Ruth La Ferla in the NYT:
If steampunk has a mission, it is, in part, to restore a sense of wonder to a technology-jaded world. “Today satellite photos make the planet seem so small,” Mr. Brown lamented. “Where is the adventure it that?” In contrast, steampunk, with its airships, test tubes and time machines, is, he said, “sort of a dream , the way we used to daydream. It’s like part of your childhood’s just bursting forward again.”
For some of its adherents, steampunk also offers a metaphoric coping device. “It has an intellectual tie to the artists and artisans dealing with a world in turmoil at the time of the industrial revolution,” said Crispen Smith, a Web designer and photographer in Toronto, and a partner in a steampunk fashion business.
Now, as in the late 19th century, “we have to find a way to deal with new ethical quandaries,” Mr. Smith said, alluding to issues like cloning, the dissemination of information and intellectual property rights on the Web.
Steampunk style is also an expression of a desire to return to ritual and formality. “Steampunk has its tea parties and its time-travelers balls,” said Deborah Castellano, who presides over salonconvention.com, which organizes neo-Victorian conventions. “It offers an element of glamour that some of us would otherwise never experience.”