I've received some email regarding yesterday's post about Edgar Allan Poe.
In summary, the emails read, "Poe was a good writer, yes... but what does he have to do with steampunk?"
Let me point out a rather satirical piece from Poe that can be used as inspiration for your alternative history.
The Man That Was Used Up
An unnamed narrator meets the famous Brevert Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith, "one of the most remarkable men of the age." Smith is an impressive physical specimen at six feet tall with flowing black hair, "large and lustrous" eyes, powerful-looking shoulders, and other essentially perfect attributes. He is also known for his great speaking ability, often boasting of his triumphs and about the advancements of the age.
The narrator wants to learn more about this heroic man. He finds that people do not seem to speak about the General when asked, only commenting on achievements of the "wonderfully inventive age." The narrator begins to believe there is some concealed secret he must uncover.
When he visits the General's home, he sees nothing but a strange bundle of items on the floor. The bundle, however, begins to speak. It is the General himself, and his servant begins to "assemble" him, piece by piece. Limbs are screwed on, a wig, glass eye, and false teeth and a tongue until the man himself stands "whole." The General has lost more than battles, it seems. The narrator realizes what the General's secret was - he "was the man that was used up."
Read it in full for free at > http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/POE/used_up.html