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?”

George Griffith’s Astronef Series

A Honeymoon in Space
A Honeymoon in Space

George Chetwynd Griffith-Jones is one of the forgotten luminaries of the classic British Scientific Romance. A best-selling author and sometime rival of H.G. Wells’ at the beginning of the twentieth century, his work has been mostly forgotten by later generations. While much of them are steeped in the opinions and prejudices of his day, Griffith’s tales contain many elements that would lay the basis for the first great boom of science-fiction.

The Astronef series is a good case in point. Continue reading “George Griffith’s Astronef Series”

Steampunk adventurer fashion

The Adventurer Style

The adventurer is crucial to steampunk, for he explores the boundaries of empires and brings back new and exiting things from his journeys into the previously unknown. Adventurers are brave, daring and, most importantly, looking the part, no matter where they go — be they the brave explorers of lost civilizations in deep jungles or underneath the mighty oceans, the gallant aviators that soar the skies or anything in between. Continue reading “The Adventurer Style”

Stephen Hickman artwork

Introduction to Victorientalism

With the increasing contact with the East and its ensuing colonization, people in the West became fascinated by this strange new world. For centuries, adventurers, novelists and romantics had been interested in the lands beyond the horizon. Europe had all been explored and people became more and more familiar with the world they lived in. The Orient was still a realm of mystery, inhabited by alien people, exotic and sometimes cruel, with customs that Enlightened Europeans thought of as barbaric; a place where time had stood still.

An age-long Orientalist tradition of those who studied the East has in our times been criticized for its presumed bias and even racism. In the realm of steampunk, however, we can safely recreate the Orient as it was described and depicted by nineteenth-century authors and artists who might never have seen it. All the myths and miracles of the East that enchanted the Victorians can come true. Continue reading “Introduction to Victorientalism”