Tag Archives: dieselpunk

What Were They Thinking?

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Having read all the 1819-1918 spec fi I could acquire, I have now fallen into a new reading habit: Popular Science Monthly magazine. It started by way of random research for 1934 and 1937 projects, especially once the first got rolled back to 1931.

Unlike, say, Popular Mechanix, PSM combine everything from articles on the early Rhine ESP studies to building ornate ship models. The covers represent everything from shipyards to air races, but the emphasis is on postulated vehicles — usually on the drawing boards, not often proven to work. But once they make PSM’s cover, they can live on in minds, just as the inventor envisaged them.

But what were they thinking to think of this?


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Battleships on Stilts

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Dieselpunk realities!

I never saw these before so I’m betting you haven’t either. From the 1944 pages of Popular Science Monthly comes one of several newly revealed war machines, now that VE Day approaches and there’s no reason to keep them secret. (OMG, VW Beetles, too, and the Thing version that the Germans used as the equivalent of the Jeep.) Read the rest of this entry

Dragonflies and Bumblebees

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31DecDragonflyThis flight of fancy, with its vibrating set of wings for propulsion, reminds me of the Japanese “bumblebee” fliers in H. G. Wells’ 1908 The War in the Air (tons of invention, badly written, with a lead character less of a protagonist and more an accidental point of view). Of course, the bumblebees were mounted and ridden like a flying motorcycle, where this is bigger and more conventional. “Flying mounts” rather than “flying carriages” have long appealed to us, as something closer to being winged ourselves, or at least riding Pegasus: they appear in 1827 in The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century by Jane Loudon. However, this one appeared in the December 1931 issue of Popular Science Monthly, p.63. Mad science had not deserted aeronautics after all!

Crawling from the Waves …

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Was it an obsession of the public? Of inventors? Of  just Popular Science Monthly? They have so many covers in the Thirties, let along interior blurbs, on amphibious vehicles. It’s as if giant airships and helipads weren’t enough any more. They would give you plans for building your own boat, but surely the future held something more complex, more glamorous, than the hollow in the water that had been used for thousands of years.

The giant below, from April of 1931, is even accompanied by photos of the inventor in his prototype — a one-man craft no more than fifteen feet long.

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Sky Leviathans of Tomorrow

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PSMOct1923 Well, the tomorrow of October of 1923.

Another article from my favorite techno rag, Popular Science Monthly. Once again, a little overboard in the predictions and definitely in the realm of dieselpunk. This is not the Akron catching parasite fighters, but a full-bore — and way too small — landing strip on top of a dirigible. The article on page 30 gives more on the “dreadnaughts of the clouds” (if that wasn’t an Early Dreamers story title, it should have been).

And remember, folks, cut out those party balloons. It’s important to conserve our helium supply as a war material.

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You’d Think They’d Know Better …

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PSM1922JulWhen I began work on my Failed Flyers project, I thought I’d be ending it about 1914. After all, you’d think that the aerial demands of the Great War would have knocked most of the silliness out of aeronautical designers. But no …. Thanks to the covers of Popular Science Monthly, and even more short articles inside, I find myself with no shortage of proposed, designed, but never built and flown aircraft on into the 1930s!

In Failed Flyers, I include plenty of things that never got past planning, and this is one of them. In this case, we have the airliner of the future, “as pictured by Eddie Rickenbacker,” WW1 ace and now motor car company executive. If you think this is glorious lunacy (those tubby lines, really? observation deck like a train’s Vistadome?) or previsioning (multiple engines and room to walk around and a lounge like on a 747 or Concorde) you can see more in B&W pencil drawings at the article, here, on page 35.

 

That -punk is Not Punk; Or, How You Can Have Something Called Mannerpunk

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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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Why We Don’t Have Flying Cars

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RobidaLaSortieDeL'opera2000

Personal aircraft, small enough to fit in a garage with the wings folded. Especially the one you could take the wings off at your destination and drive them into town. How many inventors have announced theirs in magazines, set up to sell to an eager populace, and went broke? How often have we read about them in science fiction, only to have them never materialize?

True, over the years they have tended to become anti-grav cars, skimmers, jump-cars, and lose their wings, but why are we all still stuck in rush hour, only dreaming of hitting the button and leaping skyward out of the jammed traffic?

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