Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

The subject keeps coming up as to what "Dieselpunk" means, be it a genre, a subculture, an aestetic, a lifestyle, etc....

This keeps getting discussed in every other topic to the point of derailing discussions, for which I admit my own guilt as much as anyone.  it seems worth having a topic just to discuss this centrally important issue.  As Larry mentioned in another thread, this is a big tent with room for interpretations, but it's probably worthwhile to keep an open dialog just to better acquaint ourselves and our passions.

Just to get the ball rolling, here's a few of the interpretations I've gleaned from our members:


Dieselpunk is a...

Genre: it is an interpretation of SF/cyberpunk fiction and art through a Diesel Age lens. You read books by Robert Jackson Benett and have a Stefan image on your desktop.

Cosplay: it's a chance to dress up in wild styles inspired by the Diesel Age.  You dress in fedoras or peaked caps for parties or cons.

Fandom: as the two above and specifically where they intersect.  You dress as Diesel Fett for Gencon.

Aestetic/Look: it's placing a Diesel Era look upon today's things, be it retro clothing, streamline/deco design, jazz/swing-influenced music, etc.  Perhaps openly influenced by Punk Punk (tats, piercings, odd hair), perhaps not. 

DIY: as above, but you make it yourself. You've customized your iPod to look like a Ronson Lighter. 

Culture/Counterculture: it is a set of shared values and styles, self-defining, nostalgic or ironic, that go against the mainstream grain and seek to ellicit change or at least stand out.  You wear your fedora in rebellion against the souless, corporate mainstream social order.  Pissing off your parents is optional.

Lifestyle: as above, but you're dressing the part every day rather than just for meetups/cons/nights out.  You wear your fedora to the office, insist on vintage cocktails at work parties, and hum Ellington or Wolfgang Parker as you strut down the street.

All/Some/None of the Above: what it says on the tin, some combination of the above elements or something else entirely.


So, what's it to ya', Pops?  What's your take?


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I would say it's a genre. A genre which can be set in different eras, and for some reason people feel the need to use a new word for it depending on which era it's set in. I suppose that's similar to how some wants to coin a new music style for each band out there. You set it in the diesel era, people call it dieselpunk. If it's set in the steam era, people call it steampunk. All the same thing really. At it's heart it's stories based on extrapolations of the science and technology of a past era. Like the bastard love child of science fiction and alternate history.

I guess I could go into why it's not the other things mentioned, but let us save that.

Awright,,I'll bite hehehej. For me it's an appreciation slash fascination with the edwardian and swing eras that has become an inspiration in my everyday works.I enjoy reading Huxley Fitzgerald and Isherwood  but also read Wells and Lovecraft all from that era but vastly different views and imagery. The elegance of a white-walled Stutz or a smoke belching Indian motorcycle juxtaposed with a plymouth prowler,,I truly love vintage Jazz but I dig electro swing as well, and I feel like the streamlined bridge between the two is where I like to stroll.  Retro-Futurist for life,,as it were heh;)

Dieselpunk is a subgenre of Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction and Cyberpunk.

It can encompass all of the categories listed in the OP, from genre through lifestyle.

TV Tropes has the best descriptions, IMO:

"[Dieselpunk is] a generalization of Cyber Punk into other periods or with other genres mixed in. In the 1980s, authors like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling wrote dystopian novels set twenty minutes into the future, where they explored themes such as the impact of modern technology on everyday life, the rise of the global datasphere as an arena for communication, commerce, conflict, and crime, and invasive cybernetic body modifications.



Dieselpunk is not merely a synonym for Neo-Swing. Referencing the ubiquitous impact of retrofuturistic technology on everyday life is a key aspect of Dieselpunk. In terms of fashion, that is often accomplished via punk-like accessories which reference retrofuturistic tech or mimic retrofuturistic implants.

One could stretch the dipiction of Dieselpunk by leaving out either punk aesthetics or sci-fi (Diesel-related) tech aesthetics, but not both. If both are missing, we're left with Jazz Age retro or, possibly, Neo-Swing.

Abney Park is a Steampunk band because they proactively incorporate retrofuturistic tech into their styling... on top of the Neo-Victorian fashion. Professor Elemental is a Steampunk musician because his fashion and lyrics reference steam-powered tech.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is a Neo-Swing band, but not Dieselpunk. Wearing a fedora is not particularly rebellious. Wearing a zoot suit to the courtroom might be rebellious, but that's still Neo-Swing; not Dieselpunk.

Genre. Culture/Counterculture. An object of research and fascination.

Dieselpunk for me is a Lifestyle with a heavy element of Counter-Culture.

When my grandfather came back from World War II he built his own house and started a small farm. He taught himself to raise livestock and grow crops. He could brew his own beer, make his own wine. He learned gunsmithing, refrigeration repair, welding, he could build little 2-stroke motorcycles for us kids to ride around, he knew how to prospect gold and be a desert rat, and how to split wood and fight a man with a hatchet.

To me, dieselpunk is going back in time and bringing that attitude back to the 21st Century.

To me, it's more a literary and art genre, just as the other 'punk' genres are, although I have to admit, a lot of diesel and steampunk fandoms contain a lot more than that, since people who go for the look and feel of the genre, and unlike cyberpunk or post-cyberpunk, it has far more people who try to create or customize things to make them look like they're from the era. That's what it is for me.

To me, dieselpunk is inspiration.  It's a word that describes the mash-up between something retro (specifically between WWI and WWII) and something modern.  Some people take the spirit of yesterday and make it their own in everything they do, while others filter the zeitgeist into their art or personal style.

How can we tell if something is dieselpunk?  The question you should be asking is, "how dieselpunk is it?"

I'm not sure what the difference between those questions?

Seems to imply that everything is Dieselpunk by default. I think that's a major part of what causes the "Dieselpunk doesn't exist" backfire - trying to cram a bunch of stuff that's not Dieselpunk into the "tent".

I understood Tome to be saying that Dieselpunk should be thought of as a characteristic that can be found in various degrees within something as opposed to labeling a thing as either being Dieselpunk or not. A good comparison might be interior design which has Asian or Traditional styles of design as opposed to saying the room is or is not Asian or Traditional. A room may incorporate Asian or Traditional elements but one would not say the room itself was either.

I don't know if I understood Tome right but I kind of like this idea and I think it has potential. I'm going to be chewing on this idea for while.

Everything is Dieselpunk? Not at my playground, that's for sure. Just a couple days ago, someone in some other discussion here said that Superman isn't Dieselpunk. Did it make me tremble with anger and roar? Not at all. Because Superman as is isn't Dieselpunk. He was created several generations before the advent of our movement. But he is an important part of the Diesel Era mass culture. Some of us are inspired by this character. He surely earned himself a good place in Dieselpunk Hall of Fame (probably, maybe it's time to create such a hall?). But, again, he is not a natural-born dieselpunk. We adopted him.

O. G. Vodoun said:

I'm not sure what the difference between those questions?

Seems to imply that everything is Dieselpunk by default. I think that's a major part of what causes the "Dieselpunk doesn't exist" backfire - trying to cram a bunch of stuff that's not Dieselpunk into the "tent".

I meant that dieselpunk isn't a binary style. I don't think of the world in black and white / is-dieselpunk isn't-dieselpunk.

A thing can have dieselpunk elements and still be a poor example of the style. It depends on how much the artist depends on the dieselpunk elements to express their overall message. For example, some people see dieselpunk elements in Star Wars, but it's not a core element and I wouldn't point to Star Wars (as a whole) to be a clear example of the style.

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