Aether in Steampunk--and Perhaps in Dieselpunk?

Hi, all. First (real) post in the forums!

Okay, so I don't know about you fellow steampunk/dieselpunk lovers, but I have a fascination with the concept of aether—particularly as it relates to the classical elements and some of Plato’s theories on Platonic solids. I'm actually working on a novel right now in which I explore the connection between these things.

So that's my backstory.

What I'm interested to know is two things, really:

(1) Does anyone here know of any fictional novels that explore the concept of aether? I always see passing references made to it on blogs and forums and things, but I can't say I've seen very many works actually attempt to give it much definition—or rather try to develop the idea beyond the mere reference to "the aether," as it were. It's such a vague and mysterious idea that I think is worth exploring more.

I've read Warren Ellis' <i>Aetheric Mechanics</i> graphic novella—which I love! I think it explores the concept of aether more deeply than any other fictional work I’ve encountered. But honestly, that's the only example I've come across. Heck, I’ll take references to games and movies, as well.

(2) Also, steampunk seems to be the primary subgenre/aesthetic in which the idea of an aether is ever mentioned (like with Dr. Grordbort’s Aether Oscillators). I know literary dieselpunk works are already few and far in between, but does anyone know of any movies or games in this subgenre which might explore the concept of aether?

It seems to be pretty limited to steampunk, though I thought it would be interesting to bring it into dieselpunk, as well. It’s basically exploring the speculative notion of, “What if Einstein never dismissed the necessity of having an aether in the 20s and stuck to his guns? What if it became an acceptable contemporary idea—or even better, a fact of life?”

Anyways, these are just some thoughts that have been floating around in my brain for a while and I never had a place to discuss them before, so I'm really looking forward to what you all have to say. :D


  • I think there is an interesting take on aether in the Mage: The Ascension by White Wolf Games. Their 'Sons of Ether' is a magic tradition but I think they have some good ideas on seeing and travleling the ether. You could change the mode of operation from magic to technology. Or, take the view that magic is a technology like Jim Butcher in his Dresden Files series.
  • I know the concept of aether predates steampunk but I'm afraid I can't give you any specific examples...

    It seems "aether" is used pretty indiscriminately in steampunk stories to replace any sort of fuel or energy.
  • The Poison Belt by sir Arthur Conan Doyle is about Ether or Aether. Interesting subject it is too!
  • It largely depends on how aether is used. As far as I'm concerned, it is merely the Greek concept that the universe is filled with aether, which makes it possible to breath outside the sphere of oxigen. And that makes it possible to fly to the moon or elsewhere without silly spacesuits. Like here:
  • Wow, haha, someone found this thread.

    J.H.Parks - thanks! That sounds interesting. I'll have to go check it out.

    Ottens - yeah, I think it's interesting that the concept of aether seems to only pops up in steampunk, as far as genre fiction goes. I guess that's why I thought it'd be cool to see talked about or used it in a different setting. :)

    Steiner - sounds promising! Thanks for the recommendation.

    Yaghish - woo! Treasure Planet. I can't remember the last time I watched that movie... Fun stuff.

    Usually, as far as the Greek concept goes, I've seen the aether referenced to as air "the gods" breathe, but a breathable aether (for mortals) would be something cool to play with.
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