Some people tried to lay down some bogus law to my buddy, Sarah Z., that dieselpunk had to be about machines, therefore her dieselpunk fantasy wasn’t dieselpunk. Uh, no. Not anywhere else I’ve seen it defined. (So I’m going to be quoting like crazy to establish that this isn’t my unique viewpoint.)
Terms like dieselpunk aren’t about how narrow a field they can be cut to, or what one small coterie wants to use as limits on their dieselpunk parties. Like steampunk, cyberpunk, stonepunk, and mannerpunk, dieselpunk is a sales guideline for writers selling to publishers or studios, or anyone selling to readers/players/viewers. It’s a way of signaling that over here you might find something you’d enjoy reading or viewing or playing, because it’s like other things you enjoyed with that label.
So squeaky-tight limits are not what it’s about. Rather, it’s a sales tool that must encompass everything that publishers, writers, artists, and consumers are calling “dieselpunk” without getting so vaguely connected that most of the audience would think the inclusion is nuts. It’s like “Science fiction is [or means] what we point to when we say it.” (paraphrase of Damon Knight, 1952) Or Norman Spinrad, 1974, “Science fiction is anything published as science fiction.”
So like all such sales tools, dieselpunk as a tag is subjective and historical, descriptive until it reaches so many inclusions that it can become prescriptive.
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