Like most writers I have more than one project calling my name. I am notoriously monofocused, though; therefore, I normally just write down notes and then put an alternate project on the back burner until my present obsession (Splintegrate, in this case) is off my plate.
However, about six months ago, something called me on the cosmophone that I could not ignore. For several years I’ve been doing Victorian-era research on the side for a cycle of historical novels that kicks off with what I call my “Lillian” story. I’ve always been a student of 19th century history, and somewhere along the way I hit critical mass with things on the subconscious level. Suddenly, out of either my right-brain, my psyche, or my channel to other dimensions (whatever suits you), I had this, well, Victorian paranormal story barge rather insistantly into my thoughts. I did the usual due diligence and outlined and wrote notes, then put it away. But it wouldn’t stay put. The protagonist, Lady Julia Hammond, insisted she be interviewed. She had, she said, things to tell me.
And boy howdy, did she.
The Work in Progress
I eventually bowed to the inevitable and have been writing bits of Queen Victoria’s Transmogrifier ever since. As it happens, I am part of a small writer’s group that meets weekly in Second Life, and I decided some while back to use the Transmogrifier story as my workshop material. So, in dribs and drabs – 800 words here, 1200 words there – QVT is slowly emerging as a coherent tale. On the one hand, I view this simply as a writing exercise: part of my weekly workshop, and the discipline (and welcome variety) of writing something that is not Splintegrate. On the other hand, Transmogrifier is its own intriguing world and has one particular element in it that ties in with my fantasy and science fiction worlds. I can’t be more specific about that, because it is a spoiler, but just let me say there is some continuity between all of the worlds in my novels, and some things carry over from one world setting to the other.
Let’s take the world of Àstareth, for example. This is the “fantasy” setting where my books Kar Kalim and The Truthsayer’s Apprentice take place. It is also the cradle world of the civilization that in the future grows into the star-spanning Sa’adani Empire (setting of Mainline, Splintegrate, and “Live Fire”). This means there is a common culture and history that runs as an undercurrent through these settings and binds them together. For instance, in Mainline, there is a shipboard marriage ceremony where the couple invoke the blessing of the goddess Ashani the Protector. This is the same deity that Dalin in Truthsayer prays to for help – calling on “Ashna”, in local parlance – when he is imprisoned on a harbor island and left to die.
Unlike these books, which are set in “a galaxy far, far away”, The Queen’s Transmogrifier takes place in an alternate Earth universe. It is an alternate history focused on the Victorian era, the major difference between that world and ours being that magick is real. Although not common, it is a respected tool of the power elites and the specially talented. That is not the only, difference, however, and there are several threads of historical happenstance that play out differently in this setting. In this world, Atlantis is a land of legend but did in fact exist, and is remembered as historical fact by a select few. The intelligence service Francis Walsingham provided to Queen Elizabeth I did not die out upon his death, but became institutionalized in the office of Secretary to the Queen; this, in combination with functional magick, have made British Intelligence (and that of other major powers) forces to be reckoned with. In 1871 Prussia did not spearhead the creation of the German Empire, but rather of the Prussian Empire – a difference with subtle but significant consequences. America, although it plays no role in this book, negotiated an end to its rebellion against England after Cornwallis’ victory at Yorktown (a battle which in our timeline resulted in a defeat, and was arguably the turning point which lead to American victory). In 1871 it is neither a colony nor a protectorate, but holds a unique Special Status relationship to Great Britain. And so on.
Crossover Between Books
So how does an alt-Victorian novel tie into books set in a distant galaxy? Well, here we come down to metaphysics. The metaphysical rules that Julia Hammond deals with have commonalities with the psionic understanding of multidimensional existence in the Sa’adani Empire. And both of these have commonalities with the practice of magick and philosophy in the old world of Àstareth. One underlying premise here is that all time is “now”, and all of space and time are permeable. Today we would say that falls within the realm of quantum physics, as well as certain esoteric philosophies. To the characters and events in my novels, it means that material “reality” and events may not be as separate in time and space as you are accustomed to imagining them.
No, my Victorians don’t show up on Àstareth, and my Sa’adani don’t travel to London. I am speaking of things much more subtle than that. Some things that are nearly incidental to this tale have implications for future story threads in all of my settings.
Can’t say more about that right now (spoilers!), but I did want to touch upon this setting because some interesting byways in it seem to be blog-worthy, and I wanted to give some background context for those pending posts.
So there you have it. As Julia would say, “Cheers!”
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Alternate History Part 3 will appear the third weekend in July.
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How do you feel about alternate histories? Have any books you care to recommend? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.