Edited Transcripts

Dieselpunk! with Edward Pearse

Edward Pearse: This will be fun. Todays presentation is rather picture intense

Webmistress note: “rather picture intense” he says. Whew! A few of Edward’s fifty-two images used in the Salon are scattered throughout this transcript. To view all the images, visit the Dieselpunk! with Edward Pearse Art Gallery.

Diesel Forces
Diesel Forces

Edward Pearse: If I fall asleep halfway through this it’s Monday morning here
Edward Pearse: My name is Edward Pearse.
Edward Pearse: Most of you in New Babbage are familiar with me
Edward Pearse: For those not, I’m one of founders of New Babbage and a long time fan of Steampunk.
Edward Pearse: I got interested in dieselpunk through the old sim of Seraph City.
Edward Pearse: I wasn’t part of the founding group but discovered the sim through mutual friends
Edward Pearse: I created a nightclub there called Seraph Club.
Edward Pearse: While Seraph City has long gone, the Seraph Club still lives on, now in its new home of Cassandra City.
Edward Pearse: I will apologise in advance if this runs a little short.
Edward Pearse: I volunteered as a last minute thing so I haven’t had time to check the run on this.
Edward Pearse: Dieselpunk is really an aesthetic rather than a genre.
Edward Pearse: As such there will be a lot of imagery in this presentation
Edward Pearse: This of course leads to a lot of opinion over what is and isn’t dieselpunk.
Edward Pearse: What I present today is mostly my own opinion but other schools of thought will be touched on here and there.
Edward Pearse: Dieselpunk the term, first came to use through an RPG called Children of the Sun, published in 2002.
Edward Pearse: It was never a big hit. I’ve never played it but the reviews I’ve read are “neutral”
Edward Pearse: Interestingly the world of Children of the Sun is somewhat different from what we think of when dieselpunk is used today.
Edward Pearse: It was very much an urban fantasy style setting.
Edward Pearse: It had magic, a variety of races and an assortment of critters, littered amongst the skyscrapers.
Rory Torrance: And an interesting font, at least.
Edward Pearse: I saw one description of it as D&D meets Saving Private Ryan
Edward Pearse: Similar to the transformation that steampunk undertook, dieselpunk too has expanded beyond a D&D campaign with a fantasy WW2 setting.
Edward Pearse: Also similar to steampunk, it’s about the set dressing rather than the story itself.
Edward Pearse: By and large dieselpunk takes over where steampunk finishes.
Edward Pearse: It’s set roughly between WW1 and the 1950s.
Edward Pearse: I tend to aim for a more late 30s to early 40s style when designing things myself.
Edward Pearse: The aristocracy features a lot less in dieselpunk than steampunk
Edward Pearse: While you will get officers in military settings there’s far less Dukes, Barons and Ladies.
Edward Pearse: As with the change in time period most of the great monarchies of the 19th century had disappeared by this time.
Edward Pearse: There is also a larger involvement of aeroplanes in dieselpunk.
Edward Pearse: Steampunk co-opted the airship but in reality the airships heyday was the 1920s to 30s
Edward Pearse: Britain had the R100 and the R101.
Edward Pearse: With the R101’s crash in France in 1930 that effectively killed Imperial Airship Scheme
Polly: funny – lots of train crashes didn’t put an end to rail
Edward Pearse: The Zeppelin company continued with airships until the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 brought
Edward Pearse: that to a screeching halt.
Edward Pearse: As steampunk is the age where steam engines powered the world with soot and a Victorian aesthetic,
Edward Pearse: dieselpunk is when diesel engines ruled along with the grease and oil required to run them.
Edward Pearse: And just as there are those who like their steampunk brass to be shiny and their wood to be teak,
Edward Pearse: there are dieselpunks who like their engines clean and their buildings repaired.
Edward Pearse: So much so that some have created a subgenre called decopunk.


Edward Pearse: I personally disagree with splitting it into a smaller genre, but each to their own.
Edward Pearse: I have also seen people try and put things like Mad Max into the dieselpunk genre.
Galactic Baroque: (Mad Max is gasoline fantasy, not post-apoc. Fight me.)
Edward Pearse: While I understand why, to me post-apocalyptic genres are another beast altogether.
Edward Pearse: As a rough guide steampunk uses a lot of brass and brown as its base palette.
Edward Pearse: In a similar way dieselpunk uses greys and chrome.
Edward Pearse: Posters and artwork tend to hark back to the propaganda styles of the 30s and 40s
Edward Pearse: and there is a huge influence of art deco, especially in the art.
Edward Pearse: General settings are often dark though.
Edward Pearse: As I mentioned before there’s a lot of greys in dieselpunk,
Edward Pearse: but the noir influence with contrast and lighting also features considerably in many aspects.
Edward Pearse: I was asked about dieselpunk music.
Edward Pearse: I’ll say up front that trying to pigeonhole dieselpunk music is even harder than trying to define steampunk music, so I’m not even going to try.
Edward Pearse: Much like steampunk music is “music that steampunks like”, so too dieselpunk music is “music that dieselpunks like”.
Edward Pearse: That said, Swing and Big Band music tends to feature heavily in the genre.
Edward Pearse: As I said there is a large 1930s-40s aesthetic in dieselpunk.
Edward Pearse: There’s a heavy military element with lots of uniforms around.

Dieselpunk Imperial Colonel
Dieselpunk Imperial Colonel

Nyx Malaspina: s h o u l d e r p a d s
Galactic Baroque: l a p e l s
Edward Pearse: T a y l o r i n g
Rory Torrance: High fashion gas masks?
Emilly Shatner-Orr: Why not?
Edward Pearse: Since many of those uniforms are WW2 inspired there’s been suggestion that dieselpunk leads to Nazi cosplay or at least Nazi fetishism.
Edward Pearse: I also think that people saying that couldn’t tell the difference between a German uniform and a Belgian one.
Edward Pearse: But when you have State Police who dress like this I don’t think it carries much weight.
Edward Pearse: Current uniform of the New Jersey State Police for those wondering
Poison: Nj NY CT Ma Rhode Island all similar uniforms
Edward Pearse: That said, you always need bad guys.
Edward Pearse: The pinup aesthetic also features heavily in the depiction of women.
Edward Pearse: I think the pinup aesthetic is certainly one of the reasons it’s a lot easier to find pictures of dieselpunk women than of dieselpunk men.
Edward Pearse: As I said earlier, dieselpunk is more set dressing than actual genre.
Edward Pearse: As such it tends to be use existing genres for the story and dress them up accordingly.
Edward Pearse: Pulp is a heavy component of dieselpunk.
Edward Pearse: Properties such as Indiana Jones and Doc Savage, to The Shadow and Metropolis.
Edward Pearse: Pulp started as a nickname for the adventure stories that were being published on very cheap paper (pulp).
Edward Pearse: The name stuck with the genre.
Edward Pearse: There are many stories that were published in pulp mags but tend not to be viewed as pulp.
Edward Pearse: Pulp is often an action adventure story that does for thrills rather than quality of writing.
Edward Pearse: Or at least it did
Edward Pearse: Noir can also be a part of dieselpunk.
Edward Pearse: Big city detectives, femme fatales, gangsters, mad scientists, you can do it all
Edward Pearse: Certainly the Noir genre can be adapted to other aesthetics anyway.
Edward Pearse: Blade Runner is probably the best example of a non-noir Noir movies.
Edward Pearse: A lot of dieselpunk is about adding in retrofuturism to the setting.
Edward Pearse: Al Capone is not dieselpunk.
Edward Pearse: Al Capone with an army of robot goons could very well be dieselpunk.
Edward Pearse: FDR with an electromagnetic repulsorlift chair.
Edward Pearse: The possibilities are pretty much endless.
Edward Pearse: Cinema has given us a few offerings that have tried to capture the dieselpunk feel.
Edward Pearse: As Jimmy mentioned Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is probably the best example.

Sky Captain
Sky Captain

Edward Pearse: Sky Captain features giant robots, planes than can double as submarines, giant flying airbases, mad science, the Hindenburg III, and a whole bunch of other things.
Emilly Shatner-Orr: There’s definitely a strong dieselpunk feel in the Russian Guardians movie, but it is more far-fetched
Rory Torrance wonders if “Gravity’s Rainbow” would qualify as dieselpunk… more fantasy than scifi really…
Edward Pearse: The Rocketeer is heavily pulp but again I think captures the dieselpunk feel.
Edward Pearse: Flyboy Cliff Secord stumbles across a jetpack made by Howard Hughes and has to deal with US government agents, Nazis and spies while trying to save his girlfriend.
Edward Pearse: The movie is an adaptation of a comic book character created by Dave Stevens that first appeared in 1982, the year after Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Edward Pearse: In the comics Cliff’s girlfriend Betty is heavily inspired by pinup queen Bettie Page and is a lot less PG than the movie was.
Edward Pearse: The movie Dark City presents a different take.
Edward Pearse: Less pulp adventure it and more suspense thriller (I hesitate to call it a horror) it concerns an amnesiac man who struggles with the reality he is presented with.
Edward Pearse: The setting is again very 1940s in its appearance, and is entirely set at night.
Edward Pearse: I recommend all three
Edward Pearse: Iron Sky I would argue at least starts out as a dieselpunk movie.
Edward Pearse: There’s not much more dieselpunk than space Nazis on the moon.
Edward Pearse: 1940s flying saucers and moon bases.
Edward Pearse: There’s also a sequel which I haven’t seen yet but it digs out all the pulp tropes it can get its hands on
Edward Pearse: Following a nuclear holocaust on earth, survivors living in an abandoned Nazi base on the far side of the Moon board a barely-functioning spacecraft, and travel to the nucleus of the hollow Earth in an attempt to recover the Holy Grail from a group of reptilian shape-shifters who are led by Tyrannosaurus-riding Adolf Hitler.
Edward Pearse: No I am not making this up.
Edward Pearse: By a similar extent the opening of Hellboy also uses the dieselpunk aesthetic.
Edward Pearse: I’ve already mentioned Nazis, so Nazi’s with an immortal Rasputin and a clockwork undead
Edward Pearse: SS officer pretty much nail it on the head.
Edward Pearse: The first of Marvel’s Captain America movies is very dieselpunk, although again, it’s heavy on the pulp storyline.

Captain America
Captain America

Edward Pearse: Giant 6 wheeled cars, the Super Valkyrie plane, and even the little one man submarine at the start are all examples of future tech but done in a 1940s style.
Edward Pearse: Interestingly director Joe Johnson’s work on the Rocketeer landed him the recommendation to direct Captain America: The First Avenger.
Edward Pearse: So there may be stylistic similarities beyond the setting.
Edward Pearse: Sucker Punch, for all its issues as a movie again has some excellent dieselpunk imagery
Prof: I always though April and the Extraordinary World crosses genres, from SP to DP – steam power taken the extreme and ending with rocket ships
Nyx Malaspina: waits for Tank Girl to be mentioned…yes yes I know…
Edward Pearse: Huh. Actually Tank Girl completely slipped my mind
Edward Pearse: But yes, Tank Girl
Edward Pearse: I didn’t include pictures but I also like me some Alec Baldwin in The Shadow
Edward Pearse: Comics over the movie
Edward Pearse: Though the movie has its charm
Edward Pearse: TV tends to be a bit less forthcoming with the genre
Liz Wilner: would the series His Dark Materials qualify?
Rory Torrance: Surely Dark Materials is a bit too much of an alternate time line
Vernden Jervil: I don’t think it is too alternate…and don’t call me Shirley.
Edward Pearse: Marvel’s Agent Carter definitely has a dieselpunk flair
Edward Pearse: I suppose that’s to be expected following on from the Captain America movie.
Edward Pearse: The series features Peggy Carter working with the SSR.
Edward Pearse: There’s stolen high tech weapons, made by Howard Stark
Edward Pearse: There’s comic book villains and weird science and a whole bunch of things.
Edward Pearse: Plus it’s set in the late 1940s so there’s that look with all the tech.
Edward Pearse: The anime Last Exile has some excellent dieselpunk vehicles.
Edward Pearse: The van ships are planes that fly by a form of antigravity (I don’t remember it being properly explained)
Tamlorn Carterhaugh Wood: What is interesting is my father was an engineer on cargo ships doing the Pacific Rim trade. He started on diesel powered ships, moved to steam which was more efficient, and then to atomic power. So the genres almost seem to be reversed.
Edward Pearse: I’ve seen Tales From the Gold Monkey suggested as a contender.
Edward Pearse: This 80s TV show rode the wave of Indiana Jones with a 1930s smuggler group based around the Pacific Islands.
Edward Pearse: I remember the series. I’m unsure, but I supposed if we can take Indiana Jones as an influence then sure, why not.
Prof: City of Ember?
Edward Pearse: Computer games have brought their own contribution to dieselpunk

Crimson Skies
Crimson Skies

Edward Pearse: Of these I would say Crimson Skies would be the best known
Edward Pearse: Crimson Skies started as a board game in 1998 and was adapted to PC in 2000
Edward Pearse: Set in alternative 1930s where the United States has collapsed, air travel is the most common form of transport. This has lead to…
Edward Pearse: Sky Pirates!
Edward Pearse: The aeroplanes featured all sorts of weirdness with bent wings and rear fitted propellers.
Edward Pearse: Iron Harvest was released last year and has seen mostly positive reviews
Edward Pearse: Real Time Strategy game set in the early 1920s.
Edward Pearse: It features giant Mechs and looks pretty impressive, though I’ve yet to play it myself
Edward Pearse: It makes me think of a steampunk setting where the technology has advanced forward to the point of the first world war.
Vernden Jervil: There is also a board game set in the same world as Iron Harvest called Scythe.
Sasha Prismara Featherlight: The golden compass, always think of that with that theme
Edward Pearse: Golden Compass and His Dark Materials is the same thing
Edward Pearse: Generally gets lumped in with steampunk, though I’m not sure it’s either
Ceejay Writer: Wasn’t the original City Hall here in Babbage based on the tall building in Golden Compass?
Jimmy Branagh: Yes
Edward Pearse: That was the third City Hall, but yes
Jimmy Branagh: That was the secomd Town Hall, built by Loki Eliot
Edward Pearse: Wolfenstein
Edward Pearse: Wolfenstein is so old that when the first game was released it was on the Apple II
Edward Pearse: The first Castle Wolfenstein was essentially sneak in and steal the plans and kill Nazis.
Edward Pearse: Not a huge amount of dieselpunk there.
Edward Pearse: But as the series progressed,
Edward Pearse: I think there have been 13 or so games now
Edward Pearse: it introduced the SS Paranormal Division, the Spear of Destiny, Adolf Hitler in power armour, and a variety of other weirdness.
Edward Pearse: Bioshock is a personal favourite

Switch Bioshock The Collection
Switch Bioshock The Collection

Edward Pearse: If you haven’t played it, essentially you are the lone survivor of a plane crash who is lucky enough to wash up near a giant light house in the middle of the Atlantic somewhere.
Edward Pearse: The light house is the top of a huge undersea city called Rapture.
Edward Pearse: Sadly, free market capitalism went wild and one of the citizens used his influence to stage a coup over the Rapture’s population has rioted and you’re stuck in the underwater city with a bunch of crazies.
Edward Pearse: Rapture is a gorgeous vision of art deco
Edward Pearse: I would pay real money for a mod that lets me skip the whole game and just wander the city.
Edward Pearse: As for literature
Edward Pearse: I personally loved K.M. Weiland’s Storming.
Edward Pearse: The characters were a bit cliched but the story was great fun!
Edward Pearse: Some other recommendations
Edward Pearse: A Fistful of Nothing by Dan Glaser – 2014
Edward Pearse: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld – 2009
Edward Pearse: The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk edited by Sean Wallace – 2015
Edward Pearse: The Mammoth one is short stories. Some hit and miss as you expect
Edward Pearse: And I’ll throw in Fatherland by Robert Harris – 1992
Edward Pearse: And a final shoutout to one of my favourite radio characters of all time
Edward Pearse: The Red Panda
Edward Pearse: Inspired by old radio shows like The Shadow and Green Hornet, the story starts in 1930s Toronto and ran for 13 glorious years
Edward Pearse: https://decoderringtheatre.com/shows/red-panda-adventures/
Edward Pearse: Decoder Ring Theatre also created Black Jack Justice
Edward Pearse: Noir Detective
Edward Pearse: So that mostly covers it I think
Edward Pearse: Any questions?

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