British navy airship

Airships in War: Not So Successful in the Real World

The golden age of the airship began around the turn of the last century, when the first Luftschiff Zeppelin — named after the German Count von Zeppelin who pioneered the construction of rigid airships — was launched.

The possibility that airships might be used in war was quickly recognized. George Griffith’s The Angel of the Revolution (1893) has airship bombing Russia’s major cities. H.G. Wells’ The War in the Air (1908) describes the obliteration of entire fleets by aerial attack. Continue reading “Airships in War: Not So Successful in the Real World”

American soldiers

Adversity and the Human Spirit

Referred to as Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, or Veteran’s Day, November 11 has a special meaning for dieselpunks. The “diesel era” (1920s-40s) arose out a meaningless war (World War I), saw one of the epic wars of history (World War II) and died a slow death in another meaningless war (Korean War). One could say that dieselpunk is born in blood, lives in blood and dies in blood. Continue reading “Adversity and the Human Spirit”

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”

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”

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”