Some time ago I had an idea for a blog post. It was one of those which came at the point I was sitting down staring at the screen wondering what on earth to write. Suddenly I knew what it was I could write and it was a case of frantically writing it down before I forgot it. Thus and so the blog post ‘Send for Lauderdale’ was written, and Lauderdale entered the world.
But I’m stuck with Lauderdale and what on earth can I do with him? So I put him quietly back on the shelf and got on with whatever I had to do next.
But suddenly I found myself in an interesting place. My SF series is up to date, I’m written up ahead of the publishers. With the Fantasy I’ve got over a year to play with because I’ve the next five Benor stories ready to go. So what next?
Obviously, send for Lauderdale.
But where to put him?
And here another piece of the jigsaw dropped into place. I’ve always been quite keen on the steampunk genre. I like a lot of the art and I love the way you can play with history. So let’s give Lauderdale a Steampunk setting.
Picture by Alfonso De La Torre
But with Steampunk you’re talking about an alternative history. Normally something is assumed to happen during the 19th century which threw the points and sent our civilisation thundering down another track.
So for somebody who loves history, this was a chance to really get to play with the levers.
Where am I going to have history diverge, what will the world be like.
Years ago I caught the last faint echoes of that other train whistle as it went down the different track. When I moved from 5th form having done my O levels, to the 6th form to do my A levels we were taken into the Physics department library and it was suggested that we might want to do a little reading over the summer. (Younger readers might have to do some circumspect googling here, if only to work out what I mean by terms like 5th form, 6th form, and the concept of school departments having their own specialist libraries.)
I picked up one book, a general overview of physics. I confess I hadn’t really intended to read it, but somehow ended up getting hooked. Particles that act like waves and suchlike, what’s not to like. Especially as the book had a big chapter on the Aether.
So there was I, in 1972, with Dave Bowie singing about the Spiders of Mars, reading about the Aether.
So obviously I had to have the discovery of the Aether, and with the first interstellar flights and off world colonies, this would start to ease the pressure back on Earth and at the same time have an outbreak of common sense leading to the avoiding of the First World War.
So if there’s no First World War? It’s only when you stop and think about it that you realise just how fast technology advances and society changes during wartime. So a century of peace could have seen far less developments than a century wracked by war and genocide.
It’s like Harry Lime says in ‘The Third Man.’
“Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
So I’m playing with the ideas and trying to map out the consequences. No Russian Revolution, no collapse of Germany, no Spartacists. The Ottoman Empire lingers on, propped up by others who don’t want the job of keeping the peace in the areas where it still holds sway.
And the Anarchists? Are they still a force? Has Socialism joined Christianity as one of those ideas which works so much better when it’s believed by slaves and holy men than when it’s the tool of rulers.
And into this place and time whose shape is slowly solidifying, I’m going to fling Lauderdale.
But yes, it’s Steampunk, so there’ll have to be heroes and corsets and really wild things!