A note from the author.

Ok, steeping out of character a bit, I’m really unhappy with where the story has gone.  Maybe I should make my intent clear here.  I want to tell a story.  In many ways, this will be my story.  I also want to write about steampunk, because I think it is cool.  I thought it would really neat to write the story as alternate religion, and I liked the idea of Roman paganism responding the pressure of early Christianity by out Catholicing the Catholics.

The first problem with that is the fact that the Romans never saw themselves as pagan literally means rustic, rustic, but that formalism kills the real meaning.  If a Roman called someone a Pagan they were saying “You’re a backwards hillbilly.” Belief in the Roman gods was seen as genteel, refined, urbane.  When Christianity first started it was movement among the very poor.  Jesus taught a radical, pacifist, proto-communist doctrine.  Pauline persecution of the Jerusalem “Church” (The word we translate as church would more appropriately be translated  “501(c) corporation”.  It means a group of people which has a legal right to exist, as opposed to a cult, which has no right to exist.  Jerusalem did not have a church in the sense that there was a hierarchical organization.  It had a bunch of unorganized cells with only a very lose connection to each other.)  Spread the Christians all over the empire.

There was, at that time, a verity of Jewish based mystery cults.  Paul had the brilliant idea of manipulating the “church” and the existing Jewish Cults into a a single entity.  It was at this time the Christianity (at this point a religion of the profoundly impoverished) began to have members who were of the merchant or aristocratic class.  The Catholic church as we know it is a post medieval development, and by that time the church WAS the state.

You can’t have Roman Paganism (which they didn’t think was pagan) defeating post medieval Catholicism in the year 300.  Further, why in the world would Bram begin his story by explaining that? Do most people have any idea the role the post medieval catholic church played in their history? Why would he? No the religion needs to be developed in the story, not explained as a whole in the first couple pages.

Further, I like the name Bram Concher, I like writing in the first person, but this story begins atrociously.  I mean,my mom would never abandon her kid like that, and my dad is still alive.  You can only write what you know.  Parts of the character I’ve written about so far could be an friend of Bram’s but the protagonist has to be written in detail, and I can’t write in detail about the person I’ve created so far, I have no idea what makes him tick.

Further, I can’t really write the “abandoned at 9” aspect either.  I wasn’t abandoned by family till my late 20’s.  And I can’t write about boarding school, because I’ve never even tried it.  Everything I know about it is from B-grade movies.  In fact, I really struggle to write from the 19th century perspective at all.  I love steampunk when it asks “What might have been” but my suspense of disbelief completely disengages when people start building flying machines with unobtainium and shooting “aetheric cannons” at each other.  I always thought the mechanical computer aspect was stupid and overplayed as well.

I mean in “Differential Engine”  Babbage finishing it changes everything because now there’s a computer.  Well, la day fricking dah, one computer isn’t going to change the world.  “Egad’s Johnson, did you know they have computational engine at the University?” “Well, I’m sure that England can rule the world now that we can more quickly and accurately run stress analysis for large structures!  Our bridges will weight 3-8% less then everyone elses. Bravo for the empire!” It’s stupid.  Even with a computer of that power in every major city, you have to have people who can imagine what computers can do for anyone to do anything interesting with them.

And of course, I don’t really know anything about the British Empire, or what is was like to live there.  So..how does this figure into a plan of action?

First off, I like America being  Kingdom.  I think the romance of His Majesty’s Ship (HMS) compared to United States Ship (USS) just works better.  I like Bram being from a town on the Mississippi.  I like his dad coming back from a dirty little Asian war an opium addict .  I like introducing Darcy in very early, though ultimately I’m unhappy with how it worked out.  I like the idea of him committing to a religion at an early age.  That’s about it.

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Orbono, My Lady

There are things I remember clearly as a child, and things I do not.  One would think my first day at a new school would be something I remember, but I can’t. When I think of the Oboro School for Wayward Boys, I think not of the first day I was at school, but the smell of freshly waxed linoleum, and gold toned light of the sun shinning through the windows of the long halls, and the Chapel.

The school was set up like a huge letter T, the great double doors at the bottom.  First through the doors was the office, and  the anteroom to the Chapel.  A hall went around each side, to the dining hall and  classrooms, then at the legs of the T, one went left to the boys dorm, the other right to the girls.   I can never forget the chapel.  A statue of Our Lady Orbono stood her feet above the alter, her head nearly reaching the apse.   Her arms were outstretched reaching towards us, the lost children, and her face looked down kindly, her brown hair lose around her shoulders.

She is the patron Goddess of children, and by association, orphans, and by association bastards, and by association she is a common goddess of military sons (Instead of Disciplina), and by association lost causes, and by the last two…she is my Goddess.  When I pray to her, she carries my prayers to the Holy Couple. I’m 9 and quite proud of myself for knowing I am not really praying to the statue, the statue helps me think about My Lady. It is my heart that prays and not my lips or eyes, and that  statue reminds me of her love for me.

My father was gone, and my mother preferred to have this troublesome lad off her begloved hands. A man’s life passes through the hands of many gods as he moves through life’s seasons.  There are the Holy Couple and all gods fall under them, appointed by them to sheppard us through our days.  Alemona, Decima and Nona protect us in the womb, Candelifera guides to Diana. Fabulinus guides our first words and so on.  But Orbono, my goddess, was special. By losing my father, Orbono became my goddess forever.  A person is but a child for a short time, but a boy is a bastard from the moment of his fathers’ death.

I cannot remember speaking to the Headmaster, or being given the little brass tag with my bed number. I cannot remember laying out the contents of trunk on the mattress. I cannot remember being given a number. I remember all of these things as an older child, helping the younger ones with their first day.  I don’t remember the visit to the doctor though I do remember, I did not have consumption, or the spinal-go-to-Isis.)

All I remember clearly about my first day is looking at Orbono, My Lady…forever.

The Life and Times of Bram Concher part I

Bram’s personal history, part I

Despite the stability of the Empire, the only way to keep the peace between so many various nations was to keep the leash of the Empire long, and the collar loose. China had quietly refused to be Romanized, patiently accepting Imperial rule  by the white devils as simple misunderstanding which time would correct.  Imperial law required free trade, but the Chinese manipulated the law as they saw fit, they took only gold and silver.  Precious metals poured out of Western Empire and into Peking. Seeking a commodity to trade with the Chinese in exchange for cold hard Crowns, merchants turned to India, where in the northern hills grew a divine flower. It was red like the sacred blood of the Blessed Mother, and ran out life giving white, the portent of the Blessed Father.Like the Lord and Lady it could give life or take life away.  From the fertile white sap there was made an elixir called opium.   It was a miracle drug, but it had strange power to destroy a person’s will.  For this reason, the Chinese had forbid its importation.

Where there is contraband there is smuggling to be done, and good English merchants began to sell the Sacred Flower for  tall stacks of Imperial gold.  Where there is gold, there are taxes, and the English Parliament (now the true center of the Empire) saw fit to start a war for the free flow opium.  It was called the Opium War and in one form or another it went from 1839 to 1860.  My mother would later tell me my father was an idealist, as bright as he was naive.  He left the seminary to go fight for the glory of the queen as heliograph operator and signalman.  I don’t remember the man he was when he left, I remember the sallow, opium addicted shell that returned. Four years of burying his companions in the red clay of Indochina had burned the idealism out of him.  It was 1855 and I was 4 years old.  His addiction troubled him deeply, and my youngest memories are of his good days when he would teach me shoot his service carbine, and read me the Holy Scriptures of Our Lord and Lady.  There were also bad days, when he would hide in the study of our country house, lost to all but his pipe dreams.

These were hard times for a boy, and my only refuge were my school chums.  Like the sons of all men of my father’s station, I was given a good education, and there were three of us, thick as thieves.  Jacque was the son of a cloth merchant, and Darcy the daughter of a broker.  Jacque and I would  race through our schoolwork to be the first children out for recess, sprinting across the  cinders until we were as far from the brick building as possible.  There we would play, as Darcy sat smiling, listening to our tales of daring such as only children could tell, and rarely speaking.  Then when the teacher rang her bell, we would trudge back as slowly as possible.  School was easy for us all, coming from good stock as we did.   Jacque and I would often play after school, his governess or mine watching us as our mothers wandered the gaslight streets, shopping.  Darcy was not privy to these times, as her governess was very old fashioned and thought that a whole day of school was entirely too much time for her to spend with boys anyway.  Thus, first thing on Moonday she would ask me to tell her everything Jacque and I had played on Saturnday and Sunday, clapping her hands and eyes shinning with wonder as she listened to me.

When I was 9, my father disappeared.  Some said he left to the rotting city of New Orleans (600 miles downstream) on a riverboat, some say he went to the banks of the great Mississippi to slip beneath the brown water, and end his addiction permanently.  What was soon clear was that he left a great deal of debt, of which my mother was previously unaware.  When the accounts were settled, gone were our horses, our servants, and our fine home.  There was enough left for brownstone in the city, and for me to stay in school, but little else.  I wish I could say that during these hard days I was good child whose kindness supported his widow mother, but 1859 in the Great Plains of the New Kingdom was a poor year to be without a father.  I’d never found my school work difficult, I soon did not find it at all.  The Headmistress tried everything, from vigorous caning to sending me to speak to school Priestess, all to no avail.  I cared nothing for my work and only to spend time with Jacque and Darcy.

When I realized that the only option I had left her was to send me to Our Lady Orbona’s School for Wayward Boys, it was too late.  My last day of school, I told them. Jacque slapped me on the back heartily, reminding me that Vespesian was the son of a merchant and had become emperor, and that Julius Caesar had spent long days at the hands of pirates before rising to his exalted state.  Fate had been cruel to me, but the Goddess would bless me in the end.  Darcy, as always stood silent as I spoke, then curiously turned and ran when I looked to her.  It was not until the end of the day as I stood waiting for my mother coming in a handsome cab that she sprinted to me, the wreath of her auburn hair framing a tortured face, her governess puffing behind her.

She clasped my both my hands and meet my eyes with hers, red and teary.

“Bram, you have been my best friend and I will always love you,” she sobbed.  She threw her arms around my neck impulsively.  I patted her back awkwardly, as I had seen my father once do for my mother when her favorite mare had broken a leg.  “I…” I began, unsure of what to say. Before I could finish anything her governess yanked her away from me alternately scolding her and trying to comfort her.  My last memory of the dear old school was Darcy crying unconsolable on the hard cobbles as I peered out the cab window.

“Whose child is that?” my mother asked.

“Darcy,” I said woodenly.

Mothers eyebrows knitted under her freshly gray hair.   “Not Darcy Bower perhaps?”

“Yes, mother.  How do you know her?” I asked

Mother sneered cruelly.

“Small wonder,” she began “I knew her mother or at least knew of her. Though they say that is of no special notice.”

“Why is that, mother?”

Looking at me as if remembering afresh who I was, mother smiled her very best happy face.

“Oh, just silly grown up talk!  Tell me…” and here my memory fails me.

Normally my summers consisted of riding the horses and perhaps shooting the enormous hares of our prairie.  I remember little of that last summer, but for the my new steamer trunk.  I chose it very carefully much to the amusement of my mother, who could not guess what possible reason a 9 year old had to be so choosy about his luggage.  She left me at the train station beside my trunk with a simple goodbye and embrace, as displays of emotion such as Darcy’s were not the place of woman of her position in the world, or what would have been her position had my father and his hookah not robbed her of it.  As she left I stood not entirely alone on the platform with my trunk, for fitted perfectly in the bottom carefully split at the receiver, wrapped in oilcloth and freshly oiled was a BAC Model 1839 .44 lever action carbine.  It was my sole inheritance.  I had a patent pocket knife in my pocket, Her Majesty Royal Army carbine in my trunk, and I was leaving home for 9 years.  The year was 1858.

A steampunk history, Ancient to Modern

Bram’s History of the Kingdom of the Americas Part II.

So everywhere the Universal Church went, the Roman empire went. Missionaries were sent to the farthest corner of the earth to share the good news, that all men were brothers under Mother Isis and Father Apollo, and that the religions of their land were an incomplete revelation. Where the missionaries went, so went the traders, and where Roman traders went, so went the Legion to protect them.

It took over 800 years for all of the known world to hear the good news. The Tetrarchy gave way to the Imperial council of Kings. Constantine started the calender anew upon the estimated date of the Carpenter’s birth. New sons to Apollo were found in the Far East. However, all was not well at home. Briton had become an increasingly important province, her King’s vote a needed one for any important law brought before the Imperial Council. John of England was blinded by his own ambition and pushed his barons into rebellion.

Rome may have been the heart of the Empire, but increasingly London had become the brain. When John finally capitulated to avoid a bloody civil war, the rebels demanded he sign a single great sheet of paper: the “magna carte.” Once it was law in Briton, Imperial law demanded it be law in all provinces. It set certain limitations on the King’s power, and the implications struck the Empire like a bolt of lightening. The day of the absolute monarchy had ended and the day of the constitutional monarchy had began. The Emperor himself soon faced a coup of his King’s Council, and voluntarily took a more ceremonial role in government, the real power now belonging to the elected “prime minister.”

Meanwhile, in the great wastes of the north, a pirate king named Leif Ericson sought out the local governor, and requested full pardon for his crimes in exchange for information he had about a new land, untouched by Empire hands. It was called Vinland. Thus began a mad dash by the nations and provinces of the the Empire to seize the new land. It would come to be called America because of a young map maker named Amerigo Vespuci.

It was not as empty as King Ericson had promised. There were, in fact, numerous empires such as the Iroquois, the Aztec, and the Inca. Over the centuries, they were incorporated in one form or another, but America was far away, and hard for the Empire to police with her mighty legions. It was given unusual independence and made a nation in her own right very early. Fearing her popularity in her own land, and believing a woman would make a weak leader, it was the empire’s whim to make the queen of the Americas one Elizabeth of England. Elizabeth, of course, was not a weak monarch; she was a brilliant one.

It was thought that Elizabeth was perhaps a lesbian, but fortunately for her people, she was simply very choosy. She married a Mohawk prince, tied together the fortunes of the indigenous people and the settlers forever. Queen Elizabeth was a woman of vision, and saw that someday the endless lands of the Americas would be the crown jewel of the imperial crown. She began a dynasty which continues to this day.

The end of her rule marked the beginning of the industrial revolution, but the political and cultural systems she had put in place would endure the age steam and thrive. Kings would come and go. The Kingdom of the Americas (also called the New Kingdom) would stretch from cost to cost.  People would begin to call the Roman Empire the British Empire.

A Steampunk Ancient History

Bram’s History of the Kingdom of the Americas Part I

To understand the Kingdom of the Americas one must understand a little bit about the British Empire, and to do that, one must understand a bit about the Roman Empire. The greatest test of the Roman Empire came around the year 450 (archaic calender) when Emperor Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus took the reigns of the Roman Empire. He took charge of an empire on the verge of collapse.

Diocletian, as he is now known, undertook great reforms, many of which were useful and needed, but some of which were harmful and cruel. Of the later was a effort to destroy a certain troublesome sect called the Christians. Christians sought to destroy the peace of the Roman empire’s religious tolerance with a bellicose faith that allowed for only one possible God, and no others.Though persecutions had happen before, Diocletians were the worst, driving Christians to be united in a way they never had been before.

Another Diocletian reform was the Tetrarchy.  He wisely recognized that the Empire had grown far to large for single man to rule effectively and divided it into four empires. The Western Empire was under one Flavius Valerius Constantius, and he sired Constantine the Great.

Constantine pondered the problem of the Christians by reading their writings instead of trusting the opinions of others. While conflicting, and of dubious authorship, He found the various letters a pleasant fusion of Judean cults and Egyptian and Greek gods of yore. He came to believe the gods had seen fit to challenge the hubris of Emperor by having rustics teach civilized men to worship.

He realized the best way to fight the Christians was to join them, in body if not in heresy. Ending the persecution, he collected all the various letters of the the Church, and the ancient Jewish writings together, having his scholars correct the errors which had been miscommunicated from the originals until the story was clear. Combined with this, was vision of one new, and universal faith forall people.

Had not the Roman Legion subdued the whole world by elevating the interests of the empire over the aspirations of single general? So too could a imperial faith subdue all religious bickering and create a new peace.  Rather than each city interpreting the Gods as it saw fit, there would be a hierarchy and chain of command from the worshipper all the way up to single Imperial high Priest, who would advice the Emperor himself.

With this startling idea, he also preached a new Gospel. That Apollo did not rule the heavens and the earth alone, but with the aid of wife, the queen of heaven and mother of earth, Isis. (Whose temples already dotted the empire.) They had sent emissaries of the Gods, sons and daughters to the poor and backward of the earth to explain to them “the way” and the Romans had been blessed by such child of the gods in the form Joshua BarJoeseph, a carpenter from a backwater region, of a troubled province under the Governorship of Syria.

Of course this new idea that the Christians had  a new revelation of the Roman religion, and not a new religion was not popular, and Constantine fought a bloody war, but the Gods were on his side and he prevailed. The doctrines of the Universal Assembly stilled the quaking of the eternal Roman empire.