Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Putting the History in Alternate History


Steampunk is by definition, a branch of alternate history, which, is, in turn, a type of speculative fiction. Each steampunk universe varies, and yes, a few are in completely alternate timelines when what really happened on our earth has no bearing. Most, however, are different timelines that branched away from our own on one or two critical points. The Gaslight Chronicles are part of that group. It’s our world, but with two distinct differences, which occurred at different points in time.

1). In the Gaslight Chronicles, there is and has always been magick on our planet. With the magick comes monsters. Some of the species, like werewolves, are just people—they can be good or nasty as their nature dictates. Others, like vampyres, are wholly evil. They’re not pretty or sexy and they don’t sparkle. They’re ugly, stinky, and they want to eat you. Period. Because of this, King Arthur’s Order of the Round Table never disbanded. Their descendants, most with some special powers, still fight the good fight for Queen and Country, keeping the undead and other creatures from taking over. They’re mostly secret now, but if you ask one, they’ll tell you they work for the Home Office. Most of the Gaslight stories are centered in some way around the Order and its Knights.

      2). In reality, in the 1840s, a man named Charles Babbage drew up plans for a mechanical calculating machine he called an “Analytical Engine.” Ada, Countess Lovelace (who was also the daughter of the famous Lord Byron) wrote the machine code, which was to work using the punchcards then used in jacquard looms. Unfortunately the machine was never built, and both Babbage and Lovelace died young and poor. In the world of the Gaslight Chronicles, the engine was built, Babbage was made a baron, and Lady Lovelace endowed a college for women in the sciences at Oxford in the 1850s before her death.

Everything I write in this series hinges on these two points. Would point 1 or 2 have changed the course of this piece of technology, artwork, or social structure? If not, it stays the same. And for that reason, I DO have to do an awful lot of historical research, even though my world is an imaginary one.

As a few examples, in Photographs & Phantoms, I have a lady photographer as the heroine. She does have a clockwork cart to carry her equipment, but other than that, the processes are the same. This book is set so soon after the computer revolution that the analytical engine hasn’t really filtered down to the arts, which photography was considered at the time. Also, the plot involved a fire escape, which weren’t common until much later. Instead, I had to make one of my characters a champion wall-climber. J

On the other hand, Lady Lovelace made huge strides for women in professional capacities. Because of her, my characters are able to study engineering and medicine, well before their real contemporaries could, and society is a bit ahead on women’s suffrage.
One negative of this early industrial revolution is that all the steam power is fired by coal. London and other cities are so polluted that it is unsafe to go outside without, essentially, a gas mask. Consequently, London’s poor are dying off at an alarming rate, something the Order is very anxious to correct. This problem comes into play in the new book, Ashes & Alchemy.

My current nightstand reading is a big book on Victorian India. Want to guess where the Chronicles will be going in book 8? (Book 7 is already with my editor, and comes out in May.)

Think about the butterfly effects of changing history. What one thing do you think you’d change? And what would be the consequences? Good or bad? Don’t forget, there’s always balance in this sort of thing.

Thanks so much to Roxanne for having me here today, and don’t forget to enter the contest for an amazing piece of custom jewelry. Thanks for reading!


~Cindy



Ashes & Alchemy
The Gaslight Chronicles
Book 6
Cindy Spencer Pape

Genre: steampunk

Publisher: Carina Press
Date of Publication:  Jan 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-14268-9771-9

Number of pages: 119
Word Count: 30K

Amazon     BN    ARe    Carina

Book Description:

London, 1860

Police inspector Sebastian Brown served Queen and country in India before returning to England to investigate supernatural crimes alongside the Order of the Round Table. If his wifeless, childless life feels a little empty sometimes, that's not too great a price to pay in the name of duty.

Minerva Shaw is desperately seeking a doctor when she mistakenly lands on Sebastian's doorstep. Her daughter Ivy has fallen gravely ill with a mysterious illness—the same illness, it seems, that's responsible for taking the lives of many of Ivy's classmates.


Seb sniffs a case, and taking in Minnie and Ivy seems the only way to protect them while he solves it. But as mother and daughter work their way into his heart and Seb uses every magickal and technological resource he can muster to uncover the source of the deadly plague, it's he who will need protecting—from emotions he'd thought buried long ago.


About the Author:

Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 18 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book.


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1 comment:

Melissa Keir said...

I think that time travel writers also have to keep that in mind that what they change has effects good or bad into the future. A ripple effect.

 
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