Wednesday, July 23, 2008



The first issue of the new PDF magazine The Gatehouse Gazette contains an interesting discussion between contributors Nick Ottens and "Piecraft" about the "dieselpunk" subgenre, which touches on a lot of the points discussed in the Steampunk panel at ApolloCon a few weeks ago, and in particular my thoughts about "yesterday's tomorrows" and Matthew Bey's notion of "combustion punk".
Ottens: Dieselpunk is a literary genre derived from both cyber- and well as steampunk. Like steampunk, it is set in an anachronized past, specifically characterized by the rise of petroleum power and technocratic perception, incorporating, like cyberpunk, neo-noir elements, and sharing themes with Adventure Pulp.

Piecraft: Basically dieselpunk from my understanding is exactly as you described, now as for its origins we could attribute it to two different sources; I feel the true origins of dieselpunk from my own indiscriminate research presented me with two camps from which the term originated from and eventually became definitive. On one side we have it being coined to describe the ‘world’ in which Lewis Pollak has created his role-playing game Children of the Sun and in order to justify it from all other science fiction genres. On the other hand, it emanated from those aficionados of the literary 'punk genre' within science fiction who felt caught between cyberpunk overtones and the idealization of steampunk—connoting a distinct appreciation of the era that existed between the World Wars and their affects upon which an alternative world was invented during this time-setting.

Just downloaded it this morning and haven't had a chance to do more than skim the article, although a good chunk of it is retread form Ottens own site, I still look forward to reading it. I do believe, though, that we are stretching a little to have a "body" of Dieselpunk work just at present, but the fact that it is being discussed bodes well.
Thanks for linking to the Gazette, sir, and I'm glad to learn that you enjoyed reading it!

I had no idea such a thing as "combustion punk" has been proposed! Mostly, it seems identical to my understanding of "dieselpunk" and it only goes to show further that there is a need for a term to refer to this body of fiction that is currently spread between steampunk, "biopunk", pulp and neo-noir.
Aren't we in danger of navel-gazing, if we try and slice the SF genre into so many sub-genres? Much of the "dieselpunk" (this is the first time I've seen the term) sounds like it should just be alternate history (which, really, most of steampunk should be classified as).
I suppose that the film "Brazil" would be a distinctly dieselpunk vision.
Here here on the navel-gazing comment!
I don't like "dieselpunk" being used as a new name for stuff that should rightly be be called "pulp" (such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), but I do think it's a good descriptive term for stuff with a darker, grittier, and/or weirder aesthetic -- such as Brazil, Dark City, Tin Man, and even Metropolis (if you're willing to apply the term retroactively).
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