Everyone has heard of steampunk, the sci-fi subgenre inspired by the 19th century steam-powered machinery. Well, you can throw all that cutesy Victoriana out the window. Meet dieselpunk, the younger, louder aesthetic that takes its cues from WWII and early Cold War weaponry. Dieselpunk is violent, raw, industrial, and perhaps just a bit more relevant to the world we live in.
The term itself was coined in 2002 by two different game designers: Lewis Pollak, when he was describing his new game Children of the Sun, and Anders Blixt that same year, when discussing his own RPG, Lemuria.
Thanks to the Internet, the subculture has taken off over the past decade, developing a niche community that’s embraced dieselpunk, giving old industrialism a new life in a world of gargantuan machinery and tough-as-nails characters. There’s a very American feel to dieselpunk. Tome Wilson, author of “Dieselpunk: Retro Futures of the All-American Deco Years,” wrote in a short essay that writers and artists who dug into dieselpunk before there was a name for it were “creating a future fueled by the spirit of the Jazz Age.”
Of course, most of us are noobs to this realm of science fiction. For a primer, check out some of the best visual artists who explore the world of dieselpunk.
1. Alejandro Burdisio
Burdisio puts a futuristic spin on dieselpunk, creating worlds where ‘60s-era cars, trucks, and even buildings take off in the air with retrofitted hover technology. Check out more of his work at his Facebook page.
2. Sam Van Offlen
Many of Offlen’s works depict a twisted version of how people and society have coped with a new, fallow world, where industry has become the focal point around which humanity revolves. He manages to strike a nice balance between terrifying and absurd, provocative yet humorous. Check out more at his website.
3. Keith Thompson
Thompson takes his inspiration from WWII, considering what inventions could have been realized if people maybe had a bit more time — and were just a few degrees crazier. See more at his website.
4. Stefan Prohaczka
The US isn’t the only country where dieselpunk is popular. Russia has seen it’s own artists gravitate towards big industrial imagery. As a versatile artist, Prohaczka is well versed in moving back and forth from detailed landscape and skylines of a dieselpunk state, to intimate portraits of its inhabitants. His dieselpunk collection can be found at his Deviant Art page.
5. Alexey Lipatov
Lipatov presents a softer side of dieselpunk — one where the humanity of people shines more brightly than what other artists show. It’s a warmer look at a version of the world where being tied to high-industrial machines doesn’t mean becoming one. See more of Lipatov’s work at his Deviant Art page.
6. Tom Floyd
A master of pulp, Floyd’s “Captain Spectre” comics are heavily influenced by dieselpunk — and bound to influence any other visual artist who check them out. Go to his website to learn more and read about some of Spectre’s adventures.
7. Waldemar Kazak
Kazak’s art portrays dieselpunk at probably its most realistic — what the world would have been like if it had simply adopted its WWII-era fascinations a little more obsessively. Dieselpunk doesn’t have to be a dystopic hell for people on Earth. It can simply be an alternate reflection of a world not too different from ours. You can find more of Kazak’s work at his Deviant Art page.