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About Zaria: Ansgar

Being that The Cerberus Rebellion takes place in the nation of Ansgar, I think it is fitting that we discuss that nation first.

Founding and Recent History

The nation of Ansgar is located on the Northern Continent of the planet Zaria. It was founded by a group of colonists from the nation of Welos 1248 years prior to the beginning of The Cerberus Rebellion. The nation is largely populated by the medium height, light skinned and dark haired Welosi, though intermarrying with the native Nordahrians has created a mixed lineage in many areas of the nation.

Ansgar is an absolute monarchy supported by a powerful feudal system including DukesEarlsBaronsLesser Lords and landed Knights. At the beginning of The Cerberus Rebellion, Ansgar is home to approximately 20 million citizens, including the occupied territories of Kerberos.

For near 1100 years, the nation of Ansgar was at peace with the nations around it. They fought with pirates along their southern coast, raiders from the nation of Franta and the occassional invasion of marauders, but for the most part maintained a policy of peace through strength.

In the year 1148 After Founding, the small neighboring nation of Kerberos, lead by their King Sigurd Jarmann, invaded the eastern territories of Ansgar. The war rages for 3 years on Ansgari soil and then another 8 years as King William the Defender pushes the Kerberosi back across their own lands and finally captures their capitol of Agilard.

King Sigurd surrenders his power and accepts the rule of the Ansgari throne, converting his nation into a region of Ansgar. He retains his position as liege lord of Kerberos and is given the title of Duke.

Ansgari International Relations

As a one-time colony of [[Welos]], Ansgar has maintained close ties with its mother nation, despite centuries of independence. As the most industrialized nation on the northern continent, Ansgar enjoys a position of power among its neighbors as well. Most of the firearms used in the northern hemisphere are manufactured in Ansgar.

The last few kings of Ansgar, however, have abused this position of power, using the incredibly large market that their nation represents as leverage against other nations of the world. This has created resentment even in the nations that have the best relations with Ansgar.

Regions of Ansgar

Eastern Ansgar

Eastern Ansgar is the heart of the nation. It is the location of the first settlements that the colonists from Welos built. The oldest castles and cities of Ansgar are found in the East. While there are some mineral deposits and smaller foundries, the eastern territories are only moderately industrialized. They focus on luxury goods such as wine, spices and beers, and on basic food stuffs.

Central Ansgar

Central Ansgar is largely considered to be the breadbasket of Ansgar. The low plains and fields, and constant flow of percipitation from the ocean provides perfect growing conditions for food and spices. The central regions of Ansgar are the least industrialized.

Western Ansgar

In the West, iron rich mountains have resulted in a robust industrial base including major weapons foundries at the Black Mountain Barony. Silver mines at the Odwolfe Earldom provide a steady stream of income for the western districts and taxes for the Throne. Farms in the Black River Valley provide steady foodstuffs and major ports at the Sea Watch DuchyTirrell Barony, and White Ridge Duchy.

Kerberos

Because of its status as an annexed territory, the Kerberosi territories of Ansgar are the most self-sufficient. They are moderately industrialized, but still maintain a healthy agriculture, and have extensive mineral reserves that provide the raw materials for their foundries and factories.

Major Industries

The nation of Ansgar is so expansive that its economy stands on many legs. Weapons manufacturing in the west, shipwrights in the southwest, spices and food stuffs in the fertile central region, and luxury goods in the east all support the Ansgari economy. Industry spread throughout the nation provides the heavy lifting for the whole nation, though no single area of the nation is especially focused on industrialization.

 

About Zaria

Again, apologies for a lack of posts in the last few weeks. My father passed away recently and I was responsible for a lot of the planning. It was a physically and emotionally draining task that I’m just starting to recover from. Additionally, I moved shifts at UPS from the night sort, to driving trucks during the day so that has taken its toll on me through a serious change in sleep schedule and a major change in the physical output required of me.

But I’m back, and taking a page from fellow Gunpowder Fantasy author A.S. Warwick (author of the Commonwealth Chronicles) I’m going to do a few posts on the people and nations of the world of Zaria.

In addition to posting here, I’ll also be updating the Zaria Wiki to reflect the information.

On a side note, in watching the Game of Thrones series on HBO, and having read the books, I was kind of looking forward to my wife’s reaction to the events of Episode 9 in Season 3. But alas, my wife read a spoiler on a wiki so there wasn’t any fun in that. So, I’m trying to figure out a way to keep the wiki up to date with new information as things change, but without having spoilers for new readers. If anyone is any good at making/updating Wikia entries, please feel free to give me some tips.

Quick Update

Sorry I haven’t posted in a little while, I’ve been working on some things IRL so I’ve been pretty pre-occupied.

The good news is that I’m working hard on The Hydra Offensive! And during my little interim, Gunpowder Fantasy passed 3,000 hits!

So thanks for reading all and keep your eyes open for some more posts soon covering different aspects of the genre!

God Created Man…(The Arms Race)

…Sam Colt made them equal.

generals_in_forest

This is a phrase spawned by the Colt firearms company’s famous revolvers (and later other types of weapons).

Colt firearms were, for a long time, the standard issue sidearm in the United States. Everyone had one. But eventually, competition evolved and now Colt is just another firearms manufacturer.

This post was actually spawned by a conversation over on MythicScribes.com going over the plausibility of one author’s world in relation to firearms and gunpowder. In his world, only the single dominant nation has advanced their knowledge of firearms; there are magic users and brutes capable of taking fire from these small arms, but no one has developed competing technology.

My point was that a nation that maintained such a position of dominance for too long would quickly cause their enemies to band together and bring down the juggernaut.

Since the formation of governments and nations, there has been an ever evolving arms race. Offensive weapons are developed to counter defensive weapons; defensive weapons are developed to counter the new offensive weapons, and so on. A fantasy world would be no different.

Being the first nation to develop a particular weapon, like muskets that are useful in a massed infantry setting or rifling, would give them the advantage in developing newer technology, but in all likelihood their dominance would not be absolute nor would it be enduring.

Writing an arms race can be an exciting plot point, especially if you’re writing a series. Having one nation start at a noted disadvantage but slowly regain parity with their enemy can drive action. How will your hero defeat an enemy that is significantly better equipped than his? How will your protagonist react when his army, technologically superior to that of his enemy, is ordered to slaughter what equates to a herd of helpless sheep?

Another part of the arms race to keep in mind is the fact that two nations at war will pour money into research and development at a greater rate than nations at peace. The nations engaged in war, if it goes long enough, will slowly develop an advantage over the other nations of the world.

A wonderful example of this is from one of my favorite Sci-Fi Series, the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. In this series, the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Republic of Haven start at roughly an equivalent technological position as the rest of the universe. Over the course of their decade+ war, however, they improve technology, develop new weapons and tactics that put them so far ahead of even the largest star nation that they are able to defeat a much larger force of ships from nations that were in a state of peace and had no drive to develop newer weapons and technology.

Eventually, that technology lead would dissipate and today, I’ll go over just a few ways that a technology could fall into the hands of enemies or “allies” and cause the proliferation of those technologies outside of their creator nations.

Military/Government Espionage

The most direct way for a government to try to recover information about an opposing nation’s technology is to commission and support spies directly. These spies can be of the military variety, targeting information and technologies that would help the military directly; or of the “government variety” (aka CIA types). These spies are targeted at a broader range of information and technology.

Practically, when targeting the technology base of an enemy, these two types of spies are going to have a similar goal and likely similar results.

Corporate Espionage

This can be a form of government sponsored espionage as well as a private-sector type. Sending workers to infiltrate the companies producing weapons and sneak out information about how they work and how they are created. This is definitely more of a “long game” type of espionage.

Writing this type of espionage can be done in a variety of different ways. You can write in families implanted in an enemy nation generations prior, with the consistent goal of eventually gaining a position within the corporate establishment and sending back information. A more short term plan is also an option, with migrant workers moving into the target nation and eventually getting jobs in the factories and foundries.

Infiltration of the supply line would be another form of espionage. If the factories and foundries have security that is too tight, workers “up-stream” can still gather information about the materials used in the assembly of weapons and their ammunition.

A truly dedicated nation would employ all of these types of espionage to gather information on the weapons that their enemy lords over them.

Raids or Skirmishes

Does your “uber nation” have super-strict security? Do they screen their workers more intensely than the TSA, making corporate or traditional espionage impossible? Raids and skirmishes are a solid option for retrieving weapons. And the great thing about raids and skirmishes in a fantasy setting are that bandits and outlaws can be a viable excuse.

Plausible deniability is the key when discussing ostensibly state-sponsored raids and attacks. Order a small unit to attack an enemy outpost, but in non-military garb, retrieve examples of weapons and ammunition, and when the offended nation claims the attack, deny that the attackers were part of your military and still profit from their recoveries.

Corporate Greed

Greed is a powerful driving factor. Overt greed is typically going to be of the third party variety. An arms manufacturer signing agreements with either Nation A or Nation B could swing the balance from one side to the other in an otherwise close war.

But greed doesn’t necessarily have to be this obvious. An unscrupulous businessman could feed weapons and information to a neighboring nation, encouraging them to raid supply wagons with arms shipments onboard. This would create tension with the government but also give the second nation a look at weapons. And if it were to come to war, they would be in a direct position to profit from the war by creating more weapons for their government.

So, in conclusion, when you’re worldbuilding, be sure to keep in mind that the technological advantage that one nation might hold over others, assuming all things are otherwise equal (one group is not manifestly stupider than the other), isn’t going to last for very long, especially in a war. The nation on the receiving end of the superior technology will have a very strong drive to either replicate the technology that is defeating them, or develop sufficiently effective tactics to counter that technology.

Rewriting in the Digital Age

No matter how hard you try, your book is never going to be 100% perfect. Hopefully, during the editing process you’re able to fix the plot holes and inconsistencies.

But even after you push the publish button, you’re going to find typos and errors. Maybe a sentence that doesn’t make as much sense as you’d like. You’re going to find something that you want to change.

I’ve spent most of the last week or two cutting back on the overly descriptive prose that I used in The Cerberus Rebellion and adding in a couple of chapters that I really should have included in the first place.

I had a conversation with Harry over at A Way With Worlds that basically went something like:

Me: “Hey, so I’m making some additions to Cerberus”
Him: “Wait, you can do that?

In the past, with traditional paper printing, you’d be pretty much out of luck. Your publisher could print a second run, with the corrections in place, but that’s assuming that your book warranted enough attention and sales to call for a second run.

In the age of digital publishing, the solution is much simpler. Correct the errors, recompile your book, and republish to your selected markets. Amazon, at least, will send an email to anyone that has purchased your book and give them the option to redownload it.

Now, this won’t necessarily turn someone who hated your novel into a fan overnight, but it can definitely improve the experience of future readers.

I know with The Cerberus Rebellion, the overly descriptive text was a consistent theme in the reviews that  I received. In the age of digital publishing, the ability to respond to feedback and fix your errors cannot be overlooked as a great tool to gaining readers.

Gunpowder Fantasy Battles

A major part of Epic Fantasy is the battle. Tolkien, George RR Martin, and essentially every other Epic Fantasy author has their share of battles. Some are told through the eyes of the characters as they happen, and others are recounted as history. But they’re there.

In traditional Epic Fantasy, creating action and suspense is a matter of bringing the main character into contact with his or her enemy. The reader is left to worry whether the main character is going to survive the intense fighting. But these battles are fought with sword, shield, and occasionally bows and arrows. The combatants look each other in the eye as they try to kill each other.

In Gunpowder Fantasy, especially when Rifles are introduced, battles are fought at range. Artillery slings rounds and shells across expansive battlefields and rows and columns of infantry shoot at each other from hundreds of yards. Suspense and intensity is different for Gunpowder Fantasy.

One way that you can maintain the intensity is to internalize your POV character’s experience. Give the scene intense detailing and describe how your character is feeling as bullets fly, shells explode, and people fall.

Also consider that once the bullets start flying, it can be a hectic time for your characters. At longer ranges, even rifles are only relatively accurate when compared to the muskets that came before them. Your characters aren’t going to be assured of their death, and that’s something to build on.

You also need to consider that even in the American Civil War, the first major war fought with rifled muskets, bayonet charges were still rather common. This gives you a chance to bring some of the intensity of hand to hand fighting to your battles. Throw your characters into the enemy lines, where muskets are used as clubs, swords are drawn, and revolvers are a last ditch weapon.

Battles are a good chance to show how your characters react under pressure, be sure to take advantage of the unique aspects that Gunpowder Fantasy affords you.

Communication In Gunpowder Fantasy

Communications are the foundation of civilization. People need to talk to each other to coordinate.

In Gunpowder Fantasy, your options are much wider than in other forms of Epic Fantasy. But what kinds of communications should you use, what are the pros and cons for your characters, or for your story? What if you want some of the benefits of a particular type of communication, but want to limit them at the same time?

Those are the questions I’ll hope to answer.

Messenger Ships

What is it? How does it work?

A network of swift ships carry messages from harbor to harbor. 

What are the benefits?

Sailing is usually a swift method of travel and can have the advantage of avoiding major land obstructions. Messenger ships can also bypass hostile territory more easily than a land-based solution.

What are the downfalls?

Sailing is not necessarily the most straightforward method of travel, and it’s entirely useless for landlocked territories. Messenger ships can also fall prey to weather and pirates. 

How can you mitigate or moderate these benefits, for the sake of the plot?

The easiest way to mitigate the advantages of messenger ships is to create a world with limited access to water, or where most of the action is going to be inland.

Another option is to create a world where pirates are common and known to harass messenger ships.

Messenger Trains

What is it? How does it work?

 Much like messenger ships, messenger trains are connected on a railroad to convey messages across vast distances.

What are the benefits?

 Messenger trains have the ability to cross vast distances quickly, aren’t reliant on the weather and can reach any place that has a rail depot.

What are the downfalls?

 Trains are reliant on a rail system and on access to a steady supply of fuel.

How can you mitigate or moderate these benefits, for the sake of the plot?

 Messenger trains are relatively easy to mitigate. Limiting the availability of fuel will limit the ability of the messenger trains to carry out their mission. Being that messenger trains are reliant on a network of railroads, you can also have a disjointed network of rail systems.

During the American Civil War, the South’s railroad network didn’t have a unified gauge rail, preventing a smooth transition from one area to another.

Post Riders (aka The Pony Express)

What is it? How does it work?

 Keeping with the network theme, the Pony Express was a messenger service in the United States in the 19th Century. From Wikipedia: “The Pony Express was a mail service delivering messages and mail…by horseback, using a series of relay stations.”

What are the benefits?

 The benefits of the Pony Express was that they were not limited to the rail lines. They were able to travel across rough territory quickly.

What are the downfalls?

 The Pony Express relied on a network of relatively closely spaced relay stations, each stocked with horses and riders. This requires a great deal of investment and planning. Additionally, this system would be less than optimal in a war zone, with skirmisher lines and battlefields.

How can you mitigate or moderate these benefits, for the sake of the plot?

 Mountainous terrain would be a major way to moderate the benefits of the Pony Express. Another is to make mounts rare; without the ability to change horses (or whatever your choice mounted creature is) your riders will be forced to travel slower and be more careful about how they push their steeds.

Telegraph

What is it? How does it work?

A Telegraph uses a network of metal lines and then transmits electrical signals along those lines that are part of a pre-determined code (the Morse Code was originally designed for Telegraph).

What are the benefits?

Near instant communication between stations, as well as the ability to “tap in” to the telegraph line with the right equipment so you aren’t necessarily tied down to transmission stations (the AMC show Hell on Wheels uses this technique).

What are the downfalls?

Like the semaphore line, the telegraph lines can be “tapped”. If you know the code, you can decipher messages and transmit false ones.

Telegraphy is also tied down to transmission stations.

How can you mitigate or moderate these benefits, for the sake of the plot?

Like railway lines above, you can segregate the different regions of your nations or world. In the nation of Ansgar, there are 4 or 5 distinct networks of telegraph lines that are not connected. Instead, messenger riders have to carry messages from “network” to “network”. This allows me to build in a communications delay.

You could also do this with differences in Code. Even if Network A and Network B are connected, if they use entirely different codes, the people at each end of the message will have to take time to decode the message and then recode it to the next network. Not only will this build in a delay, but it will require a typically small number of skilled operators. Remove those operators, and communication between networks becomes much more difficult.

Semaphore Line

What is it? How does it work?

 From Wikipedia: “a Semaphore Line  is a system of conveying information by means of visual signals, using towers with pivoting shutters, also known as blades or paddles.”

What are the benefits?

 They were far faster than post riders for bringing a message over long distances. Messages could be quickly conveyed from one end of the country to the other with relative ease.

What are the downfalls?

 Building an extensive network of towers, especially if they’re stone, could be expensive and take a lot of time to construct.  Additionally, the distance that an optical telegraph can bridge is limited by geography and weather.

A Semaphore line is also subject to having its messages intercepted by a watchful enemy and if an enemy was able to capture one of the towers and decypher the code, they could send false information along the lines.

Magic

What is it? How does it work?

 A magical form of communication is going to be dependent on whether or not you use magic in your worldbuilding and how that magic manifests itself.

Crystal seeing stones, ala The Lord of the Rings Palantir, magical telepathy and magic mirrors are all variants of magical forms of communication.

What are the benefits?

 Depending on your system, magical communications can be instant, allowing for swift communication across long distances. Magical communication could also be private, with only the sender and receiver knowing what was said.

What are the downfalls?

The downfalls of a magical form of communication are also dependent on your magical system. Some downfalls could include a limited number of people capable of engaging in the magical communication, or a limited supply of magical reagents.

How can you mitigate or moderate these benefits, for the sake of the plot?

 The easiest way to limit magical communication is to limit the magical system in your world.

Ravens/Pigeons

What is it? How does it work?

Messenger birds have been used for millenia to convoy notes from one place to another. You just need to train the birds to what is their home, then move them to a different location. When you release them, they return to their home, with your message in tow.

What are the benefits?

Birds are typically fast flyers and can ignore most terrain. Additionally, birds don’t have to worry about artificial fuel or feeding a crew of men.

What are the downfalls?

Birds are subject to predators. Your messenger pigeon will never reach its destination if an eagle eats it midway. Hunters are another concern. George RR Martin made a good example of this in one of his novels when he has one of the armies cut off a city’s means of contact by ringing it with archers.

How can you mitigate or moderate these benefits, for the sake of the plot?

Very aggressive or over-populated predators would be a great way to mitigate the usefulness of carrier birds. If a certain species of eagle or hawk is particularly fond of your messenger birds, they are far less likely to survive the journey.

These are just some of the major methods that you can use to communicate in your Gunpowder Fantasy world. A good series will include some or all of these.

In the Ansgari Rebellion series, the nation of Ansgar uses telegraphs as their major form of communication, but official documents are moved by rail for physical delivery and post riders carry messages both between telegraph networks and to the telegraph stations from the surrounding area.

PS: There’s 30 Days left in my Kickstart The Cerberus Rebellion Into Print Campaign and we’re 24% of the way there! Stop by and pledge if you’d like some awesome rewards!

The Different Faces of Gunpowder Fantasy

Like every genre, Gunpowder Fantasy is a category with a lot of variation. From the level of technology, to the existence and power of the magic, every author will have his or her own take on Gunpowder Fantasy.

But like other sub-genre’s, Gunpowder Fantasy can be divided into a few simple groups: Flintlock Fantasy, Muskets and Magic, and Rifles and Railroads. As with anything, there will be some variation, but for the most part I think that these three categories can be based primarily on the level of technology used and secondarily on the amount of magic involved.

 

Flintlock Fantasy

Flintlock Fantasy covers worlds created with early gunpowder era technology: flintlock rifles, no steam power or telegraphs. These stories will also tend to use less magic or no magic at all.

Muskets and Magic

While not necessarily jumping far ahead of Flintlock Fantasy in their use of technology, worlds built of Muskets and Magic will tend to have a greater focus on the magical aspects of their worlds.

Rifles and Railroads

Rifles and Railroad novels fall on the higher end of the technology tree. Railroads are common, steam ships may be introduced and rifles are the primary weapon of choice. In some cases, repeating or revolving weapons will be used.

Obviously these sub-categories are only my interpretation of how Gunpowder Fantasy has developed, but I think it’s definitely a start to classifying this increasingly popular new area of fiction.

Moving Right Along

So a couple of big things happening this week with The Cerberus Rebellion!

First off, I found a possible narrator for the audiobook production. He’s working on the first chapter audition right now and is expecting to have it finished after this weekend so I’ll get a chance to have a listen hopefully by Monday.

Second, I crossed my 2,000 Views mark early this week. It’s a big milestone for me to reach in under a year. I’d like to thank all of my readers and all of my fellow bloggers who have helped with links and cross-posting.

And last, from my posts earlier this week, I’ve started a Kickstarter Campaign to get The Cerberus Rebellion into print. I’ve already got 6% of my modest goal of $500 pledged, so hopefully we’ll get that finished so I can expand the distribution of the novel.

So if you can spare a few dollars, swing by the Kickstarter page and pledge! There’s some awesome backer rewards including free copies of my other works, physical copies of The Cerberus Rebellion and even special edition printed maps!

Found Another One!

So, I’ve made it kind of a habit to Google “Gunpowder Fantasy” “Muskets and Magic” and “Flintlock Fantasy” every once in a while to see if there’s anyone else out there writing in this subgenre, or if there’s anyone out there looking for works of this nature.

The other day, I came across “Duckblood Soup” written by co-authors Frank and James Hofer. I reached out to them about the possibility of some cross-promotion and we’ll be seeing a guest post from Frank soon.

You can check out their site on the link above, their Facebook page here and their novel here