The Crossroads of the Aether
Having a long discussion about it the other night with friends we came to the idea that the transition point of steam-punk to diesel punk is WW1. It all fits into the greater ray-gun noir catagory but diesel punk can push well into the 1950's.
Greetings, Lord Nicodemus,
I see your point in the Great War being an era of transition. On one hand, this was a war that still practiced the audacious cavalry charge, fitting in with the 19th century's romantic ideal of war, hold-over of the age of chivalry. On the other hand, those charges were often lead into machine gun fire, technology being used for its worst possible purpose, the pragmatism of using mechanization to kill.
I don't draw definite cut-off lines with styles or genres, but Steampunk seem more optimistic to me and Dieselpunk seems more militant and gritty, either concerned with fighting fascists, communists or both. Steam also connotes hand made things and Diesel mass-produced goods.
I'm looking forward to what others will say about this.
You know, I love the idea of dieselpunk but I feel like it's to identify. Not that I want to begin yet another debate about what is or isn't steampunk, but at least I feel like I know steampunk when I see it. Dieselpunk seems a little more ambiguous. Maybe this is because the closer we get to present time, the less apparent the anachronisms are.
For example, I love Batman: The Animated Series, which I would say is dieselpunk from the standpoint that it combines elements from the 1920s through the 1990s with more fantasy or futuristic elements. I would still be hard pressed to pick any set time period when the show is set, because people still own 1930s cars, and wear 1940s style clothing, and it doesn't really stand out in the same way as a person wearing a bustle and petticoats.
It also seems like it's harder to distinguish the difference between say, 1950s fashion and dieselpunk vs the difference between 1880s fashion and steampunk. Maybe dieselpunk is a little more toned down in terms of fantasy/costume style elements?
Sorry, I know I'm veering from the point, which was specifically about time periods... I see dieselpunk as using primarily elements from the 1920s to the 1950s -which does roughly coincide with the time from the end of WWI to the end of WWII.
I would play devils advocate and argue both sides. I can see diesel punk, and to a lesser degree steam punk being fully relevant right up to vietnam war era.
I think the broader term of raygun noir is my favorite at the moment. It makes me think of the black and white flash gordon serials.
I consider myself to be a dieselpunk first and foremost, though I'm sure we've all got our own flavors of it. Personally I hate its reach into the 50s, but I can see why some folks point out that it needs to go that far. If I might be a bit bold, I'd offer a different criteria: the difference between steam and diesel isn't the technology nearly as much, especially because the explorers I like look pretty much the same in their khakis.
I'd suggest that the difference is civility vs barbarism, etiquette and rules of decorum vs two fisted bar fights, and prim and proper Ladies vs rough and tumble Broads. The main reason I prefer diesel isn't the level of tech, really, and both still embrace an unknown world ready to be explored. It's because I'm rough around the edges, and starched shirts bore me. That might just be my own take on it, and also why I tend to think of steam in Britain and diesel in America. But it seems like even the disciplined military of diesel is still a lot looser with the letter of the law than even the most uncouth steam soldier.
This might be reaching, but it may have something to do with the classic rise of the next generation: diesel rebels against steam. The wonders of full bodied industrialization give new diesel heroes a feeling of entitlement, or even superiority, over their steam parents and grandparents. Lacking the wisdom to use their advanced gear practically or morally, they won't know the full ramifications until technology makes it's next big leap into computers.
At the end of the day, the steampunk is going to offer an all powerful mummy a cup of tea. The dieselpunk is going to try punching the all powerful mummy in the face. Neither shows a trace of fear.
My opinion is this.
Steampunk = Victorian science-fiction/ steam age fiction.
Dieselpunk = Noir science-fiction/ diesel age fiction.
Or it could be both and be Edwardianpunk! A mix of the two!