Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Hello world this is France calling....

Steampunk in France is an underground culture but is growing more and more and a lot quality French books and comics have this last 5 years received a lot of succes. But what about Dieselpunk ? In order to get my fellow countrymen know about it I posted an article in my blog "What is Dieselpunk?". There seems to be an interest on Dieselpunk it as it was published on a webzine and is my top 5 consulted posts.


Let's make a free trip to France and come to see my article, you're welcome.


a bientot



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Comment by lord_k on October 1, 2011 at 4:29am
Merci, cagliostro! The trip was exciting.
Comment by Larry on October 1, 2011 at 12:07am
Very interesting article, cagliostro.
Comment by Tome Wilson on September 30, 2011 at 11:14pm
Thank you both for the fine overview and for the English translation.
Comment by Caerulctor on September 30, 2011 at 11:05pm



The excellent film Brazil (1987) by Terry Gilliam, offers what I consider (even if no one else has been bold enough to define it as such) to be a very peculiar, personal vision of delirious dieselpunk.

In the film "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", poorly inspired by the comic by Alan "Comics God" Moore, which is totally steampunk in inspiration, the car borrowed by the heroes is in itself firmly dieselpunk - sacrilege!

You may have read in the comics or seen on film (though I haven't) a superhero of the Thirties invented in the 80s: The Rocketeer.

Finally, as with steampunk, there is a whole fan community, often the same as steampunk fans, who create, fabricate, design, and dress Dieselpunk. I offer you a little glimpsee of original creations in this genre. You will of course observe that a lot of the creations are oriented toward means of transport with extraordinary machines. Personally I am much more for steam than diesel, but I like certain aesthetic aspects of this genre all the same.

Comment by Caerulctor on September 30, 2011 at 11:03pm

I hope Cagliostro will not object to an off-the-cuff translation, since perhaps some readers of this site don't read French.  The translation is pretty rough and free, partly for stylistic reasons but mostly because I'm inexperienced at translating colloquial French.  I can only beg pardon for what must be numerous errors and solecisms.



If you're not familiar with steampunk - described in my last article - it's likely that you've never heard of dieselpunk. Of course the name seems funny, having been "invented" in 2001, somewhat ironically, by Lewis Pollack to describe the genre of his role-playing game Children of the Sun. Dieselpunk, by analogy with Steampunk's orientation toward the industrial revolution and steam technology, is based in a setting framed by gas and electricity. In terms of atmosphere, Victorian England and Belle Époque France are replaced by the interbellum United States, the Roaring Twenties, the rise of totalitarianism in Europe and the U.S.S.R.

Chronologically, and from a cultural, aesthetic, and technical point of view, I think the period covered is placed between World War I and the beginning of the 1950s. World War I being located at the junction between the two genres.  I would probably say that steampunk ends with the appearance of the combustion engine and the first airplanes.  In historical terms, I also think that it was that terrible war that brought humanity into a new era in the 20th century, more than the arrival of the year 1900. I'll leave these speculations to your personal judgment.

As for the cultural inspiration of this genre, you can, in my opinion, refer to film noir and detective films, especially pulp literature (Weird Tales among others), German Expressionist films (notably Metropolis), Art Deco, and of course the great development of new means of transport based on the energy (nowadays frowned upon) of gasoline. Of course, World War I and World War II themselves also influenced this genre a lot.

Where can one find dieselpunk nowadays, specifically?  In terms of novels, nothing comes to mind. It's not a literary genre as well populated as steampunk, with all of its novels based on a fantasy 19th century. I think we are still too close, chronologically, to that period to produce a retro-science-fiction as offbeat, strange and interesting as that which steampunk offers. On the other hand, I'm not a dieselpunk specialist and I'm probably missing something.

With respect to French comics, Block 109, which I discussed here, is basically also a uchronia which takes place during World War II, but with the technologies, genetic manipulations, and an aesthetic that make this comic part of the genre.

But the best is La Brigade Chimérique, a French graphic novel in comic-book style by Fabric Colin and Serge Lehman. I don't know if it can be completely categorized as dieselpunk, but it brings a large number of dieselpunk elements together in it. The story takes place in the interbellum, and stars heroes arising from hyperscience and from radium, Marie Curie's discovery (some call it radiumpunk… stay calm). These heroes are faced with the new 20th century despots of Spanish and Italian Fascism, German Nazism, and Russian Communism.  Its originality comes from the fact that its heroes and villains come from the popular culture of that period: Dr. Mabuse, the Nyctalope, the Golem, the Man Who Could Walk Through Walls, etc.  I'll talk more about it in my next article, because it's one of my favorite comics.

The characteristic flm of the genre is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2005), with Jude Law and Angeline Jolie. The scenario is a little hackneyed and boring, but the Dieselpunk aesthetic is 100% totally represented in it.

The excellent film Brazil (1987) by Terry Gilliam, offers what I consider (even if no one else has been bold enough to define it as

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