If you distill the essential qualities of successful movements/ subcultures/ groups you will find that they tap into a unfulfilled need in their participants. "Will it last?" begs other, more interesting questions:
- What need does it fulfill?
- Why is this expression of that fulfillment important?
- Why now?
In "Triumph of the Moon", a history of modern neopaganism, Pr. Ronald Hutton suggests that many sub-/counter-culture groups of the last two centuries (e.g. the SCA, Wicca, the Boy Scouts, Waldorf education, the Arts & Crafts Movement, the Romantics) are reactions to the industrial revolution and the removal of man from close daily interaction with nature (or more accurately the liminal space between the wild and the wholly human countryside). I think that Steampunk is something different than these previous movements. Steampunk does not seek communion with nature or a pastoral idyll. While there is no single narrative, steampunk deals with the loss of something else, the industrial revolution. (Yeah, yeah, I know... Laputa. I would suggest the big robot in nature theme is a transitional style) Much if not most of the West has successfully transported its industry to other parts of the world. Moving out of an industrial mode of daily life, we are looking back to the industrial revolution in the same way as our predecessors looked back to the loss of the countryside and the wild. The factory, the cog, the naked machine replaced the farm as the place that the majority spent their waking lives. Now that is gone, and significant portions of society are feeling it's loss. Am I on to something, or am I thinking to hard?