Stonewall Jackson survived Chancellorsville. England broke the Union’s naval blockade, and formally recognized the Confederate States of America. Atlanta never burned.
It is 1880. The American Civil War has raged for nearly two decades, driving technology in strange and terrible directions. Combat dirigibles skulk across the sky and armored vehicles crawl along the land. Military scientists twist the laws of man and nature, and barter their souls for weapons powered by light, fire, and steam.
But life struggles forward for soldiers and ordinary citizens. The fractured nation is dotted with stricken towns and epic scenes of devastation—some manmade, and some more mysterious. In the western territories cities are swallowed by gas and walled away to rot while the frontiers are strip-mined for resources. On the borders between North and South, spies scour and scheme, and smugglers build economies more stable than their governments.
This is the Clockwork Century. It is dark here, and different.
The first novel in the Clockwork Century universe, Boneshaker, explores the aftermath of a disaster most unnatural — the 1865 destruction of the frontier city of Seattle, in the Washington territory on the Pacific Northwest coast.
For a thorough “contemporary” explanation of the situation in Seattle, kindly click to this page .
There, you can read the first chapter of Boneshaker — an excerpt from a reference book (dated 1880) written by a Mr. Hale Quarter, historical enthusiast, detail recorder, and rogue scribe extraordinaire.
And sometimes, accused nosy bastard. Bless his heart, he’s still working on that reputation.
In Clementine the tale travels east, across the Rockies and onto the plains, where the Wild West is still plenty wild. With a national war eating up government resources on the other side of the Mississippi River, the only law is He Who Has the Biggest Gun is Pretty Much in Charge. Though He with the Most Money isn’t to be discounted either.
Fortunes are made and lost on gambling, prostitution, and the inevitable war profiteering — not to mention a valuable new street drug coming from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. No one knows exactly what it’s made of, or where precisely it comes from, but the soldiers on the fronts can’t get enough of their “Yellow Sap.”
This drug — also known by “sick sand,” “cracker piss,” “shakes,” and a number of other labels — is gaining great popularity in the east, where it’s as handy as moonshine and twice as potent, at only a fraction of the carrying weight.
It’s too bad that prolonged use of the ‘Sap will kill … or worse. Heavy users occasionally take on the appearance of walking corpses with rotting flesh, and acquire the tendency to eat the living.
Dreadnought begins in the thick of the war, in Virginia — at a Confederate hospital. From there the tale will pass through conflict-ravaged border states crawling with strange war-machines, dirigibles, tanks, and even a diesel-powered mech or two.
Nurse Mercy Lynch’s journey will begin via the civilian transport dirigible corps in Richmond; carry her through the front lines as each side gains and loses ground; see her by train to Chattanooga, the eastern epicenter of the Southern rail center and high tech military garrison; send her over to Memphis and up the Mississippi River. Finally, her trip will take her out of St. Louis to the open expanse of the lawless states that aren’t yet states, all the way out to the Washington Territory — where a sheriff she’s never met waits to collect her at a train station.
This is not only a portrait of a nation split by a tragic war of excruciating duration, but also a peek at how things might’ve played out differently with different powers in play — though much like real life, the lines between North and South are sometimes thinner and more fluid than expected.
Families are split in their loyalties; friends and neighbors take up arms against one another. Both struggling countries are running low on money and manpower. Desperate measures are considered, and sponsored, and attempted on each side of the Mason-Dixon line.
Here is the Republic of Texas, where the mid-century discovery of oil has led to massive industrialization, expanded rail systems, and the rise of Texas as a center of innovation and technology.
Of course, the Republic has its difficulties. To the south lies Mexico, on its third emperor and the last of its patience with its land-grabbing neighbor to the north. The situation has been tense ever since Texas won its independence, and the small skirmishes that have marked the previous fifty years have become more intense with time.
But Texas is closely allied with the Confederacy, and even this prosperous nation can’t well afford a war on two fronts — which becomes a problem when seven hundred Mexican citizens go missing overnight, somewhere in its western hills.
Maximilian the Third is not pleased. And since he has the hemisphere’s best organized (and possibly greatest) military force at his disposal, he’s unlikely to take this development lying down.
And then there is New Orleans, an entity unto its own. No longer French or Spanish, nor exactly Confederate, either … the city is occupied by Texas – to no one’s real satisfaction.
Following the Union’s seizure of the important port and river city, New Orleans was subsequently “liberated” by its nearby CSA ally, a powerful republic fueled by oil and emerging technology.
However, the Confederacy lacked the resources to protect and maintain the city; Texas agreed to remain in charge in the interim, but the interim has dragged on for decades.
The Texian soldiers don’t want to be there; they want to go home. Confederates see the Texas occupation as an insult and a reminder of their military failure. And Union sympathizers – of whom there are more than a few – work diligently to undermine the occupation.
This is a city full of spies, intrigue, and a new emerging peril: the undead who gather down at the river’s edge near the French Quarter, indiscriminately seizing Texians, Confederates, and Union spies alike.