Originally Posted by srozzman /img/forum/go_quote.gif can someone please inform me what is so punk about steampunk? it has been confusing me for ages
Once upon a time, back when only universities and the military used the interweb, a feller named William Gibson wrote some short stories for Omni that described a proximate alternate future in which individuals electronically logged onto a vast consensual communications network--an electronic virtual reality--through which people did business, socialized, bought stuff, acquired information, and sometimes stole other people's information. Gibson's Neuromancer was justifiably a big deal in the scifi and pomo fiction worlds. Another feller from Texas wrote similar scifi novels about civilizations dominated by control of information technology, as well as articles for Wired and a book about the first of the computer hackers. This Bruce Sterling character got together with the William Gibson dude and other similarly enthused writers, and they all participated in a consensual literary subgenre called cyberpunk.
The kicker is that William Gibson and Bruce Sterling became pals on the anandtech.com "Hot Deals" forum, since they both shared an intense intellectual enthusiasm for successfully completing multiple-coupon-price-checking scams at Office Depot. Subsequently, they collaborated on an alternate history novel that posited that things might have been different if English inventor Charles Babbage's steam-driven calculating machine (a genuine historical artifact) had--instead of being neglected as an outlandish and vaguely threatening novelty--been embraced in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Difference Engine hypothesizes what might have happened if the advents of European industrialization, democratic nationalism, Darwinism, global imperialism, and Marx's Communist theory had all gotten a high-octane boost from widespread computerization and the digitization of information.
And since the fellers were already famous for cyberpunk, enthusiasts of The Difference Engine called this computerized Victorian period steampunk.