Let me first start by saying that I don't have a problem with the idea of Steampunk in and of itself. In fact, I actually think it's pretty cool. In theory. But once you move past the most basic understanding of what Steampunk is, you immediately start running into problems. This year's Dragon Con offered a wide range of Steampunk and Alternative History panels, but the only consistency I could find among them was inconsistency.
In short: I've got a couple problems with Steampunk:
1. There's no canon
This is, in my opinion, the number one problem with the genre. It's also an unsolvable problem, because Steampunk already exists. It's not like we can rig up some kind of time machine out of tubes, gears, and giant rotating plates, travel back in time, and write some kind of source material for all Steampunk (or can we...). LOTR and Star Wars nerds might bicker, and, yes, there's plenty of fan fic that spins off into hypotheticals, but at the end of the day, you can go back to the source. And, for as much as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne inspired this mess, they aren't source. And, therefor, aren't canon. And with no canon, there will never be an end to the fighting.
2. Steampunk is supposed to be about solving problems
...and yet every time I look at a Steampunk costume, I can't help but think to myself "what exactly is that contraption attached to that woman's face supposed to be helping?" This epiphany came to me when I was talking to a Steampunker at Dragon Con who had the requisite set of goggles (which were made of PLASTIC) with a big-ass metal coil glued to the left lens.
After staring at it for several minutes, I finally asked him "what kind of advantage does the coil give you?"
He answered, unironically, "None! Actually, it's making it pretty hard to see."
3. It encourages pseudo-intellectualism
It's one thing to indulge in fantasy and invent pretend machines that might have been able to enhance the aim of your musket through a complex series of levers and pulleys. It's another entirely to suddenly think that you are a Tesla scholar simply because you tore apart an antique clock and velcroed its inards to your top hat. Which brings me to my next gripe...
4. It encourages the destruction of antiques
Please. Please. Please do some research on the item you are about to tear apart for your costume before you possibly destroy a beautifully preserved artifact that is older than you and everyone you know, combined.
I applaud those who do Steampunk well. But, unfortunately, for every well researched cosplayer, there are ten yahoos bouncing around a convention hall floor with clock gears sticking out of their kerchief pockets. If you do decide to go Steampunk, do it thoughtfully. And, for the love of God, don't glue a metal spring to your goggle lens. Don't be that guy.
What do you think of Steampunk?