Behold! A World Powered by Steam!

Obviously, I’m in favor of any references to steampunk appearing in the New York Times, but the article never mentions “steam” once! The entire alternative-universe vision of steampunk assumes that the electrical industrial revolution never happened, and steam still being the motive power behind the economy. Now, granted, much of the article is interesting:

Steampunk Moves Between Two Worlds – New York Times
She takes her emotional cues from scientists and inventors like Nikola Tesla, magicians like Harry Houdini and soulful spies like Mata Hari, each of whom injected a spirit of enterprise, intrigue and discovery into their age. Contemporary fictional parallels in film include the wildly ingenious scientist played by Robert Downey Jr. in “Iron Man,” who hopes to save the world by retooling himself as a flame-throwing robot made of unwieldy scrap metal parts.

If steampunk has a mission, it is, in part, to restore a sense of wonder to a technology-jaded world. “Today satellite photos make the planet seem so small,” Mr. Brown lamented. “Where is the adventure it that?” In contrast, steampunk, with its airships, test tubes and time machines, is, he said, “sort of a dream , the way we used to daydream. It’s like part of your childhood’s just bursting forward again.”

But without steam, what’s the point?

An example (I believe) of actual steampunk is The Difference Engine, which describes an Industrial-age Britain in which an actually designed (but not implemented) steam-operated computer sparks a steamcyber revolution.