Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Diselpunk Post

I like dieselpunk a lot. I want other people to like it. Having said that, the major hurdle is to make it look retro in a way that appeal to people in the Twenty-first Century. That isn't much of a hurdle to be honest. The artwork of the period and the machines have their share of fans. There's a ton of reference images and there is a slew of wild inventions and vehicles documented and photographed.

There are a few problems though, like the Solar System. from what we know of the Solar System it's pretty darned hostile. Earth itself, our home wrold, is pretty darned hostile and can kill you in a number of ways! Consider 90% of the population is crammed into about 25% of the land area. There's a lot of deserts, tundra, and places with bears!

If you wanted dinosaurs on Venus a/o weird elder Martians in a steampunk game, you had to just go with it and say it was an alternate universe where life sustaining planets were the norm. For some reason disbelief is still suspended, even though a lot of physical laws and biological principles have to be disregarded. Dieselpunk doesn't seem to have that luxury. By the 1930's people knew a lot of steampunk ideas would not work. Fortunately, you have another option: terraforming. Yes terraforming could take centuries or millennia. Set your calendars accordingly or hand wave it gently away into decades. Don't be afraid to put the fiction in science fiction.

We knew jack about atomic power when dieselpunk started in the 30's. We know a bit more now (Heinlein's torch ship drive remains magic). You could specify a type of fusion for 'atomic power' these days and not raise any eyebrows. I prefer to go with boron to hydrogen reactions. It's a very clean energy source without many pesky neutrons.*

Dieselpunk doesn't have the information managing electronics we take for granted today. No smart phones with computer functions. Slide rules ... rule. This retro future never experienced, or forgot, the Information Age (how is that for irony?) Computers weigh hundreds if not thousands of kilos. Books are on microfilm or ... books. Space fighter pilots make sense! A computer that can replace a man would weigh far more than the man even with all his life support. It would probably suck, too. Just because something with the power of a Cray computer could fill a warehouse, doesn't mean they don't have them. They can use them for all manner of experiments and experimental simulations. They won't be toting these monsters on most ships though.

Technology is far beyond ours in areas of energy generation, as I said, and materials technology. Light alloys, super explosives, giant electromagnets and engines we can barely conceive are all possible. They remind you you're in a future. It is a future dominated by square jawed, steely eyed rocket pilots (and those are just the women!)

*Plus I get to throw out thermonuclear fission and yell "Aha!" and cite Atomic Rockets when someone tries to call BS.

5 comments:

  1. There's been a mild renaissance of "Old Solar System" stories, though, so it's not really an issue. See the collections Old Mars and Old Venus, both edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, and the collection Vintage Worlds, edited by John Michael Greer and Zendexor (the latter of whom maintains a website on the subject). There's also a quarterly periodical, Mythic, which publishes that sort of story among others.

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    1. Oh, and I almost forgot the S.M. Stirling novels, The Sky People and In the Courts of the Crimson Kings.

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    2. While I'm at it, it's probably also worth mentioning the RPG Lowell Was Right!, and the GURPS supplement/setting Tales of the Solar Patrol.

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    3. And Rocket Age, of course! Sorry for forgetting things and having to add more. I'm still probably forgetting things, too.

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  2. I like to think that 1984 is part diselpunk.

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