What are your thoughts on trends in the steampunk genre? The Parasol Protectorate is one of many exploring steampunk (Behemoth, Earthshaker, etc)…which from what I can tell has been somewhat hiding in the wings since…Jules Verne?…no, probably not punk-y. Anyway, it seems like there are a lot of steampunk books out these days (I’m ignoring vampire books because I’m not really looking for romance-novels-in-disguise). And yet my understanding is that steampunk is a look backwards combined with some spunky protagonists fighting the establishment. Is that close to the right definition? If so are current offerings following in that vein or are they really just adventure novels in a different setting?
Steampunk is totes a publishing trend in the past few years — the next big thing (vampires became zombies became angels). And yet, it is also a cultural thing that is awesome: the steam part, which is looking back/forward to a past/future that never was, but you can pick the parts you like (keep the polite manners; hold the slavery); and the punk part, which has to do with a culture of making your own things and having bespoke items instead of mass-produced crap.
I’ve been reading steampunk for seemingly decades (Martha Wells’ Death of a Necromancer being a personal favorite), but only recently does it seem to have hit the big-time. My guess is with the resurgence of all things vampiric people got into all things Victorian, and if you’re doing all things Victorian… well it’s a hop skip and a jump to steampunk. Also now a lot of big name best-sellers seem to have gotten in on the trend, like Scott Westerfield. And, of course, the Gail Carriager books would be best-sellers even if they weren’t steam-punk because they’re so delightful. But their success has probably helped the genre.
Btw, wikipedia has a really interesting article on the evolution of steampunk… yes, the origins are in Wells and Verne (though for them it was just contemporary science fiction!), but it really seems to have started as a new genre in the 1970s and 1980s.
As to your deeper questions, I defer to #1, and of course our insightful readers!