No, there's no fantasy element to this. True, many goths were into Wicca, vampires, magic, fairies and such... steampunk is about retrofuturism... anything that looks old but is futuristic at the same time. Think really weird pocket watches, corsets, circa-1900 clothing and gadgets that run on something other than electricity. (Like the steampunk clock shown below.)
Part of this fad (if you can call it that) can be blamed on the Sherlock Holmes movie that came out in 2009.
However there is several other films we could blame as well, including:
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, 2004
Van Helsing, 2004
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 2003
The Time Machine, 2002
Wild Wild West, 1999
Sleepy Hollow, 1999
FASHION - In terms of clothing however this is the part where there is lots of room to grow.
See brassgoggles.co.uk and community.livejournal.com/steamfashion for ideas.
Goggles is a common idea when people think of steampunk, but its a bit of a cliche too.
Think leather, brass or copper, gears, clocks, levers, chains (like bicycle chains), Victorian patterns, pinstripes, damask, argyle, hair is usually up or a bob... You can also have fun with tattoos, piercings, dyed hair, torn clothing, tools (ie. pocket wrenches and gauges).
"[Steampunk is] drawing on actual history. You can pull into it what you're into and put your spin on it. It's accessible yet expandable," says Jake von Slatt (aka Sean Slattery, of Littleton, Mass.), who likens the philosophy behind steampunk to open-source software. "There is a real focus on sharing, exploring things together, building community."
Steampunkers also have conventions to exchange ideas and compare clothing and gadgets, they dress to the nines and party like it's 1899.
Mr. von Slatt is currently "steampunking" a fiberglass, 1954-style Mercedes kit car, adding salvaged gauges and lights from other cars and gold filigree trim. Drawn to steampunk's "do-it-yourself, making something from nothing" mantra, von Slatt scavenges most of his components.
Basically wherein gothic culture the protagonist is a vampire or demon, in steampunk the villain is a gadget-crazed mad scientist.
And the hero is a goodie-two-shoes bicycle mechanic who builds himself a steampunk bicycle...
I am sure he gets plenty of weird looks, but anybody who is into bicycles will appreciate what he has done. Its a retro recumbent bicycle, and that is just plain kewl.
If you are looking for something steampunk-esque to read, we recommend The Keepers of the Maser series of graphic novels by Italian comic book author Massimiliano Frezzato.