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Steampunk: The new Goth

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"Steampunk is definitely growing in popularity," says Diana Vick, vice chair of Steamcon, an annual convention in Seattle that doubled its attendance when it held its second meeting in November. "I believe it is due in part to the fact that it is a rejection of the slick, soulless, mass-produced technology of today and a return to a time when it was ornate and understandable."

This year, Steamcon celebrated what its website called the Weird Weird West. It notes: "Imagine the age of steam on the wild frontier ... roughriders on mechanical horses, mad inventors ... mighty steam locomotives ... airships instead of stagecoaches."

Every culture that embraces steampunk seems to make it their own. Patrick Barry, a member of New Zealand's League of Victoria Imagineers, has seen myriad international examples. "All have a different flavour, world vision and cultural base for the artists and writers to draw from and it shows," he writes via e-mail. Even in his tiny hometown of Oamaru, steampunk has taken off. Three groups have recently mounted an exhibition, a fashion show, and run several events. "Oamaru has a population of about 13,000 people. We had 11,000 people visit the exhibition over its six week [run]."

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