Part of the fun authors have with making stuff up for a living is that they get to recreate the past and alter historical time periods to fit their narrative, as many paranormal and Urban Fantasy authors do. We asked three authors to describe the settings of their their most recent releases — all of which take place in alternate histories — and tell us what they think their reimagined city would be like if it existed today.
Gilded, like it's precursor, Tarnished, is set in a fictional version of Victorian London. In the late 1800s, the smog and pollution from the factories spewing out coal and worse had gotten so thick that the classic "pea-souper" expression was coined. Unlike in the real world, the solution to this problem stemmed from a particularly pithy gem Her Majesty declared to the complaining Parliament: "Rise above it." With this in mind, after a period of intense lobbying, a German baron and his son won the right to design the new mechanism by which London's Society would do just that. Thus was London's creme de la creme separated from the filthy, the impoverished, immigrants and those who could not maintain the appearances that Society demanded. Whole segments of London were separated from the bedrock, and when that was impossible, rebuild anew, bridged by platforms crossing between hydraulic stilts. London "proper" now sits above the fog, which sometimes rises and lowers between the platforms that comprise whole districts, separated by canals which are navigated by skilled gondoliers or spanned by attractive walking bridges. Below, it is much of the same as it was before the rise, only with less toffs in the mix: filthy, fog-choked, dark and riddled by the poor and the desperate. Only in some places do the two ever overlap, places such as the Philosopher's Square, and that only but for the fact that there are thinkers on both sides of the class divide.
In an alternate modern world of London, I suspect the technological trend would have gone much the same way it has in this world. The main difference, of course, being the discovery and use of "aether", extracted from the air by Finch's aether engine. Germany would have still formed the Blitz, however it's entirely possible that a majority of the damage would have occurred in those upper echelons, with parts of the lower protected by those platforms. This would have created a little more imbalance in the class structure, causing the fall of the "true elite" sooner, and allowing the lower — and middle — classes to push for territory equality as they rebuilt the railways. If we were to visit this London today, we would see only small sections of upper London—now called "London proper" for the fact most live above now, rather than racial or class divide — devoted to the wealthy, and a great deal of the rest devoted to trade, neighborhood housing, business, corporate wealth, and private sector consumerism. The below would very likely be stacked communal properties, specialty factories and shops, and low-income housing. The attractive walking bridges would be gone — or maintained for posterity—and replaced by sky-bridges and an aether-powered skyrail. Although the Navy's sky ships would have been replaced by the more modern silhouettes of fighter jets and the like, I believe the lower class poor would have followed a lot of the same technological threads. Aether may burn cleaner, but the extractors aren't cheap, and so London continued to struggle with pollution until the very modern days, where activists and social reformists would make a concerted effort to reach out and replace all of London with aether engines and extractors, powering housing and daily living. Which would also conspire to make London's cost of living to lower dramatically. Weapons would be very similar to what we have now, for as nice as an aether charge could be, or various gadgets that throw nets, spark, and such, there is nothing more efficient than a bullet. And these, too, will have been outlawed in this version of London. Which means that most of the weaponry found in London's populace rely on non-lethal means, such as aether-powered tasers — never loses a charge!
In my new series, the League of Illusion, the League is a secretive organization of magical people, including sorcerers, Druids and elves. Their job is not only to govern and regulate those in this realm, but to keep the peace in the regular mortal world and protect them from the more nefarious magical members. Because the League is made up of members of affluent and powerful English families who value privacy, 1800s London is the perfect place and time period to dwell. In the modern world, I suspect the League would still be secret. Or as secret as they could be in a time where nothing is off limits. They would still be based in London, as English sensibilities still prevail. Although I imagine some younger members of the League, those who seek fame and fortune, may be out and about, seemingly in the public eye but still secret. Take an illusionist like David Blaine. Although the magic is real, people would still doubt its very existence. Although I’m not saying David Blaine is a member of the League at all. I could see the League using technology to their advantage. To send a spell through cyberspace would be a great doing indeed. And one I’m sure some members would do anything to achieve.
The universe of Demon’s Curse is a place where otherworldly creatures secretly exist side by side with the dashing Regency bucks and elegant Society dames of nineteenth century England. The Fey-bloods are the most numerous and the most powerful, but hidden for thousands of years are the Imnada shapechangers, telepaths and shifters, who were almost wiped out in a war with the Fey-bloods following the betrayal and murder of King Arthur. The five clans remain isolated in order to keep their survival a secret from their enemies, but this seclusion has come at a price and the Imnada are dying out. Now, they must risk a renewal of the savage war or the certainty of total extinction. This impossible choice triggers the series as the soldiers of the brotherhood, who served as military scouts during the Napoleonic Wars, return home after Waterloo to take up their previous positions within London’s Beau Monde: mysterious nobleman Gray de Coursy, grandson and heir to the influential Duke of Morieux; wickedly seductive David St. Leger, gambler, rake, and scoundrel, and battle-hardened Mac Flannery, captain in the British Army. Cursed by a Fey-blood’s dark magic and brutally exiled from their own kind, the three friends fight to break the vicious spell that forces them to walk the night trapped as their animal aspect. But their ongoing struggle sets them against clan tradition and challenges all the Imnada have believed for a millennium and counting.
When thinking of the future, I like to believe that the Imnada rebels who fought to come out of hiding triumphed over those who wished to remain secreted away behind the magic walls of the Palings. Their existence still remains closely guarded, but discovery is no longer punishable by exile or death. The Imnada have intermarried with both Fey-blood and human as happened in the ancient days. Bolstered by the infusion of new blood, the shapechangers thrive, their powers strengthened and in some cases augmented. Most continue to be clannish, preferring to live with or near their own kind in the same ancient and out-of-the-way lands where their ancestors settled; the Scottish Highlands, the Outer Hebrides, the rugged western counties of Ireland, the mountains of Wales, and the rocky Cornish coast. But others have spread to new and remote locations like the Alaskan tundra, the Russian steppes, or the thinly populated expanses of Australia’s outback. These places allow them the freedom to shift to their animal aspects without setting off a panic among the human population. Their heightened animal senses, telepathic abilities, and accelerated healing make them well-suited for careers in both military and law-enforcement work or in the competitive field of professional athletics. But a few Imnada, fixated with the myths regarding the shapechangers as a race born among the stars, have dedicated their lives to science and the exploration of deep space, hoping to find a way back to their long-lost home world.
You can pick up each of these titles, available in stores and online now. For more alternative histories, visit our Everything Paranormal & Urban Fantasy Page!