I am fascinated with novels that can take history and twist a few key points and come up with an entirely different outcome. I didn't realize this about myself until I started thinking about Jacqueline Carey's books as more than just great novels. They take history and they reinvent it into an outcome that's different from what we live and see today. Only she takes it from a much earlier point in history.
I think the term for these novels is alternate history. It's not really a genre all on its own, but it's close. It's like a subgenre to other genres. The only one I know of that gets its own genre is steampunk, though maybe even that is subgenre of fantasy. Steampunk is a rather widely accepted (and growing more popular) alternate history where the steam engine continues to play a large role in inventions and the world never advanced into oil-based engines (or electricity?).
In my mind, steampunk is entwined with clocks, specifically the inner workings of clocks, all the gears and layers and metal and jewels and precision. There's a magic to old clocks. Have you ever taken apart the back of a pocket watch and seen how intricately its held together, tiny gears with groves moving other tiny gears all designed to keep time perfectly.
I love looking at the inner workings of clocks. I don't care all that much that they keep time—I'm not big on knowing what time it is when I'm not working, so I don't carry a watch. But I adore the innards of a clock. Strange, right?
So if clocks and steampunk are one and the same (which I'm not sure that they are), and envisioning a world in which we continued with steam instead of coal and oil for our engines makes me happy, does that make me a steampunk girl? I'd say yes, but I've also never read a single steampunk novel. The idea of writing one is only mildly appealing at this point. I think I might just be an alternate history fan with a penchant for pictures of the innards of pocket watches. Or maybe my next novel will be steampunk. I'll have to let the idea percolate and see what comes of it.