This is either brand new or somehow snuck completely under my RADAR. It's a little essay by Bruce Sterling written, I think, for GOGBOT that describes what Steampunk is and he F&@%ing nails it! NAILS it! I say.
He gets the community part right:
If you like to play dress-up, good for you. You're probably young, and, being young, you have some identity issues. So while pretending to be a fireman, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or whatever your parents want you to be, you should be sure to try on a few identities that are totally impossible.Steampunk will help you, because you cannot, ever, be an authentic denizen of the 19th century. You will meet interesting people your own age who share your vague discontent with today's status quo. Clutch them to your velvet-frilled bosom, because you will learn more from them than you ever will from your teachers.
He gets the crafts part right:
Steampunks are modern crafts people who are very into spreading the means and methods of working in archaic technologies. If you meet a steampunk craftsman and he or she doesn't want to tell you how he or she creates her stuff, that's a poseur who should be avoided. Find the creative ones who want to help you, and who don't leave you feeling hollow, drained and betrayed. They exist. You might be one.
And he wraps it up exactly right:
We are a technological society. When we trifle, in our sly, Gothic, grave-robbing fashion, with archaic and eclipsed technologies, we are secretly preparing ourselves for the death of our own tech. Steampunk is popular now because people are unconsciously realizing that the way that we live has already died. We are sleepwalking. We are ruled by rapacious, dogmatic, heavily-armed fossil-moguls who rob us and force us to live like corpses. Steampunk is a pretty way of coping with this truth.
And then he puts a cherry on top! Go read the whole thing now! As they say on the LiveJournal: "I am full of Squee!"