I've been discussing the nature of ideology and steampunk a lot over on the Brass Goggles forums lately. Even after a few posts, it has become very clear to me that my vision of the genre is completely different from most of those who frequent the forums. I have always been one to take a serious approach to literature. As I've mentioned before, I feel like fiction ought to have a purpose: whether that purpose is to entertain or enlighten is entirely up to the author. For me, I want my readers to walk away having gained something more than just a fun story to add to their list of "have reads."
In light of the discussion, I began to think very specifically about the nature of genre and its meaning to people. So I've added to my list of tasks to research a number of others' views on genre and genre theory as it pertains to speculative fiction and begin to formulate my own ideas to either grow out of those thoughts or stand in opposition to them.
In general, I believe genre fiction has a unique place in the repertoire of literature because it has the ability to speak towards topics untouchable by mainstream fiction by placing them in a context that is either foreign or futuristic (or some other conception). It has the potential to talk about things in a way that other authors might be shunned by the general populace for bringing up. With that in mind, I think that there is something to be said for some of the movement towards strictly embracing a particular movement's aesthetic aspect only. To disregard ideology is to lose part of what makes a particular genre or sub-genre stand out and bring home its message.
I invite you to join in on the discussion over at the forums if you're keen on discussing steampunk. Otherwise, your thoughts here are always welcome.