Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible (or at least non-supernatural) content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Exploring the consequences of scientific innovations is one purpose of science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas"
When i read this definition of sorts for Science Fiction the idea of what it was in my head completely spun. not what i thought it was at all. Usually when I thought of science fiction, as most do I'm sure, i think of Star Trek and Dr. Jeckle & Mr. Hyde. That word science has such a power connotation on the mind like so many other stereotypes. However, because science fiction deals with rules that exist in the world as we knew it, know it now and know it to be it has a much different effect on presentation and delivery than fantasy which plays on imagination of the mundane and rumored. But just like our hard punk genres, science and fantasy go hand in hand. I'm not too sure how familiar the lot of you are with the new Captain America movie( if you haven't seen it do yourself a favor and go see it), but our antagonist, the Red Skull seeks to use the power of mythology (fantasy) and harness it in a more tangible form for human use (science). Both genres are innovators of ideas, but only one has a way of challenging our very beings constantly and consistently. Science fiction deals with the actual essence of what humanity was, is and could be just to mention a small portion of the themes covered. We all know this and bath in its splendor because these ideas and metal fantasies makes our imaginations swoon. And thats where fantasy falls short without the aid of science fiction. The Final Fantasy series has been the most successful at such execution, and most of the time their "fantasypunk" products need to borrow more from science to give it enough story structure to sustain itself. Science fiction is a beautiful genre, and from it Cyberpunk, Steampunk and Dieselpunk were born..... however....
There is still a rift that separates these three from one another other than their obvious focus on a chosen time era. Technology. Their magic. Their alchemy. Their answers to problems as well as accessibility to newer, more innovative solutions. For the sake of this entire site I am going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that you all know the difference between Cyberpunk, Steampunk and Dieselpunk; technology aside. You are familiar with their common themes, looks and feel. We spend so much time trying to separate them, but quickly overlook the inspiration behind the idea. Like I said before, technology really is the end all say all to all punk debates, but just like their parent genres these genres can also go hand in hand, i feel. There are some snags and limitations to each of them but i do feel that they can all be united and may shed a whole new light on classical pieces from "Metropolis" to "The Matrix".
Retro-futurism (adjective retro-futuristic or retro-future) is a trend in the creative arts showing the influence of depictions of the future produced prior to about 1960. Characterized by a blend of old-fashioned "retro" styles with futuristic technology, retro-futurism explores the themes of tension between past and future, and between the alienating and empowering effects of technology. Primarily reflected in artistic creations and modified technologies that realize the imagined artifacts of its parallel reality, retro-futurism has also manifested in the worlds of fashion, architecture, literature and film.
A direct correlation from technology of different time periods if one were so inclined to do so. Imagine the possibilities for story telling there could be with such a setting with such an unlimited amount of synthesis of era based technology. Such pieces like the 2001 Osamu Tezuka's "Metropolis" Is most definitely a synthesis of Cyberpunk and Dieselpunk. "Last Exile" is another that synthesizes Steampunk and Dieselpunk. All of these pronominal works and staples among the Otaku community.Retro- futurism allows for more possibilities then either punk genre can offer because it is not privy to their rules. Both Steampunk and Dieselpunk are limited to older technology less they expand to things beyond the scope of their horizon (retro- futurism.) and because of this they will both remain timeless, classical and eclectic. But Cyberpunk is futuristic and therefore has very little foundation to work with other than scientific and technological laws that have and will be established for efficiency's sake. In Ghost in the Shell, Mokoto "The Major" Kusinagi makes reference to humanity within their world once upon a time looking to their present as science fiction but is now reality. That is both the blessing and the curse of Cyberpunk: that is is both far off and oh so very close while its sister punks are all done and lived out. Cyberpunk is the future, so what becomes of Cyberpunk when what we illustrate becomes reality? Simple, the next best thing. Can you imagine it? Lets just say the entirety of the technology in the world of Ghost in the Shell is actually our reality, then what do we have to look forward to in the future in terms of technology when we are bluing the line even farther between man and machine which is a constant theme in all three punk genres? It is beyond even my scope of imagination. Retro- futurism allows for all these to come together as one, so now an even bigger question posed: what would it be like if such a world existed where all three punk genres existed either fused or separated, but all existing in the same world simultaneously? Could such a world exist without one toppling the other is separated? Could such a world of such incredible technology be stable when their methods are modeled around the aged and out dated? (That actually sounds a lot like the present, like some sort of cruel, sick joke. heh)
What do you all think? What are your feelings on Retro- futurism and it effect on either or all the Punk Sisters? What kind of civilization would arise from technology colliding or divided in the same world. How dependent are any or all of these genres on their rules on technological advancements as well as presentation and necessity?
Fascinating post, Angel. Here are some of my thoughts.
First, there's a resurgence of a term that I like, which is "speculative fiction." There seems to be several reasons for its resurgence. If one looks at most science fiction it tends to be a little light on the "science" part so where one draws the line between science and fantasy can be difficult. In addition, it's my opinion, that Steampunk is less science fiction and more fantasy. Even if they had information tech because Babbage had finished his Difference Engine I have serious doubts the Victorians could have achieved what most Steampunk includes.
Second, there are several genre-punk films and books that involve magic rather than technology. Most recently we had a Dieselpunk novel, Hard Magic by Larry Correia (who's a member of Dieselpunks forum, btw) in which the central storyline is, as the name implies, magic while set in an alternative 1930s. In film, with have Pans Labyrinth that's heavy with fantasy as well as Hellboy (Hellboy of course fused magic and technology).
(Note: I'm currently readying Hard Magic right now and highly recommend it.)
Third, I think the words "diesel" and "steam" have less to do with the tech as they do with the cultural source material of an era in which that particular tech was dominant, which is why in both retro-future genres you can find the same components (such as flying cars, spaceships, ray guns, and robots) but with a different spin on the details. In my opinion, what distinguishes Steampunk from Dieselpunk has as much to do with cultural elements such as fashion, culture, political and socio-economic systems as with technology.
Finally, can the genre-punks coexist in the same world? I say to make a world that fuses all three into one time period work would take some truly creative storytelling. It is though reasonable to assume that one could easily start with a Steampunk universe and then advance it through time one should find essentially a Dieselpunk historical era and a Cyberpunk era.
I don't think that it's fair to any of the x-punks to pigeon-hole them into single categories past the umbrella of retro-futurism. Part of the inherent appeal to all these different aethetics is their ability to be something different in the hands of every individual who handles them. The technology, while a good touchstone for defining boundries, is hardly the most important factor.
And, to your question, Larry, I say yes, they can. With such a prevalence of time-travel in the fiction, and future having somewhat inevitable, forward tendancies, it seems silly to assume that any technology-derived culture would cease it's evolution. Unfortunately, that seems to be a rather unpopular notion, in my experience....
I'm sorry if wasn't clear. I certainly didn't mean to imply that it wasn't possible to have them coexist but that it would take some creative storytelling. In fact, the more I think about it maybe it might not take that much. Compare a major Western city to many places in the "Third World." So you have a good point, Abi.
Sorry about not being clear in my post.
Abi, I agree that pigeon- holing these genres based solely on their their technological limitations is wrong when using it to be the definitive source of segregation, however, like you said not passing the umbrella of retro- futurism i think it becomes obvious that technology becomes the dominant subject for speculation. Just as Larry also stated, what makes these genres interesting is not just their technology, but also their culture, fashion and economics as well. It would be very difficult to come to grips with Tron based fashion and environment faced with zeppelins and steam trains. Not saying its not dueable, just in my opinion isn't a very attractive picture nor makes much sense considering science fiction has to at least be plausible within the scope of imagination. I do, however, feel that technology, though not the most important part or either of these genres, is probably maybe the most imposing of any of the common themes necessarily to makes these genres more recognizable: their selling point.
Any story premise that is has too much freedom and lacks a foundation will always seem as though it is missing an important ingredient. We relate to rules and limitations. I think that it is great that any story teller can takes these genres and do anything they want with them that separates them from the pack, but there are foundations and common themes. Utopia and Distopia. The blur of reality and any imitation of the sort. The existence of a soul so as to question if one can actually be created. What really is life is there is no real difference between humans and machines in that sense. Just a small list of popular topics often seen, im sure. Stories rely on characters, plot and setting and cannot exist without these three present. However, between the three of them only one of them is not effected by either of the other two while they are dominated by the one: setting. Where and when you set the stage changes everything about the possibilities of a character's ability to solve an issue to some degree therefore also dictating the versatility of the plot. Setting based genres such as X-Punk as oppose to romantic comedy more laws and stipulations and therefore make for not only a more limited tent of storytelling ammunition but for a more enriching experience because of how closely we are able to twist and bend the rules without breaking them. We are challenged to push it to the very limits before we miss the point and are making a story about something completely different. Without this we would fall short in potency and will not make a good product. The only other way to break the rules of setting is to create a deus ex machina, and nobody wants that. Probably one of the worst alternatives ever, avoided whenever possible.
And that brings me lastly to the main topic (sorry if i went of track a bit) of retro- futurism. It is the exact tool to bend the rules of setting, Even if technology isnt what you feel is the the most important thing (not that its not important, just not the most important) culture, fashion and economics are all dictated by the setting in order to create a clean and concise delivery because a character alone can not do it without influence of the world around them so history has proven and a plot is created by all these things in conjunction. Retro- futurism lets us push the envelope that much farther. From what ive read you all agree. Magic, almost nothing to do with technology, is a bit of a hard topic to toss around. I disagree in Larry's thoughts on Steampunk lack of science fictional quality. Speculative fiction does fluff the science and gives more with the brain candy fantasy, but in the way quality fantasy does so. Steampunk, I feel is just the Victorian age's Cyberpunk. It is a fantasy of technology that we hope to achieve one day, but the likelihood of us doing it or at the very least looking like anything we read or watch in fiction is up to "speculation" (see what I did there?) No, the rules of Steampunk do not exist in the real world as oppose to Dieselpunk which stays true to its roots when not synthesized and Cyberpunk which is the soon to be. But I think the only thing that makes it any more fantasy then Cyberpunk is to us in the present is just the extreme imagination for what could be as science fiction itself deals with imaginary but more or less plausible content. Magic presents itself in all of these genres and is very alien when shown, its just flat out doesnt look like it fits, but makes the story that much more interesting because the setting is still intact. From "Monsters and Aliens" to "Hellboy" (thank you Larry, you were right on target with that) the super natural is an ever present mystery that science has not been able to dissect but merely harnessed. Its a big difference when you have a flame thrower and the human torch.
Retro- futurism is think is simply the pushing of boundaries to all these setting ideas. Boundaries that we are all well aware of. Otherwise these genres would have nothing to stand on with no definitive look or feel. If one were to make a story that fused them all and made such tech, culture, fashion and economics coexist i feel that retro- futurism would lend a very decisive hand in the making of it. It will be quite a sight to behold and quite the stretch of the imagination.
Technology is the fit and finish of Dieselpunk. It's part of the aethetic, absolutely, but it's not the core of it. I would concede, however, that it holds a higher rung on the ladder in both steampunk and cyberpunk, on average (no absolutes, they don't exist outside of math...).
As I stated earlier, the technology of each era is a great identifier, but when I compare the three x-punks we seem to have settled on discussing, I would say the gadgets are least important in diesel. Technology isn't just setting for the rest, it seems. Steampunks without gadgets are essentially neo-victorians; Cyberpunks without gadgets are essentially modern-day computer jocks. But Dieselpunks without gadgets are... well, still pretty much Dieselpunks... or just fashion-savvy, as the 40's/50's look will always be a classic. Perhaps it's a side-effect of the stream-moderne/art deco minimalist aethetic that we pull from, or perhaps it's from the fact that there are still people about who remember the time, but outside of our imbelishments for fictional purposes, we seem to be a lot more closely rooted in the actual history.
But that right there probably comes to the crux of the differentiating opinions. Some people see x-punk-of-your-choice as a setting/genre, some see it as a lifestyle, some see it for something in the middle, and I'm certain some see it as something else entirely. Personally, I don't take my diesel with terribly much science-fiction, so while I acknowledge that it most certainly is a vessel thereof (and that I greatly enjoy it being so), it's not how I primarily interpret my punk.
So, to take this all full circle, I don't see retro-futurism as just a means to push the boundries in fiction. I don't just see it as an excuse to tinker or as an excuse to dress up (I do these things anyway). I see retro-futurism as that perfect dashboard on a '48 Buick. I see it as those fluted marble pilasters in Buffalo City Hall. I see it as the fedora and cigarette Bogey has in all his best movies. I see retro-futurism as the bright and shiny paper that wraps the box of our individual interests.
God, but I can ramble.... 0_0
Oh, I don't disagree with you, not in the least. I apologize if my post seemed that way. I was just saying that, for me, retro-futurism is a movement/lifestyle first, and a genre/setting/fictional-aid second. That hasn't kept me out of the Titan RP, I would like to note ;)
And glad I could make you smile!
Angel, you've made what I think is a very astute observation about Dieselpunk that separates it out from it's Steampunk and Cyberpunk cousins when you wrote:
If you take out the science and fantasy of Deiselpunk you still have what we all know as Dieselpunk.
Two movies that I consider Dieselpunk, which I'm aware others might not, are "O' Brother Where Art Thou?" and "Inglorious Bastards." Both to me are very Dieselpunk but neither involve science fiction or magic.
As I stated earlier, the technology of each era is a great identifier, but when I compare the three x-punks we seem to have settled on discussing, I would say the gadgets are least important in diesel. Technology isn't just setting for the rest, it seems. Steampunks without gadgets are essentially neo-victorians; Cyberpunks without gadgets are essentially modern-day computer jocks. But Dieselpunks without gadgets are... well, still pretty much Dieselpunks.
Wow, great discussio! I'm glad I cued you into this group, Angel!
On the subject of science and plausibility, a strange juxtaposition of the two is deliciously there in X-punk settings and retrofuturism in general, giving us an often ironic, and almost always interesting and fun look at how what's defined as the plausible and fanciful changes as science advances. Douglas Adams coined the term "Zeerust" for that strange feeling of datedness past visions of the future have today, such as how funny it is for us today to see how huge computers are in the "far off year of 2000" and sigh that we never got that flying car. As we push forward through technology, things that once seemed so possible or even likely seem ludicrous, and things that once seemed ludicrous are now available at Target for $39.
Steampunk is by nature riddled with Zeerust as stock theories from Verne's day of Moon Men and Lumiferous Aether are shown false. At the other end, Cyberpunk is showing the first spots of it as the omnipresent headjacks of the 80s seem so much yesterday's technology. Even the central technology of the cyberpunk Computer Network, once the purview of corrupt data-hogging corps, was set loose IRL as the almost-anarchy of the WWW (this, in turn, has spun off a new breed of post-cyberpunk writers!). Dieselpunk is in the middle both temporally and figuratively, as since the culture and aestetic drive it so much, the amount of Zeerust depends on the individual story. Certainly John Carpenter of Mars is Zeerust central with its Martian Airship battles, yet modern DP stories often feature real-world technologies with a Diesel-era aestetic, ultimately making the amount of Zeerust almost up to the creator, depending on if you want Realistic Internet with Fedoras or Bel Geddes Airliners circling the globe.
Speculative Fiction, including Science Fiction, has a span of plausibility from story to story, from soft space opera that's as fantastic as anything with wizards and dragons to hard, scientific based work that adheres to the laws of physics. Pushing stories into the far future can also take us right back to fantasy as we invent "super advanced technology" that, to paraphrase Clarke, is indistinguishable from magic. We have artifical gravity and transporters and faster-than-light travel, all basically fantasy couched in technobabble and justified (sometimes) through theoretical physics or "science we just don't know yet". As science advances, Zeerust similarly turns once Hard SF works into fantasy couched in technobabble when that once plausible Vacuum Airship proves physically impossible.
The fun thing about X-Punk and retro-futurism in general is getting to play with that Zeerust aestetic, allowing us to make a work as hard or soft as we want, science-wise. We can deliberately and ironically impose the discredited science of the past and rewrite the laws of physics as a "what if" scenario (such as the Aetherships of Steampunk or the retro-rocketry of the Rocketeer) or we can reinvent modern technologies in alternative ways using a more hard science alternate history approach.
While the aestetics of the "punk" may limit us in certain ways, the retro-future aspect frankly liberates us to reshape the laws of physics, the boundries of genre types, and even political/economic theory to, well, Reconfigure them (there's my favorite word, you knew it was coming!) into something unique.
I'm glad i was able to oblige your suggestion of getting me in here. Its fun. I love "Inglorious Bastards" I feel it to be very Dieselpunk, just not as many bells and whistles as say "Captain America" but still more than effective.
This Zeerust you speak of is very interesting. From what I understand you are saying that Zeerust is the fantasized future that was never accomplished such as out flying cars, ray guns and outdoor moving floors (with no support beams mind you. Jetsons, that's stupid kinds of dangerous. I should call the fire marshal on you. Shame.). That's pretty cool. Taking a that aesthetic and implementing it to a x-punk setting I think is in its more self explanatory form retro- futurism. I absolutely agree that retro- futurism gives us more liberties with the setting rules of any of the x-punk genres because of how original and creative we can be with it considering none of it exists yet or very well never will. Sorry to keep bringing up this example, but 1927 "Metropolis".
No problem, welcome!
Specifically when Adams spoke of "Zeerust" he meant more how things once designed to be futuristic later look dated and old fashioned due to the inability to predict future technology and style trends, like the sparking tesla coils and art deco robot of Metropolis, all the analog switches and Go-Go boots in Star Trek, or the data jacks and spiked mohawks of vintage Cyberpunk, all of which seem so old fashioned, retro, and dated today compared to how futuristic they looked in their time. (Not to mention the social Zeerust, like the utter lack of non-whites in the Jetsons, darker-skinned people being as notably absent as those safety rails...raising some very disturbing questions). However, with the rise of concious retrofuturism, the term has evolved to also refer to the deliberately retrofuturistic look we see in modern-day concious Zeerust works like Captain America, The Rocketeer, or Sky Captain.
Sometimes these definitions overlap when the vintage is updated. Take Disney's Tomorrowland; once considered a plausible view of the future, by 1980 it looked so campy 1950s as to be laughable. Flash forward to today when Zeerust is suddenly popular for its irony, and Disney has deliberately revamped Tomorrowland with concious Zeerust as a retro-futurist display rather than the original futurist one.