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11 December 2007 @ 03:40 pm
On backstory  
I've been dabbling with the notion of character formation, but have been butting up against the question of current date and alternate timelines. Clearly events after the Industrial Revolution and War Between the States have unfolded differently. But when are we, and in what period of conflict is our ship (and crew) participating? I suppose we could let these questions be answered by default as we develop our characters, but it might be easier to have a general idea of the current geopolitical situation before I get too bogged down in where I grew up. (Note: it's probably going to be lower-class and Southern, since I ain't gonna fry my brain trying to speak with an accent I ain't earned.)
Current Mood: curiouscurious
icaraleeicaralee on December 12th, 2007 01:47 am (UTC)
This is a good question
I've been flying by the seat of my pants (pun very much intended) and just sort of plunking down dates and events willy nilly. But you're right, we should definitely see about developing some kind of continuity. Here's how I see it so far:

US Civil War ends in a stalemate. A Cease Fire is signed, but no official surrender ever occurs. (Think Korea). Arlington and Alexandria are part of a DMZ between North and South. (This was my own private joke, considering my current residence in said DMZ)

So, Cease Fire between states in 1872. Slaves freed in the south in 1885.

Aside from that and Prohibition still occuring in the early 20th century, that's all I've got.

I guess I'm picturing us as being in an inter-War timeframe. As in, 1920s? Maybe the Great War was quite different, and didn't wipe out an entire generation? But maybe it gave rise to wide scale air piracy, and that's where we come in as privateers/pirate hunters?

As for the geopolitical situation, I think that's pretty much up for grabs. This is alternate history, after all, we can make it up however we want. :) I think ratseal had talked about being of German extraction. I picked Virginian for the same reasons as you. I refuse to speak in a fake accent, since I don't think I could do it well. :) It might be cool if we came together because of the Great War somehow, as in, perhaps we were on opposite sides, but something threw us together?

Thoughts? Ideas?

8bitnintendo: koopa paratroopa8bitnintendo on December 12th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
Re: This is a good question
Okay, so Prohibition probably occurred earlier than in our timeline (1920-1933), unless we want it to be currently ongoing. An earlier Prohibition also makes sense in terms of your family's recent-but-not-TOO-recent rise in fortunes; if it's currently, say, 1925, then the wealth currently in your family should possibly have been beginning to form in the late 19th century, and really taken off around the turn of the century? I'll let you work that out, since it's definitely more relevant to your backstory than mine. Actually, we could decide that the North has an active Prohibition ongoing currently, but that the South (being, naturally, proponents of States' rights to self-determination) has a patchwork of laws depending on the state in question.

I think the notion of having a Great War which was not a war of attrition is a great idea as far as the potential for designing any outcome we think most interesting. It's also handy since it would probably mean that Germany would have less of a persecution complex, Communism and socialism probably wouldn't have been quite as popular, etc.

As far as technological differences which would bring this about... We may want to tinker with high explosive shells and machine guns, perhaps to make them less convenient for ground troops, but still practical for vehicles (such as airships!) With the presence of decent artillery and the absence of reliable tanks, it's hard for me (being hugely ignorant of tactics) to conceive of a WWI situation that wouldn't end up stuck in the trenches.
icaraleeicaralee on December 13th, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)
Re: This is a good question
Oohh, ongoing Prohibition in the North, I love that idea. :)

So, regarding the absence of trench warfare during the Great War...I'd want to hear what ratseal has to say on this subject, but I think it makes sense that if we bump the industrial revolution a bit earlier on the timeline, that the technological advances would follow...thus, we might actually have reliable tanks and high explosives, etc. I'm guessing that these might negate the usefulness of trench warfare.

Though, sadly enough, considering my profession, I'm almost totally ignorant of ground-based tactics.

I can talk for days about High Altitude Daylight Precision Bombing, however! :)

ratseal and I also spoke briefly about the general Geopolitical scenario following said Great War. Basically, we decided that all of the major superpowers needed to be so tapped out, on a governmental level, that anarchy and piracy could flourish. In other words, there needs to be no single entity left with the means to regulate the skies, but the technology and knowledge to exploit the skies needs to be widely available. Otherwise, there would be no pirates for us privateers to chase.

We really need a name for our airship.
ratseal: Rescue Meratseal on December 16th, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)
Re: This is a good question
One note, adding spice: the difference between pirate and privateer is largely a matter of perspective.
icaraleeicaralee on December 18th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)
Re: This is a good question
Indeed. But it does bring up an interesting point. Historically, the distinction (As I understand it, anyway...) is that Privateers held a Letter of Marque from one government authorizing them to raid at will upon the agents of another government...or pirates. Whatever happens to be closer. :)

So, another great question. Who issued our Letter of Marque? Britian? Free Ireland? Espana? Tejas? The Confederacy?

Damn. I'm getting to be a PITA with these questions, aren't I?

The good news is, I love your icon. It goes really, really well with my Nano. :)
ratseal: Chokingratseal on December 15th, 2007 06:52 am (UTC)
We need a few things to happen differently, in a historical sense, in order to have a geopoliticonomical (spelling -1 but +10 for a new word) stage (in the theater sense) in which an airship crewed by freebooters can actually exist (for very long).

You need:

Tech: High energy IC engines, cryogenic temperatures (to distill He from natural gas), relatively advanced metallurgy (aluminum, MIGging)

Geopolitical: Relatively weak regional governments which can not crush pirate activity, or at least have a use for it.

Personnel: Crewing an airship, navigation, engineering – includes levels of ability well above low pressure steam engine power tech, let alone wind powered ship tech.

Major drivers of technical innovation include warfare – a desire to avoid getting your head bashed in is a powerful incentive to find better ways to do for him before you are done for yourself. So, a cycle of frequent warfare would appear to be useful, story wise.

Establishing higher tech levels, and maintaining conditions where governments either foster pirates, or at least can’t root them all out, requires a situation where major, stable alliances don’t persist. We need lawless areas, and areas where industrial arbitrage is mutually beneficial. Major powers should be weakened by internal fighting, dynastic political power is diluted, or at least major players become dissolute, where polities lose their will and therefore their potency and where ‘new money’ encourages the bourgeois, or at least their offspring, to dream of going ‘legit’.

Long term warfare, especially for nations whose reasons for fighting become less principled over time, tends to kead to the dissolution of purely martial spirit, and the disaffection of certain elements of the military. When the initial aristocracy is killed off, or changed, this effect is accelerated.

So, we need to ID a reasonable series of historical events where minor nudges generate more war, less conclusive endings to wars, areas of unequal technical and thus economic achievement, and some disaffected, but capable and very charismatic crews.


Let’s pretend that the divergence begins about the time that engineers begin to create some really useful pressures, and the metallurgy to take advantage of them. I am thinking the era of Fulton (plus I know where he is buried), and Dahlgren, and Parrott. We include tidbits about the colonies numbering 15, and including the Canadas, and we let Napoleon fight to a draw in Europe, preventing the overwhelming calming influence of Pax Britannica (which otherwise enforces peace till 1870ish), the Texas Rebellion is longer lived, and Tejas becomes independent, the American Civil war drags on, winds down and flares up again, so Reconstruction becomes another driver for tech, and finally WW1, where our era begins, turns into a 100 Years style war, with weakened governments vying for incremental advantage. The Boer War doesn’t end, the Spanish-American War doesn’t end, the US-Indian fighting doesn’t end and so on.

Interesting things are happening in medicine during this era, such as Semmelweis, Nightingale, Kenny. The Pasteurs? Dunno.

Cool music too. Mendellsohn, Chopin, Brahms. Nirvana. Ok, maybe not them.

The scientists rocked: Bell, our boy Avogadro, Curie, Edison, Faraday, KELVIN!, Nobel, Freud. Ok, Freud wasn’t a true scientist.

So, I will set up a timeline, with some representative power blocks, major dates, some battles, some inventions, etc. In the meantime, you can kick this around.

Edited at 2007-12-15 06:57 am (UTC)
patrick_hand on December 25th, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)
[US Civil War ends in a stalemate. A Cease Fire is signed, but no official surrender ever occurs.]

OR... What if prior to Pickets Charge, the Confederate Artilery dosen't fire too high... Pickets Charge is a sucess, and the Confederacy wins the War. The Confederacy winning the War dosen't mean that they occupy the North, only that they seceed from the Union.

Then Texas suceeds from the Confederacy, and the Republic of California seceeds from the Union. Now throw in British North America, the Unorginized Territory, and French Mexico...(Hey... stealing this from the Map in the front of "The Difference Engine"...)

There would be enough political tension, and Governments willing to offer Letters of Marque to able Airship Privateers.....

Right now, I'm screwing around with an alternative History of The Republic Of California... (in 1870)

Oh yah... during the American Civil War, they Did get into trench warfare......