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Imagine a world where computers were developed a century before their time¸ running on levers and steam engines instead of microprocessors or even light bulbs; a world where the zeppelin never went out of fashion as new technology made it safer and faster¸ where brave men (and women) explored a yet undiscovered world to find wondrous ruins of lost civilisations or entrances to entire new worlds¸ where the wondrous age of magic is slowly fading away to give place to an age of reason. This is the world of steampunk¸ a subgenre of fantasy and science fiction that is devoted to marrying the possible with the improbable more than exploring the future or exploring fantastic themes; steampunk explores a past that might have been¸ had some things happened a little differently. Steampunk as a genre that grew from revisiting the old scientific romance novels the likes of 20¸000 Leagues Under the Sea¸ The Time Machine¸ and The Lost World¸ which took the spirit of progress and exploration (and exploitation as well) prevalent during the 19th Century¸ and translated it into stories of speculation¸ wonder and excitement. As literature that explored the future as moulded by progress¸ the scientific romance is the great-grandfather of modern science fiction. At its core¸ steampunk is a look back at those times and then forward again to uncertain futures that would still remain in our past. Although regularly based around the 19th Century¸ particularly in some part of the British Empire¸ steampunk stories can easily take place in alternate worlds where technology took a different turn than in our world¸ and fantasy adds its own ingredients by adding magic and mythical elements to such a world. Basically¸ steampunk is about playing in an age that was not¸ but could have¸ and maybe should have been. Steampunk stories are dominated by strange technology and weird science. While hard science-fiction bases its principles on proven or theoretical science in our time like quantum physics and the advances in biotechnology¸ steampunk takes a look backwards¸ at the early advances in scientific and technological inspiration. Phenomena like electricity is beginning to be fully understood¸ steam and mechanics move most of the age’s machinery and telecommunications are being born in the form of the telegraph. Now… consider that if Charles Babbage had counted with sufficient funding¸ he could have invented the first computer around 1842 and¸ connected with the power of the telegraph¸ the Internet could have been born two World Wars earlier. What kind of world may have evolved from networked computing based on clicking machines and mechanical modems? Such are the kinds of questions that you can answer in steampunk. Technology in a steampunk setting is either elegant or incredibly clunky¸ using basic mechanisms and primitive wiring to achieve the performance that would occupy a fraction of the space using modern technology¸ but would not look as quaint. Brass tubes¸ wooden handles¸ and Edison’s new incandescent lamps (aka light bulbs) replace fibre optics¸ touch screens and LEDs as the material of choice for machinery. Steam-powered cars roam the streets while airships cross continents and giant cannons shoot people to the moon. Or not. Another common element of many steampunk stories is the presence of magic and the supernatural. Magic regained interest in the backdrop of scientific progress¸ with mediums claiming to contact the afterlife while fairies were rumoured to caper in the wilds. Secret societies organised séances and rituals to contact powers from beyond time¸ and the stronger communication with the orient opened the way for an influx of exotic cultural imports¸ including grossly misunderstood mystical traditions. Magic and the occult are so present that they mingle with science¸ with the most prominent example being the mind’s psychic potential explained through the newly theorised magnetism. Magic is a palpable reality that the heroes must discover and contend with. Cultists seek to awaken the power of ancient races¸ alchemists use arcane formulate to power their infernal devices¸ and creatures of legend roam the streets of major capitals dressed in the latest fashions of the age.