What is Dieselpunk?
Lewis Pollak came up with the term “dieselpunk” to describe his tabletop roleplaying game, Children of the Sun. It shares DNA with literary cousins like steampunk and cyberpunk. But, while cyberpunk usually takes place in a distant future setting and focuses on technological developments such as artificial intelligence (AI), whereas steampunk is based during the Victorian era which saw an industrial revolution; most dieselpunk stories are set between World War I and World War II (1918-1945).
Raygun, Earth Reclaim Museum, Dieselpunk, Reclaimed, found objects.
Like cyberpunk and steampunk, dieselpunk is often preoccupied with the era’s technology. In this case, that would be “grease of fuel-powered machinery,” as professor Iolanda Ramos says in her essay “Alternate World Building: Retrofuturism and Retrophilia in Steampunk and Dieselpunk Narratives.”
However, like cyberpunk or steampunk, the subgenre is equally concerned with how technology affects society; it does not exclude today’s topics such as AI either. One way or another, its shadow radiates all over most dieselpunk, making it a generally less optimistic genre than its Victorian cousin.
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As a form that a game designer first named, it makes sense that dieselpunk has made an impression in the world of gaming—both on the tabletop and console games. One of the most mainstream success dieselpunk found in video games can be seen in titles such as Final Fantasy VII to BioShock and well beyond.mWhile cyberpunk as a subgenre owes its origins to novels, dieselpunk developed at table and screen-even if there are plenty of writers out there who specialize exclusively with this genre!