Raphael Lacoste artwork

Lost Cities and Civilizations

Cities lost to time and half-remembered civilizations, discovered deep in the mountains of the Himalayas, the Amazonian rainforest or at the bottom of the sea, are a familiar trope in steam- and dieselpunk fiction.

Drawing on the expeditions of Percy H. Fawcett and Heinrich Schliemann, the writings of James Churchward and Theodore Illion and the esotericism of Helena Blavatsky, W. Scott-Elliot and Rudolph Steiner, both genres exploit the half-real and fully imagined tales of ancient races that supposedly roamed the Earth millennia ago. Continue reading “Lost Cities and Civilizations”

Horten Ho IX German flying wing artwork

Strange Aircraft of the Third Reich: Real and Imagined

Did you know many of the strange German warplanes we see in dieselpunk are based on real designs?

As World War II drew to a close in Europe, Nazi Germany rushed the development of advanced bombers and fighter jets in a final effort to stop the Allies. From the world’s first operational turbojet fighter to a flying wing, some of these technologies were so far ahead of their time that Allied commanders speculated the Germans could have turned the tide of the war if only they had managed to prolong it by a few months. Continue reading “Strange Aircraft of the Third Reich: Real and Imagined”

Transarctica artwork

Big Trains in the Snow: From Transarctica to Snowpiercer

The 1993 computer game Transarctica introduced us to a post-apocalyptic world in which huge armored trains were the only way to safely travel between remote human settlements.

The game wasn’t much of a success — one reviewer called it “intentionally annoying” — but the setting proved to be an inspiration. Continue reading “Big Trains in the Snow: From Transarctica to Snowpiercer”

Wolfenstein: The New Order supersoldier

Dieselpunk Games’ Obsession with Nazi Supersoldiers

During World War II, German scientists synthesized anabolic steriods and experimented on concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war in an attempt to treat chronic wasting. Experiments were allegedly conducted on German soldiers to increase their aggression and agility, however, there is no evidence whatsoever that something like an Übersoldier (a play on the Nazis’ idealized Übermensch) was ever in the making — let alone created.

Yet “supersoldiers” keep appearing in video games. Continue reading “Dieselpunk Games’ Obsession with Nazi Supersoldiers”

Nazi U-boat UFOs

Nazis in Antarctica

Soon after the war in Europe ended, rumors began to circulate that part of Germany’s military and scientific establishment had fled the fatherland before Soviet troops could conquer Berlin. Stories of missing U-boats and forbidden aviation technologies fueled wild theories of Nazi redoubts and the imminent resurrection of the Third Reich. A huge United States Navy operation in the Antarctic in 1946 seemed only to confirm the worst of fears — that the Nazis’ reign of terror had been able to survive underground near the South Pole. Continue reading “Nazis in Antarctica”

Nazi eagle in Berlin

Dieselpunk and the Shadow of Nazi Aesthetics

If you hang around the dieselpunk crowd long enough, sooner or later you will hear someone retelling an experience about them being called a fascist or Nazi sympathizer because of the way they dress.

Granted, it seems if you are into dieselpunk, you can only go one of two ways: Either you use the Jazz-era American style (civilian and military) or you play with German Interbellum designs, in which case there seems to be no nonuniform option whatsoever (which does not make sense in itself, mind you). Continue reading “Dieselpunk and the Shadow of Nazi Aesthetics”

New York City

Art Deco

The Roaring Twenties were a period of great paradoxes. After the First World War, the world was experiencing a period of vitality and exuberance, new technologies and styles. At the same time, it was a period of political and social contrasts which ended with the Great Depression.

Art Deco is the aesthetic which best incarnated the aspirations of those years and their yearning for modernity. Continue reading “Art Deco”

Stephen Hickman artwork

Introduction to Victorientalism

With the increasing contact with the East and its ensuing colonization, people in the West became fascinated by this strange new world. For centuries, adventurers, novelists and romantics had been interested in the lands beyond the horizon. Europe had all been explored and people became more and more familiar with the world they lived in. The Orient was still a realm of mystery, inhabited by alien people, exotic and sometimes cruel, with customs that Enlightened Europeans thought of as barbaric; a place where time had stood still.

An age-long Orientalist tradition of those who studied the East has in our times been criticized for its presumed bias and even racism. In the realm of steampunk, however, we can safely recreate the Orient as it was described and depicted by nineteenth-century authors and artists who might never have seen it. All the myths and miracles of the East that enchanted the Victorians can come true. Continue reading “Introduction to Victorientalism”