group.

And I was wondering... About the "correct" Dieselpunk timeline. Well, as Tome cleverly stated in another article, Dieselpunks are not interested into historical purity, so history accuracy is surely important but not so vital in our imaginary landscape.

But, as part of the definition of "what is DP" itself, we must in a certain way find an appropriate timespan to settle our imaginary vision of the future (or of the past, if you prefer!) in a way in which it becomes immediately recognizable.

For example, many of you say that "Dieselpunk is a style that blends the art and culture of the 1920s - 1950s with today." But in my own view, this is a bit restricting. I tend to see a larger timespan for DP, as for example from the very last years of Victorian era (1890s or so), to the first half of the 1950s.
 Sort of a Belle-Epoque-inspired in some points, maybe, with hints of Steampunk aesthetics too.

Many of my Steampunk-friends do not agree with my idea, finding it something similar to an "hybrid", others do, I mean DP is a very ecleptic culture so maybe it's more about the feeling and the flavour you give it than the historical point of view (e.g. outfits: one can dress as a Victorian lady and be immediately recognizable as Steampunk, and one can dress as a pre-WWI soldier using lots of cogs too, but still being immediately recognizable as Dieselpunk-inspired).

As Tome stated, I do not fancy historical purity. So the concept of "Diesel Era" is really vague and tractable for me. And I was just curious about your opinion. What kind of Dieselpunk timeline do you choose as your own?


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I agree, in fact traditionally for genre-punk the prefix tends to have the central focus of industrial power of an era (Cyber, Steam, Diesel, Atomic...).

Kevin "Doc" DiVico said:

I like Electropunk ...even through I love Tesla, I dislike ever naming a movement after one man - can create cult of personality overtones and that is never good for any movement or time period.

Johnny Dellarocca said:

You aren't the first to point this out... :)

But Tranistorpunk don't quite roll off the tongue...


I've gotta agree with the Cap'n on this one =

"I say make your own timeline and find your own way and don't feel you need to follow any "orthodox" Dieselpunk setting, because there frankly isn't one."

Personally, I see the Diesel Era running from the start of WWI to after the close of WWII. If you throw in all of those FANTASTIC Alternate Diesel Fired Universes then there really are No Limits, are there??? Besides, Pigeon Holes stink and there just ain't enough room in them to stretch and have FUN! 


I've often felt that the fact the diesel timeline is so anchored by conflict or crisis - whichever markers one chooses - is one of the reasons why it's impossible to avoid considering politics with DP, whereas SP often skates over things such as colonialism, taking a more optimistic 'discovery and exploration' approach to things.

Larry said:

For hard historical markers, there's been a lot of discussion in the Dieselpunk community about this.

The most common starting historical marker is the the end of WWI, which was 11/11/1918. On the ending, one option I have come to prefer is the Korean War, which began with the June 25, 1950 when the KPA crossed the 38th parallel as the historical marker.

Interesting that using this method the diesel era begins and ends in meaningless, bloody conflicts. It was born in blood and died in blood. I think that's a powerful symbolism.

Therefore, one could say that the first day of the 'diesel era' as source material for Dieselpunk would be Nov 12, 1918 and the last day June 24, 1950.

I want to stress that this period provides only the cultural and intellectual source, or zeitgeist, by which Dieselpunk builds on. Dieselpunk stories can exist outside our timeline and aren't limited to occurring in that era.

Kevin "Doc" DiVico said:

I find this fascinating - I think we can come up with a really detailed timeline for the eras... from the posts above and some  online research I did the rough timeline is :

1785 -1918 Steampunk

1918 - 1950 - DieselPunk

1950-1963 - Atompunk

With transitional decade(s) found at 1901 - 1918 & 1950-1965

so can we refine this- find some historical markers that we all agree to [I use all to refer to the people on this thread only :-) ]

i think this would be a great project !

That's an excellent point, Mim. I also think the DP viewpoint is very important. In fact, as example of how close you and I are in our views, I had even written a two part blog entry back in May/ June in which I say the essentially the same thing as you.

On Steam I've also heard talk of there being a distinct differnce between "Scientific Romance" for the optimistic Exploration sans Collonization stuff as opposed to more overtly political Steam-PUNK, but like all lables they invariably fade if you shine too much light on them. ;-)

This seems very valid, also.  As far as fashion and popular culture, not even technology, is concerned, I'm with you about 1957.  Marking 1950 as the end of the dieselpunk era seems premature to me.  Look at a movie from the early '50s and you see the '40s.  By 1957 you start to see the '60s coming.  I have always thought that what marks a decade stylistically always fades out only by the third or fourth year of the following decade.

Johnny Dellarocca said:

I hold to 1912 as the end of Steam and start of Diesel with the sinking of the Titanic.

I think the official end of the Diesel Era is 1957 with the launch of Sputnik and the official start of the Atomic age.

I am in the minority in the community. It's lonely here sometimes. I could use a friend...


Following are my concerns about pushing the date to 1957:

My concern is built on that so much of the cultural icons of what we associate with Dieselpunk had either changed dramatically or had been replaced by during early 50s.

The Golden Age of Radio had been replaced with the Golden Age of Television. The styles of cars had dramatically changed. Rock n Roll had replaced Big Band/ Swing music for youth. Also, big changes for youth fashion, which was unique to 1950s compared to the decades before and after. We can't use the style for men as a guide because that stays pretty consistent for decades however women's fashion changed dramatically.  America was obsessed with nuclear power for both peaceful and military usage. And while there had been Red Scare's several times in the past, including the Diesel Era, the Red Scare of the 50s and the McCarthyism were unique. Finally, this leads to the Cold War and America's involvement on the world scene, which had gone from the isolationism of the 20s to its forced entry in WWII to one of active interventionism in world affairs.

Those are the reasons for why I cut it off at 1950. Genre-punk for the 1950s, in my opinion, really should be called Atomicpunk as it's often referred to.

All good points all around.  That said I'm reminded of Balogun's recent blog post on genre-pidgeonholing (see Steampunk Group) and wonder how much we want to argue of what's "diesel", what's "atomic", and what's "electric" and so forth. 

c1918-c1950 seems as good a "core" range as any, knowing that there's a lot of grey area on either end.  Getting more specific than that is getting OCD, IMO. ;-)


PS: the first person to say "Bobbysocks-punk" gets a knuckle sandwich (see Balogun's blog post to get the joke).

True, Cap'n. That's why my first post in this thread I used "roughly" and "around" in my time. History simply can't be diced and sliced like Modernity would have it done.

Slicing & dicing does not work- on that we all seem agreed but I would posit that there are cultural milestones that frame a time period and the culture that developed within it. Knowing those milestones or markers help in knowing the culture itself.

I don't disagree, Kevin. Milestones can be helpful. Basic historical markers with the understanding without being dogmatic and understanding that they have fuzzy edges.

For historical markers, I would again recommend the end of WWI as the start and the beginning of the Korean War as the end. Born in blood and died in blood.

hmmmm I think its time to get graphical ! :-)

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