I'm sure there are less flippant theories than this, but for me, Steampunk Erotica first chugged into view aboard an old Leonard Cohen album that a college boyfriend used to play all the time. I've forgotten what it's called, but one image has always lived with me, that of Queen Victoria dispensing sound spankings with her mechanical corset. Wow, I still get a shiver just thinking about it, with the sheer implausibility of the scenario only adding to its allure.
Steampunk is not concerned with implausibility. Quite the opposite, in fact, as even a brief inspection of its essential tenets makes apparent. It posits an alternate world that could have been, as opposed to the one that was, while raising itself above the rest of the science fiction universe by establishing some very firm groundrules as to what those "could-have-beens" are. Steam replaces electricity and oil. Zeppelins instead of aeroplanes. Corsets instead of t-shirts and bras. My Leonard Cohen fantasy grows moister by the moment.
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