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 am also very new to dieselpunk, and i've recently got interested in it through reading classic pulp adventures like the Shadow and The Spider. Plus i have a real love for 1030-1940's fashion and specifically automotove and motorcylce design. I guess i would trend toward Ottensian, although i have to yet wrap my head around all the differant technological wonders found in this type. Here, i think is the perfect car for anyone in this genere. The "1 model only" mysterious 1939 Duesenburg Coupe Simone. Only 1 is known to have ever existed. Built in 1939 and than "lost forever" only a few years later. The last known photography of the car was taken in 1940, but the origional plans resurfaced in the early 90's. Throw some 30 caliber machine guns on the fenders and some other cool gadgets and you have yourself the 1940's version of the bat mobile.




That is just about the coolest looking car ever. I grew up around people that owned cars from the 30's and 40's so I've always loved them. Car's these days have no class.

Excellent PulpHero! Very cool.


Lilly Maloon said:

So as someone who clearly know an awful lot about dieselpunk, do you have any pointers for someone just getting into it?


Thank you for the kind words.


You asked such a great question I had to stop and think about that for a while.


First, Tome said it very well on the Home page concerning, “the aesthetics / pop culture of the 1920s - 1950s.” This is what “diesel” means in dieselpunk and it’s the lifeblood of the genre. So learn as much as you can about that era.


Second, Tome also hit on the next element of it being contemporary when he wrote, “merging the zeitgeist of the past with the technology and attitude of the future.” The diesel era (i.e. 1920s to early 1950s) provides the inspiration for creation of something new and original. We love Glenn Miller, Dashiell Hammett, Humphrey Bogart, and others of the diesel era but dieselpunk is the creation of something new. This Forum and the various blogs are a great source for these new creations. Feel free to participate. share and learn. Dieselpunk is very young and you're participating in the vanguard of its formation. 


Finally, there’s the second part of the name: “Punk.” There’s been much discussion about the use of the word but essentially, in my opinion, there are two elements. One, it’s what allows for twisting and mixing. The "punk" component allows for alternative history, horror, science fiction and more. Two, the punk in dieselpunk also makes it very postmodern in that what’s dieselpunk to me may not be dieselpunk to you but both interpretations are equally valid. Hence, we have these different types, flavors, sub-classes and so forth. This means you need to make it your own and don’t worry what others think.


I hope this helps.

Thank you Larry, that actually helped allot. I think i have a good idea of somethings i'm going to be doing to excoriate it into my everyday life. 

Again thank you so much.



Great stuff, @Larry, @Lilly and @PulpHero. I too love the car. And how can you not love a discussion involving the word "zeitgeist?"
I've come at dieselpunk from a libertarian, wild west sort of route, involving the pioneer and sustainability ethos into a sort of biodieselpunk. So I think Larry is certainly correct that the flavors can be suitably blended into various cocktails, all potentially delightful. (how's that for a late night ramble?)
So far, I've really been enjoying all the different recipes. Thanks!

This is an amazingly cool discussion developing here, with lots of great inspiration being thrown around for sure! I personally came at dieselpunk from the angle of devil may care acrobatics and days when anyone could own the sky, and as such some of my favorite things to center on are Sky Pirates, Aces, harrowing dogfights, and even a flying city or two for flavor. Anyone who says that there is only one right way to do a punk really doesn't get the idea of it in my humble opinion, as it is by no means a set thing!


Also, as David said, I to have been very much so enjoying everybody's different recipe for dieselpunk!

I think that in terms of general outlook I tend more towards the Ottensian, with a fairly upbeat view of the world, but in the small-scale I do tend to concentrate more on the crime and war and intrigue, with criminals and mercenaries abounding, and muzzle-flashes glaring starkly off the chrome of modern technology.

Nice description! I like your dieselpunk already.
Eric Langlois said:
with criminals and mercenaries abounding, and muzzle-flashes glaring starkly off the chrome of modern technology.

My grandparents were antique dealers and jazz lovers so I've always gravitated towards the optimism and beauty of Art Deco while simultaneously being a rather dark and, well, sketchy kind of person who feels happiest roaming the city streets at night so I suppose I'd fall more on the Ottensian side of things.

I like to imagine myself as a hardboiled detective who keeps getting caught up in paranormal and occult mysteries...kind of like the Big O meets the X-Files.

I can certainly relate, Momo. I've see myself the same way. I've always had a preference for Dark Ottensian Dieselpunk as well.

Drudging up an old thread here, but I'm definitely Ottensian. Light or dark depends on mood, but more often of the hopeful variety.

I'm glad you trudged it up because I find the subject interesting. Happy to learn about your preference, Travis.

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