Has steampunk jumped Captain Nemo’s clockwork shark yet? The genre — succinctly described as a mix of archaic tech (either real or fanciful), the supernatural, and postmodern metafictional tricksterism, set in the consensus historical past or alternate timelines — was first christened in 1987, a lifetime ago as cultural and literary fads are measured, in a letter to Locus magazine from the writer K.W. Jeter. Of course, the actual roots of the form extend back even further, perhaps as early as 1965, when a certain television show named “The Wild, Wild West” debuted. Some literary styles and tropes wane with their cultural moment, but others have proved exceedingly long-lived, with writers continually discovering unexplored narrative possibilities within elastic bounds. Perhaps the best example is the Gothic, still with us today, and flourishing, despite being a couple of centuries old. But steampunk has exfoliated beyond the merely literary, into the daily lives of its fans.
more from Paul Di Filippo at Salon here.