(by Daniel Proulx)
What is Steampunk? It's what would happen if in the Victorian era, steam-based technology had been the winner. It's usually Victorian-esque clothes and items laced with bronze, clockwork, and steam-powered inventions. It's fashion, it's technology, and it's creativity.
Or, to go by the Wikipedia explanation, steampunk
"is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power."
The steampunk you see today is a loosely defined Victorian base, with clothes that wouldn't be acceptable by Victorian tastes. The attitude is very strongly inclusive, the genre shunning the Victorian "values" of discrimination, instead embracing modern sensibilities.
It's a redo. It's all the fashion, all the fun, all that's pretty and shiny--or, in this case, greasy and machine-oily. It's the cheerful friendly rebels, the honor, and the adventure, wiped clean of the oppression, murder, and elitism of the actual Victorian age. It's the age of discovery and invention, with flying machines and airships. It's what we wished had happened.
It's idealism, in other words. And like all ideals,
Elizabeth, a character in Into the Tides, is a steampunk fan. I've toyed with the idea of writing books completely in a Steampunk setting. One of my favorite webcomics, Girl Genius, is a "gaslamp fantasy"--meaning, steampunk-flavored but not pure steampunk.
Is steampunk a genre you're interested in? What cool steampunk have you seen in the past? What do you think of the genre?