A question which many are asked, and to which there are probably as many answers as steampunks to answer it.
However, the simplest answers to difficult questions often come through self-reflection. One effective means of teaching is to enable the student to learn for themselves, and this approach has been taken by the good lady Victoria.
Following years of being asked the question at events such as craft fairs, she turns the question almost 180 degrees by asking the questioner to reflect on the statement “Imagine if 20,000 leagues under the sea were history, and not fiction.” Thus, the door swings, and the entrance to steampunk is open.
A more full account of her explanation and definition of steampunk may be found on her blog.