Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Dieselpunk Founding Fathers

This material was originally part of a series I gave on the Diesel Powered Podcasts. I’ve modified it for the purpose of my blog.

Here’s in the US we love to discuss what we call our nation’s Founding Fathers. My topic of this posting concerns those I call the Founding Fathers of Dieselpunk.

I begin with Lewis Pollak who coined the term “Dieselpunk” for his role-playing game Children of the Sun. In a 2001 interview with he stated, "Dieselpunk is the darker, dirtier side of steampunk. Think of a continuum between steampunk and cyberpunk. In terms of magic level, technological level, and grit/mood/tone, dieselpunk falls in between the two."

In the December 2004 issue of SF & Fantasy World Monthly, Mikhail Popov wrote about a new phenomenon called Dieselpunk. What follows is a translation of his article, which was originally in Russian, so this may not be the best translation: “Imagine that in the 30s of last century, humanity has gone in a completely different path of development: giant airships, airplanes that are multiengine and whimsical, intelligent computers based on vacuum tubes, walking robots the size of a house. World War has wiped out entire nations. Instead of powerful corporations, there are weaving threads of conspiracy freaks with a single dream to take over our planet. Atomic bombs are there, but there are death rays that could cut in half an armored cruiser. Jet engines, transistors, genetics and chemistry - what is all this? We've got diesels, imagination and an iron will.”

(You can find a link to the original Russian article by Popov from Lord K’s article “Half Full, Half Empty: Russian Dieselpunk” which can be found at the Dieselpunk Encyclopedia.)

Another Founding Father is a man most know as Mr. Piecraft. Mr. Piecraft was actually the pen name for Mr. Bernardo Sena. I should take a moment to say that I’m able to use his real name here because he previously gave me permission to use it in an article I wrote about Dieselpunk, so I’m not releasing anything private. In April 2006, Bernardo Sena under the pen name of Mr. Piecraft wrote a personal Wikipedia page on Dieselpunk. On his Wiki page, he described Dieselpunk as, “an alternate-history environment in which the most important aspect of society is diesel fuel, and the machinery that depends upon it.”
One might say that this was the first introduction of Dieselpunk to the Western World. I will come back again to Mr. Sena later in this post.

The next Founding Father I need to mention is Eli Krichevsky, who goes by the user name of Lord K and is the co-editor with me of the Dieselpunk Encyclopedia. On October 4, 2007, Eli Krichevsky posted his first entry on his blog Dieselpunk. Lord K’s through his blog and his active involvement in Dieselpunk has played an important role in its development.

Another Founding Father of Dieselpunk is Nick Ottens who maintains the Smoking Lounge Forum as well as the blog Gatehouse Gazette. In 2008, the freelance writer Nick Ottens began publishing the Gatehouse Gazette as an online magazine, which was dedicated primarily to Steampunk. However, in the premier issue of July 2008 Ottens along with Mr. Sena, who was still writing under his pen name as Mr. Piecraft, wrote the landmark article, Discovering Dieselpunk. In the article Ottens and Sena, not only help further fine tune the definition of Dieselpunk, but also provided an analytical understanding of the various trends within the genre.

This brings us to the last but not least of the Founding Fathers, Tome Wilson. On Memorial Day weekend of 2009, Tome launched the fantastic web site not only serves as a meeting place where people often first learn of Dieselpunk but as a virtual community for Dieselpunks.

We owe a debt of gratitude to these six men. It’s because of them that we have this wonderful phenomenon we call Dieselpunk.

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