Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Flavors of Dieselpunk: Conclusion

In the last four postings I’ve reviewed the two flavors of dieselpunk as well as their sub-classes: Hopeful Ottensian, Dark Ottensian, Dystopian Piecraftian, and Post-Apocalyptic Piecraftian. For an excellent article of these flavors and their sub-classes I highly recommend "Discovering Dieselpunk," written by Nick Ottens and Mr. Piecraft in issue 1 of The Gatehouse Gazette, which I used as a primary source for my postings.

But I feel that if I stopped here with nothing more than a description of these elements there would be something important missing. It’s my opinion that these flavors and sub-classes tell us something special about dieselpunk. Dieselpunk is more than just Art Deco, Big Band music, vintage cars and cool clothes. These different flavors and sub-classes of dieselpunk, I believe, proves that dieselpunk is very special in that it’s highly relevant to the times we live in.

Hopeful Ottensian

"Believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life." ~ W. E. B. Du Bois

As was previously noted Hopeful Ottensian dieselpunk looks at human progress from a positive standpoint. While human technological progress may advance at different paces, and at times might even slide backwards, the general direction is forwards. Though some of us complain that we don’t have the flying cars or jet packs that were promised us the fact that you’re reading this blog over the internet is a rather amazing thing. Many people, including myself, owe our lives to the miracles of modern medicine. Never in human history has so many people lived so well for so long. Hopeful Ottensian serves an important purpose of reminding us that, while the world is far from perfect, there are many positive aspects to our current times and that we need to avoid romanticizing the past for there never were any "good old days."

Dark Ottensian

"This is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering." ~ Theravada version of the Buddhist Dharmacakra Pravartana Sutra

Where the Hopeful Ottensian is positive about human progress Dark Ottensian is a cold, hard, slap of reality. The amazing progress that Hopeful Ottensians point to is unevenly distributed in which there are a vast number of people in the world, including those in the West, whose lives are, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Hobbes, "poor, nasty, brutish, and short." There’s widespread crime, crushing poverty, war, genocide, disease and suffering even in the Western world where Modernity and technological progress has made so many advances. In fact, these very advances in technology and increases in productive ability have toxic side effects such as pollution and class warfare. Just like the 1920's we have our own culture wars and the recent economic collapse is reminiscent of the collapse of the 1930's. Then when we try to fix these problems it all too often turns out as Robert Burn wrote, "The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry." If Hopeful Ottensian keeps us from avoiding becoming luddites Dark Ottensian is a warning against hubris.

Dystopian Piecraftian

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." ~ Benjamin Franklin

The warning in Dystopian Piecraftian dieselpunk has always been that freedom and human rights are fragile. As our world has become smaller and technology has tied us closer the potential for the loss of individual freedom has grown considerably. Add in the growth of terrorism, such as the attack on the US on September 11th, 2001, there has been a growing fear of how much freedom should we sacrifice for safety. The Left fears government and corporate intrusion into our lives while the Right fears bureaucratic control in our economic activities. Diesel era history shows that democracy itself is not a guarantee against tyranny for the Nazis were democratically elected by the German people. Dystopian Piecraftian dieselpunk reminds us that a free people must always be vigilant against tyranny.

Post-Apocalyptic Piecraftian
“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” ~ Bible, Revelation 6: 7 – 8

While it was the creation of the atomic bomb that brought the realization that humanity had created the power to destroy the world we’ve come up with new ways of imagining Armageddon. Some of these scenarios are human made while others would be natural in origin. Besides nuclear war we now worry about Global Warming, possibility of an asteroid strike like the one that killed the dinosaurs, a pandemic due to increased global travel or genetic experimentation, another massive volcanic eruption similar to Tambora of the early 19th century that helped create the Little Ice Age along with other nightmare scenarios not mentioned here. Post-Apocalyptic Piecraftian helps to remind us to cherish our time on earth for life is fragile and we have no idea what the future might hold.

Dieselpunk is very much grassroots in origin. Forums such as The Smoking Lounge, The Dieselpunks Forum, online magazines such as The Gatehouse Gazette as well as various blogs are helping to develop the genre from the bottom-up rather than the top-down. This grassroots source gives dieselpunk an organic feature so that it’s in a constant state of change and growth, which helps to maintain its relevancy.

I hope my readers have enjoyed this series of exploring the different known flavors and sub-classes of dieselpunk. Most importantly I hope this series has been helpful in advancing the development of dieselpunk and to illustrate its relevancy for our world today.


Lord K said...

Great review. Be sure I enjoyed it - and hungry for more. Thank you Larry.

Jack Philpott said...

Excellent finale to an excellent series...thanks, Larry!


Hayen Mill said...

Great series! Really enjoyed it!