You know how it is when a phrase is slowly edging itself into mainstream usage and we all have to pretend that we know exactly what it means. We probably have had very similar issues with words like "trap" and "emo". Probably all you know about steampunk is that it is something very cool and that a lot of young people are into it. So we are here to answer that burning question. What exactly is steampunk?
Let's keep it simple. Imagine Victorian England, you know steam power, waistcoats, and bowler hats, lords and ladies bowing and curtseying, the whole gamut. Now picture a scenario where people who lived in that era had all of the technological advances we have (give or take a few) while still retaining their Victorian idiosyncrasies. You have successfully imagined steampunk.
Steampunk actually started out as a subgenre of science fiction, pioneered by the works of Jules Vernes and H. G. Wells. At first, steampunk tried to predict what the modern world would look like. Many fantastic contraptions were written of which helped inflame the imagination of the readers. However, most of these contraptions are now in common use and so the goal of steampunk has changed. Steampunk now accommodates those who have a yearning in their hearts for the glories of the past. It also takes a dip into alternative history by asking the question, "What would have happened if history had taken a different path beginning from the 19th century?" In keeping with the 19th-century ethos when steam was the thing, one of the things most common about steampunk books is...well steam. Even the most fantabulous contraptions are made to work using the simple power of steam. This might be a good point because it adds a certain degree of technicality as opposed to a mainstream fantasy where things frequently appear out of thin air.
Steampunk as a subculture has transcended literature. Now, there are steampunk bands, steampunk clothes, steampunk festivals. Slowly, mainstream society is beginning to take notice.
So, now you know what steampunk is. Maybe it's time to rock that leather jacket, unleashing your inner punk full steam ahead.