Aside from those who glibly proclaim Steampunk dead and silly, many artists and modern thinkers have more thoughtful statements about why steampunk has pervaded the world so widely and means so much to those who adore it.
It has been said that the Steampunk movement is a reaction to the mass-produced, dehumanizing age in which we now live. "Defending the Electronic Frontier," a stunning painting by Suzanne Forbes, expresses this sentiment more outwardly than anything else I have found. She says that the painting represents, among other things, "the importance of defending your rights in the digital age." With crossbows? Bring it on!
This video from Maker Faire includes the artist's detailed description of many noble elements she included in the painting, such as the right to privacy and the right to live free of persecution for who we are. (Forbes' portion begins at about 4:40 into the video.) Pretty noble, eh?
Datamancer and members of Abney Park also give their viewpoints on steampunk in the video. Both mention the desire to see beyond the exterior -- to see what is inside, what makes things tick. Or what makes the gears turn, as the case may be.
Rather than create an entry attempting to define Steampunk, which would present a formidable task indeed, I wanted to mention just these few ideas explaining why it has such appeal. Some may just like the fashion, or the gadgets themselves, but this painting shows that there is an intellectual aspect to the phenomenon which has great relevance to modern people in uncertain times. Besides, who doesn't like to imagine, "What If?" ....