Thanks for joining me again! I want to discuss an upcoming punk genre that may seem similar to steampunk in several ways. Dieselpunk takes the world building and rebellious nature from steampunk and applies it to the 1930s and 1940s. It's a retro futuristic genre that showcases high tech elements and fantasy during World War I, World War II, the Great Depression, Prohibition, and more. Naturally, dieselpunk has a huge emphasis on diesel fuel instead of steam power. It can also include supernatural elements, which is not unusual for punk genres. If you want to learn more about this genre, keep reading. I'll give you plenty of material.
Why should dieselpunk focus on the 1930s and 1940s? We still use gasoline today. Why shouldn't it be a contemporary genre? The 1930s and 1940s were the height of diesel power. Fossil fuels replaced coal as the primary source of power in Westernized nations. Automobiles were becoming a mainstream source of transportation, including public transits like buses. Diesel fuel was also essential during both World Wars. It fueled countless combat vehicles like planes, tanks, and other military vessels. During the wars, there was actually a shortage of gasoline and diesel fuel in the United States because much of it was sent overseas. The late 1950s and 1960s shifted to nuclear energy. Even though mankind was still dependent on fossil fuels, people became very fascinated with atomic power. It helped create space travel, nuclear reactors, and a new source of power for many things. That's why it's best to end dieselpunk stories before the late 1950s and 1960s. Diesel fuel wasn't the newest and most fascinating source of power anymore. If you're thinking about contemporary settings, consider our dependence on computer technology. Today, we're far more worried about our cell phones, computers, video game systems, etc. Almost everything is digital in the modern era. We use the internet to shop, read the news, pay bills, communicate with our friends, watch movies, and such. Businesses can't even operate when their computer systems are down. We're also starting to move away from gasoline and diesel fuel in favor of alternative energy sources, like solar power and electricity.
Even though traditional dieselpunk tends to focus on the 1930s and 1940s, I would say it can be expanded a little bit. I believe the 1920s and a big chunk of the 1950s are fair game too. Dieselpunk works really well from an aesthetic perspective during the Roaring Twenties, especially if you're interested in noir and countercultures. The early and mid 1950s wouldn't be bad either because the automotive industry practically exploded during that time period. After World War II ended, gasoline wasn't rationed anymore and manufacturing could focus on domestic goods. A ton of classic Ford and Chevrolet models were created in the 1950s. It was also the height of American Graffiti and hot rods; a notable punk movement. So, I would say gasoline and diesel fuel was still very important during a big part of the 1950s.
World War I and II are popular dieselpunk settings, but you also have additional options. Personally, I enjoy stories about mobsters and corporate greed. It's always fun to have adventures with noir, mystery, fedoras, pinstripes, car chases, Tommy guns, art deco, and mob feuds. Throw in some retro futurism and fantasy, like robots, gene splicing, or Lovecraftian creatures. Gender roles can also be an interesting element to explore in dieselpunk stories as well. For example, the flappers in the Roaring Twenties were a female punk crowd who reacted against traditional gender roles. You could also explore gender roles in the 1940s and 1950s with the idealism of the American Dream.
What's the difference between dieselpunk versions of the World Wars versus traditional depictions like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers? Dieselpunk is still a form of retro futurism, fantasy, and science fiction. It looks like dieselpunk when we see high tech submarines, airships, and tanks that exceeded their historical counterparts. Machine guns and other weapons will also have more of a high tech element from science fiction. You can also include supernatural elements like sorcery, vampires, werewolves, etc. Abominations of science like mutants and zombies are becoming more common in dieselpunk as well.
Sometimes I see labels like decopunk and diesel desolation. Decopunk seems to be a sleeker and more utopian version of dieselpunk, whereas diesel desolation is a post-apocalyptic version of World War I or II. Honestly, it gets really confusing when people try to make subgenres of dieselpunk. In my opinion, all of these subgenres are just dieselpunk. It's fine if someone wants to call their own work decopunk or diesel desolation, but you guys don't need to worry about these labels.
I'm noticing more dieselpunk at the cosplay scene. There are dieselpunk vendors and cosplayers who attend Comic Cons and other events. Much like the other punk genres, dieselpunk has particular stylistic elements. Sometimes I'll see futuristic mobsters, flappers, or soldiers. There aren't a lot of dieselpunk festivals yet, but they'll probably grow eventually. The Dapper Day Expo at the Disneyland Hotel caters pretty well to dieselpunk fans because it focuses on the right time periods. Merchants sell a lot of retro clothing, grooming supplies, hats, and jewelry at the Dapper Day Expo. You might get a better idea of dieselpunk fashion and style if I give some examples. After all, dieselpunk is more prominent in literature, video games, and cinema than you might realize. We've been looking at dieselpunk for quite a while without knowing it.
Marvel's Agent Carter is a pretty good television series with a lot of dieselpunk influences. Agent Carter is a government agent who worked with Captain America at one point. The show chronicles her adventures in high tech espionage, sleuthing, and crime fighting. It's an entertaining series with a feminist twist. Agent Carter is very classy, tailored, spunky, and she gets bonus points for wearing a fedora.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is probably one of the most accurate dieselpunk films. It takes place during an alternate version of the late 1930s with a heavy emphasis on advanced technology and fantasy. The movie has a lot of art deco elements and almost looks like a graphic novel in some ways. Sky Captain is a military pilot who fights robots and uncovers a strange mystery along the way.
The Rocketeer seems like a dieselpunk film. I think it was actually released before dieselpunk existed, but the film covers the main components. The Rocketeer is almost a dieselpunk superhero. He uses a high tech jet back to fight mobsters. The movie has some noir elements too.
I suppose we could put the Indiana Jones films in the dieselpunk category. Maybe soft dieselpunk. I'm sure many of you are familiar with Indiana Jones and his quests for ancient artifacts. Along the way he encounters Nazis, cults, Russians, and supernatural elements in various films. It's a really fun adventure franchise.
Superhero films can have dieselpunk influences too. It seems like Wonder Woman and Captain America: The First Avenger have some dieselpunk elements. Both of these films have very strong commentaries about war and heroism.
BioShock is a great example of dystopian dieselpunk in video gaming. The player ventures to a fallen underwater city called Rapture. It's overrun with mutants called splicers and Big Daddies who ultimately became Rapture's downfall. The game series takes a lot of influences from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and it's a solid commentary on topics like addiction, greed, morality, etc.
The Wolfenstein games seem to fit the dieselpunk mold. The player is a soldier who's fighting Nazis in an alternate version of World War II. The franchise includes a wide variety of enemies, including robots, undead beings, and creatures from another dimension.
If you feel like reading dieselpunk fiction, The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk isn't a bad place to start. It has a diverse collection of dieselpunk stories that would appeal to both major fans and newcomers of the genre.
A Fistful of Nothing: A Dieselpunk Noir Novel takes place in a dystopian version of America during the early 1950s. The landscape was torn apart by war and the survivors are living in the metro tunnels. It features bootleggers, mad scientists, corrupt police officers, mobsters, and a variety of high tech weapons.
Can dieselpunk stories take place during contemporary or futuristic time periods? Sure, but it needs to include the appropriate stylistic elements. Retro futures are becoming somewhat more popular. For example, the Fallout games take place in a distant future, but the environment looks like the nuclear age in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The Mortal Engines book series also takes place in the future, but it's a steampunk setting with a lot of Victorian elements. Futuristic dieselpunk stories would probably have a lot of noir or wartime elements from the 1930s or 1940s. Perhaps American fashion never went past those decades or maybe everything reverted backwards for some reason.
Well, I certainly gave you a lot of information in this blog post. But I can have more discussions about this genre in the future if you're interested. I hope everyone had a nice Father's Day weekend. Good luck with your upcoming week and watch out for my next post. Have a good night!
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