After two worldbuilding series in which World War II ended worse than it did — one in which the war never ended and another in which the Axis won — let’s try a more optimistic scenario: a world in which World War II never happened.
Here we’ll take our cues from the Indiana Jones movies, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) and the art of Marcos Ceia and Stefan Prohaczka.
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Aurora Noir is a dieselpunk world created by Israeli artist Tim Razumovsky. It’s full of streamlined vehicles, mobsters, chrome robots and Art Deco architecture. The city’s Aurora Springs Hotel seems to have been inspired by Eliel Saarinen’s Helsinki Central Station.
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“Hanamity” is the alias of a Russian artist. Many of his works are set in an alternative 1920s, straddling the boundary between steampunk and dieselpunk.
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Tamara Łempicka (1898-1980), known as Tamara de Lempicka, was a Polish artist who lived in Paris between the world wars and relocated to the United States in 1939.
Her breakthrough came at the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, which gave its name to the Art Deco movement. She exhibited her paintings in two of the exhibition’s venues, where they were spotted by journalists from Harper’s Bazaar and other fashion magazines. Exhibitions in Italy and the United States followed.
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Paul Catherall is a London-based artist who specializes in bold linocuts of architectural landmarks that have a definitive “decodent” quality to them. Paul has worked for such prestigious clients as British Airways, Pallant House Gallery and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
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In Andrej Troha’s decopunk universe, the Americas have been unified in a single state, the Soviet Union is investigating strange phenomena in the Arctic and flight has been made impossible by stratospheric nuclear experiments, so monorails and flying cars are now the preferred modes of travel.
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“Donaguirre” is a German artist whose lovely Art Deco-inspired posters typically implore citizens of the fictional Eldorado to buy war bonds to fund a three-way Cold War with Teutonian Empire in Europe and the Empire of Nikko across the Pacific.
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There is an obvious Sky Captain influence in Waldemar von Kozak’s art: big flying machines, robots, German villains. It feels more decodence than dark, Piecraftian dieselpunk, reminiscent of midcentury Modern Mechanix and Popular Science covers, yet his is also clearly a world at war.
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Kevin Conran is the mastermind behind dieselpunk classic Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He designed everything from the interior and exterior sets to the movie’s characters, costumes, props and vehicles.
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Ghosts of Karnak is the third installment in George Mann’s Ghost series, set in 1920s New York.
I must admit that I haven’t read the first two books, but I found that to be no issue at all. There are only a few references to those and none make you feel like you can’t follow the plot. If anything, it has left me with a desire to pick up the other two books.
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