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16 April 2012

"K" is for...


Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1890
   Kaiser Wilhelm II Hohenzollern, Emperor of Germany, King of Prussia, was born in 1859 and came to the throne in 1888. He was the eldest grandson of Queen Victoria through his mother, Victoria, and, more importantly, eldest son of Frederick III of Prussia. His love-hate relationship with Britain led to a fierce imperial rivalry for industrial, colonial, and naval dominance. Eventually, this rivalry would help to cause the Great War of 1914-18, even though he was supposedly on good personal terms with his cousins George V and Nicholas II. He was a terrible diplomat, usually angering the very nations he was trying to reassure (the Daily Telegraph interview comes to mind).

   That was the real history. In the alternate history that most Victorian Science Fiction is set in, Imperial Germany is (along with Imperial Russia) one of the great rivals of Britain for dominance of the Earth and the rest of the solar system. Germany is often given the 'bad guy' role as the "Hun," an image from the Great War a few decades after the Victorian Era. Prussian miliatrism and the autocratic government of the Reich (a term the Nazis hijacked later and stained forever) made them scary to the more democratic British.

Imperial German War Flag
   In my VSF universe, the Germans are the prime competitor for extraterrestrial colonies. Like in Space: 1889, they dominate Venus, where the British and Texicans and a few other nations with small settlements are considered by the Kaiser to be unwanted squatters. On British-dominated Mars, they have no official colony, but maintain friendly relations and have sent military aid and 'advisors' to the Galforrian Empire, the largest Martian nation not allied with Britain. In at least one other VSF universe that I am aware of, the Prussians have invaded England!

   So, "K is for Kaiser" - a good villain who really wasn't such a villain. Or at least, was no more villainous in the real world than any other European monarch.


Elderac said...

Another great article. I like that you left it ambiguous and did not automatically brand them a villains.

Your last statement really sums up the whole era.


Pat G said...

The Russians are the historical baddies in this period and the Japanese are allies until after the great war. The Belgians however are eeeeevil.... ;)

J Womack, Esq. said...

But look at the invasion literature. There was a definite fear of the rising industrial power of Germany. Not so great as to engender a need ot ally with them to neutralize the threat, granted, as was done with Russia and France in the years prior to the Great War. Oh wait, can you tell I am writing about just this topic for grad school right now? Who says an MA in history is 'impractical?'

Pat G said...

Or a BA in literature ;)