One of the driving forces in the Diesel era (roughly 1920s-1950s with wiggle room of about a decade on either side) is the DIY nature of the time. Automobiles were finally saturating the market, making the internal combustion engine something not only remarkable, but useful, and within the grasp of the average Joe. And in a wonderful synchronization of science and technology, mechanical marvels reached out to (not just) American ingenuity and became something more than they were originally intended.
Farmers cut out space in barns to form mechanical shops where they tinkered with the engines that played an increasing role in their daily lives. The tinkerers of the ’20s and ’30s planted the seeds for the gearheads of later eras, where hot rods and the modern-day chop shop show their legacies even today.
It’s that kind of DIY, maker mindset that holds such an appeal for me as an author. As storytellers, many of us begin as deconstructionists–we take apart the components of “Jane Eyre” or “The Telltale Heart” and find out what resonates, what makes them tick along well over a hundred years after their first emergence. We deconstruct in tropes, in cause and effect, in myth and monomyth. Some of us do get around to reconstruction. We rebuild something new, using the parts we’ve scavenged and fabricating new forms for prevailing functions.
It’s an amazing thing I get to do.