The issues of “what is” and “where is” could be more important to steampunk than the conventional “what if” of science fiction themes, according to Richard Harland, John Berlyne and Jay Lake.
In fact, Jay considers steampunk is fantasy rather than science fiction, while Richard pondered whether steampunk is a style rather than a literary movement in itself. Nonetheless the panel said style can continue as a standard and separated steampunk from being just “a fashion” which could be seen as a date-related fad.
The panel considered steampunk today is historical and Victorian to a large extent, whereas Wells and Verne were writing contemporaneously so, in a sense, not steampunk although their themes and concerns inform the genre today. The panel also viewed medieval and Dickens and gothic within the style, while suggesting Dune as an archetypal steampunk movie.
Although the writing style exists in its own right, games, costumes, movies and art probably return more revenue than books.
Steampunk requires strength in the characters and in the storylines so it appeals to the eccentric and the non-sterile mindset, and John added that it has a link to raw invention, making it pre-technology to an extent.