I'm not completely sold on Steampunk, a niche at best (even though Loathsome, Dark, and Deep has some Steampunkish elements to it), but a story on NPR this morning about Charles Babbage's Difference Engine piqued my interest.
(Fully operational Difference Engine at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA)
From the article:
The story goes that Babbage was inspired to create the Difference Engine one day when he came across multiple errors in a book of astronomical calculations. "I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam!" he exclaimed.
Listen (or read) the rest of the story.
You have to love a guy who exclaims "I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam!"