Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Dieselpunk Manifesto: What is 'Dieselpunk'?

Tommy Thunder and the Aether Age stories – especially the Aether Age stories – are Dieselpunk stories. So what is Dieselpunk..?

Dieselpunk is one of a few similar subcultures that use a particular historical era as inspiration for the way they dress, the way they listen to music and the way they do any number of things we all do in our day-to-day lives. The best way to explain it is to use an example (or two). At its simplest, Dieselpunk is about people who prefer to wear fedoras (old-school gangster hats) over baseball caps, or three piece suits over t-shirt and jeans. There are plenty of people out there who long for the good old days of gangsters, speakeasies and ‘proper music’ played by a real band who can sing without autotune. Those people are Dieselpunks.
A dapper Dieselpunk gent out and about.
But a lot of people like to take it to a much deeper level. These people use the style and culture of a previous generation as the outward signs of a much deeper philosophical belief system, a belief system they can be quite passionate about. In this much deeper philosophical aspect most of the ‘punk movements are fairly similar, from the Steampunks who enjoy dressing like Victorian era gentlemen, the Atompunks who like to dress like kick-arse 1950s-style roller derby girls and listen to rockabilly music, or the Cyberpunks who prefer to look forward to a future in which cybernetic implants are the norm. All these people are tapping the same basic desire – the desire to critique the present by asserting the past or future in a way that is ‘out of time’.

For the best illustration of this much more involved ‘punking I always look to the group that never gets any credit as ‘punks. The original ‘punking movement: the Chain-Mail ‘punks. 

You and I know them as Medieval Recreationists.
Going Medieval.

Why are they the best illustration of the ‘punking movement? Because what they do is by far the most involving, as well as most successful, critique of contemporary culture. Why? Because these people completely reject Modernity in one fell swoop. Longing for a life of simplicity where every human is still a craftsman and an artisan they recreate the pre-Modern world at Medieval recreation events. They camp out in huts, dress in completely different clothing and just go Medieval for the weekend. In doing so they assert the values of that lifestyle and point out that we’ve lost a lot along the way to our present Modern world with its temporary communities and mass manufactured goods. 

Like all of the most involved people in the various ‘punk movements these people make a statement about the world by just being. By adopting a whole lifestyle associated with a different era. Across all ‘punk subcultures, the adoption of a complete lifestyle you take with you into your everyday world is called being a ‘lifestyler’. It’s the most involved and most outwardly obvious form of being a ‘punk.
At the bar, 'punking.

But not everyone is a lifestyler. Some people are more interested in the less obvious ways of getting their ‘punk on, ways that aren’t necessarily visible but hold just as much meaning to the individual. Whether it’s listening to Neoswing music, decorating your walls at home with 30s era Hollywood pin ups, or spending your weekends watching old black and white movies and then arguing that ‘they don’t make ‘em like that anymore’ many people are just a little bit ‘punk. And if your ‘punking is exclusive to the cultural practises of the era stretching from the turn of the 20th Century to the end of World War 2 then you’re probably more than a little bit Dieselpunk.
They don't make 'em like that anymore. Sigh...

So how are the Aether Age stories Dieselpunk? Well for that you’ll have to come back next week...

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