January 16, 2006

1634: The Galileo Affair,
Ring of Fire, by Eric Flint

I have to admire Eric Flint; 1632 exemplifies the rule that if you can't make something plausible, make it as fun as you can. Flint wanted to see what would happen if you magically moved a West Virginian mining town (Grantville, by name) from the present day United States to Germany, specifically Thuringia, smack-dab in the middle of the 30 Years War: 1632. One day in 2000, during a wedding reception, Grantville experienced a sudden earthquake and power failure. Citizens who were outside reported seeing a "ring of fire" in all directions. And when they went to investigate, there they were--in Germany, at a very bad time.

What caused the Grantville Disaster, as it came to be known back in 2000? It seems a bit of cosmic debris, remnant of the production of a piece of performance art by a super-advanced yet highly irresponsible race called the Assisti, struck the Earth just so...

As I say, if you can't come up with anything plausible, let your imagination go to work and have as much fun as you can.

So what happens when American values meet religious intolerance, rapine, and royalty? Therein hangs the tale related in these books. 1632 details the arrival of Grantville in Thuringia and their initial attempts to survive and thrive in an immediately hostile environment. By 1633 the local threat has mostly been dealt with, but the great powers, notably France and Austria, are getting involved. Grantville has to step up war production, and support their allies with everything they have, plus they must send out envoys seeking new allies. By 1634 the situation has ramified considerably, so much so that a single book is no longer sufficient to cover their entire year. There are ultimately going to be at least three books (if I recall correctly) covering 1634; 1634: The Galileo Affair is simply the first. Although, "first" only in the sense that it's the first to be written and published; the books will take place concurrently. This reflect's Flint's view of history--the world's a big place, and everything more or less happens at once, and develops in ways you wouldn't expect. And this, in turn, has drive Flint's use of collaborators.

Flint has always enjoyed working with collaborators; most of his books are collaborations. 1633 was written with David Weber, for example, and 1634: The Galileo Affair was written with Andrew Dennis. In this case, though, he's a man with a method. If history is messy, with all sorts of unpredictable things going on, and if you want to produce a series based on an alternate history, what better way to simulate it than to allow other authors to play in your world--and then embrace their creations and allow them to influence your own work?

That's the story behind Ring of Fire, which is an anthology of short stories and novellas set in Flint's world. It's a neat collection; I have only one criticism of it, which is that it was published in paperback after the publication of 1632 and 1634: The Galileo Affair, despite being published earlier in hardcover. As many of the characters in the later two books stem from stories in this anthology, there was an annoying sense of already knowing how the story was going to turn out.

Anyway, this is all good stuff; both Jane and I are eagerly looking forward to future volumes, of which there are going to be many: in addition to the direct sequels, Flint's evidently planning a couple of spin-off series. One will involve yet another community transplanted from one time and place to another (though not from present day); the other will take place in the far future, and will involve the Assisti getting their comeuppance. Taken all together, it ought to keep him busy for a while.

Flint is a history buff; he's also fond of working with collaborators, and this extended series

Posted by Will Duquette at January 16, 2006 10:26 AM