War Women Dieselpunk artwork by Duncan Long

Dieselpunk is a science fiction genre that’s recently gained in popularity. It’s not actually new — there are throwbacks here and there, with alternative timelines and the like in science fiction movies and books. But it’s new to many readers and movie goers who are running into it today.

The Dieselpunk genre generally employs a combination of gasoline/diesel technology of the first half of the 20th Century with the retro science fiction designs seen in the 1930s-1950s. Often the “good guys” employ guns and machinery common to this period while the bad guys are armed with more futuristic things like rocket ships, death rays, and robots.

So basically if you have a story that you mix in a little of the original Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers sci-fi elements with World War II machinery and you’ve got the look and feel of Dieselpunk. (Two good examples of the genre can be found in a recent version of this “found footage,” 1917-style War of the Worlds video as well as in the movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow).

That said, I’ve been playing around with this style a bit (hoping to eventually land a book cover contract for some artwork in this style). Thus far, I’ve mostly employed some vintage gas masks, a WWI/WWII-era flier’s helmet, and some mid-20th Century machine guns. But it is rather amazing what a gritty feel can be achieved with just these elements.

Here are a few of my experiments, some of which I’m hoping will ultimately find their way to book covers.

Zombie hunters Dieselpunk art by illustrator Duncan Long

The AK-47, as its name suggests, was an automatic rifle created in 1947, which makes it a candidate for Dieselpunk artwork. Hence the guys and gals armed with this weapon.

Zombie hunters Dieselpunk book cover art by illustrator Duncan Long

The old Soviet gas mask design also appeared at the tail end of the 1940s, making it ideal for Dieselpunk artwork.

zombie warrior Dieselpunk book cover illustration by artist Duncan Long


When not experimenting with artwork for various genres of science fiction book covers, Duncan Long creates a variety of illustrations for magazines and books. See more of his art at Duncan Long’s Online Gallery.