Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

The History of Dieselpunk II: Diesel Classics

With Hollywood reverting back into its archives for added inspiration for narrative ideas, we find a recent trend of nostalgic hindsight to the age of the Roaring Twenties and the 1930s. This seems to have infiltrated gradually the science-fiction genre that is emerging in contemporary cinema.

Films like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) and The Mutant Chronicles (2008) have perhaps inspired the intrigue in the early first half of the last century. Other recent films like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and The Spirit (2008) have sparked new interest in the previous century, overcast with economic turmoil, lawlessness on the streets and in politics and the ever-present dystopian sentiment toward a near-hopeful future with the potential of war hanging in the balance.

We must also not forget the alternative historical elements of the times, when people perceived a future that could at one time or another have been dominated by the totalitarian powers, specifically the Nazi regime — evoking concepts of the supernatural and Über-technology that was revolutionized by the whacky radicalism of engineers and scientists of the time. Such themes promoted in the independent feature Iron Sky — which alludes to what would have happened if the Nazis had escaped to the Moon — present the growing fascination with the emerging genre of dieselpunk. Continue reading “The History of Dieselpunk II: Diesel Classics”

The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin
The Adventures of Tintin

It must have been a nostalgic mood that gripped me when I decided to buy the boxset of The Adventures of Tintin. I was yearning back to rainy Saturday afternoons when the TV or a good book offered the only chance for some innocent high adventure. So I acted on this whim and made the purchase, remembering the brightly colored characters and escapist adventures of Tintin.

Although not strictly what we might call dieselpunk, being based quite directly on period comic strips, these Tintin films could still be considered as good examples of the pulp genre and so are worthy of our study. Continue reading “The Adventures of Tintin”

Scarlet Traces: The Great Game

Scarlet Traces: The Great Game
Scarlet Traces: The Great Game

The sequel to Scarlet Traces (our review here) takes place in the Britain of the 1930s, with the invasion of Mars by the British Empire going badly.

We follow the Lady Charlotte, a photographer and reporter for The Interceptor, the last remaining liberal newspaper. With an insurgency in Scotland getting worse and branching into suicide attacks, Oswald Mosely as home secretary and the Commonwealth trying to withdraw its troops from Mars, Lotte manages to sneak onto the frontlines only to discover that she is stuck with the rearguard — and there is no rescue coming for them. Continue reading “Scarlet Traces: The Great Game”

Scarlet Traces

Scarlet Traces
Scarlet Traces

H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds never had a sequel. Thankfully Ian Edington and
the artist who calls himself D’Israeli have filled that gap in comic-book form with the formidable Scarlet Traces.

Their premise is simple: after the defeat of the Martians, Britain adapts their technologies to make themselves the world’s greatest superpower. The factories of the North are replaced with mechanical estates, the cavalry trade their horses for multi-limbed fighting machines, and homes are warmed by a spinoff of the Heat Ray. All is well in 1908 — or is it? Continue reading “Scarlet Traces”

BioShock

BioShock
BioShock

One of the risks that any genre faces is that by defining its boundaries too rigidly, it ends up telling the same story over and over again.

2K Games’ BioShock, while firmly dieselpunk, manages to avoid the obvious settings of the 1930s metropolis or World War II and stays original and unusual while making elements of both backgrounds integral to its own bizarre, self-contained world. Continue reading “BioShock”

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Though they were conceived and produced long before the term “dieselpunk” was coined, the Indiana Jones films remain some of the most seminal and enjoyable parts of the genre. They include many of the hallmarks of dieselpunk and pulp storytelling, including a protagonist who is at the top of his field but is not afraid to get his hands dirty, antagonists both political and mystical, and an atmosphere of adventure. Continue reading “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

BioShock concept art

What Is Biopunk?

It’s unclear who coined the phrase “biopunk,” but presumably the term was invented after steampunk had been established as a genre. At least, it was not until steampunk had entered the mainstream that biopunk emerged.

Like steampunk, this proposed literary genre finds its origins in cyberpunk. It replaces the information technology of cybernetics with the synthetic biology of genetic engineering, but maintains most of the other elements of the genre.

Which begs the question: Should biopunk be considered a genre of its own? And if not, are steam- and dieselpunk really genres in their own right? Continue reading “What Is Biopunk?”