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Steampunk defies easy explanation. It has to do with an imaginative mix of artisanship, Victorian-era fantasy and reality, the science fiction of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, admiration for the inventor Nikola Tesla, and an idealized remake of the Industrial Revolution era’s technology, engineering, and philosophy.

Participants in the Watch City Steampunk Festival in Waltham in early May share a kind of easygoing counterculture celebration of creativity and individuality. Debra DiFranco (above), of Abington, came dressed as a vampire hunter, with garlic, a bottle of holy water, and a gun with silver bullets hanging from her belt.

Kailei Willoughby, 5, right, reacted to seeing her sister's face painted as a tiger by Clover Guggemos.
Kailei Willoughby, 5, right, reacted to seeing her sister's face painted as a tiger by Clover Guggemos. Michele McDonald for the boston globe/Globe Freelance
Jeremy Kessler, of Somerville, dressed for a music hall performance at the festival.
Jeremy Kessler, of Somerville, dressed for a music hall performance at the festival. Michele McDonald for the boston globe/Globe Freelance
Jenga, belonging to Barb and Andy Fyfe, of Everett, posed for a photo. Part of the aesthetic of steampunk is to use rich, beautiful materials like leather, and exacting artisanal methods to craft costumes.
Jenga, belonging to Barb and Andy Fyfe, of Everett, posed for a photo. Part of the aesthetic of steampunk is to use rich, beautiful materials like leather, and exacting artisanal methods to craft costumes. Michele McDonald for the boston globe
Bettina Benoit, of North Gloucester, Maine, played Queen Victoria.
Bettina Benoit, of North Gloucester, Maine, played Queen Victoria. Michele McDonald for the boston globe/Globe Freelance
Chloe Belleau, 6, took her shoes off during a break with her aunt, Lori Pedersen, of Waltham.
Chloe Belleau, 6, took her shoes off during a break with her aunt, Lori Pedersen, of Waltham. Michele McDonald for the boston globe/Globe Freelance
A sample of the bone-art by vendor Laurel Cunningham-Hill at her booth called Capsulariums. The bones are mostly collected from owl pellets, cleaned and then created inside recycled watches, clocks, and frames.
A sample of the bone-art by vendor Laurel Cunningham-Hill at her booth called Capsulariums. The bones are mostly collected from owl pellets, cleaned and then created inside recycled watches, clocks, and frames. Michele McDonald for the boston globe
Michael and Aline Baker, with their son 16-year-old Freddie on their way home to Salem.
Michael and Aline Baker, with their son 16-year-old Freddie on their way home to Salem.Michele McDonald for the boston globe/Globe Freelance