While most people have heard of Steampunk, far fewer have heard of Dieselpunk. Initially coined in the game Children of the Sun, it has come to represent the time period of the 1920’s through the 1950’s, while including anachronistic aspects as well. It draws inspiration from Art Deco architecture, noir detective stories, and pulp magazines, amongst other things.

Based both between and during the two World Wars, it reflects a change in sensibility from the Victorian Era. While technology was ever evolving, it was now shifting into more of a destructive and nihilistic time. Many of the greatest inventions of the time were the result of military research, creating ever more varied ways of killing others.  It is a much darker and dirtier time period, with other large events such as the Great Depression causing large amounts of suffering across the world.

This topic has primarily been my interest, since I was little and before I even knew what Dieselpunk was. I have always been fascinated by the World Wars, from the generals who led them to the soldiers in the trenches fighting. The machines of war, created with the sole purpose of destroying the enemy’s machines, also were amazing to me, given their complexity and destructive capability. The ideas fostered in this era, of honor, loyalty and patriotism have interested me greatly, and are what initially brought me into Steampunk, and then to Dieselpunk.

Dieselpunk is not only restricted to the grim portions of this time period, however. There are bright spots as well, from the Roaring Twenties, with flappers redefining womanhood, the explosion of jazz music, and the flourishing of Art Deco Architecture, to the rebuilding of Europe after World War II. It was a time of prosperity, and a time when people began to cast off the traditions of the past century and began to embrace technology, with the radio, automobile and moving pictures beginning to take a larger hold in the average citizen’s lives.

Many Dieselpunks find inspiration in the amazing vehicles that began to appear during this time period. From the oil-burning locomotives, to the majestic ocean liners like the Titanic, all of these things were what helped foster my interest in this time period. Paired with this, the architecture of the time period was also shifting, away from the Victorian Era and embracing the smooth flowing lines of Art Deco. The rise of the skyscraper established this esthetic, and can still be seen today in cities like New York, where buildings like the Chrysler building and Rockefeller Center display their heavy Art Deco influence.

While the technology of Dieselpunk encompasses much of the same types of things as Steampunk, it also expands it with things like the internal combustion engine and electric power. Things like the airliner, wireless radio, and armored vehicles helped to shape the world in dramatic ways. Often Dieselpunk delves into weird technology, taking strange weapons designs that were never used and making them integral parts of alternate history worlds. What if German jet aircraft had been focused on? Would that have won them the war? What about their focus on super tanks? Could they have used their resources better, to create different, more efficient machines?

All of these questions and more fall under the umbrella of Dieselpunk, and often are answered in interesting ways. One of my favorite series, Harry Turtledove’s Timeline 191. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_191 A fairly large portion of the series focuses on an alternate universe version of the United States, where the South won the Civil War and now America has been split in two. As war begins to break out in Europe, it spreads to America, for another war between the states. The series follows through the Second World War, with a character analogous to Hitler arises in the South, and it parallels much of the actual war in Europe. These types of stories, alternate history or speculative history, are some of my favorites to read and fall neatly within the Dieselpunk aesthetic.

If you are interested in learning more about what Dieselpunk is, please check out the website here: www.dieselpunks.org. Created by the awesome Tome Wilson, it has numerous articles on different aspects of Dieselpunk and forums for discussion.

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