Steampunk is a peculiar beast of a sub-genre that seems to be getting more attention lately. half_double
has requested a list of such readings from me. It isn't a precisely pinned-down genre as yet. In many ways, I'd say it's more of an atmosphere or flavor than an "X,Y, and Z are present" sort of thing. Here are the elements that, in my opinion, flavor steampunk: steam-based technology, Victoriana, Victorian England, London, clockwork, mystery, fog and smog, brass devices, complexity, high density writing, social class structure as in the Victorian era, petticoats and waistcoats, fabulism, conspiracy, secret society etc. Lovecraftian influences are also often expressed in conjunction. Steampunk influences may be seen in science fiction or fantasy or both. There's also some weird steampunk/western thing going on, though I scowl in its general direction.
Books I have read and would recommend that share some/many of the above influences:
* The Difference Engine - William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
* The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book - Alan Moore (comic book)
* Perdido Street Station (etc.) - China Mieville
* Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes
* Sun of Suns - Karl Schroeder
* The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson
* The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters - Gordon Dahlquist (this book I recommend anyway--it ate my brain for a while)
* His Dark Materials (trilogy) - Philip Pullman
* FreakAngels - Warren Ellis (Future post-apocalyptic, but strongly steampunk-influenced. Also available free on the web and pretty fantastic for serial reading! Here's where to start: http://www.freakangels.com/?p=23
[increment +1 for every week after this post that you follow that link])
Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_steampunk_works
A lot of steampunk has been written as short stories, so anthologies are not a bad way to go either if you're trying to understand the genre, though I won't recommend any particular one.
Other ways steampunk is being expressed are as a fashion choice (tattered petticoats and brass goggles, or clockwork devices made accessories) and as a make aesthetic (a keyboard painstakingly reshaped to resemble a Victorian typewriter, for example).Edited to add
: See also Steampod (http://steampod.org
), a podcast of steampunk stories including classics.