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The Alexandrian World: A Steampunk Alternate History

Discussion in 'Civ3 - Steampunk Scenario' started by Blue Monkey, Mar 6, 2016.

  1. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    One way to develop plausible civs for a unified set of scenarios is to start with the AH (alternate history) backstory. What fulcrum event sent history in a different direction – eventually causing a steampunk industrial revolution? Working forward from that key event helps flesh out what civs populate the world and what their relationships would be at the time the scenario begins. Since we're talking alternate world as well as history, working backward from that fulcrum event – asking what in the natural world might have made that fulcrum event turn out differently – can help designing a map with geography that reinforces the cultural, political and technological set-up.

    Fulcrum Event

    The “Alexandrian World” AH's major technological divergence was the survival of the Library of Alexandria. This made possible an unbroken process of experimentation and innovation with clockworks, hydraulics, and steam from the Hellenistic era up to the 19th c.

    But what broader cultural circumstances would allow the Alexandrian center of the intellectual world to persist? Obviously – if radically – the non-existence or at least the early extirpation of the Roman Empire. And the most easily conceivable reason for that is the success of the Carthaginians. AH: Practical military application of many of Archimedes' inventions led to their naval victory in the First Punic War. When resurgent Romans again threatened, complete Carthaginian victory was capped by Hannibal sacking then razing Rome. A successful Carthage would likely have ruled – as did their ancestors the Phoenicians – as a thalassocracy, controlling ports and regulating trade, but leaving local cultures to otherwise develop on their own.

    The Alexandrian World would have an uninterrupted intellectual melting pot, a more varied Mediterranean political milieu, and the lack of a centralized and dictatorial cultural authority - together fostering an earlier scientific/industrial revolution with steam as the primary motive power source. From a fulcrum event, to a cultural context, to the even more fundamental question. What in the natural world might give Carthage a robust foundation for success against Rome?

    A “Green Sahara” is one answer. Great for a steampunk scenario designer who wants remnant sauropods roaming the jungles. Staying closer to our reality for the moment, more arable land enables longer supply of larger armies. More grazing land means more draft animals – and a lot more elephants available for warfare. More forests means more hardwood to build a larger navy. In our world the Holocene Wet Phase waned around 3000 BCE. But if it had more gradually tapered down, without completely ending …

    A generally wetter world climate is a natural beginning point to ask how a steampunk world would develop. One fundamental assumption underlying the Alexandrian World is that some cultures in other parts of the globe were more robust, more durable, were able to advance technologically at a more rapid pace. The consequence of that is better resistance to the various attempts of what became the chief colonial powers in our world. Which cultures became their region's equivalent of Carthage? How would the Alexandrian changes have been an advantage to civilizations which in our world had a strong interest in technological innovation, but somehow weren't able to match Europe's pace?

    Here follows a series of brief essays on regional developments up to the time the scenarios begin.
     
  2. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    Europe
    Absent the Roman Empire, The Italian peninsula remains a mix of minor principalities, protectorates of the major powers, independent city-states, and nascent republics. The Carthaginian thalassocracy became the model for later Mediterranean European cultures, while also leaving those with more interior continental territory free to diverge culturally.

    Venezia

    No Roman Empire means no fighting over who is emperor. So no Constantine - thus no Constantinople. Trade from Carthage & the Levant would still require key ports to inland Europe. The lack of a central power further to the West means the Venetian Republic (like Rome roughly centrally located) is a likely candidate. The Doge becomes more powerful – somewhat the equivalent of the Renaissance popes of our own timeline. Still, his temporal power is checked by the strength of the oligarchs - both hereditary & economic - that dominate the republican council. The Doge is a “first among equals”. Equality – is there perhaps a female Doge (an extrapolation from a goddess-worshiping Carthage)? Venetian military technologies emphasize naval considerations of course. They also have great skill at sieges – developed from both assaulting & defending the many islands throughout their region of the Mediterranean.

    Hanseatic League
    Atlantis of the North is a good read on a plausible trade relationship between a Classical Era Hansa & the Mediterranean civs. An earlier & longer lasting Hanseatic League would likely dominate a region encompassing the Low Countries, Scandinavia, the Baltic states, & Northern Germany. Competition with the Anglo-Franks would also drive an early & substantial settlement of Eastern North America. Important political decisions are made in accord with the economic interests of the major houses (corporate, guild, and dynastic) who meet regularly in privy council. The Hansas are interested in profitable independence rather than conquest. They extend their power primarily by economic means - their shipping and communications network. When their activities and access to foreign ports are threatened they can call on the many mercenary companies of marines to rapidly deploy - part of a cooperatively funded navy usually employed as a deterrent to piracy.

    Occitania
    Southern France would have maintained a stronger independence from the time of its alliance with Carthage against Rome. Occitania became the center of "French" culture. Furthermore it is the heartland of a Cathar-led more tolerant version of the Christian religion. A strong Occitania encourages cultural as well as scientific explorations. There was never the same impetus for a Reformation. It was the source of the Alexandrian World's equivalent of our Renaissance. It also inhibits modern Roman resurgence from the west as much as Venezia does in the east. Occitania's neighbor Andalusia is an important avenue of cultural interchange between Europe & the various Muslim states.

    Anglic Empire
    Because the Hansa - which includes Flanders - protected Matilda to the extent of military confrontations, William invaded but never conquered England. Between their opposition rather than alliance through marriage and potential threats from Occitania he found it necessary to divide his forces. Harold easily defeated William's forces – followed by an Anglic conquest of his territories in Brittany and Normandy. An Anglic empire straddling the channel meant a more thalassocratic orientation rather than a drive for a land-based Empire. The Bretalo-Frank character of the ruling class and culture persists up to the present dynasty.

    Bohemian Syndicate
    Surrounded by nations eager for trade, the smaller countries of Middle Europe found it best to cooperate economically and politically. Development focused on exploiting scientific & engineering progress so as not to become merely a source of raw materials for their strong neighbors. Politically this led a decentralized confederation. Various anti-monarchical religious and philosophical movements of the late Renaissance & early Modern eras, combined with a rich and varied artistic culture lead to an early transition to a democratic society without the disruption of revolutions. Syndicalism became the preferred form of government since it allowed for local control combined with the societal resources for cooperative solution of larger issues. While not aggressive, they are a military force to be reckoned with because of their emphasis on cutting-edge technology rather than large armies. Their large aerial fleet has allowed them to overcome the handicaps common to land-locked countries, for example.
     
  3. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    Levant & Middle East
    One cultural consequence of Carthaginian influence was less interest in military conquest as a means to spread religion. Minimal or no Crusades allowed leaders such as Saladin & Suleiman - already so inclined - to focus on cultural & intellectual patronage. Relations between the West & the Middle East emphasize economic & technical interchange. Extended periods of such enlightened rule would likely mean less fundamentalism - preventing a unified jihad. The Muslim regions of the current era contain diverse yet equally strong civs acting as checks on each other.

    Al-Andalus
    Andalusia is a (Muslim) successor state to Carthage - encompassing the area from Southern Spain to Tripoli. A state focused on trade and intellectual/cultural pursuits more than cutting edge technologies. It has cordial relations with Occitania, but sees other European states as rivals to be subverted through various intrigues. Nomadic tribes make its southern borders nebulous.

    Alawiyya Khedivate of Egypt
    - description in Africa section.

    Caliphate
    The religious heart of the Muslim Hegemony. A relatively stable economy thanks to no long wars as a drain. A series of rulers such as Suleiman make it the cultural paragon of enlightened conservatism. Even though it is slower to accept technological innovations, the Caliphate's large economic base and equally large militarized internal security forces keep it relatively strong.
     
  4. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    Asia

    Tokhar Khan
    Strong Baltic centers of the Hanseatic League mean Russia never controls Western sea ports. Limited by stronger, more stable neighbors, and with trade perpetually dependent on foreign powers a Russian Empire never develops. One result of a wetter climate is the persistence of the Tokharian culture. Eventually it evolved into an empire controlled by semi-nomadic horsemen & charioteers. Fewer dynastic difficulties combined with control of an important section of the Silk Road stabilized the empire without radically changing the traditional culture. Limited by Bharata & Zhongguo to the south & east, they resist modernization and the approaching industrial era as the influence of devil-barbarians. If one imagines a “Wild West” dominated by Sioux rather than pioneers & cowboys that will give some idea of the analogous technological and political situation in the steppes (plains) of Central Asia.

    Bharata Varsha
    The terrible Saraswati drought never happened, leading to greater continuity between the Indus Valley civilization & later South Asian cultures. A much stronger economy relative to Mesopotamia combined with early engineering developments such as city water/sewer systems, deep water harbors with locks and experiments with yamanas (machines) and vimanas (aircraft) kickstart a robust foundation for sustained scientific and technological development fostered by the Brahmanic caste. A more specific example of the beneficial effects of a wetter climate is the further development of the monsoon-driven forced-air wootz foundries on Sri Lanka into one of the most advanced metallurgical industries in the world. Repulse of the Hellenes & Tokharians strengthened Maurya as a centralizing power. After centuries of war gradual unification of dynasties throughout the subcontinent via a series of intermarriages led to a stable culture well able to resist encroachment by foreign colonial powers. “Dynastic Meritocracy” might best describe the Bharatan political system – local rajas within a caste structure flexible enough to allow exceptional individuals to find their most effective place.

    Zhongguo
    A brilliant and forward thinking Empress unifies China & encourages practical development of eccentric inventions by Taoists. Such things as clockwork automatons and human flight are not mere toys (see Victoriental essay below). Explorers such as Zheng He are encouraged rather than inhibited. Cultural hegemony over Eastern Asia leads to eventual political integration on a feudal model with a fluctuating group of client, vassal and protected states, as well as those who are engaged in regional clashes for independence.

    Shambhala
    There is indeed a mysterious kingdom somewhere in the mountains of Central Asia supposedly ruled by immortal lamas from monasteries in hidden valleys.. It is the source of reports (mostly unsubstantiated legends) concerning unusual occurrences which range from natural phenomena to unknown technologies - including centuries of ever-enhanced techniques for developing the powers of the mind.

    Suvarnabhumi
    The further outposts of medieval Bharata Varsha are now little more than a cluster of fabled kingdoms fading into the jungle. City-sized temple thrones of god-kings contain a wealth of gold and jewels accumulated from centuries of tribute.
     
  5. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    North America
    Asian explorers reach the West coast even as those from Europe are first glimpsing the Eastern shores. More enlightened rulers in their home countries send forth colonizing expeditions more or less at an equal pace with the Europeans. A richer cultural diversity of the immigrants beside stronger local cultures fragments the continent politically but drives eccentric innovation and cultural developments quite different from our own history. An important geographical note: Ice Age isostatic pressures led to separation of the Baja California peninsula from the mainland.

    Califexas
    Several distinct Chinese colonies, a couple more from the Muslim powers & Bharata Varsha, gold rush immigrants from the Atlantic coast and those seeking greater personal autonomy and freedom, merging into something distinctly new … all contending with a geography that would keep them fragmented. Even so, Sanfusang on California's great bay has become the capital of the frontier version of a democracy: a central legislature, decentralized governance, and a libertarian attitude that encourages experimental engineers and scientists who might not be welcome elsewhere. An autonomous Deseret & the Texican areas of this civ are in dispute with the Dine, Hoop & CSA.

    Creole States of America
    Successful late 18th and early 19th c. slave revolts across the Gulf Coast and Caribbean islands led to the reunification of Afro-Caribbean groups into the Creole States of America. Given the scattered geography and melange of cultures it is more of a loose confederation with a common foreign policy than a single nation. The economy remains primarily agrarian – cooperative plantations – but many influential individuals push for modernizing industrial technologies.

    Iroquois Confederacy
    Fractious European settlers, and a keen interest in taking what was of value from the immigrant cultures while maintaining their own allowed a very modern (technologically) matriarchal democracy to counteract various attempts to colonize the interior of the continent. Not at all insular or parochial, they still value they own internal interests rather than any foreign entanglements.

    Diné
    Not so much a state as a cluster of culturally similar small-scale societies with wide variations in levels of technology. A greener climate meant that the Anasazi culture remained a unifying force underlying the various groups of Native Americans in this region.

    Great Hoop
    The least technologically advanced of the major North American cultures – the various plains tribes (both nomadic & sedentary) had to band together to resist external pressures. Excellent pastoralists and agriculturalists, they simply don't have the type of culture that allows for large scale industrialization. They must rely on their mastery of asymmetrical warfare for survival.

    Sylvania
    Occitanian Montreal, Hanseatic New Amsterdam, and other burgeoning metropolitan centers united in the late 18th c. to fight for independence from Europe. They were joined early in the 19th c. by Baal Almiral, the capital of Mulanpi – a colony founded by a series of Andalusian expeditions to the Mid-Atlantic coast. A brisk trade in natural resources from the interior, technological ingenuity, and an indomitable spirit help this relatively small civ compete effectively – economically if not militarily.
     
  6. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    South America
    The wetter climate of the Alexandrian world means the rain forests of South America are even more intractable, the higher regions of the Andes more permanently snow-bound.

    Ajaw Q’umarkaj / Tawantinsuyu
    Aztec religion evolved into a basis for cannibalism as a mark of high status. Eventually the whole structure fell apart as a disease similar to kuru decimated both the ruling and the intellectual elites. This left the way clear for the Mayans to expand further north. As in Bharata Varsha, science is actively supported by religious authorities. Mayan agronomy, meteorology, and long-term accurate data keeping and analysis developed by their astronomers all combined to keep them well equipped to deal with torrential storms and the constantly encroaching rain forests. Highly developed ceramics and even the beginnings of genetic manipulation through selective cultivation* compensate for the relative lack of easily accessible metal ores. * The most “unscientific” divergence of the Alexandrian World is a bit of Lamarckian evolutionary potential.

    A major historical difference between ours & the Alexandrian World was the lack of major expansion of a Spanish Empire. No conquistadors, no smallpox. The Incan culture was stable and strong enough to survive the civil war which was their twilight in our timeline. Necessity is the mother of invention. The severe winters drove early development of steam technologies for heating and power. The Incan Empire did begin to use wheeled transport as their road system became more technically advanced. They eventually developed a narrow-gauge railway in some places, at least for the Great Inca's use, with lama-drawn (or burdened) & human pedestrian power in the still barely passable sections of the Andes. The chasquis became railroad conductors, surveyors, & other professionals related to transport and communications, while also carrying on their work as runners where needed. One technology unique to the Inca was an evolution of the combined use of quipu & pututu. Rather than a communications system dependent on stations, the chasquis carry a device with hooked wires they are able to loop over telegraph cables at any point. As well as using this system for typical communications, the transport infrastructure is well maintained because any breakdown (road/bridge collapse, train collision, cable damage) can be reported almost as soon as it is discovered. Point to point communications also aid local militias in maintaining social conformity. With more limited access to metals than in other parts of the world, many of the most advanced steam applications are only available where the elite reside & work. One source of persistent rumors of a “City of Gold” are less sophisticated tribes' distorted reports of Incan architecture ostentatiously displaying the brass conduits of the steam-powered infrastructure and the prominent use of brass (both functionally & decoratively) in the Great Inca's own railway equipment – a display of status in both cases.

    As Mayan hegemony spread south its many city-states & the Incan Empire engaged in a perpetual tug of war – occasionally allies, sometimes united by a single dynasty, sometime riven by internal strife to the advantage of the other power. Periodically, open war breaks out during times of dynastic struggles or social upheaval. More often, rivalry plays out in economic maneuvering & ritualized combat with traditional weapons. The constant strife and the permanent social stratification limit practical application of many technologies by both cultures (the military even keeps too many secrets from itself), but maths, biochemistry, agronomy, ceramics, hydraulics (steam where metals are sufficiently available) & astronomy are very advanced.

    CSA
    – description in North American section

    Empire of Brasyl
    Exiled minor houses of Europe set up colonial fiefdoms for themselves at various times. Eventually their intermarriages, as well as cooperative economic and military arrangements led to a situation somewhat analogous to the East India Company or Belgian Congo of our world. Minimal distinction between politics and private corporate interests. Private armies with governmental authority. Europeanized metropolitan centers, with waning influence the further away from the coast one travels. Plantations, mines, logging camps near the tributaries of the Amazon, surrounded by seemingly impenetrable rain forests full of sometimes helpful, more often hostile tribes.

    Chinkaya Llaqta
    Deep in the back of beyond are there fabulous abandoned ruins concealing vast treasures, a viable lost civilization, or is it only rumors?
     
  7. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    Africa
    The continent is greener, with several bodies of water comparable to the Great Lakes of North America. One or two might even be broad enough to be considered minor inland seas. The Sahara does exist – perhaps half the size of the one we know. Counting Al-Andalus there are four strong relatively modernized states in Northern Africa, with three more tradition-oriented powers in the South. All are indigenous rather than colonial.

    The Songhai Empire aka Bambara
    Culturally Al-Andalus faces north. Sharing the Sahara (with its desert nomads) as an interior frontier, Bambara is a mirror-image with southward influence. Timbuktu is the capital of a country with equally important land and naval interests. The current state was founded in a military coup by Muslim converts usurping an ancient hereditary kingdom. It has taken the better part of a century to shift from an agrarian toward a modern industrial orientation. Technologically it is about 50 years behind the more advanced nations of the Alexandrian World.

    Alawiyya Khedivate
    Anglia and Venezia initiated rival invasions of Egypt in the 1780s. Both meant to seize the ports and use them as a base for ambitions further East. Al-Andalus remained ostensibly neutral while actively “protecting” its own coastal waters. The Hanseatic League took advantage of the situation to harass both invaders at sea via privateers, and used blockade running to great economic advantage. A three-way European war meant that the hereditary military class ruling Egypt on behalf of the Caliphate was able to repel both invasions, then rapidly establish its autonomy. Recognizing that it was a very narrow thing, they worked to immediately modernize their armed forces and rapidly industrialize what had formerly been a strictly agrarian region of the tradition-bound Caliphate. While it is definitely the most modernized of the African powers, isolating geography has kept the Khedivate from fully realizing its own expansionist ambitions.

    Ityopia
    The dynasty in control of the Horn of Africa is second only to the Khedivate in terms of military and industrial prowess. Its economy is based in entrepot trade between Europe, Africa and the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean – as well as export of its own natural resources. While it is not truly interested in territorial expansion, Ityopia does use expeditionary forces, proxy wars, and provides mercenary cadre in a manner carefully planned & negotiated to protect its interests.

    Maasai
    this semi-nomadic culture guided by a multi-tiered network of chiefdoms uses warrior sodalities to hold military sway over the other tribes in its range. It welcomes traders and explorers as sources of manufactured goods, but has no interest in industrializing itself.

    Zulu
    Just to the south, the more sedentary Zulu have united under the leadership of a charismatic family of warriors. It is only their political charisma and focus on military conquest that holds the tribes united. The Zulu have rejected all foreign influence, to the extent that they rarely even take advantage of such obvious benefits as equipping their army with riles.

    Kongo
    Ruled by a line of kings whose normal method of succession is assassination or subversion. Personal aggrandizement is the political norm - more interest in tribute than control. Whoever is in power at the moment, the Kongolese kings are more than willing to allow their country to function as a gateway to the mysterious interior. In exchange for extortionate fees associated with trade and transport, of course.

    Libertalia
    As in our world, in the 17th century a consortium of sea-going adventurers bought their way into control of the southern part of Madagascar. The difference in the Alexandrian World is that their independence from foreign powers persisted long enough for them to settle into a stable accommodation with both local governments and the increasingly powerful colonials. After two centuries of pillage, extortion, smuggling, and trade speculation they would be amazingly powerful economically – were it not for the eternally fractious Captains' Council who must deal not only with balancing each others' personal ambitions, but also with the needs and desires of the crews who determine how firm and durable their captaincies are. Libertalia maintains independence largely through using its enormous economic power to keep on the cutting edge of available military and espionage technologies. Notably, airships have replaced sea-going vessels as their primary raiding force.



    More than any other part of the world the African interior is home to a panoply of mysteries of geography, fauna and flora, and rumors of strange cultures. Folk legends, names associated with such varied rumors that it's difficult to know even what “might” be real, the ramblings of feverish or half-insane explorers, fragments of sketchy maps and drawings, all point toward the reality of something interesting, but what are they, or it?
     
  8. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    Strange Places

    Then there are the various secret societies with geographic bases, private fiefdoms, islands that are home to strange cults or disreputable scientists, and temporary autonomous zones scattered around the globe. As one example: despite the minimization of crusading & jihad, organizations such as the Templars would still arise as protectors of banking & trade against pirate/warlord activity. And their survival into a much later era follows from lack of a militantly orthodox Medieval church. How might the Templars have evolved after 500 years of enlightened self-interest?

    What would the Antarctica of a wetter climate be like? Is its climate even more terrifically harsh, extremes of cold that might nearly freeze the air itself? Is it warmer, with the survival of primeval flora and fauna? Are the vague rumors of an entrance to an inner earth to be believed – perhaps the wetter centuries were one dramatic effect of a great chasm with the atmospheric consequences of weather flowing between the two worlds?

    And Beyond

    Getting to space with “practical” steampunk technology is an engineering rather than a scientific conundrum. No cavorite or other trans-unobtainium elements are needed. How this might happen in an Alexandrian World scenario? Here follows an essay including written contributions by Balthasar and conceptual work by King Arthur, Wyrmshadow, jlvfr, 7ronin, & Deth McBones.
     
  9. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    Establishing An Industrial And Engineering Basis

    Part of the steampunk conception of world history developed via the Alexandrian World divergence is that earlier practical invention based on RL local technological examples would help other regions resist European colonialism. The Victoriental (Steampunk Asia) sub-genre is a case in point.

    What Asia would have been like if manuscripts about Lu Ban's flying inventions had been used by later centuries' engineers as concepts for practical aircraft? Tanaka Hisashige, founder of Toshiba Corporation, began his career designing and making karakuri ningyō (automata). What if karakuri had developed into an industrial technology in the 17th - 19th c., rather than remaining curiosities. Add in perfection of steam and hydro power (more of Tanaka's industrial design was in these fields) and materials engineering a century or two earlier than in our world. What would the cities of such a culture look like? What technologies would so obviously transform the cultural landscape?

    Karakuri + soroban (Japanese abacus) + variable algebra ( Seki Kowa's 18th c. developments) = hexadecimal mechanical difference engines by the early 19th c. Beating the pants off Babbage's theory by a decade or so- with hexadecimal rather than just binary logic. Add in the ability to simultaneously track multiple cycles from earlier refinement of wadokei (a uniquely Japanese clockwork technology). A multitasking analytical engine becomes practical before mid- 19th century in the Alexandrian World. Imagine something analogous to the Edo era (17th c. through 19th c.) but with enough of an early industrial edge based on the advantages of computation applied to design, economics, etc. to completely resist foreign intrusions and maintain a policy of open trade & expansionism rather than using isolationism as a defense strategy. A policy back up by steam-powered Red Seal Ships armed with rockets, and so forth.

    A steampunk re-imagining of the Japanese “war tuba”, belching steam & making a sound something like a basso profundo dungchen (Tibetan horn) - so loudly that it blows zeppelins out of the sky – might sound too fantastic to be possible. Had a discussion with an aerospace engineer whose career has focused on experimental military applications of odd technologies and a retired Coast Guard officer who worked with acoustics (both water & air). They agreed that vortex cannons of sufficient force to function as low-altitude anti-aircraft weapons are practical – if not economically viable – and that they could be built with 19th century technologies. They also agreed that similar weapons applying Tesla's research on the destructive powers of harmonic vibration were engineering problems rather than theoretically impossible - Although such weapons would have a devastating effect on their ground crews. Now imagine a steam-powered vortex cannon integrated with with these bits of actual technology - pyrophone, Pratt Institute infrastructure organ & The Howling Terror.

    Japan isn't alone as a source of RL Asian examples that might be extrapolated to practical steampunk technologies. The Indians also had very advanced mathematics, scientific research and even some engineering (in the modern sense) during the Classical and later eras. There are Vedas & shastras - scientific knowledge framed in poetic mnemonics - which refer to craft powered by "fire & water". If we allow legendary sources as at least preliminary evidence (think of Troy before Calvert & Schliemann), the Mahabharata mentions tri-metal alloys, closed-cycle mercury vapor engines, electrically powered vehicles, flying craft the size of cities (think carrier-sized aerostats), and engines fueled by coconut oil (bio-diesel?). Indian legends speak of both self-propelled vehicles & automata that were worthy of battlefield use. Perhaps some of these were steam-powered. If Sanskrit has a specific word for mechanical contrivances ("yantra") and compound words describing specific types of such machines, perhaps they actually existed in some form. If not, still certainly a reasonable extrapolation of what might exist in the Alexandrian World.

    A Descriptive and Historical Account of Hydraulic and Other Machines by Thomas Ewbank, pub. 1876 includes descriptions of ancient Iron Clad Ships ("The Syracusan" built by Archimedes p. 146), "The Wheel of Fortune" of Egypt, The "Cauldrons of the Lesbians" , descriptions of both Stone and Wooden steam boilers (Woodpunk?) (p.470). Early prototypes of “explosive and vapor engines” are not unreasonable given that both alcohol and distilling existed in the Ancient world.

    One could imagine this passage in a steampunk story:
    “Since publication of the details is restricted under the Official Secrets Act of 1889 I will just say that the motive force is provided by an engine incorporating the key technologies of the Maestrofoon, W. G. Armstrong, & Du Tremblay designs. Such a combination reduces engine size, eliminates the need for large boilers or capacious fuel reserves, deals with the exhaust profile issue, and provides auxiliary power for electrical illumination and fire control Babbage engines. And, it must be pointed out, the previous correspondent has completely misunderstood the scale of the vehicle - which is more comparable to the Wells device under construction than to a rude farmer's tractor. Sufficient room for the small crew required.”

    In the more Victoriental Alexandrian World it was Japanese automata and Indian yantras -not a steampunk British Empire – which first developed into autonomous steam-powered war machinery. Lest practical metallurgy (such as tri-metal alloys) be considered a hinderance …

    In our world a special steel known as wootz, which contains traces of both titanium & vanadium because of the particular source mine, was produced in India as early as 300 BCE. This steel is considered superior to anything produced in Europe until the modern era. Knowledge of the metallurgy & manufacturing techniques involved in wootz was lost when the primary ore source was exhausted. In the Alexandrian World the ores continued to be available in the Indochinese and Malesian regions of Bharata Varsha. Recent reproductions, both physical & computer modeled, of a particular type of wind-driven furnace used during monsoon season prove that the Sri Lankan Medieval metallurgical industry was capable achieving of temperatures in the 1100 - 1500 C° range. Given a few more centuries of technological refinement the combination of this type of furnace & the alloys in wootz would be sufficient for production of metals that could withstand the pressures of a steam engine. The longer-term consequences of industrial-scale blast-furnace metallurgy & working aircraft designs available in Asia hundreds of years before their European equivalents in a steampunk world are worth considering. With the advanced maths and astronomy also at hand ...
     
  10. Blue Monkey

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    A Practical Steam-Powered Orbital Spacecraft ?

    This steam-powered spacecraft isn't steampunk fantasy, it's a modern design concept. Read the article. Then put on your thinking caps. The names mentioned below are all historical. I've taken the liberty of shifting people chronologically since I'm using them analogously rather than as particular individuals. No imaginary technologies - just pushing known ones to the extreme. "We steam engine come steam engining time.”

    Design
    The Victorians had the materials technology to handle superheated steam. Watt could have extended his design work to further miniaturize engines while continuing to increase their efficiency & output. Solar-powered devices were demonstrated in ancient China. Practical experiments were going on by the mid-19th c. Surely in a Steampunk AH someone like Tesla could have pursued these lines of research even further. Add an imaginative pair of bicycle mechanics interested in building ultralight vehicles. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine Brunel putting together a a team of boffins &engineers. Designing & building such a craft becomes far more plausible than the existence of cavorite. Definitely a more maneuverable type of craft than anything designed by the Baltimore Gun Club.

    The chief difficulty as a practical form of transport would be the extremely slow starting speeds. Picture our solar energy boffin having a conversation with Griffeths about the design of extreme clippers. Fortuitously he had recently been reviewing the work of Carrington, Fitzgerald and Birkeland on solar ejecta & auroral activity. Solar wind! Add sails of sufficient thinness, yet with great tensile strength & dimensional stability. Brunel would probably have to consult Monell on the creation of a special alloy. But a practical design for an aetheric packet ship is achieved.

    The 'modules' might be designed like pneumatic-subway cars, the water-holding parts like ornate metal bladders. The 'solar array' might look like giant black fins, ribbed to allow the sun to heat the water elements. At the bow is a sphere in which the crew would live and do most of its work, perhaps revolving on an axis in order to create a centripetal simulation gravity. In all, the craft might resemble a gigantic fish with a revolving ball where the head would be. The placement of huge lenses near the front of the craft which would, by means of mirrors, send light traveling around and down through tubes into the center of the 'work ball', allowing the crew to 'see' the space around them without the disorientation that the use of windows in the revolving ball might produce, the many long thin antennas needed for long distance communication, and a florid Victoriental style of decorative metalwork might strengthen the impression of some sort of chimeric cross between a carp, a catfish and a gourami.

    Funding
    Brunel could certainly find & manage the brilliant team required. But who could fund a mega-engineering project requiring international cooperation? The Morgan-Rothschild Investment Partnership, LLC of course. With Lloyd's as guarantor. If they prove too conservative to invest in such an enterprise, the author of The Dynamics of An Asteroid would certainly have the imagination, scientific and practical interest & resources. Or perhaps it would be the Alexandrian World equivalent of the Sultan of Brunei providing the funds for an ultralight aethercraft using a combination of solar sails and steam engines for thrust, its surface proudly embellished in a florid Victoriental style to look like a gigantic Siamese Fighting Fish – Dragon King of the aetheric ocean.

    Docking & Launch Facilities
    We have the design & the construction planned out. But such a craft could not launch itself from the Earth. Even Barbicane could not find a way for it to survive the pressure of a ballistic launch. Consult Tsiolkovsky. Add Eiffel (structural design) to the team. Would probably need Shukhov & Fuller to get past the limitations of compression structures. Otis converts Clegg and Samuda's patented system of atmospheric traction to vertical shafts. Have Watt build them a stationary engine to drive the pulleys & the vacuum pumps - probably using a sun & planet gear system.


    I. K. Brunel before the counterweight chain
    used by the freight lift during construction
    of the 35 km. tower near the hill station at Sigiriya.


    In short, construct a space elevator to get the relatively flimsy pieces to orbit for assembly. With side benefits of other uses - such as a resort & permanent Crystal Palace on platforms at levels high enough to view Mount Qomolangma over the curving horizon.

    "Sigiriya hill station" is a tip of the hat to A. C. Clarke. As he pointed out the actual location would have to be much closer to the Equator. In our world there is no suitable island in the Indian Ocean. But there are sea mounts, ridges and plateaus, not to mention volcanic activity. The 2004 earthquake-induced tsunami revealed the reality of the fabled seven temples of Mahabalipuram in southern India. Tectonic differences between our world and the Alexandrian were mentioned in the history essay concerning the island of California. Taking another page from the book of Asian Mythologies, perhaps there is some Alexandrian archipelago equivalent to Kumari Kandam (the Tamil Atlantis).
     
  11. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    Quo Vadis?

    A climatic variation nudges cultural history down a divergent path which leads to a steampunk world capable of reaching orbit. A steampunk space elevator and spacecraft suitable for extended travel are a means, not an end. Where to? Perhaps it was something beyond the Earth that caused the greener, wetter climate. Solar variability? Something Velikovskian? Regardless, any astronomical cause would have affected Earth's nearest neighbors. Shifting the existence of Barsoom and Amtor (among other worlds) into the realm of feasibility …

    So there it is: the background for such scenarios as The Dark Continent, Sceptre & Orbs, The Hollow Earth, an as yet unnamed Silk Road / Victoriental somethingorother, perhaps even a revisionist World scenario.
     
  12. Balthasar

    Balthasar Wise Man

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    A comprehensive history, indeed.

    I can't help but muse on the different path that Christianity would have taken in a non-roman Palestine, if for instance Christ were put to death instead by the Egyptians, who would have likely retained control of that area through the early part of the seventh century. Paul would have still evangelized the southern Anatolian coast, but without a coptic influence, the early church would have been far less monastic, and likely less metaphysical. Whether the New Testament (and the Church) would have been brought together without the influence of Constantine is, I think, an open question, though there was a general push to create a central text for Judaism at the same time (but this time no Jewish diaspora, so less need for written text).

    The spread of Islam would have been limited by a stronger Egyptian state, and by the existence of surrounding nations that would not have previously fallen to the Romans, particularly Greece and Parthia (Persia), whose rivalry in Anatolia would likely not have waned. I imagine that Greece turns Christian in this scenario by the third century AD, and Islam's spread gets no further north than the Euphrates (so no Ottomans later).

    This suggests that your kingdom of Venezia might more properly be Hellas, and that the Caliphate would almost certainly have to compete with a still-vigorous (and peerless) Persia.
     
  13. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    I considered Persia's potential. I felt that while they would exist as one of the "31", The Bharatan civ would affect their potential to be a world power (no Mughals later on, for example). I thought through this so long ago that I don't remember every step of the logic. Something to do with the lack of an Indo-Hellenic culture as a negative consequence of Porus' victory, and the subsequent ripple effect. I also wondered if, without Rome to push against, Persia would have developed the same. The Caliphate certainly has a strong Persian imprint.

    Sometimes one simply has to make arbitrary choices. For example - region/country/civ names. We wouldn't have all those latinate names in the Alexandrian World. OTOH the kite of imagination needs a string. I did figure out ways to pull "America" out of Arabic & Sanskrit and justify it as a naming by explorers. Too convoluted to explain. San Francisco, Baltimore, & a few other names are there by way of example. I debated with myself on Venice vs. Byzantium. No Rome, no Constantinople. But I needed a Mediterranean power to counterbalance Carthage - and it needed to be a naval power that was more an economic rival than anything. I didn't want to wrestle with working out the consequences of a series of Classical Era North African wars between Carthage & Egypt in a way that didn't end up losing the Library. So ... if Alexander didn't succeed in creating an Indo-Greek synthesis, might he have focused more attention on Alexandria? Or would he have died even sooner - wounded in the defeat & retreat from the Kush? Leaving Alexandria as a cultural center more Carthaginian than Hellenic?

    Really didn't want to get into a detailed speculation on 3000 years of Mediterranean religious developments without Plotinus' wealth of theological knowledge transferred to my brain. I see a lot of people getting upset when they eavesdrop on the alternate timeline religious history conversations without understanding the game of "what if ...". "What if there were no crucifixion used as a capital punishment?" usually has the same emotional effect on logical discourse as bringing the Nazis into an argument as a standard of comparison. So I tried not to go into it too much. There are some breadcrumbs there in the essay. Occitania. The Doge. The only thing I'll say more explicitly is no Rome, no Paul.

    Egypt was another arbitrary decision like Venice. I wanted African powers that were able to resist Europe, but not quite as technologically advanced at the scenarios' starting points. I'd have to work out a whole other essay on what happened to Egypt before and after the Carthaginian Empire. Then I'd have to not post it - those grey areas on the African map have a lot to do with Egypt's history. And they're meant as surprises for the first time player. ;) Your speculation about Egypt is interesting. A new POV. If I had gone in that direction I might have made Ethiopian Christianity more prominent, with Egyptian Copts in Diaspora bringing their scrolls & testaments with them as they hid in caves along the way. Perhaps more mystical rather than less. Hmmmm .... maybe the Templars started as an Underground Railroad for Copts rather than as escorts for Crusading pilgrims?

    Thanks for such a thoughtful response, Balthasar. Hopefully others see this thread and comment as well. Rethinking things from a different perspective can only make the scenarios designed from it so much the richer.
     
  14. Blue Monkey

    Blue Monkey Archon Without Portfolio

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    Now you've got me thinking about making an African map for one of the mods like TAM, or AD-DD, or MEM to see how Carthage vs. Egypt would play out. :lol: But that's a topic for a different thread.
     

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