I stumbled across a new blog for me: The Steampunk Scholar. (hat tip to Chris Roberson). The post Roberson linked to was an interview with Rudy Rucker. The entire interview is enlightening but I gravitated toward one exchange (bold text by me):
MP: Do you think the recent reprint of The Hollow Earth by Monkeybrains Books has something to do with the current increased interest in steampunk?Rucker goes on to describe steampunk as a literary movement and a term.
RR: I think the reprint of The Hollow Earth was a personal decision by Chris Roberson, the author who runs Monkeybrains Books. He enjoys reading and writing historical SF.
"Historical SF." I seriously like that term mainly because I think it can apply to any story with historical elements and SFnal elements that take place out of the typical Victorian Era that steampunk seems to occupy.
Even now, as I conceive and write my own "historical SF" novel, I still use the word "steampunk" but, more and more, it's not, really, a steampunk story. I've got magic in the story, but also airships. I've got conjured cities and, yet, regular old six-shooters. I'm not necessarily all that interested in how some of my technologies work, just that they do. I have a group of people, ostensibly heroes, who have different pieces of technology based on their needs and talents. It's not all steampowered. Much of it is.
Thus, I think I'll start using the phrase "historical SF" when I refer to my story. If I get strange looks, I'll probably still drop the word "steampunk," but, even then, I'll still have to explain myself.
So, Readers, which term do you like? And, just like in school, please explain your answer. ;-)