...from a Steampunk artist's point of view:
The term Steampunk [as a cult of objects] is a real contemporary artistic subculture. The aestethic of its style stems from an artificial past of the neo-Victorian era, mixed with the technological gadgets of the XIX. and later centuries – however these are totally supermodern ones – used today. Another characteristic feature is that electricity is not used, or it's hidden carefully, to camouflage as mechanical. It shouldn't be mistaken for the "dirty" Cyberpunk, that could seem a bit corny compared to the world of the fantastical, emotionally rich Steampunk, though it was considered to be a spinoff of the other. It was only a Cyberpunk-fairytale inserted into the XIX. century neo-Victorian era. For present days, it has evolved into so much more than just a wild bunch: anachronism mixed with paleo-futurism, where everything finds a way to its place.
In other words, an electromechanic world view, a world of machineries, which is pure plastic hatred seen as techno-fetishism in the eyes of present days' people, which lights up a flickering oil lantern lamplight on our mass production-dependent present filled with disposable tripes. No matter how you look at it, these are all rubbish that are sentenced to get rid of, that are only good to deprive us from individuality. Steampunk object-cult is the complete opposite: it brings back handicraft, highly inspired by this amazing and fascinating world. With a strange, and a bit contradicting faithfulness towards tradition, it flies us to an imaginary alternative of our present (or future), where the revolution of information-technology is realised in a whole different, irrealistic, postmodern aspect, spiced with centennial romanticism.
Real steam machines, an army of geer-wheels, pilot goggles, brass objects and top hats- these are the words that categorise tangible Steampunk. It's not by chance that these objects are so spectacular: these are usable, touchable, even if the extravagant Victorian design puts itself in the spotlight and sometimes surpasses usability or practicality. These are sheer miracles, the alternative past just drags our thoughts with itself, it's an instant get in this overstimulated XXI. century.
For an outsider, it is difficult to describe its historical background in literature, if not impossible. The only works that are commonly accepted in Steampunk-circles are from Jules Verne or H. G. Wells (Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The War of the Worlds). On the grounds of film-making, there are well-known classics as Wild Wild West, Back to the Future Part III, Hellboy or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
This subculture emerged into the centre at the end of the 80s, however it hasn't got publicity till the nineties, thanks to the Web v2.0, and a bunch of self-claimed retrofuturists, who believes that their special world will not wither away, just as many other subcultures that shone with glory- and fell.
Peter Sztojanov Jr.,
30th of May 1909 AD