Any reason to post about Zeppelins is a good reason and this time the reason is excellent.
Indy Neidell, who host the superb and highly recommendable Great War Youtube Channel (check it out and subscribe) has compiled a host of information on Zeppelins and their use during the First World War and put them into a special episode:
Zeppelins – Majestic and Deadly Airships of WW1
And now, please go and check The Great War Channel out, it is a bit of a time-sink with all those well-researched and interesting videos on there, but hey, what can you do…
I have had a bit of a writing frenzy lately. One of the results was Bird Song (see below). I am also working on a cyberpunk and a modern-day Cthulhu short story (both in German). Additionally, I remembered I still had a Cthulhu/Steampunk crossover story in one of my drawers, or rather folders on my computer. It was originally to be submitted to a call for stories for an anthology, but I never got around finishing it in time.
So instead, I gave it a little polish, tried to close as many plot-holes as I could find and self-published it with Amazon.
The story is set in a Steampunk version of Imperial Germany and concerns the sojourn into space of Germany’s first space-flight capable Zeppelin. They are heading for the dwarf planet Ceres.
Here is an excerpt:
We had been at our position for several minutes, I had sent our engineers to check on the aether-engine and the support structure, when Hartwig pointed our attention to something visible against the bubble of the Tesla-field. There is no easy way to describe what we saw. It was large, maybe 20 meters in overall length and of radial geometry. The general shape was that of a flower, but there was something wrong, alien and even evil about it. A dark denizen of the aether. It appeared to be probing the bubble. It also seemed to be tugging at my mind, at least I had this feeling in my brain that something was reaching for me. We trained the lower gun-turret on it, should it attack. This precaution proved unnecessary. It vanished again after a few minutes, during which Hartwig was able to take a few rather blurry photographs of it. My guess is, they can be found in the archives of the Abwehr, our secret service.
Concerning my strange experience, I asked Hartwig if he had a similar experience, which he denied.
Unwilling to risk attracting more creatures like it, we engaged the engines and returned to Earth. We descended from above the North Pole and flew back to Berlin, stopping briefly at Hamburg Airbase, since it had the medical facility closest to our route. We got Bauer off the Humboldt there and flew on to Gneisenau Airfield.
If anyone is interested, I am happy to send out review copies (kindle, ebook, pdf).
Also, it is available for 0.99$ at Amazon, click the image below:
I have expressed my love for Zeppelins rather rarely recently, this post will remedy the situation.
This, obviously, is a historic postcard with the Graf Zeppelin cruising majestically over the fair city of Rio de Janeiro.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Christmas Truce on the Western Front in 1914. It is considered to be the last flicker of the spirit of the Belle Epoque, and so many awful things could have been avoided if the Truce had turned into peace. This is a story of what the world might have looked like, if the Great War would just have been the Autumn Conflict of 1914.
I have often wondered what would or could have happened if the Christmas truce had ended not a few days later but instead would have been the beginning of the end of the war. I have finally put some thoughts to paper and came up with the following little piece of alternate history fiction. It is rather longer than my usual posts and essays, so click below.
The long Christmas
The deep blue sky stretched from horizon to horizon. No clouds promising rain and respite from the summer heat. In his study the old gentleman sat at his desk, the scratching of his pen the only sound disturbing the early afternoon silence. He finished his diary entry, wiped his brow and drained a glass of water, refilling it from a jug next to the diary. The heatwave had been lingering over Louveviennes for a week now and he was getting to old for this kind of weather.
Perhaps he should ask his guest to take him to Paris later today. As if conjured by his thoughts, a car came into view, heading down the road towards the house. That should be him. The car stopped in front of the porch. First, his old friend got out on the right, while on the driver’s side a young man, maybe in his twenties, emerged. “Joseph!” the newcomer exclaimed. “Alexandre, I am happy you could find the time.” The two old men embraced.“And who is this fine young man you have brought along? I presume he is not just your driver.” “Monsieur Granauskas. He is a Lithuanian engineer.” Joseph narrowed his eyes. The youth looked vaguely familiar. Maybe one of those brash technocrats you read so much about these days. “Let’s go inside, I am sure Gustave has already prepared some refreshments.”
The salon was noticeably cooler than the rest of the house. A rather outlandish and expensive temperature control device had been set up in there, doctor’s orders. It had cost the old man nothing, though. Alexandre had made sure the Siemens Werke presented it as a gift. They sat around the mahogany table, the old man’s manservant having prepared lemonade and some light sandwiches. “So tell me. Alexandre, how was New York? I would have gone to the World Fair myself but my old bones are no longer fit for travel, I fear.” “To be honest, it was not much of an event, especially compared to the one five years ago. You may remember, Barcelona 1919, when we introduced the new Graf Zeppelin airliner?”
“How could anyone forget, that damn thing blotted out the sun.”
“This time, everybody focused on the zeppelins again, no one bothered taking a look at the Armstrong-Whitworth tide-powered generators.”
“Those are revolutionary. They will be a boon to the Baltic.” It was the first time the young man had said anything since they had sat down. “Alexandre, why don’t you tell my friend Joseph about your project.” “Oh, your friend’s name is Alexandre, too.” The old man smiled. “Monsieur Granauskas, you have a project involving those generators?” “Well, Marechal…” “Oh please, I’m retired. In my house my friends call me Joseph.”
“Of course…” a slightly embarrassed smile flashed across the young man’s face. “I have drafted a plan for installing a series of his generators along the Baltic coast. They will have to be modified, though. The tides we get are not as strong as in the Atlantic Ocean. With any luck, we should be able to set up the first ones next spring.”
“How are the independence talks coming along? The newspapers and the radio have not reported anything recently.”
“Well, Czar Nicholas is still opposed to the idea. The talks have bogged down. Some radical elements on both sides would prefer violence, either to suppress the independence movements or to expel the Russian elites. I personally prefer a federal solution, like the Austrians chose.”
“Which also led to the independence of Poland.” The older Alexandre added. “It was actually quite fortunate our troops had conquered the area. The Poles feared Russian troops would massacre them, if they made a bid for independence.” “I am still surprised your Kaiser agreed to it.”
“Yes, but what could he do. After The Accord… It was like a good disease. Nobody wanted to take up arms anymore, especially not against a crowd of singing old men, women and children. Hindenburg told me later what he told the Kaiser when he was ordered to take all necessary measures.”
“Oh, you never told me… What did he say?” Joseph’s eyes gleamed with curiosity.
Alexandre’s cheeks were already flushed and his shoulders were jerking with suppressed laughter. “I’m sorry, I cannot relate the tone of voice, but he said: That’s exactly what I will do, and you bloodthirsty bastard will not like it.” It was a few minutes before Joseph stopped laughing. “Oh my, the old general really said that?” He dabbed his eyes with a silken handkerchief. “Remind me to congratulate him, should we ever meet again.”
“Of course, but what else was there to say? I think Wilhelm II was the only one who did not understand what was going on. It is an irony of fate, his decision to send idle troops east to fight the Russians actually helped end the war there, too.” “I read a most interesting analysis of your Kaisers actions recently. The conclusion was, he wanted another great victory before the war ended.” “I agree, I think most German commanders would have. Instead he got peace on all sides. The Russians were only too willing to stop fighting. The poor devils‘ supply situation was dire. At least our troops had enough to eat and each one had a rifle…” his voice trailed off for a moment.
“Christmas 1914, who would have thought it…” “Yes, I still remember when my adjutant burst in and told me the English and your soldiers were singing songs together in no-mans-land.” “Seems like a different world now. I actually went to inspect what was going on. That’s when I first met Major Connolly, you remember him?”
“Oh yes, he was present that February in Strasbourg when we signed The Accord, wasn’t he? The tall fellow missing an ear.” “Yes, that was him.” “How is he?”
“Fine, I guess. Haven’t heard of him in a while, now. But I will see him next year. His son and the daughter of Hauptmann Schwanke, are getting married in spring.”
“Oh, do they? Wait a minute… Schwanke is the one who went on this exchange mission in 1915, just after hostilities ended, he was on your staff.” “Yes.” “Their children must have met…”
“… when they were children. We were actually joking about it. Connolly’s wife mentioned in several letters to my wife, the way James and Auguste disliked each other could only mean they were destined to get married later.” “Women’s intuition… Are you married, my young friend.”
“Engaged… It is complicated…”
Joseph sudied the young man’s face. Yes, it is him. “Your father does not approve, then.” The young man shook his head. “Next time you see him, tell him times change. If General Von Kluck and Marechal Joffre can sit together as friends and the German Empire and France exchange Lorraine as a token of friendship, the Czar should accept his heir marrying, I presume a commoner?”
The Czarevitch blushed.
“Well said and guessed, Joseph!” “It is only the truth, Alexandre. Now Highness…”
“Just Alexei, please, I am a simple engineer.”
“Now, now, Alexei.” Von Kluck cautioned “You are not just a simple engineer. You have heard Krupp and Siemens. You are one of the finest of your generation.” Alexei Nikolaevich kept starring at the table.
“Excuse my curiosity,” Joseph Joffre began after an awkward moment. “but do you have any idea why your father still clings to the past?”
“He believes in divine appointment and prays for fate to vindicate him eventually. He has surrounded himself with sycophants… People who tell him what he wants to hear. I fear another famine will bring everything crushing down. The Ukraine is producing enough grains to feed the empire, but the harvest is left to rot because we cannot transport it to where it is needed. Russia is stuck in the 18th century. Sometimes I wish Hindenburg had marched on St. Petersburg…”
“But you will be Czar one day.”
“Maybe. Peter Nikolaevich and his cronies will try to prevent it. They know I will send them all to Siberia or worse.“ Marechal Joffre frowned, the Czarevitch was right. Rather than loose their grip on the Russian Empire, Grand Duke Peter and and his cabal of occultists would do anything to replace Nicholas II with a puppet. A young Czar with radical ideas and no regard for noble birth must be their worst nightmare.
“So, what are you planning to do?”
“Wait for the right moment. I have already made arrangements. It will be risky. Does the name Gagik Ozanian mean anything to you?”
“The Silver Lion of Yerevan, of course! Oh…”
“Yes. As I said, it will be risky. They can reach St. Petersburg by submarine from Danzig in two days.”
“And the Kaiser has consented?” Joseph was stunned.
“The Kaiser knows nothing about it.” explained Von Kluck. “He has done nothing but play war games and make the occasional public appearance in recent years. His eldest son and Reichskanzler Von Falkenhayn are the de facto rulers.”
“And they support the plan?”
“They consider it the lesser evil.” Alexei explained. “The German Empire is well aware of the instability of Russia and they would rather have somebody in charge they know than some greedy nitwits or uncontrollable revolutionaries. There is no good or easy solution.”
“Yes, there isn’t. Did you promise the Armenians independence?”
“No, as I said, I prefer a federal solution. Besides, if I would grant the Armenians independence, the Georgians would want it, too. The Caucasus would fracture into a myriad of tiny independent nations. I have also made sure Ozanian will deploy non-Armenians in the operation. His two second-in-commands are a Georgian and a Tartar.”
“Ah, you want to send the message this palace revolution is for all the people of the Empire.”
“This is what I hope.”
“And if you fail?”
“If I fail I hope to take Peter and his cabal with me. Should they have the guts to fight. But I will be there when Ozanian strikes. It is the least I can do.”
„But your haemophilia, the slightest wound can kill you. This is too risky.”
“No, my old friend,” Von Kluck smiled confidently “it’s not.”
“Here.” Alexei produced a tiny syringe from his waistcoat and pushed it over the table to Marechal Joffre. It contained a slightly milky liquid. He took it and held it up to the light filtering in through the window. “Medication? A cure?” “A cure of sorts.” the Czarevitch explained. “It is a bit like insulin. I have to take it when I need it. It is still new and rather expensive. A team of researchers from the Pasteur Institute developed it.”
“Curiously enough,” Alexander Von Kluck remarked, “two of the researchers, Doctor Martin and Doctor Lagneaux, served as medics during the war, they met in the trenches. Imagine what would have happened had the war dragged on. They might both be dead now. Makes you wonder how many brilliant minds we saved by making peace in 1915.”
“I often think about this.” Joffre agreed. “Every time I see a Zeppelin above or enjoy the service of this device.” He turned towards the Siemens Temp 90 in the corner and contemplated its brushed metal shell for a moment. “Perhaps we averted another dark age.”
“Russia is still trapped in a dark age. Little has changed in decades. Nothing major since the serfs were freed.”
“Yes.” Joffre agreed. “But you are a young man with a goal and fire in your heart. You can change this.”
The old Marechal of France got up, went over to a cabinet and took out three tumblers. He placed them on the table and filled them with cognac. “A toast my friends! To dark times avoided and bright futures to be created!”
They raised their glasses.
I hope you enjoyed the story.
PS: I originally posted this piece three years ago, but the short story is now being turned into a proper novel (in German) in the wake of NaNoWriMo 2014.
The trope of parallel but fairly similar versions of earth have zeppelins roaming the sky is a common one. Rarely, however, am I as delighted to see the trope in use as in the example below. Doctor Who just added to his awesome, how does he do it?
May I point your esteemed attention to a little Android game by the name of Cloud Raiders? It is a strategy game on the steamfantasy side of things, dragons, airships, skypirates, and from the looks of it, cute graphics and a lot of action, it could be tremendous fun to play. The ratings on the Google Play page also point in the fun-direction (4,3 out of 5 stars).
I have to say „could“ because I am unable to play the game on my smartphone, the thing is rather ancient…
Anyway, this is the press release which tells you more about the game:
Game Insight Sends Strategy Games Skyward
With Cloud Raiders
Strategy Games Get Competitive With Building, Raising Armies, and Raids in Cloud Raiders for Mobile and Social Platforms
MOSCOW, RUSSIA and SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwired – Feb 4, 2014) – Game Insight, a world leader in mobile/social games, has announced a swashbuckling new chapter in strategy games: Cloud Raiders. This exciting new game pits players and their armies of sky pirates against fabulous monsters and the most deadly adversaries of all: other players.Cloud Raiders will be released first for Android devices, and will be launching in the near future for other mobile and social platforms, including Facebook, iOS, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8. The game is being developed by innoWate, the creator of the popularMy Country games.
Cloud Raiders takes action-packed strategy games to dizzying new heights by entrusting players with a massive island stronghold floating in the sky. Players assemble armies of ruthless raiders while also fortifying their bases with defensive emplacements to fend off enemy invasions. Over time, players can also form in-game clans with their friends to blast their foes right out of the skies by launching daring player-versus-player (PvP) raids.
In Cloud Raiders, players can fortify their bases with anything from cannons to traps to magical artifacts, while leading their own troops into battle. Players must be ready for anything, including encroachments from massive monsters and legendary buccaneers that wander the skies in search of easy prey — as well as raiding parties sent by enemy players in search of loot! In order to keep their own holdings safe and conquer this brave new world, players can research and unlock new troop types, brew powerful potions to strengthen their forces, launch mighty cannon salvos to even the odds, and build ever-larger armies of axe-wielding marauders, grenade-lobbing bombardiers, and fire-breathing dragons to win the day!
Cloud Raiders will be available for Android in the nearest future. Stay tuned for more updates on this dynamic new chapter in strategy games!
About Game Insight Founded in 2010, Game Insight is a global-facing developer and publisher of varied, user-focused, and free-to-play games for all major mobile and social platforms, including iOS, Android, Facebook, and Web. We are a team of more than 800 passionate game developers who actually play games ourselves. Our internal network consists of 17 different studios that constantly create and update high-quality games, many of which have already become #1 top-grossing hits in mobile application stores and on social networks around the world, which has led Game Insight to build a global audience of more than 150 million users. Visit http://www.game-insight.com/ for more info.
This is the official trailer:
And now for the raffle:
For those of you who want to give the game a shot, I have a code ready which gives you 700 gems, all you have to do is comment or send me an æthermail.
The raffle ends Monday after Easter. Good luck one and all!
The flow of outstanding people producing amazing Steampunk art apparently never ends. Today’s featured artist is the honourable Jarosław Jaśnikowski of Poland. I recently came across his work while sifting through my usual sources for Steampunk material.
Mr. Jarosław Jaśnikowski is unique in his mixing of Steampunk with distinctly surrealist elements, reminiscent of Dali. It is less pronounced in his art in the gallery below, but if you check out his official website and (for those who, like me, are not that fluent in Polish) his Facebook age, you will soon see what I am talking about.
But enough talk, here is a very small teaser of Jarosław Jaśnikowski, please enjoy:
I guess your interest is kindled now, so check out:
It was already back in 2010 when I posted an image of a most splendid airship by Vadim Voitekhovitch to illustrate an article about Steampunk in Russia. This one:
Back then, I did not know who the artist was, I have since been informed and updated the blog post.
Now it is high time to feature the artist, Vadim Voitekhovitch.
Mr. Voitekhovitch is a Belarus-born artist who has lived in Germany since 2004. He received his education and training at the Bobruisk Art College. Here is a presentation of his portfolio:
As you can see he creates visually stunning, powerful land-, city- and airscapes, full with detailed visions of a past that never was. He also shares an enthusiasm for Zeppelins and airships I can easily relate to.
It has been a really long time since I last posted a Zeppelin image.
This is the passenger Zeppelin LZ 11 Viktoria Louise, her maiden flight was 14th of February 1912. She is named after the youngest daugher of Kaiser Wilhelm II.