Kit Cox is an artist and stand-up comedian... but sometimes he puts on his pith helmet, waxes his moustache, and picks up his guns to do battle with an array of weird and wonderful creatures such as air kraken, Jub Jubs and Snarks. Welcome to the world of steampunk.

Kit – or rather his alter ego Major Jack Union – is one of the growing number of people who have declared an affinity to this lifestyle/literary movement that envisages a Victorian world slightly adrift from what you may have been taught in history classes.

This is a 19th Century where steam is king and airships ply the skies, where brass robots walk the streets and people dress in a stylised version of Victorian clothing – outsized top hats and buckled boots, corsets and breeches, and lots and lots of goggles.

Steampunk is not new, but it is gathering pace and reach, and Bradford seems to be becoming something of a hub for it. The city has already played host to a six-month exhibition of steampunk art, design and clothing at the Industrial Museum, curated by Beth Hughes, who said: “Steampunk is growing in popularity and we thought it was an interesting fit with the museum’s exhibits of the real Victorian, steam-powered era.”

The exhibition, which ended in May, was a great success and brought steampunk enthusiasts to Bradford from all over the country. It crossed over in April with a steampunk event as part of the Saltaire Day of Dance, and a mini-gathering of steampunks took place in Bradford to promote that particular happening.

A mixture of Victorian fashion and science fiction came to Bradford on Saturday as the Steampunk craze hit the city.

Stephen Frearson, who founded a Yorkshire club for afficionados, said there had been plenty of strange looks from shoppers as the 40 or so steampunks gathered in the city centre. He said: “We had looks of amazement, awe and some people have been slightly scared.”

He had a bash at explaining for us just what steampunk is: “The best way to explain it is a combination of Victorian or Edwardian with a science fiction twist. The year 2012 is going to be the year of Steampunk.”

And Waterstones bookshop got into the spirit in April by inviting steampunk authors George Mann, Jema Hewitt, Sam Stone and David J Howe for a special literary steampunk day, where they signed books and met fans.

George Mann, author of the Newbury & Hobbes steampunk adventures, said: “The Bradford event was a real eye-opener. As a steampunk author I’ve grown used to attending events in the US at which everyone is dressed up to the nines in their Victorian finery and knows exactly what Steampunk is – in the UK it’s typically been quite the opposite... until Bradford. At the Waterstones event we were inundated by people who were clearly in love with the genre, a co-ordinated social group of knowledgeable Steampunk fans. It was a real pleasure, and a lot of fun.

“To me, Steampunk is a particularly inclusive movement of fashion and literature, a genre in love with a past that never was. There’s a lot of freedom in being able to tell stories set against a backdrop that is so obviously fantastical. Unlike SF, which is often underpinned by a detailed rationalisation of a possible future, Steampunk is set in a proudly fantastic past that never was and could never be. It’s liberating and it’s fun.”

So it seems that Bradford is the centre of the Empire when it comes to steampunks. Kit Cox certainly thinks so. “There’s a lot of talk about Bradford in the steampunk fraternity,” he said. “A lot of events have been held here. It seems to be a place that’s embraced steampunk.”

One local steampunk fan is Wesley Perriman, 29, of Skipton, who helped put together the exhibition at the Industrial Museum, especially the Tranzient Gallery – a mini-museum mounted on a bicycle – and the Palace of Curiosities, featuring such “memorabilia” as a mermaid. He said there there are two groups of steampunk enthusiasts in West Yorkshire – the Royal Dirigible Corps and the Yorkshire Steampunk Coalition.

Wesley told us: “Steampunk is certainly growing as a community. The difference between genuine historical re-enactment societies and steampunk is that with the latter you can be more creative, use your imagination more.”

Perhaps it’s Bradford’s industrial history that makes the place the perfect draw for steampunks. Whatever, they seem to be coming in great numbers, and Kit Cox – aka Major Jack Union – hopes they’ll be here in droves on Saturday, July 7, when he will take up residence in Waterstones between noon and 4pm to thrill and shock with his tales of monster hunting in the far reaches of the Empire.

Major Jack has a new book just out entitled How to Bag a Jabberwock (£14.99 from the Book Guild) and he’ll be offering some top tips for would be monster hunters and – of course – signing copies of his useful tome.

Jack – back in Kit Cox mode – reveals: “I’ve been into Victoriana since I was about ten, reading HG Wells stories and all that sort of thing. About four years ago I was browsing in a bookshop when I found this absolutely wonderful Victorian big game hunting guide. It was filled with wonderful descriptions of animals such as elephants, very poetic, then it told you how to kill them.

“I thought it would be great to have something in the same style but for all the mythological beasts that you get in steampunk literature.”

Thus, in the guise of Major Union, Kit explains how to track and kill the likes of the Lambton (“primarily a deep-sea creature”), Revenants (“a human corpse that does not seem to know of its own demise”) and the Yeti (“an adept hunter and will happily hunt Man”).

Such a success has Major Jack Union been, that Kit is in great demand for steampunk events and has been to Bradford many times. He’s looking forward to coming back next month and as well as adult steampunk enthusiasts, children are welcome to the free event. There will be a ray-gun workshop – bring your own Fruit Shoot bottle for raw materials!

Major Jack Union might not be the first steampunk hero to machete his way through the jungles to Bradford, and it looks like he certainly won’t be the last. Bradford, it seems, is going back to the future and becoming the British capital of all things steampunk.