14 April 2012

"I" is for...

IMAGI-NATIONS

   When I wrote about "B is for... Britain," it dawned on me that while real nations are often the heart of Victorian Science Fiction campaigns, there are a huge number of imaginary ones being used by gamers and authors. I think that the category could be extended to include nations that really existed, but have ceased to do so somewhere in our 'real' timeline. With that in mind, here are a few imagi-nations I find interesting.

Kingdom of Hawai'i The idea of my friend Eli, where if I recall correctly, earlier exposure to Europeans allowed more immunities to diseases later, and an alliance with Britain makes them a protectorate, so that the United States never really develops control there. Polynesian feathered cloaks and breechloading rifles = fun.

King Kalakaua I
Republic of Texas One of my personal pet projects. My timeline has the Republic never being annexed and developing an alliance with Britain. My friend Jim and I have developed a timeline which extends from 1836 to 2036. Interesting place, the Republic. They have conquered the northern parts of Mexico and even established an overseas colony in the Pacific (sort of a leftover of a war against Mexico and France). The Texicans established a colony on Venus, though only trading posts and consulates on Mars.

Confederate States A favorite of many alternate histories is the idea that the South is not defeated in the American Civil War. Maybe the war is ongoing, extended far past the actual four years. Maybe the reinforcements at First Manassas managed to pursue the fleeing Union troops all the way back into Washington, capturing the capitol. Whatever device is used, the use of anachronistic steam technology in the War Between the States makes for interesting games.

File:Confederate National Flag since Mar 4 1865.svg
3rd National Flag of the CSA
Confederated Italian States Another of my pet projects has Italy still divided, but working together against other large European nations. Garibaldi died as a result of wounds, and the dream of Italian nationalism went with him. The major states of the CIS are the Papal States, the Serene Republic of Venice, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and the Kingdom of Savoy-Piedmont.

Laputa Another idea brought to my attention by Eli. Laputa is a flying island which migrates around the Pacific, exacting tribute from the primitives below them. The Laputans have some advanced technologies which they are no longer able to replicate or repair, but can still operate. This includes a variety of flying ships and weapons that are slowly wearing out.

Atlantis The classic mythological 'lost' island, where advanced technology was commonplace. In some VSF universes (When the Navy Walks comes to mind), Atlantis is no myth, but a real place. Atlantean technology can open doorways to the deep seas, and allow players to hunt for Captain Nemo.

Ruritania A classical imagi-nation, from The Prisoner of Zenda, if I recall correctly. A tiny Central European nation, it is mentioned in Soldier's Companion, complete with flag and uniform information. Speaking of which, I highly recommend the Soldier's Companion as a sourcebook, even if you are not interested in the rules.

Free Republic of Ireland Another alternate history nation, where Ireland manages to win a rebellion against the British somehow. My guess would be help from France or Germany at some point, or possibly (though less likely, I think) Russia. Not one I use in my VSF universe, but it is popular in others.

Transbalkania A nation I have never put together, but which I have postulated to exist. It makes up a considerable piece of the Balkan mountains. I know that ethnic and religious rivalries prevent it in the real world, but it gives an excuse for a bewildering array of uniforms.

Bongolesia Originally a setting for Mike Murphy's modern AK-47 Republic game, I took this nation back to colonial-era Africa. It is claimed by several nations, because of the value of one particular plant.

Modern Bongolesian Flag

  And, of course, there are all of the alien nations, city-states, tribal groups, etc., which populate the other worlds of our solar system. Helium, both Greater and Lesser, and Zadonga from the Barsoomian novels come to mind, or my own Galfor, or the Oenotrian Empire of Space: 1889. Really, there are few limits to this categoy of imagi-nation.

   Lastly, one of the reasons we use imagi-nations is to divorce the setting of our games from actual history. This can help defuse any accusations of 'latent imperialism' or Euro-centrism (although the age was Euro-centric!). It's hard to accuse someone of ebing some sort of wannabe Clive or Rhodes when they are 'conquering' an imaginary place using toy soldiers. Sad what we have to consider this point, but there it is...

10 comments:

Elderac said...

Ah, excellent choice.

I was brainstorming to guess what you would publish today and came up with intrigue, industry, interstellar, and imagination.

I thought industry might be it because the industrial revolution that was brought about by steam technology.

I have seen several of these mentioned in the stories of the Venus colony and read your timeline of the Republic of Texas. I have found them enjoyable and look forward to reading more.

Mark

Eli Arndt said...

Thanks for including my projects, even if they never went anywhere.

Hawaii at least really deserves a revisiting.

-Eli

Elderac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J Womack, Esq. said...

Eli: I still have the Hawaii stuff sitting around somewhere. No figs or anything - and don't need any new projects right now! - but the written stuff is about.

Frank Chadwick said...

There was a series of early proto-steampunk stories I read in Analogue back in the 1970s (as I recall) which dealt with a fellow named Esterhazy who was the court magician in the diminutive and ramshackle late-nineteenth century Empire of Istria, Panonia, and Transbalkania. That was the inspiration for Transbalkania in Space: 1889. Does anyone else remember these stories? I may have garbled the details.

Frank Chadwick said...

Ah-ha. I found some more out about this once I dug a little. The author of the Doctor Esterhazy stories was Avram Davidson and the country was Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania, "the fourth-largest empire in Europe." Most of the stories were published as a collection, The Adventures of Doctor Esterhazy, released in 1990. As I recall they were very whimsical and fun reads.

J Womack, Esq. said...

I ownder if that's available on Kindle, or at least from Amazon. Off to check...

Egads! It is available in hardback, but not cheaply!

Frank Chadwick said...

I notice that there is an Avram Davidson tribute collection on Kindle for $6.99 which I will probably pick up. It has 36 stories (or thereabouts) but the blurb did not specify whether or not the Esterhazy stories were included. I'm going to assume so.

J Womack, Esq. said...

Let me know, would you?

Frank Chadwick said...

I have it but it is not clear from the TOC if the Esterhazy stories are included -- since I do not remember any of their names. I'm a little snowed under so haven't dug into it yet but when I do I'll let you know.