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.

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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?

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The Two Flavors of Dieselpunk

Discussing the “dark side of dieselpunk,” the author of the dieselpunk blog The Flying Fortress coins the phrases “Ottensian” and “Piecraftian” dieselpunk to refer to fiction set, respectively, in a pre- or post-nuclear environment.

Where The Flying Fortress starts the “Piecraftian” with the Atomic Age, Piecraft and I believe World War II is the better dividing line between the two flavors of dieselpunk.

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