Monday, 12 November 2012

Happy International Dieselpunk Day!

Live the pulp lifestyle!
November 12 is International Dieselpunk Day. Have a good one.

What is dieselpunk?

 AHAHAHA! I’m not falling into that trap. Invariably when you get into trying to define a subculture one member of that subculture will say, “My subculture is X!” and someone else will respond with, “No, it is Y!” and some well-meaning soul will add, “Can’t it be X and Y?” and a fourth voice will pipe up, “I thought it was Z!” at which point everyone piles on them for being an unmitigated fool because it could be X or Y or X and Y but no-one believes it is Z. Believe me, I remember the ‘What is goth’ arguments from Usenet in the late 1990s and those things could go on for days. Months.

What I will talk about is dieselpunk’s relationship to steampunk. It does seem to have spun off the steampunk subculture to a degree (not, I venture, off steampunk literature), and it was my steampunk friends Rachel and Andy who introduced me to it as they (quite rightly) thought it'd be right up my art Deco alley. I do love the fact that my steampunk friends are happy for me to have my odd little foibles; my habit of dressing more Miss Marple than Mary Kingsley. I recently read Steampunk by Brian J Robb, and my main point of contention with him was that he cited things as steam where I felt they were more diesel, especially films like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and The Rocketeer. But there’s going to be some tangling when one thing springs from another.

Dieselpunk has, however, quite rapidly become its own thing. I think it’s because at heart it has a very different outlook to steampunk: where steampunk covers a time of exciting exploration and development, dieselpunk covers one when colonialism was being expressly fought against, and acts of expansion by governments came to the ultimate horrible conclusion, the Second World War. Political debate is always going to come up with dieselpunk. It can be less playful, more serious, than steampunk, but I like that. Aesthetically, it’s closer to the norm than steampunk, and therefore easier to get away with dressing dieselpunk every day. The look is far more streamlined; recently someone in a group I’m in on Facebook wanted to know where the diesel equivalent of steampunk’s gadgets were, but simplicity and lack of clutter is part of the diesel aesthetic. (That does, at least, limit the sort of subcultural appopriation by crafters that results in pages of ill-conceived stick-a-cog-on-it ‘steampunk’ on Etsy.) Dieselpunk is fortunate to have a really wide choice of films from the era that inspires it, and the music of the interwar era is top-notch. And the vehicles! Oh, the vehicles!

Anyway, if you think you might like the idea of dieselpunk, I shall leave you with a few links

Dieselpunks.org - I'm a member, and occasionally pop up in the forum. They also have 'Two-Fisted Tuesdays', a new 1930s episode of The Shadow radio programme, every week. Fans of vintage radio and pulp will love that.
The Gatehouse Gazette - an online steampunk/dieselpunk magazine. It ceased production last year, but the back issues are still well worth reading.
There's a group for International Dieselpunk Day over on Facebook, and lots of bands have put up free music samples for the day.
Also check out the Diesel Powered Podcast.

3 comments :

  1. ah so DieselPunk is more interwar based? I went to read the magazine you suggested but instantly came across a reader arguement about the political aspects of steampunk, sigh.

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    1. Yes, DP's time period usually dates from the end of the First World War (hence the date of IDD; it was agreed that it would be disrespectful to have it on the 11th of November, the day the war actually ended) to the end of the Second, although there's room for variation.

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  2. I’m with you on this 100% (Just wait till you get into atompunk!);)

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