After meeting the man, I discovered his art. After admiring his art, I recognized his talent. These three shocks – each of an incredible, amazing violence – sparked rare and paradoxical emotions that made me want to share this work with others.
Stefan is an utter aesthete, an unlikely traveler in a consumer age, who turns his rebellions into art and then graciously but mischievously offers them us.
Both a storyteller and a painter, he reinvents the romance of the recent past and then holds up that reinvention to us like a weird mirror of our memory in which fears, hopes, and despairs converge. In this dreamlike voyage through Diesel City, noir prevails, telling about pain in a wide range of shades of gray to better serve the very idea of light – little as there may be. In Stefan’s work everything is a reference to something else, even if most of those references are elegantly concealed. Intelligence dominates this work that is both literary and graphic, both disconcerting and fully realized.
Don't be surprised, though. We're in a dream. Everything is possible.
Diesel punk or cool gasoline engine, it doesn't matter about the bottle, so long as you get drunk. Stefan’s motor runs on fossil fuels. When he lets us into his own metropolis, Diesel City, we can immediately hear the police sirens and the swing music from speakeasies. It’s the America of Al Capone and Howard Hughes. It’s the architecture of Chicago and Raymond Loewy’s “Streamline Moderne.” It’s both Ziegfeld girls and the space aliens of Roswell in their bizarre ships.
We know this world – whether in color or black-and-white. At least we used to know it, even if it's looking a little rusty today.
But the artist doesn’t just go the vintage route. Nor are his illustrations simply flashbacks either. Rather, everywhere in Diesel City - the people, the skyscrapers, the “look” – we see hints of an imagined “future perfect.”
These images pose the fragile question of time, of life after the quantic bomb. They speak of the profusion of images that saturate our society today.
Of the images of those images. Of the shadows of those images of images. Even of the reflections of the shadows of those images of images. To live in our world and also to penetrate this one isn’t a banal dream-like voyage. It’s déjà vu. We know this city. We’ve lived there. But when? And was it really we who lived there? The great paradox in Stefan’s work is that the more familiar the reference points in Diesel City, the harder it is to get our bearings. And that’s saying something.
Journalist, Scriptwriter, Filmmaker
Listen to the "Diesel Powered Podcast":
Tome Wilson, the adaptator of Diesel City,
talks about his work on the project.
Listen to the "Diesel Powered Podcast":
Interview on the Diesel Powered Podcast Radio by Johnny Dellarocca
Over the five plus years that the Steampunk Tribune has been in existence, two of the tenants I've endeavored to remain faithful to are: 1) Maintain a focus on the Steampunk genre, and 2) Minimize my review of books. The first issue is fairly obvious, as it is the "raison d'être" for the blog is the genre - people who come to this corner want to read about Steampunk and associated goings on.
The second exists only because RL has been particularly demanding during the past few years, thus reducing the time I have to relax and read. Though I've received numerous generous offers to review Steampunk books, it would be simply wrong to simply accept literature, then not do it justice with a proper review (and the Steampunk Scholar does an yeoman job of Steampunk literature review… and I'd certainly not wish to vex one of Steampunk friendliest academics!) I always said that it would take something extraordinary to bypass these two dictums - and I have found such a gem with Diesel City.
Diesel City is an endeavor by a Mr. Stefan, (also known as *stefanparis on DeviantArt, for those in the know), is an exceptionally talented multi-media artist who is based out of Paris… but is known for his amazing works regarding the Dieselpunk genre.
I won't belabor attempting to define "Dieselpunk", as many who are familiar with Steampunk are certainly aware of this later off shoot of the genre. (...) Though DP has been around for a few years, it has slowly begun emerging and establishing itself apart from its better-known older cousin.
As Steampunk has its roots in the turn-of-the century, including its artistic influences from Art Nouveau, Dieselpunk takes its artistic inspiration from Art Deco, but with a bit of an… update. With said inspiration, as with the plethora of new genre art that exists for Steampunk (... ) Dieselpunk has perhaps fewer, but better known artistic specialists, one of which is Mr. Stefan.
His work, Diesel City, takes a first-person narrative of Dieselpunk, while displaying his amazing works, both via original stylized art and representation via photo-manipulation. My first introduction to his work was via the Dieselpunk.org website and his Art Deco influenced work has a leaning towards advertising - promoting unique products, means of travel, and destinations!
His photo-manipulation work provides more of a feel for the Dieselpunk atmosphere - Diesel City focus less on an over-arching narrative, and more on translating the genre atmosphere via inspiring imagery and enveloping commentary.
As one of the seminal works of the Dieselpunk genre, I'm confident that anyone wishing to understand (and be inspired by) Dieselpunk will thoroughly enjoy this outstanding work! But enough of my prattling - to learn more, please visit Diesel City!
Webmaster of the Steampunk Tribune
and the SL Jazz After Midnight websites
On several occasions in the past, Out in Jersey has featured the work of Stefan, including a June Pride cover several years ago. Stefan, who uses his first name only, professionally, is a Parisian artist, a graduate of the prestigious Ecole de Beaux Arts, who draws on the incredibly rich artistic tradition of that fabulous city to produce work that is beautiful, highly original, occasionally unsettling and which, withal, draws the viewer into mysterious worlds – ones that can be ethereal as well as gritty and sometimes dangerous.
In his new book “Diesel City,” Stefan has achieved a masterpiece. In 200 lavishly produced pages, itself a triumph of the printer’s art and a prestige possession that defines its owner as a person of taste, in touch with the most interesting cultural trends, Stefan turns cityscapes we are all familiar with into points of entry to a world in which the ordinary becomes mysterious and the objects of everyday life take on sinister meanings – ones we glimpse and only half understand.
Therein rests the magic of this book. We understand in part but without hesitation we feel we should – we must – understand in full, and so we are drawn inexorably into the darkness and mystery Stefan creates. What then is the true nature of Diesel City, this place Stefan takes us to? What are the answers? You must find that out for yourself because there will be different answers for each person who takes the journey. This, of course, is the hallmark of great art. It does not present answers. It asks questions and perhaps points us to a road we must each travel for ourselves. Greatness lies in the artist’s ability to make us want to take that journey. In that sense then, this is a great book and a great work of art.
Lovers of the Dieselpunk genre and of the Art Deco style of the 1930s and 40s will be especially in love with Diesel City. The book has been hailed by a number of critics as being the ultimate definition of and the standard for Dieselpunk culture. Surely, if that culture is your own, you cannot claim full membership if you are unfamiliar with Stefan’s work. Neither can any graphic designer or artist who draws on the inspiration of the styles of that era afford to be without this latest interpretation.
However, those who are not part of the dieselpunk culture, who are not artists or designers but are people who treasure creativity, craftsmanship and superb quality will value this book as an important addition to their collections and as a gift that says you have the highest opinion of the recipient.
Chief Editor of Out In Jersey Magazine
News from Diesel City
The world will never be the same.
The answer is simple: there’s a new book, just out of print, 200 pages capable of changing your world forever. You probably thought that Dieselpunk is about bizarre machinery, heroic aviators and cynical private detectives, mobie divas and pretty flapper girls, Art Deco and Streamline Moderne aesthetics… But it’s much more than this. Stefan, the author, calls himself a “diesel powered artist”. We believe it is an understatement: a man responsible for a score of Dieselpunk masterpieces should be called a pillar of the genre. Three years ago he joined the Diesel crowd and since then contributed a lot to various projects, from Dieselpunks Network to our Encyclopedia. After a salvo of pictorial series, covers and stand-alone posters here comes a ‘black box’ containing not only familiar images but also some information – finally deciphered.
Tome Wilson wrote about Stefan:
He uses the looking glass of the past as a warning to show us how our lives could have been, or what they one day might become.
Well, they could become a nightmare. The first two chapters, Diesel City and Megalopolis, are the most powerful and also the darkest parts of the book. The author doesn’t want to scare you. He simply translates your irrational feelings into images and words.
Diesel City: it’s always been there inside you, surrounding you, and you always knew you would be back one day. It’s a rain-slicked reflection of all the places you’ve ever been in reality and in your dreams. It doesn’t matter if you wanted to return or not; you’re here now. <…> It’s not a nightmare, but it certainly feels like a murky dream you should want to wake from. Except it’s not a dream.
Here, in surreal cities, you can find almost every visual element of Great Dystopia. Nocturnal scenery absorbs you – and after a few pages you are perfectly aware of the dark side of Dieselpunk and Diesel Era. Yes, it’s not only creative spirit and heroism. There’s a lot of oppression, frustration, and fear. War is just around the corner.
Another founding father of the genre, Nick Ottens, wrote:
If you look only at the noir deception, the rise of petroleum power and the increasingly technocratic perception of those who lead this world in anxiety, you understand that it’s quick to succumb to dystopia or nuclear holocaust.
One of Stefan’s pictorial series is called Silent Empire. The title strangely echoes La Cité de la Muette (Silent City), a modernist high-rise compound in Paris, turned into an internment camp under the Nazi occupation. Likewise, Stefan takes a real public library building, and turns it into a scary Temple of Obedience. It is not a gimmick but a reminder of the ambivalent nature of the era. Wasn’t the concentration camp in Buchenwald designed by a Bauhaus graduate? Unfortunately, it was. But there is a brighter side, too. To get there, we should use some Uncommon Transportation, like a flying diesel locomotive (or a modest streetcar; or maybe a motorcycle – suddenly, every vehicle can fly!). And here we are, in the world of elegant ads, offering all the luxury we can think of. No darkness anymore – everything’s so sunny, so promising… But it appears we are still too close to the dark side. Besides, there is a lot of dark spots and blind alleys where the chances to meet a hero are scarce and villains are at every corner. Now, when the world has changed, you have to explore it – and this handsome volume is created to become your guide. And your inspiration.
Webmaster of the Dieselpunk Encyclopedia and the Dieselpunk Blog
Diesel City is a difficult book to review, it is a work of art, created by the images it contains. To do it complete justice would mean to describe and review every single image of its 200 pages in detail.
Instead, I have to make do with a woefully short review of this mind-boggling, stupendous piece of Dieselpunk art.
Steam City by Stefan has the tag-line “Fiction reveals the truths reality obscures” and this is exactly what it does. Through a long series of very powerful images, every single one a digital painting worth to be turned into a poster, the majority also a credit to every modern art gallery, the story of the eponymous Steam City is told. From its beginnings to its skylines to war to decadence to crime. The peaks and abysses of Diesel City are fathomed and measured and the reader finds himself drawn ever deeper into the parallel universe of Diesel City the book creates. This parallel universe is a mirror of our own time, a dirty, grimy mirror, yet, it is obvious. Diesel City is a place that could be here and now but never was. It is the place we wanted to go but feared to take the first step.
Stefan has created the most impressive piece of art I have seen in a long time. No other graphic-based art has moved me so much and drawn me in so completely since I first laid my hands and eyes on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman over a decade ago. Diesel City is already a classic, a true masterpiece!
There can be only one verdict:
Ten out of ten Zeppelins and the Badge of Honour!
No Dieselpunk worth their weight in fuel should be without a copy of this book! Want to find out more? I am sure you want to, Diesel City can be found here!
Webmaster of The Traveler's Steampunk Blog.
From Paris with love arrived my copy of Stefan’s Diesel City today, a collection of his marvelous dieselpunk artwork supplemented with little blurbs of text that were translated for the English edition by none other than our friend Tome Wilson of the Dieselpunks community.
It’s hard to be objective for a review because I’ve known Stefan and his work for so long and have even been involved a little in the making of the book. Fortunately, there is little, if anything, to criticize about this volume. Dieselpunk fans will rejoice in the dozens of pictures collected in this book, some of which are familiar to those who know Stefan’s work, others are new.
Through eleven chapters, the book introduces the reader to the world of Diesel City, its megalopolis and “bizarchitecture” to retrofuturistic forms of transportation and pulp era tales of heroes and war. It brings together all the facets of the genre, from the Interbellum and totalitarianism to the American futurism of the 1930s and 1940s to film noir and gasoline fueled machines and adventures.
1200 copies of the English version of Diesel City were printed, with a limited edition of one hundred including four folio pieces signed and numbered by Stefan himself. At least one of those is now in my possession so you better be quick and order a copy yourself!
I am sure that this book will be remembered as groundbreaking for the dieselpunk genre. Let no one pretend that we’re just a subgenre of steampunk anymore! Stefan has defined the dieselpunk aesthetic perhaps more than anyone I can think of and I’m incredibly proud to see his work in print. This is the quintessential dieselpunk volume. If anyone ever asks you, what does dieselpunk look like? show them Stefan’s work and they’ll know. “We’re in a dream. Everything is possible.”
Webmaster of The Gatehouse and chief editor of the Gatehouse Gazette. An historian by training, Nick studied the history of European expansion, globalization and nineteenth century Islamic revivalism.