THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BLACK PEOPLE: The Dieselpunk Edition!
This is some of the stuff of the era of Dieselpunk – an often grittier sibling of Steampunk.
Dieselpunk is a sub-genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy that includes – but is not limited to, or bound by – the aesthetics, style and philosophies of film noir and pulp fiction and featuring retrofuturistic innovations, alternate history and elements of the occult. Think the movies Captain America: The First Avenger, Sin City, Hell Boy, the Indiana Jones films and The Mummy (1999 – 2008) trilogy.
Dieselpunk is set during the Diesel Era – a period of time that begins at the end of World War I and continues until the early 1950s.
Over the next few weeks, in our League of Extraordinary Black People Series, I will explore the amazing achievements of Blacks during this incredible era and will share some Dieselpunk fiction I write as well. For starters, check out my story, Lazarus Graves: The Scythe of Death. I am writing Part II to this tragic Dieselpunk tale at present and look forward to sharing that with you in the anthology Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond.
Some of the Dieselpunk Archetypes we will explore are:
When the police don’t have the manpower to help; when the Hard-Boiled Detectives demand too much money or just don’t give a damn… there are those who will stand up for the weak, the oppressed and the victimized, fighting crime and evil in all its forms. The Avenger is a shadowy figure who strikes fear into the heart of the criminal community, hiding their true identity behind a mask, scarf, or wide brimmed hat pulled low to conceal their face. An Avenger’s motivation is rarely known. Many utilize strange inventions, chemical concoctions and / or psychic or occult powers to give themselves an advantage against their enemies.
During the Diesel Era, airplanes were still a fairly new concept. Most people had never actually seen one. Many adventurers raised some money, built a plane and put on shows to exhibit their skills. Some raced their planes, while others did stunt shows such as the famous Barnstormers of the 1920’s. Industrialist Howard Hughes made much of his fortune in the burgeoning aviation industry. These daring men, more at home in the wild blue yonder than on the ground, were always on the lookout for adventure and the opportunity to make a few bucks. Others served in the war and proved themselves the Aces of the sky – modern-day knights, racing over the battlefield, delivering a hail of hell in the form of hot lead on the troops far below.
DOCTOR OF MEDICINE
The Doctor can be a general practitioner, surgeon or other specialist, a psychiatrist, or an independent medical researcher. A doctor seeks to help patients, promote a more rational and health-conscious society and, of course, to acquire money and prestige. The Psychiatrist is a Doctor of Medicine who diagnoses mental disorders and administers treatment for the same. He or she can also diagnose and treat medical conditions.
This archetype includes dancers, singers, jugglers, stage magicians, athletes, musician, actors and anyone else who earns their living in front of an audience. It is applause, accolades, artistic expression, glory and / or money that drives them.
The explorer braves the unknown, searching for long buried treasure, ancient and arcane knowledge or what lies beyond, beneath, or between.
Whether searching the wonders high in the Tibetan Mountains, at the center of the Earth, or in the depths of the sea, the Explorer will always venture where none others dare tread.
FEMME FATALE / PLAYBOY
An irresistibly attractive man (Playboy) or woman (Femme Fatale) who uses his or her many charms to convince others to provide some good, service or favor. They are the perfect foils for a trusting, heroic adventurer who is often unfamiliar with the wily ways of these men and women. They are dangerous and willing to use their beauty – or anything else – to attain their goals. While many use their powers of enchantment for evil, others use their charms to help others, or to bring about positive change. These are usually anti-heroes who operate on both sides of law and order.
Grease Monkeys are the rough, tough and oh so ready mechanics, electricians and handymen / women of the civilian and military worlds. Aces at repairing automotives, ships, aircrafts and appliances for the home or business, these men and women keep the world moving along.
With many police departments forced to cut back on manpower from dwindling revenue, many people have turned to the private investigators for justice. Although in most cities, the “private eye” is licensed by the police and must be privately bonded as well, these gumshoes often work in the morally gray area between law and crime.
The private eye usually acts in non-police situations – gathering information and evidence for private clients in impending civil cases, tracking down fleeing or cheating spouses or business partners, or acting as agents for private defense attorneys in criminal cases. A private eye has no problem separating his or her personal feelings from the job and will gladly work for the guilty and innocent alike, as long as his fee is paid. Of course, working on both sides of the fence is tough – the police see you as a civilian muscling in on their job, and civilians view you as a rent-a-cop without the badge.
A more sophisticated cousin of the Hard-Boiled Detective is the Consulting Detective, who relies more on astute, logical reasoning and a powerful intellect than the two-fisted gumshoe.
Whether they are stalking a lion across the Plains of the Serengeti in a rite to prove their worth as a man amongst their people, tracking down elephants for their ivory, bringing a museum the corpse of a Yeti for display, or riding shotgun on an archaeological expedition, there will always be a need for the Hunter – explorers of unknown lands and seekers of the next big challenge.
Brilliant masters of gadgets and gizmos, the Inventor is intrigued by the complexities of technology and finding new uses for metal, electricity and diesel power. The Inventor is an expert in advanced mechanics and electronics, which allows him or her to create devices well beyond the normal capacities of the Diesel Era.
While some might believe that to be a good journalist, you just need a notebook and a nosy disposition, in reality, you must be willing to put yourself in the thick of things to get the scoop. You must be able to skillfully use words to report and comment upon current topics and events, writing as many words in a day as an author may in a week.
Journalists work for newspapers, magazines and radio, often taking on the role of detective to bring timely and accurate news to the public. They are the eyes and ears of the city.
Constantly on the hunt for the next big story, Journalists will uncover the secrets that others need – and have a right – to know.
The Mad Scientist blindly pursues knowledge and power. They gladly experiment on the living and dead alike, using brutal torture techniques to unlock the mysteries of the mind and brain and conducting breeding experiments in an effort to produce new species. These devotees of Charles Darwin and Doctor Moreau fill their island sanctuaries with animal / human hybrids, clones of themselves and loved ones and strange conglomerations of flesh and metal.
Trained in techniques from the indigenous people of Asia, Africa, or the Americas, the Mystic is an individual on a quest to discover the great secrets of the mind and body. Through meditation, study and training, they have tapped into their psychic potential. Most mystics also have extensive knowledge of the martial arts from the culture their masters hail from. This gives them a distinct advantage during the Diesel Era, as martial arts are nearly unknown in the West during this period.
Occultists may be the wealthy widow, seeking supernatural truths from her deceased husband, or a champion of science, seeking to debunk the paranormal. They may be the college professor, student, or librarian who uncovers the sinister nature of the occult. Whatever the vocation or preoccupation, the occultist dedicates him or herself to the study of the unexplained. Closely related to the Occultist is the Parapsychologist – a scientist, interested in the observation of, experimentation with and measuring the power of the supernatural. Unlike the occultist, these men and women tend to be scientists, who hold degrees in physics, psychology, or medicine.
The Professor holds a Ph.D. in one or more areas of expertise and has earned tenure at some college or university. He or she is qualified to teach and has a reputation of excellence – or incompetence – in one or more field of study. Professors often become involved in adventures as they search for such things as ancient civilizations, ancient artifacts, new technologies, or contact with extra-dimensional life.
A scoundrel excels at making her way around the law. She knows how to be stealthy, break and enter, and cover her tracks. A scoundrel may be a street thug, con artist or even a daring and stylish cat burglar or a crime lord, who oversees a criminal empire.
Masters and Mistresses of manipulation, charm, deceit and infiltration, the Spy pursues a life of intrigue, politics and diplomacy throughout the world. Most spies can ease their way into any group and have connections across the globe. Similar to a Consulting Detective, his or her keen senses and insight into human motivations allow him or her to notice facts and behaviors that most others miss. The Spy’s weapon is information and thorough planning – they maintain numerous cover identities and always have a contingency plan and several escape routes, should a mission go to hell.
The warrior is at the forefront of battle – whether on the side of justice and heroism or in the service of selfishness, wickedness or mad schemes to rule the world. Warriors are skilled in the use of most modern weaponry, as well as basic hand-to-hand fighting techniques, tactics and strategies; many possess an expertise in a wide variety of weapons and are truly terrifying on the battlefield. Warriors range from backwater pit fighters, to bold activists, to military sharpshooters and battle-scarred veterans of world war. They make a living at the only thing they are good at – fighting, killing and surviving.
I hope you enjoyed this introduction to Dieselpunk. Be sure to hang out with us as we bring a little funk to the Jazz Age with The League of Extraordinary Black People: The Dieselpunk Edition!