Saturday, June 20, 2009

Steampunk -vs- Dieselpunk?

So I have a new obsession ...

No, no, it's not a bloke, and so, no, Zachary Quinto's incredibly hot place in my heart has not been usurped.

Zachary Quinto as Spock in the new Star Trek here on Thrifty Mom Dot Com      Thrifty Mom lusts after Zachary Quinto as Sylar from Heroes

Actually it's about writing. Yes, I know, this is my Mommy Blog, but it's also my personal blog so I get to bore you with share with you any miscellaneous stuffs that come up in my life.

I've written all my life, since I learnt how to write. My dream is to write novels (this has always been what I wanted to be, a novellist ... well, that and a jockey, but at 170lbs and 5'8" I've finally given that one up, LOL).

I have just recently returned to working on my fiction, have been enjoying it, and most of all have been delighted to share my passion with some close friends (If you are a reader or a writer please join me at my mate, Barb's, forum)*

I'm a Sci Fi sort of gal and of the 5 or so serious potential novels I have in my drawer, 2 are thrillers set in space, a third is fantasy with horror overtones, one is a ghost story, etc, etc, you get the picture.  Well, whilst researching something science fiction-y, I came across the word "steampunk". I'd seen it on Twitter at some point in reference to fashion (I think) and it turns out that there is a whole steampunk lifestyle, a subculture - writing, fashion, decor, films, hairstyle, music, and on and on. How COOL!

I quickly discovered that many of me very fave films/books EVAR were steampunk or a similar genre that I had yet to define. In searching for the definition, I realised that MANY people on the 'net either aren't aware of or are misapplying the word steampunk

Steampunk (in film or books) is generally set in a past time (often Victorian England) but one where some technological advances have occured earlier than they really did. For example: computers in the 1800s. The technology is portrayed as being constructed of period materials, wood, brass, etc, and is often run on the power of the time (in this case steam, thus the name).

From Wikipedia: "Steampunk is a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of "the path not taken" of such technology as dirigibles, analog computers, or digital mechanical computers (such as Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine); these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or with a presumption of functionality."

Popular examples of steampunk works are: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Wild Wild West.

Opening image from the Tv show Wild Wild West here on Thrifty mom Dot Com

When I read about steampunk my first thought was: "so what's the opposite of Steampunk?", when you have a work set in the future but with retro technology? Some of my all-time fave films and books EVAR make use of this theme. What is it?  It has to have a name.  That name, my friends, is dieselpunk:

Dieselpunk from Wikipedia, again: "Several devices which are affiliated to the genre are generally linked to 1920s architecture, such as the introduction of the skyscraper, along with the automobile and aeroplane, and diesel as the prime resource for fuel. The genre also borrows influences from the 1950's, such as postmodernism and the googie design. The dieselpunk world is a post-Atomic dystopian world that is still stuck in the 1950s (a post-WWII environment) and is usually cast in the future capitalist-run world that relies on the nuclear values of an isolationist America. Its main source of influence would be from George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four along with Fritz Lang's 1927 film, Metropolis. Aspects of the Futurist art movement are also relevant to the development of the genre relating to dieselpunk"

The list of books and film in this genre is long so I'll just list the changed-my-life, wildly favourite ones: War of the Worlds, 1984, Brazil, Tim Burton's Batman, V for Vendetta, and the film that fascinated my early childhood mind: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowrey in Brazil here on Thrifty Mom Dot Com

There's also Post Apocolyptic Dieselpunk, "(an) anarchistic world where there is no future or remnant of the past other than ruins and the left-over machines of mankind. The Apocalypse is usually blamed on a horrendous consequence of nuclear war or another terrible global disaster such as extreme climate change. This idea usually employs the elements of big, oily, smokey, rusty, machinery and the savage, tribal, neo-primitive, anarchic civilisation. "

Examples: Dr Strangelove, Mad Max, Waterworld.  I'll also add another one of my film-loves: 12 Monkeys. Terry Gilliam totally has the genre nailed.

Bruce Willis as James Cole in a great dieselpunk gadget scene from 12 Monkeys. Thrifty Mom loves Terry Gilliam films!


So what am I going to do with all this info and obsession? Well, I might want to write a book set appropriately. Bodog and I had an exhilerating knock-down drag-out argument and thoughtful discussion on the concept and he insists that there must be a reason to use it.  My argumant is why can't romances, mysteries, and dramas happen in the dieselpunk / steampunk setting?

I guess it all boils down to my doing it and seeing how it turns out.  Perhaps it's all a visual thing. perhaps what I really love is the incredibly rich scenery and devices and gadgets. Hmm, maybe what will fulfill me is visually artistic rather than the written word.

Whatever it is, I am totally stoked about it.  It's an amazingly satisfying feeling to have loved something so long and then discovered that it had a name and a whole community of folks who love it too!

Wish me luck on my Dieselpunk adventures!  I'll keep you apprised.

*This is 'mate' as in 'my friend' in case you just wandered by and are not aware of my Anglophiliac tendencies. Though I adore Barb and would totally do her.

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posted by MrsEvilGenius @ 8:03 am   7 comments


At 5:16 am, Blogger Tilly Cat & Pip-Squeak said...

I completely agree with you that you don't need a "reason" for that setting. I always particularly enjoy books that have that sort of detail without it actually being directly connected to the plot... You can just tell the writter had FUN writting them! Also, I personally find that books that incluse lots of background (not directly used to promote the story) tend to draw me in more, and make the story seem more "real." After all, in live everything is not neat and connected, so why should it be in books?

At 6:53 pm, Blogger moonduster said...

Yay! I am really looking forward to reading the results of your effrts!

At 9:52 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 10:13 pm, Anonymous AeroDog said...

How would you characterize Max Headroom?

At 6:02 am, Blogger MrsEvilGenius said...

AeroDog, Max Headroom, like Bladerunner is Cyberpunk. Cyberpunk is usually set in a dystopian future, lots and lots of technology but many of the the people live simply (the underclasses). 5th Element would fall into this category too, I think.

At 5:13 pm, Blogger Old Hob said...

Dieselpunk for the win!
Odd thing about Dieselpunk is that it is traditionally less accepted than, say, Steampunk...
I suppose part of it may simply be that most people don't want to see someone edging their way down the boulevard wearing bits of cast-off as armor, and a functioning respirator! (which may be why my neighbors are moving away at such an alarming rate...)

At 3:03 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah I just discovered this the same way as you and found it had been the same aestetic I had been struggling to describe, I've always loved things with a sort of gritty realism and mechanical or clockwork (as opposed to digital) technology, also fantastic sky cities and steampowered technology gets me just as excited.

looks like it'll be really expensive to decorate my house this way though lol


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