Historical Easter Eggs - Steamscapes: Asia Teaser #4

Long ago, I explained our use of alternate history as a form of social justice - specifically, that we can employ it as sort of a "fix fic" for real history. We can imagine what a world might be like without some of the injustices that really occurred, although that often means that other injustices do end up taking their place. (People are people, it turns out.) Nevertheless, this idea of imagining a history that could have been - by dialing down the success of European colonialism just a bit - is one of the core philosophies behind the Steamscapes setting. It is absolutely essential to our approach to Asian alternate history.

 

On top of this, I like to use subtle references to real history throughout the alternate history that I am writing. These historical easter eggs are there for anyone who wants to read or research further, or who already knows something about the location and people whose history I am altering. In the background for India, for instance, I knew that I wanted to incorporate Rani Lakshmibai (or Lakshmi Bai, depending on how it is transliterated). She was an amazingly heroic figure who in real life died in battle during the 1858 rebellion. But in Steamscapes, her outcome is slightly improved:

 

The Siege of Jhansi had been brutal, but Lakshmibai’s defenders had held out for over two months. The artillery advantage had proven critical, although the fort had suffered considerable damage from the British horse artillery as well. The defenders had to periodically send out their own sowars—light cavalry—to harass the British guns long enough to repair some of the damage. Rani Lakshmibai herself led many of these charges, which helped greatly to keep up the Jhansi morale. Finally, on May 27th, 1858, the Sikh cavalry arrived and routed the Company forces. Lakshmibai sent a large portion of her forces east to reinforce the siege at Kolkata. Meanwhile, a number of nobles from across central India who had been removed from their seats of power heard of the victory and traveled to Jhansi to declare their loyalty to Lakshmibai and to ask for the restoration of their lands. On June 17th, 1858—though there were battles yet to be fought—the gathered nobility officially declared Maratha once again independent and Maharani Lakshmibai its ruler.

Rani Lakshmibai

Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi

 

Of course we hope that readers are happy that we've made Lakshmibai the victor of this battle and the ruler of an independent Maratha. However, the easter egg goes deeper than that. The date I chose for Maratha's declaration of independence is the same as the day that Lakshmibai died in our real timeline. (Some believe it was the 18th, but the reference should still be clear.) By choosing this date, I am reinforcing the intentionality of our diverted timeline and clearly indicating what I consider to be important.

Whether you read our alternate history at face value, or whether you go hunting for these easter eggs, I hope that you enjoy what we have done with the historical background in Steamscapes: Asia.

 

-Fairman Rogers