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The jet pack, an icon of the future, appearing on an August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories science-fiction magazine.

Retro-futurism, retrofuturism, retro-future or retrofuture, terms combining "retro" and "futurism" or "future", can refer to two distinct concepts: A style of design or art or a sociopolitical ideology.

Retrofuturistic design is a return to, and an enthusiasm for, the depictions of the future produced in the past (most often the 1920s through 1960s), both in science fiction and in nonfiction futurism of the time, which often seem dated by modern standards.[1] The ideology combines retrograde sociopolitical views with techno-utopianism. This article focuses entirely on the first definition.


[edit] Etymology

The word "retrofuturism" was coined by Lloyd Dunn in 1983, according to a fringe art magazine published from 1988-1993.[2]

[edit] Characteristics

Retro-futuristic settings fall into two main categories. The first is a total vision of the future as seen through the eyes of the past, often a utopian society characterized by high technology (relative to the base time), unusual or exaggerated artistic, architectural and fashion styles, and an abundance of consumer goods; its spirit of optimism and embracing of the status-quo is a contrast with cyberpunk, although in many cases the utopianism is presented in an intentionally ironic or camp light.

Several films and television series of the past, which can be characterized as straightforward futurism in their own time, have been mined by artists and authors of the present to evoke retro-futuristic styles.

The second type of setting are altered but recognizable versions of the past in which the exaggerated technological innovations which science fiction writers and illustrators imagined might be compatible with their own times (e.g. as created by a brilliant scientist) were indeed real. Examples include Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, set in an alternate 1939 which includes ray-guns, robots, and rocket-ships, which are rare and not characteristic of the technological fabric of the society as a whole; The Rocketeer franchise, set in 1938, whose "futuristic" element is an experimental jet pack.

There are also many works which take styles and genres of past eras and place them in a futuristic setting, such as the Old West elements in Firefly or the 1940s film noir elements in Blade Runner, but these would not generally be seen as retro-futuristic because they are not based on a specific past era's vision of the future.

Retrofuturistic elements have appeared in games such as BioShock (2007)[3][4] and Fallout 3 (2008).[5]

[edit] Design and arts

A great deal of attention is drawn to fantastic machines, buildings, cities, and transportation systems. The futuristic design ethic of the early 20th century tends to solid colors, streamlined shapes, and mammoth scales. It might be said that 20th century futuristic vision found its ultimate expression in the development of googie or populuxe design. As applied to fiction, this brand of retro-futuristic visual style is also referred to as Raygun Gothic, a catchall term for a visual style that incorporates various aspects of the Googie, Streamline Moderne and Art Deco architectural styles when applied to retro-futuristic science fiction environments.

Although Raygun Gothic is most similar to the googie or Populuxe style and sometimes synonymous with it, the name is primarily applied to images of science fiction. The style is also still a popular choice for retro sci-fi in film and video games.[citation needed] Raygun Gothic's primary influences include the set designs of Kenneth Strickfaden and Fritz Lang.[citation needed] It is thought that the term was coined by William Gibson in his story The Gernsback Continuum: "Cohen introduced us and explained that Dialta [a noted pop-art historian] was the prime mover behind the latest Barris-Watford project, an illustrated history of what she called "American Streamlined Modern." Cohen called it "raygun Gothic." Their working title was The Airstream Futuropolis: The Tomorrow That Never Was."[6]

[edit] In fashion

Futuristic clothing is a particular imagined vision of the clothing that might be worn in the distant future, typically found in science fiction and science fiction films of the 1940s onwards, but also in journalism and other popular culture. The garments envisioned have most commonly been either one-piece garments, skin-tight garments, or both, typically ending up looking like either overalls or leotards, often worn together with plastic boots.

In many cases, there is an assumption that the clothing of the future will be highly uniform, either because of extremely mass-produced clothing, the imposition of uniforms by some totalitarian regime (such as in Brave New World), or by default, because the author has failed to envisage that the processes of fashion may continue into the far future.

There is typically little consideration in these visions of futuristic clothing that one-piece skin-tight garments might be unflattering to those with less than ideal body shapes, presumably because the author either assumes that the health of the general population will have improved through nutritional education, availability of nutritious foods, or genetic engineering in the future, or -- again -- because of a failure of imagination.

The cliché of futuristic clothing has now become part of the idea of retro-futurism. Futuristic fashion plays on these now-hackneyed stereotypes, and recycles them as elements into the creation of real-world clothing fashions.

"We've actually seen this look creeping up on the runway as early as 1995, though it hasn't been widely popular or acceptable street wear even through 2008," said Brooke Kelley, fashion editor and Glamour magazine writer. "For the last 20 years, fashion has reviewed the times of past, decade by decade, and what we are seeing now is a combination of different eras into one complete look. Future fashion is a style beyond anything we've yet dared to wear, and it's going to be a trend setter's paradise."

[edit] Architecture

An example in Shanghai of a retro-futuristic design in architecture.

Retro-futurism has appeared in some examples of postmodern architecture. In the example seen at right, the upper portion of the building is not intended to be integrated with the building but rather to appear as a separate object - a huge flying saucer-like space ship only incidentally attached to a conventional building. This appears intended not to evoke an even remotely possible future, but rather a past imagination of that future, or a reembracing of the futuristic vision of googie architecture.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Jenkins, Henry: "The Tomorrow That Never Was: Retrofuturism in the Comics of Dean Motter", Confessions of an Aca-Fan, 2007
  2. ^ Retrofuturism
  3. ^ Review from GameSpot
  4. ^ Comments from composer of BioShock's score
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "The Gernsback Continuum" in Gibson, William (1986). Burning Chrome. New York: Arbor House. ISBN 9780877957805. 

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

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