Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Daylight Saving Time

The following is an article for February 9, 1942 at

On this day, Congress pushes ahead standard time for the United States by one hour in each time zone, imposing daylight saving time–called at the time “war time.”

Daylight saving time, suggested by President Roosevelt, was imposed to conserve fuel, and could be traced back to World War I, when Congress imposed one standard time on the United States to enable the country to better utilize resources, following the European model. The 1918 Standard Time Act was meant to be in effect for only seven months of the year–and was discontinued nationally after the war. But individual states continued to turn clocks ahead one hour in spring and back one hour in fall. The World War II legislation imposed daylight saving time for the entire nation for the entire year. It was repealed Sept. 30, 1945, when individual states once again imposed their own “standard” time. It was not until 1966 that Congress passed legislation setting a standard time that permanently superceded local habits.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Does Dieselpunk Demand Darkness?

“I wonder if that's how darkness wins, by convincing us to trap it inside ourselves, instead of emptying it out. I don't want it to win.” ― Jasmine Warga, My Heart and Other Black Holes

Dieselpunk has reputation for being a dark genre-punk. The seeds of this reputation were planted in its origin when one of its founders, Lewis Pollak, back in 2001 described it as being darker and dirtier than Steampunk. That phrase stuck and ever since Dieselpunk has been labeled as a dark genre.

I have to admit that I kind of like that reputation. Being a “Dirty Thirties” kind of Dieselpunk myself dark appeals to me. Even my interest in the other Diesel Era decades tends to be dark (mobsters of the Roaring Twenties and World War 2 of the 1940s).

With all of this being said, there is nothing in the definition of Dieselpunk that requires it to be this way.

The web site has the definition written by Dieselpunk Founding Father Tome Wilson, which has become the standard for the genre:

Dieselpunk is a style of art that combines the spirit of the Jazz Age (1920s-1945) with a contemporary twist. We welcome all people from all nations and all walks of life.

Notice the absence of being dirty and dark from this definition. My own spin of the definition doesn’t require darkness either:

Dieselpunk is a mashup of modern ideas with the style and spirit of the 1920s through the early 1950s. The goal is to combine the zeitgeist of the past with today's ideas in order to build a better tomorrow.

In addition, there’s a positive flavor of Dieselpunk. Known as Hopeful Ottensian and named after the Dieselpunk Founding Father Nick Ottens this style of Dieselpunk gives a positive spin to the genre. I wrote about Hopeful Ottensian Dieselpunk here on my blog back on November 7, 2010.

An example of positive Dieselpunk
Dieselpunks reputation for being dark is well deserved for much of it is. However, this darkness is not the full picture.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Dieselpunk Lexicon Part 10: Decopunk

"No matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney." -  Al Smith, American statesman, Governor of New York, Democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 1928

Dieselpunk has always had a dark reputation. One of its creators, Lewis Pollak, described it as being dirtier and grittier than Steampunk. But not all Dieselpunk is dark.

Decopunk is a brighter, more positive member of the Dieselpunk family. In an recent article at the Barnes & Noble web site titled Why "Decopunk" Deserves to Be Bigger than Steampunk, Sam Reader wrote,

"Drawing from the sleek, streamlined, futuristic aesthetic of the art deco movement, decopunk takes the glitz and glamor of the Roaring ’20s in science-fictional directions, frequently sprinkling in glittering elements of the weird and pulp fiction of the era."

Decopunk Movie "The Great Gatsby" (2013) Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Recently there have been rumblings on the internet describing decopunk as being a full-fledged genre-punk (Reader’s article is one example). However, those who would make such claims are mistaken because it’s not a genre-punk of its own. Decopunk source material is the 1920s, which as I mentioned in a prior blog post is one of the decades that provides source material for Dieselpunk. Wikipedia is correct when it defines decopunk as a subset of dieselpunk.

You can slice sashimi until it resembles fugu but it's still raw fish. ‘Decopunk’ is but simply a thin slice of Dieselpunk.

Decopunk Fiction, Radiance: The Novel by Catherynne M Valente

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dieselpunk Lexicon Part 9: Interbellum Period

In my last post I wrote about the Diesel Era, which stretched from roughly World War One through the Korean War. Buried within this Era was the Interbellum Period or Interwar Period.

The Interbellum Period had clear starting and ending dates. It began on November 11, 1918, which the day the Armistice went in effect and hostilities stopped in World War One, and ended on September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. This roughly twenty year period of time saw dramatic upheavals, politically and economically, across the globe.

The Interbellum Period saw peace and prosperity. In the 1920s, the US economy flourished. The UK and France both recovered from the devastation of the war. Democracy appeared in Japan with the Taisho Democracy and in Germany with the November Revolution and Weimar Republic. Plus, voting rights for women were granted in both the UK and the US. There was a cultural renaissance across the globe.

However, the Interbellum Period also saw chaos. The world economy collapsed in 1928 resulting in the Great Depression. The Dust Bowl smothered the central regions of the US during the 1930s. In 1922 Benito Mussolini rose to power and established the first fascist dictatorship in 1925. By 1933 both the Japanese and German democracies had been replaced with fascist dictatorships. Russia saw starvation partially caused by collectivization, the rise of Stalin, purges of anyone he thought might oppose him, and the terror of the Soviet Gulags.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dieselpunk Lexicon Part 8: Diesel Era

In genre-punk (which Dieselpunk is a branch of) the prefix distinguishes one branch from another. For example, the 'cyber' prefix in Cyberpunk is a reference to the computer or web based technology. Whereas Steampunk, arguably the widely known of the anachronistic genre-punk branches, the 'steam' prefix is a euphemism for the culture, history, aesthetics and tropes that appeared around the beginning of the Victorian Era in 1831 through the La Belle Epoque, which ended at the start of World War 1 when steam technology was king.

Continuing then with the standard set by Steampunk, the prefix of 'diesel' in Dieselpunk is a euphemism for the culture, history, aesthetics and tropes of the time after the end of the Steam Era when internal combustion replace steam tech as the dominant technology. This post-Steam time period is often referred to in the Dieselpunk community as the 'Diesel Era' (Not to be confused with the respective eras in the locomotive tech.)

I don’t believe that there’s a hard line dividing the Steam Era and the Diesel Era. I believe that the Steam Era died a slow death in the blood and filth of the Great War. Then, like the mythological Phoenix, the Diesel Era arose from that same firestorm that consumed the Steam Era.

World War 1 Dieselpunk
The world was very different when the dust settled at the end of World War 1. The war saw the end of the great empires of Continental Europe as well as the Ottoman Empire of the Middle East. It also saw the exit of Russia from the international scene and the entrance of the US. After the war the US filled the vacuum left by the rubble of the European cities and economies being that the American infrastructure was untouched by the conflict. This moved the locus of world economic power, and hence world culture, from Europe to America.

When did the Diesel Era end? There’s no consensus among Dieselpunks on this. Some place the end in the atomic fires of Hiroshima. Others place it at the launch of Sputnik. I place the end of the Diesel Era as dying a slow death during the Korean War, which began in 1950 and ended in 1954. The Diesel Era had died completely, in my opinion, by the end of the war.

World War 2 or Possibly Korean War Dieselpunk

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Years: 1928 & 2017

With this being the New Year holiday, I’m taking a break from the series on the Dieselpunk Lexicon. I’ll return to the Lexicon in my next post.

2017 promises to be an important year in the world affairs. Since as dieselpunks we look to the past to better understand the future, I thought I would look back on another major year in world history: 1928.

The year 1928 was one of those years that at the time seemed mundane but was actually important in that we saw events and trends that would dramatically change the world as well as some that strike some hauntingly similar trends today.

In the area of science and technology there were great advances. Following are a few:

Jan 1 1st US air-conditioned office building opens, San Antonio
Jan 13 RCA and GE install three test television sets in homes in Schenectady, New York allowing American inventor E.F.W. Alexanderson to demonstrate the first home television receiver which delivered a poor and unsteady 1.5 square inch picture
Feb 3 Paleoanthropologist Davidson Black reports his findings on the ancient human fossils found at Zhoukoudian, China in the journal Nature and declares them to be a new species he names 'Sinanthropus pekinensis' (now known as 'Homo erectus')
Feb 8 1st transatlantic TV image received, Hartsdale, NY
Jun 18 American aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the 1st woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean landing at Burry Port, Wales
Jul 2 The Jenkins Television Corporation (owned by Charles Jenkins) goes on air with W3XK, the first television broadcasting station in the USA
Jul 3 1st color TV broadcast in London
Jul 6 1st all-talking motion picture shown in NY (Lights of NY)
Jul 12 1st televised tennis match
Jul 30 George Eastman shows 1st color motion pictures (US)
Sep 15 Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin while studying influenza
Oct 15 German dirigible "Graf Zeppelin" lands in Lakehurst, NJ
Nov 18, Steamboat Willie was released
All year throughout the world radio stations popped up like dandelions after a rainstorm.

However, while science and technology advanced, the world political scene was dark and was getting darker.

Mar 15 Benito Mussolini modifies Italy electoral system (abolishes right to choose)
Apr 19 Japanese troops occupies Sjantung-schiereiland
May 12 Benito Mussolini ends women's rights in Italy
Oct 1 USSR launches its first 5-year plan
On Nov 6, Herbert Hoover was reelected to a second term. With the strong economy, the Republicans gained a strong majority in both the Senate and the House.

On this last note: It’s important to remember that less than a year after Hoover was reelected and the Republicans increased their majority in Congress, the US Stock Market crashed and the worst economic crisis of the modern world began.

Here’s wishing all of us a prosperous and joyous 2017!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Dieselpunk Lexicon Part 7: Dark Cabaret

According to Wikipedia:
Dark cabaret may be a simple description of the theme and mood of a cabaret performance, but more recently has come to define a particular musical genre which draws on the aesthetics of the decadent, risqué German Weimar-era cabarets, burlesque and vaudeville shows with the stylings of post-1970s goth and punk music.

The above definition contains all of the elements of Dieselpunk music in that it combines decodence ("aesthetics of the decadent, risqué German Weimar-era cabarets, burlesque and vaudeville shows") with modern sensibilities ("stylings of post-1970s goth and punk music"). The term ‘Dark Cabaret’ first appeared in 2005 with the album titled Projeckt Presents: The Dark Cabaret. The term has since grown in popularity as several band have adopted the label.

An alternative term is 'Brechtian punk cabaret', which was coined in 2003 by Amanda Palmer of the dieselpunk band The Dresden Dolls.

Some popular Dark Cabaret bands and artists are:

The Dresden Dolls


Tiger Lillies

Emilie Autumn


Hannah Fury

Vermillion Lies