History and Steampunk

I’m always interested in what other people have to say about Steampunk. More experienced, less experienced, and the clueless. I think it all lends a different perspective to our little movement.

Recently, NPR did a short piece on Steampunk, Did Steampunk Forget The Meaning Of The Word Dickensian? In that piece, they asked novelist Charlie Stross to chime in and give his opinion of Steampunk. In said opinion, Stross laments the lack of historicity in Steampunk. He thinks that Steampunk is “offensively ahistorical.”

I’m sure he thinks he’s very clever for noticing that we don’t particularly respect historical actuality.  As a trained historian, I know this is a central element of Steampunk, and really, I find it much more liberating and optimistic than actual history. Apparently, Mr. Stross didn’t get the memo that Steampunk isn’t historical reenactment. It will also probably come as a surprise to the author and Mr. Stross that Steampunk is not inspired by Dickens, but primarily by Verne and H.G. Wells.

Steampunk is about science fiction escapism with a Victorian twist, it’s not a bunch a history majors trying to create fiction about the Victorian period as it actually was (though history majors are welcome so long as they can check their degrees at the door).

What do you all think about the historicity of Steampunk. Does it matter?