What was I thinking?
What, after all, is a successful historical fiction author doing dipping into the realms of science fiction?
Well, the thing is, when you have an idea, sometimes you just have to develop it.
At the time I started this series, I had conservative leanings. I was intrigued, at the time, by the world of conspiracy theories. It was the Obama era, and my conservative friends were afraid and trying to persuade me to be, as well. I wasn’t really certain either way, but I was willing to give ear to all these things I “ought to know about”. So I listened as people prattled on about a government militarized police force, to vaccinations that were meant to manipulate the population, to secret agendas in which only the political elite would survive and thrive and own everything and we would all become their slaves.
At first the book was intended to be ultra modern, with tanks and survival gear, and all that. But that was never truly me, and when I began developing the story from a rough outline into something with living, breathing characters who spoke and thought and schemed for their own survival, I realized there was only one way I could pull it off, and that was to pull from my roots of historical writing.
I know. It doesn’t make any sense.
I’ve always been fascinated with steampunk. Particularly the rather nuanced idea of it that precludes the avoidance of the First World War, which, as proposed by Gillian Gill in Queen Victoria’s biography We Too, was perhaps just possible, had Prince Albert lived longer.
“In 1862, when the [Prussian] legislature dared to oppose his plans for the army, the king of Prussia furiously prepared a statement of abdication that his son [husband of princess Vicky, eldest child of Queen Victoria and Albert] had only to sign to become king. Despite his wife’s frantic entreaties, Fritz persuaded his elderly father to keep his crown since the coronation oath committed a king to rule until his death. As a result, King William I of Prussia not only lived to be crowned Emperor William I of Germany at Versaille in 1871, but ruled for seventeen more years. Fritz finally acceded to the throne as Emperor Frederick I in 1888 and died of throat cancer three months later. Had the prince consort [Albert] been alive in 1862, he might have been able to persuade Fritz that his higher duty was to the nation, not his father, and that he must seize the reins of power.
“No one ever doubted that if Crown Prince Frederick came to the throne of Prussia, Bismark and the far-right party would be dismissed, and his wife, Victoria, would be the power behind the throne. As king and queen of Prussia in 1862, Fritz and Vicky would probably have had decades to try to realize her father’s political vision. The forces of liberal democracy would have had a better chance of prevailing over militarism and absolutism. It is not absurd to argue that, had the prince consort lived even one more year, had his daughter Vicky had a chance to dictate Crown policy and shape society in Prussia, there would not have been a First World War.”
This is in part because, as Gill notes, “King William and Bismark passed their hatred and distrust (of Albert, Queen Victoria and the British) on to Prince William (Wilhelm), Vicky and Fritz’s eldest son, the future kaiser of World War I. Under their tutelage, this damaged boy became a deranged man all too willing to blame his English mother for all his problems, personal and political.”
So that’s interesting. What would England look like now had World War One never happened? Had their been no World War One, after all, the conditions that brought about World War Two would not have existed. Wars change fashion, they change our perspectives of life and its meaning and what we must and can do to survive and, further more, to live life to the fullest. Science and technology take enormous leaps forward in times of conflict. Such fraught and desperate times have lead man to some of his greatest achievements. Prosthetics, plastic surgery, aeronautics, and computer and communication technologies all benefited from the demands war placed on these disciplines.
And so Absinthe Moon and its sister volumes, have become a neo-Victorian nod to dystopian steampunkery. Only it was never my intention for it to be truly dystopian. I’m so frustrated by books that don’t end well, though certainly they have their place. I did see some need to offer the world a warning about where we were headed, and though the dangers I see now are somewhat different than those I first imagined, it is ultimately intended to be a book about hope and awakening.
There is something in the collective consciousness that brings just the right thing about when it is needed. This need for a warning, but also for reason to hope has been something slowly pervading our culture for many years now. So much so that a new genre has evolved. Solarpunk.
According to Wikipedia, “Solarpunk is an art movement that envisions how the future might look if humanity succeeded in solving major contemporary challenges with an emphasis on sustainability problems such as climate change and pollution.”
I do worry a bit about how some of these themes will be received. Race, caste, pollution, and the ethics of medicine (including vaccines) are all visited, but I don’t really have a message except to say that we can do better than this oligarchical caste system we have that is bent on exploiting natural and human resources for the benefit of a buck.
It also maybe has something to say about what exists beyond the limits of our physical senses. But I’ll let you decide.