At its best, punk is a critical outsider perspective. Take a step back from our culture and critique it in terms of another. Steampunk achieves its outsider perspective through a mid-19th century lens.
Creators critically engage with ideas through analogy. Bold aesthetic choices are made to serve the resulting narrative and hint at the culture/ world beyond those pages. Unfortunately, anything which finds an audience quickly devolves into a pastiche of its former self.
Consider ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. The text contains little to no visual description and only defines Alice with words like ‘clever’ and ‘curious’. Tenniel’s art ( later augmented with color ) defined the visual conventions and those conventions were solidified by the Disney film. These days, there are numerous adaptations of Wonderland which feature a blonde girl in a blue dress who is neither clever nor curious. The pastiche of steampunk is equally shallow and in many cases goes against the ‘critical outsider’ ethos, which is a defining characteristic of all punk media.
‘How did I get into steampunk?’ is a paradoxical question because I am not into steampunk… at least, not in the conventional sense. I respect the craftsmanship of its DIY community and acknowledge the potential for what it can be when approached thoughtfully, however, I find the majority of ‘steampunk’ media to be trite. I’m happy to say this sentiment is shared by many ‘Steampunk Original’ contributors because innovation is often found through critical outsider perspectives.
[ ‘Steampunk Originals’ is an open call steampunk- themed comic anthology released quarterly by Arcana, http://www.arcana.com . The deadline for Volume 5 is January 6th. Full details are available in the Volume 5 facebook group:https://www.facebook.com/groups/SteampunkVol5 . ]