I wrote a blog here a little while ago about whimsy. I've wondered for a little while why so much of the Steampunk scene seems to be whimsical, why much of the writing is whimsical, why the characters are often prone to whimsy. The answer, I think, is very simple. if you are dabbling in Victoriana in any way shape or form you will very quickly run up against some deeply unpleasant things: forced child labour, breathtaking poverty, people living in the most appalling circumstances, institutionalised oppression of the poor, asylums and horrendous treatments of the mentally ill and mentally impaired, pollution, fierce and careless colonialism of the very worst kind, bloody wars and so on. This of course, alongside incredible scientific curiosity, a sense of the great societal adventure, exploration, discoveries about science and the natural world, incredible industrial advances and, of course, the seeds of some of the most significant social reforms in the western world.
It isn't all pretty, and it isn't all jolly hockeysticks. But isn't this dark side a great opportunity to explore real ideas? to make Steampunk a powerful literary form that goes way beyond goggles and crinolines and explores ideas of greater moment and significance. Science Fiction has done this for years, think Slaughterhouse 5, or Farenheit 451, or Brave New World, or Through the Eyes of Heisenberg and so on.
Come on, fellow Steampunks, let's make it count. Have fun at the same time, and have a damn good laugh, but make it count.