Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tour of the Universe - What If - Alternate History by Corrina Lawson

What If - Alternate History by Corrina Lawson

What if steam technology fermented a revolution in steam technology that went far beyond what happened in our world?


What if Richard I had not been killed so young and lived long enough to put in Arthur of Brittany as his heir instead of John? Further, what if magic had been discovered in this alternate world?

The Lord Darcy stories by Randall Garrett.

What if Germany had won World War II?

Many stories, notably Fatherland by Richard Harris.

What if the Roman Empire Never Fell?

That depends on where the timeline changes.

The fun of alternate history is exploring the road not yet taken, a road that also sheds light on history as it actually occurred. Steampunk fuels our interest in the Victorian era, a nexus of the old and new, when many believed technology might solve all of humanity’s problems.

It was this inventive and chaotic time Victorian London that I turned for my own steampunk world.

The Curse of the Brimstone Contract exists in a world where steam technology is fueled by a magical by-product. The world of Curse is torn by class divisions and the beginning of the industrial revolution.

It’s a world where Joan Krieger, a Jewish seamstress, becomes the key to solving the murder of a noble. Joan has to traverse a world that fears and covets her latent magical ability, all the while looking down on her Jewish heritage and underestimating her because she’s female.

Her partner in crime-solving, Gregor Sherringford, is also a creature of two worlds. He’s the half-Indian brother of one of England’s most powerful families, and yet his mother’s low birth and his lack of magical abilities push him to the boundaries of society. He’s turned his considerable talents to helping those who can’t expect help from traditional sources, like Joan.

Toss in the nobles fighting not only over the new technology but the magic that controls it, and I had a world in transition, rife with conflict, and a setting where falling in love can be the best and worst thing that can happen, for Joan and Gregor, and I had a world I could happily write about for numerous books.

That’s what a twist in history and a great alternate world can do.

I had a different reason for creating my other alternate world: I wanted to have Romans fight Vikings.

Thus came Dinah of Seneca and Eagle of Seneca.

A shallow reason, but I based my world on a semi-plausible notion that Emperor Claudius wasn’t assassinated and instead stabilized the Roman Empire, making it last an extra 500 years, which allowed the Romans to establish small colonies in North America.  That’s where the Vikings came in, as they’re known to have visited and even stayed for a time in North America around the same period.

I tackled the clash of three very different societies: the matriarchal Native American tribes, the patriarchal Romans, and the Vikings, who were somewhat in between.

I tossed them all in a situation like Roman Britain after the Empire’s fall, where a small band of Celts tried to maintain orde. Except, in my world, it’s not Arthur and his knights who come to the rescue. Instead, a former Roman slave, Dinah, saves her community and helps bond the Romans and Vikings into allies.

I snuck in a marriage of convenience story too, between Dinah and Gerhard, the chief of the Viking tribe, because I’m just that much of a romantic to want people to find love in the middle of the war.

Eagle of Seneca shifted my alternate world forward fifteen years because to focus more on the Native Americans, a group who are rarely heard from in colonization stories. A Roman enginer, Ceti, literally crash lands into the middle of a Native American village and it’s Sky, the daughter of the tribe’s leaders, who realizes that she and Ceti must work to save their people from an impending invasion.

And, as in the steampunk, I had fun playing with technologies, especially those that the Romans might have developed had their Empire lasted longer. That included my favorite invention, Ceti’s glider. Not quite steampunk. Call it ancient punk.

Alternate history offers me infinite possibilities as a reader and writer, a glimpse into what might have been and what might very well be in a parallel world.

How about you? Do you have any favorite alternate history stories? Any alternate history stories you’d like to read? 


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