1879: Returning to Alice

This week marks my return to the 1879 Fort Alice Sourcebook, which has been sorely neglected for far too long. Some of the files have datestamps from this past November, which isn’t that long ago, but then there’s some from August, and then there’s the Mechanics chapter, which is done last as it’s the stats and such, and it’s dated June. Of 2015.

Hokey smokes.

Okay, so when 1879 got started, I had a lot of ideas all at once, and made a lot of notes and created a bunch of folders and laid out a product line for like several years. I didn’t expect the layout bottleneck to be so bad, and had kind of thought that Fort Alice (and its companion adventure, Saurids on the Grosvenor Express) would be out maybe two or three years ago, but life is what happens while you’re making other plans.

So today I have opened the folder for the first time in a while, and need to review the structure and see where we are. I need among other things to develop an overview of the book as a whole. What is this book addressing? What is its theme? What social issues are we taking on here, as there is that “punk” in steampunk that demands we deal with class conflict and injustice. Who are the historicals we’re using, and who are the established fictionals, and what new characters do we need to bring in to complete the cast? Does the chapter organization flow well? Is the writing thus far clear and crisp, or at least as much so as anything in a late Victorian style could ever be?

The first four chapters have been through Editorial and are in lockdown, so if they get revised, they have to go back through Editorial. This is not something that should be used to prevent changes, but rather just an awareness that this material is stuff we were at the time ready to commit to. Those chapters are the Intro, which sets the tone and theme for the book, and lays out the structure of its chapters; History, which Fort Alice doesn’t have much of comparatively but a lot has happened in the past couple of years; The Fort Proper, where we delve into the military base that comprises half the town and is its primary reason for existing; and the Town of Alice, where we talk about the civilian side, and get into the shops and businesses and organized crime figures and all that.

Remaining to be written or completed are the Zulus, who occupy considerable territory outside of Alice, with the Prince’s ikhanda and the support village for the Zulu regiment; the Railroad, where we’ll get more into the Alice & Gruv, its daily operations, its current reach and growth efforts, and its long term plans; The Vicinity, where we cover those areas close to Alice that impinge upon its daily life, like the regimental villages for the Maori, the Gurkhas, and the various peoples of the Indian regiments; the Saurids, where we discuss the nearby tribes, talk about their daily life a little, and dig into their often fractious, sometimes hostile relationship with the Earthers; and then the Bestiary and Mechanics chapters, where we give the descriptions and stat blocks for some new critters and NPCs and devices and whatever. You know, the crunchy stuff that’s always in the back of a FASA book.

Looking at the Vicinity chapter, there’s a lot of loose notes that need to be fleshed out. Looks like this chapter has some basic structure, but is largely just sketched out, not really organized. It’s also going to cover the airfield, which is three miles west of Alice for obvious reasons. Just recently, someone has opened the airship equivalent of a custom shop, where you can get parts and tools to dress up and augment your ship. A couple of the villages have some text, Bheri for the Gurkha regiment and their families, Vesali for the Sepoy Regiment, with an acerbic diatribe by a military historian on the term – well, let’s let him speak for himself:

Properly, sepoy only refers to infantry under the rank of lance corporal, with cavalry soldiers given the title of sowar, or trooper. Sergeants and officers are properly referred to by their rank rather than the speciality of their unit. The British Army being a bit stodgy, the term has been retained for Indian Army units under British command from the days of the East India Company. The cavalry officers find it particularly chafing for their squadrons to be referred to as sepoys, and may correct the speaker if they hold sufficiently greater rank, usually two levels past the person annoying them. – Captain Isaac Steinmetz, Historian, 1st Grosvenor Brigade

The Maori regiment’s village has a name, roughly meaning New Starting Place, but it needs to be run past a native Maori speaker to make sure it’s properly structured, and the Bengali Lancers’ home village doesn’t even have that. Long way to go here.

The Saurids chapter is only 79 words, a note about how they’re sabotaging heavy equipment in the Fort to screw with the colonizers. The Bestiary has two completed critters, the Mind Parrot and the Winding-Sheet, and notes for several others, including the Gruv’s particularly aggressive grave worms; the hepzibah, a tree that takes the idea of a skunk pine to rather an extreme; and the prohaska, a silicon-based creature that burrows into the bedrock to get at tasty veins of mineral. No guarantee that any of these will make it into the final version.

Well. I have to go back and re-read the first four chapters, get back up to speed on the project, and get it moving again. Lot of work cut out for me here. Best get cracking.

Tally Ho!