I have tried to define steampunk. It doesn't work. I have tried to engage with people in other expressions of steampunk, such as cosplayers and literary types. Not to successful there either. They're fine people, but their trajectory is different. So I'm back to doing my own thing and calling it steampunk.
But what is that? And why is it steampunk instead of the half dozen other things?
Like many other late-wave steampunk makers, I came to steampunk in 2007 when Jake VonSlatt's keyboard went viral. I didn't need a definition. I'd been around Space 1889 (I don't play RPG's, but I love to read the rulebooks), read the Difference Engine and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Grokking steampunk as a subculture was no great leap.
Shiny. I couldn't get enough, I found what little was out there at the time, Jake VonSlatt, Datamancer, Vernian Process, Molly Porkshanks, Abney Park, Brass Goggles, and Steampunk Magazine.
In the last couple years I have felt a shift in how steampunk is viewed. So here's my line in the sand. I don't accept that Steampunk is just about Cons, or props, or literature. If that's you're thing, it's fine. But to me steampunk is something more.
It's about doing my stuff, my way. It is about taking my life and my land and transforming it into something that's a little old, a little modern, thoroughly solid and tactile. It's about reviving old crafts and co-opting industrial methods for personal use. It's about caring about construction, and doing it right. Duct tape and hot glue are perfectly fine and useable materials, but they are not permanent and shouldn't be treated as such. It's about looking at new technologies, and adapting them to me instead of me to them. It's about getting off the consumptive treadmill and using the things I already have that are still perfectly serviceable. It's about taking old technologies and evaluating them on equal footings with new ones. It's about creating, fixing, and adapting with an Arts and Crafts, and 19th industrial design aesthetic. Its about treating others with respect and gentility.
That is my Steampunk. You can't take that from me.