The Crossroads of the Aether
Bing! Bing! Bing! Correct/agreed on all counts! (My avatar is from the H.P. Lovecraft Tarot, for which I wrote the accompanying booklet.) Don't forget Freemasonry (Karl Kellner & Franz Hartmann had to start somewhere!).
One thing that I can't believe I forgot about is that the primary source of my aesthetic connection to Steampunk comes from the first two chapters of Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, and his somewhat mystical description of the museum of the Conservatory of Art and Industry in Paris, which is essentially a permanent exhibition of the intersection of Technology & Design, a very Steampunk concept:
Great book. Great reference, especially in this context. The preponderence of the tetragrammaton intrigued me at first, but eventually seemed to drag out a touch. The point being a yarn which includes a touch of the mystical and or metaphysical need not truly utilize these forces.
A scientist or quack seeking to unlock certain aetherical mysteries might in actuality merely stumble across some random process which seems to defy the as yet only finitely defined laws of physics and believe he or she has discovered a source of magical power. As in the first Sherlock Holmes film of recent years, the bad guy only "seemed" to posess power arcane, where he was actually just a chemist.
As a 32nd Degree Freemason, please remember that our fraternity dos 2 things. We support charitable works and we endevour to make the good people that belong to our organization better people through the study of philosophy, either personally or as presented in allusionary plays.
The BIG SECRET of Freemasonry is,,, there is no big secret.
Where's your Valley (NMJ or SJ)?
Magic is certainly welcome in the genre. From druids and warlocks with wands and potions, to sorcerous bindings and alchemic discoveries, to Old World artifacts and World-eaters, to energy manipulation and psionics, it can have its place.
It doesn't make the genre, but it certainly doesn't break it.
I, with a few others, am weaving a world where the existence of magic (or lack thereof) is as uncertain (or certain) as our own. The mysteries are there, and it will be up to the readers to decide whether the rationalization is occult or not.
maybe something like how Malifaux handles magic at the most flashy, less harry potter, more large etheric devices that harness or warp the forces of the universe
Remember this, if you use magical science or scientific magic in your version of Steampunkary, these three rules must be observed,:
1. The Rule of Conservation of Mass and Energy. A small item may produce a large result, but a lot of work and energy must be expended to create that small item.
2. Every action has an equal and opposite reatcion
3. You must use as much force possible to save the hot-looking strawberry blonde lass with the big, round, ripe gazongas from the villian.
He is quite right.... the Universal Law of Karma must be observed...The Native Americans put it best. "What goes around, comes around!"
The Carnacki stories of William Hope-Hodegson came to mind as I read your question. These were written in the early 19-teens. Carnacki was a bit of a detective and a ghost-buster of a sort, and was an employer of technology for the same reason others would use magic. perhaps he was an early "techno-mage," so to speak. He had a device that was called an "Electric Pentacle" that allowed him access to nearby dimensions.
I see no reason why such a device could not be steam-powered. Imagine having a harrowing extra-dimensional conflict, hoping that your burly stoker has enough coal available to keep your machine running so that you can keep the Outer Things from our world and, consequently, the strawberry blonde.
Burgess Shale, who entirely goes for this sort of thing.
Exactly, whilst the hero is dimension hopping his faithful comrade must keep the steam-powered generator going else the traveler becomes marooned in another dimension.