Airships. The very word conjures images of luxurious views of the ocean or the mountains. They make us think of the romanticized interwar years and are the symbol of a future that never came to pass; one that was cremated in the ashes of the Hindenburg. And yet they endure in the imaginations of people whose parents were not alive to see the fiery death of that future.
That brings us to the subject of this review: a duology from Sea Lion Press about a crew of a cargo airship by Tabac Iberez, composed of A Century Turns and Night Over the Bosporus.
Tokyo-based Steven Wen is a game developer in real life, but in his spare time he regales followers of his social media with beautiful inked and sketched-style pieces of dieselpunk and steampunk worlds that seem to have stepped right out of our imaginations and the pages of beloved tomes.
I hate to play favorites with the artists I feature here, but Tom Kidd’s is the sort of stuff that got me into steampunk. Not only are his paintings beautiful in their own right; they have a richness in detail that makes each a little exploration into a totally different world.
Kidd illustrated editions of The Three Musketeers (1998) and The War of the Worlds (2001) and is working on his own book titled Gnemo: Airships, Adventure, Exploration.
In the real world, airships weren’t successful weapons of war. Zeppelins were terrifying but inaccurate. Navigation, target selection and bomb aiming were difficult under the best of circumstances. In darkness, at high altitude and amid the English clouds, accuracy was too much to ask for.
German zeppelins were initially immune to attack by aeroplane and anti-aircraft guns. As the pressure in their envelopes was only just higher than ambient, holes had little effect. But once incendiary bullets were developed and used against them, their flammable hydrogen lifting gas made them vulnerable at low altitudes. Several zeppelins were shot down in flames by British defenders. Others crashed on the way to England. The Germans started flying higher and higher, but this only made their airships even less effective.
The zeppelin campaign proved to be a disaster in terms of morale, men and material. Many pioneers of the German airship service were lost.
But why let such facts stand in the way of a good story?
Flying aircraft carriers show up in steampunk, dieselpunk and atompunk fiction so often, we can consider them a genre trope. From Castle Wulfenbach in Girl Genius to the British aircraft carriers in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to the helicarriers of S.H.I.E.L.D., here is a look at these behemoths of the sky.
Dim (short for Dimitris) Martin is a talented artist from Greece. I first found his work when he did one of the covers for the excellent dieselpunk comic series Skies of Fire (our review here). His portfolio includes many more dieselpunk works, spanning the spectrum from decopunk to noir to Weird War.