Leviathan

Leviathan
Leviathan

The era of steampunk ends with the First World War. While authors have played with twilit eras of brass and steam existing deep in the twentieth century before, these tend to be aberrant epochs, places where the life of the Gilded Age has been unnaturally prolonged. When the war breaks out, as it does in Ian R. MacLeod’s House of Storms (2005), and as it is implied to do in Stephen Baxter’s Anti-Ice (1993), it symbolizes the end of an age, the final verdict of a world too frivolous to last, yet too innocent to deserve the coming judgment.

However, Scott Westerfeld, a specialist in young-adult science-fiction, who made his mark with the popular Uglies series, has taken a different tack. Rather than positioning the Great War as the end of steampunk, Leviathan imagines a war that has been colonized by the steampunk aesthetic. Continue reading “Leviathan”

The Court of the Air

The Court of the Air
The Court of the Air

For the most part, steampunk is a versatile subgenre. The tropes and themes commonly associated with it, the trappings of era fiction and the wonders of industry, can be applied and reimagined in any number of settings. Today, literary steampunk can run the gamut from straightforward Neo-Victorian adventure to imaginative alternate history to the wildest flights of high fantasy.

However, there is always a risk of carrying things too far. Continue reading “The Court of the Air”

1st Russian Womens Battalion of Death

Battalion of Death: Russia’s All-Female Fighting Force

Peasants, widows and royalty all wanted to serve Mother Russia in the Great War. Some were nurses, others support troops, but on occasion women would put Mosin-Nagant rifle to shoulder and fight quietly as front line troops.

Cossacks and Siberian sniper units were reinforced by female recruits, but the concept of all-female infantry units was viewed with skepticism. Yet with the fall of the Tsar Nicholas II regime in the spring of 1917, and the war against Germany lingering, the Provisional Government needed fresh bodies to send to the frontlines.

And from the vast Russian multitudes a select number of women stepped forward to become soldiers in the 1st Women’s Battalion of Death. Hundreds of women, between the ages of 18 and 40, would turn out to be inspected by the tough commanding officer: Captain Maria Bochkareva. Yet few would pass muster. Continue reading “Battalion of Death: Russia’s All-Female Fighting Force”

Winchester House San Jose California

Crooked House

Not the Agatha Christie novel, but those who have read the Stephen King story Rose Red will find this piece of architectural confusion vaguely familiar.

The story begins in Connecticut when heiress and widow Sarah Winchester consulted a spiritualist for advice following a depression brought on from the deaths of her only daughter in 1866, her father-in-law in 1880 and her husband, wealthy gun magnate William Winchester, in 1881. She had assumed that the Winchester family was cursed from the deaths that had occurred.

The medium she consulted was reputedly psychic and told Sarah Winchester that the family were indeed cursed — by the spirits of the people killed by the Winchester rifle. The medium advised her to move west and build a new house for herself and the spirits.

The twist was that if Sarah Winchester was to ever halt construction on the house, she would also die. Continue reading “Crooked House”

Mad scientist fashion

The Mad Scientist Style

Surely, everyone is aware of the importance of science to the steampunk movement. We all have heard about the scientific importance of the Victorian era, thus it comes as no surprise that this lives on in the steampunk of this day.

Inventions and scientific revelation and discoveries, and the entire DIY feel that comes with them, are vital to the movement and many members build their own mechanical contraptions and spend many an hour on some kind of experiment. And what better way to do this than in style? Continue reading “The Mad Scientist Style”

The Company of the Dead

The Company of the Dead
The Company of the Dead

It is a truism of alternate history that no good deed ever goes unpunished. Whenever someone attempts to change the world for the better, the intervention all too often allows some greater calamity to transpire. Kill Hitler and the Soviet Union will conquer Europe. Start an industrial revolution in Renaissance Europe and nuclear war will break out by the end of the sixteenth century. Give the prehistoric peoples of the Americas seed grain and livestock and their conquest by Sung-dynasty China is assured.

The Company of the Dead, the first novel by Australian author David Kowalski, shares this basic conceit, describing a world not entirely unlike our own doomed to destruction by the actions of a single honest man. Continue reading “The Company of the Dead”

British soldiers in World War I

A War Without Alternative: The First World War in Alternate History

The First World War was one of the great catastrophes of human history. In four years of fighting, almost ten million soldiers were killed and wounded, with great swathes of the European continent laid to waste.

By the end of the war, the political landscape of Europe had changed irrevocably, with the German, Austrian, Russian and Ottoman Empires crumbling into a rabble of new nation-states straddling Central Europe and the Middle East. Continue reading “A War Without Alternative: The First World War in Alternate History”

Friedrich III of Germany

What If Friedrich III Had Lived?

Historically, Friedrich III was already terminally ill with cancer when he ascended the throne in 1888 and died 99 days thereafter.

He was married to Princess Victoria, eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and held Great Britain in high regard (half of his personal medical staff was British).

Friedrich was on excellent terms with his parents-in-law; took rather liberal views and there are indications that he wished to turn the German Empire into a constitutional monarchy modeled after the British. Continue reading “What If Friedrich III Had Lived?”