Clint Wolf of the Satellite Show rants about the “Scope Creep” of Steampunk, and I heartily agree. I’ve been noticing this gradual scope creep too, and it has tended to give me a bit of an uneasy feeling these past few years. There seems to be such a profusion of “steampunk-like-things” these days that it’s just diluting the genre, and in some respects, lessening the core appeal. I recently watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and thought to myself: “Wow, that’s not steampunk at all–it’s barely even dieselpunk–but lots of people consider it steampunk.” I agree with him on Bioshock as well–definitely dieselpunk, but I would add that it also has some crazy genepunk/psiberpunk thrown in for good measure.
I also have no love for the “-punk” suffix in general, and find it rather inappropriate for most works that it is applied to. Then again, it is shorter than saying “Steam age fantastical fiction.” Perhaps “steam-fic” could catch on as an alternative, much as “sci-fi” caught on as an alternative for “science fiction” which was an alternative for “scientific romance” (that’s romance in the classical sense, of course).
Anyway, go read the essay now and judge for yourself, steampunkers!