Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Several of the discussions here reminded me of this article at The Gatehouse,"The Two Flavors of Dieselpunk." In an excerpt from the article:
Elaborating upon the observations of The Flying Fortress about the genre, we have established two kinds of dieselpunk, differing in setting, style and influence. The “Ottensian,” of which Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) is representative, is typically set in a 1930s that was never bothered by a Great Depression and is therefore more of a continuation of the Roaring Twenties; its optimism and excitement only strengthened by further progress. This buoyant and most pervasive of “Ottensian” dieselpunk shares its era with more film noir-styled, hard-boiled detective stories such as The Shadow (1994) and The Big O, which depict the negative effects of the era’s laissez-faire attitude: the rise of totalitarianism, technocratic perception, and the “grit and oil [and] dust and mud”5 of pollution.

On the other side of World War II we find the “Piecraftian” dieselpunk, shaped by an alternate outcome of the war: often Axis victory but sometimes a three-way Cold War reminiscent of Nineteen-Eighty-Four. Either way, the war is typically depicted as having been prolonged with advanced technologies based upon real-world Nazi experiments with rocketry, jet aircraft, and eugenics and the occult. Sometimes the “Piecraftian” is set during the later stages of the war, as is the case with video games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001) and War Front: Turning Point (2007). Often, however, it is characterized by dystopia and nuclear paranoia, and the development of evermore agressive technologies of war and the conquest of space by Nazi-Germany—in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962) and Energia Productions’s Iron Sky (2008).

Finally, the darker side of the “Piecraftian” is truly hopeless, for in the post-apocalyptic environments of Mad Max (1979), Radioactive Dreams (1985), Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita and Kevin Costner’s Waterworld (1995), there is no chance of recovery, no hope for a better future; only an everlasting struggle for survival.

I consider myself Ottensian Dieselpunk. I was wondering in which category other's considered themselves.

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I really dig the cool imagery that I see in Ottensian style but I grew up surrounded and influenced by factories and large machinery that were already decayed by the mid 70s and in my heart and on my sleeve, I wear the weariness that I always saw on the faces of those of my family members who survived the wars and the camps, so I'm definitely the Piecraft type. 

What kind of dieselpunk I would consider myself to be? Well it's definitely Ottensian, though with a fantasy overlay on top of it. The reason for all of it is simply because I like the idea of having a very different world to go adventuring in, yet has enough familiarity in it to make it relateable to our own era.

Thread Necromancy! The thread shall rise!

Definately Ottensian, less about war and more about fashion, style and fun times.

This thread interested me for a different reason though. I'm recent addition to Dieselpunk, coming from Steampunk. Alot of threads on here say they do not have or use personas, and dieslepunk is about making the world a better place by using the past. But the two examples above are purely fantastical, and to place yourself in either is developing a persona is it not?

Personally, I like personas, I live my "punk" online as there is very little in the world around me. I like to change how i interact depending on the discussion., Here right now I am me, in an online fictional bar I own I am very different, and in an online steampunk role play I am a scientist that was grafted to a mechanical spiders body! None of the "personas"carry into real life. What does carry is the fashion. I wear pinstripes, vests, fob watch, a fedora, panama or bowler hat, frock/trench coat, and carry a cane for style not functionality. 

Going by the explanations in the intro, Dieselpunk is persona based.

Going by many other threads, it is not, and is even considered to be reality based.

Which one is the "mainstream dieselpunk" view?

Only two types... seems a little slim to me...I shall wander over to the philosophers forum and cogitate on this ....

Whew, good question!

I should say, I am much more of a Piecraftian weirdo in meetings and for what concerns my art in general (even for handcrafts and outfits), but in everyday life, I apply the Ottensian lines (I think I'd get a little bit of concerned gazes, if I went to work/university dressed as the Alchemical Colonel, my own character!)


I'm new to this forum, but I feel that I have a fairly high cetane outlook.  I think I fall into a spot somewhere between Dark Ottensian and Piecraftian. 

The 1995 movie "Richard III" and the Tabletop Wargame Setting "A Very British Civil War" are good reference points.

I love the Sir Ian McKellen's version of Richard III. Great choice!

Richard III is a fantastic film and one of my favourite Shakespeare adaptations, right down to the soundtrack (which adapts Marlowe poems as lyrics for swing tunes).

This thread in general... thinking about it again, I'm still not buying the Piecraftian/Ottensian categorizations. For one, where are all the works that clearly fit the modes? It's like these guys tried to define genres based on theoreticals or, maybe like, an RPG setting or two, and are now expecting people to fill up the categories with new works at a future date as some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. That's just... not how genres work. For two, who are these guys that they get to name genres after themselves? Orwell, Kafka and Lovecraft have genres named after them because they pioneered those genres -- they didn't theorize, they wrote.

Even Sky Captain, if you look at the plot, has elements of both (high-flying glamour AND dark totalitarian Nazi-future-warfare), meaning you have to break that movie into Ottensian/Piecraftian scene by scene. And you have to do the same with The Rocketeer, or Raiders of the Lost Ark, or BioShock, or pretty much any other story we call dieselpunk.

Serious question: Who feels that the difference is really tangible? Why do we need to be more nerdy than our top-hatted friends, the steampunks?

I think it's significant that most of us have turned to talking about fashion / modes of dress as opposed to narratives in this thread. That's really the only place where there's a clear demarcation between the two described 'modes' of dieselpunk. And it's really just a re-name for the difference between glamour/swing/urban/civilian period dress (Ottensian) and period military (Piecraftian).

There's more than just fashion at play here, though, JR.  There's a difference between a more optimistic, hopeful "We can do it" "the future is bright" Ottensian and the dark, noir, pessimistic dystopian plunge of the Piecraftian.  Which direction we choose declares a lot about what aspects of the world are driving our subconcious.  Do we see hope for a better tomorrow where we solve (or at least mitigate) our political/cultural/financial/environmental troubles or do we feel the crushing weight of an unshakable oligarchy against which resistance might be futile?

Well, my point is that that dieselpunk media -- as far as actual narratives, as opposed to single images or fashion statements -- go through peaks and valleys that include both attitudes, often explicitly, as in-story conflicts. Even the darkest, goriest dieselpunk story, like, say, Wolfenstein (to use the OP's most extreme example), is still driven by American can-do idealism that results in the bad guys getting served and good prevailing.

The future might be bright, or dark (I don't know if you're talking about narrative or real-life here -- maybe there's not much difference, considering how we narrative our own lives) but one thing it's not is easily compartmentalized.


First, the individuals Ottens and Piecraft did not name these themes. The terms Ottensian and Piecraftian actually date to an article in the now defunct blog The Flying Fortress back on June 4, 2008. What Ottens and Piecraft were doing in their article was during the early days of Dieselpunk, where there was really nothing else around, pioneering the genre and helping to make Dieselpunk what it is. In my podcast I included them in my list of the Founding Fathers of Dieselpunk because they were indeed at its earliest developments.

Second, you asked where are all of the works that fit these models. I wrote a five part series in my blog in which I explained each model in detail and gave tangible examples of each. I recommend you start at the beginning of my series. The Flavors of Dieselpunk.

Third, why "do we need to be ... nerdy." I wouldn't call it being nerdy. That's like asking why do chemists need the Periodic Table. By understanding the trends and patterns within the genre we can better understand how they combine to form this amazing phenomenon we call Dieselpunk.

Finally, that last statement of mine leads me to this. We can look at a flower two ways. We can break it down to its elemental components using the Periodic Table or we can simply admire it's beauty. Both are perfectly valid and both have their uses.

So, JR, I would say if analyzing Dieselpunk in this fashion doesn't work for you, that's cool. No one is saying you have to apply this if you don't want to. However, don't fault those of us who want to study this phenomenon in an analytical fashion.

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