How It All Started

Posted to Baen's Bar in March 1999

Collected by Bo Johansson 2002-10-19

This is how it all started, with a post from Eric Flint to the "Authors" conference in Baen's Bar. This was before there was such a thing as a "1632 Tech Manual" conference, and the proposed title was "Fire in the Hole" (later changed to 1632).

Topic: Fire in the Hole (1 of 353), Read 501 times
Conf: Authors
From: Eric Flint
Date: Tuesday, March 02, 1999 09:00 AM

I'm posting a new topic in a shameless bid to enlist aid and assistance in my next book. Y'all understand this is a serious and solemn project and there'll be none of the usual badinage, disrespect, wild-eyed-opinion-spouting, surly remarks and the other stuff that routinely transpires in the Bar. (Yeah, sure. And pigs will fly.)

OK, here's the problem. The novel I'm starting on, Fire in the Hole, requires a wide range of knowledge to write properly. Some of that I have (the history of the period, for instance). Some I can get, from friends. But some of it requires me to scramble like a monkey. Any help I can get will be appreciated.

The setting of the novel is as follows: For reasons I won't go into here (read the book when it comes out, heh heh), a small town in West Virginia finds itself transposed in time and place into Germany in the middle of the Thirty Years War. The time is spring/summer of l630 AD. The place is Thuringia, in central Germany. The Americans are in the middle of one of history's worst wars and they have to survive (and hopefully, prosper). In order to do that, they have the resources available to them which would be in any small town in the area. I'm going to be leaving in three days to spend some time there (I used to live in the area -- near Fairmont and Morgantown -- but it was twenty years ago; things change). One of the things I'll be doing is to catalog the resources available. But the kind of problems the West Virginians will face include:

  1. How to stretch out their gasoline/diesel fuel, since their military abilities depend largely on their vehicular mobility.
  2. How to find new electrical power sources which they can hook up to existing equipment.
  3. How to properly heat and insulate modern American homes, buildings, trailers, etc.
  4. How to reload ammunition with the era's black powder -- and, what's worse, how to replace modern primers.
  5. Clever and devilish weapons which could be designed by combining modern knowledge with 400-year-old technology and materials.

I can tell you now some of the resources which WILL be available:

  1. As much gasoline and diesel as would be contained in underground tanks and tank trucks. (specifics to follow).
  2. Likewise, propane.
  3. At least one machine shop (but the problem is maintaining power).
  4. Vehicle maintenance facilities.
  5. Computers and the kind of software which might be available (the plot includes some bright computer-freak kids).
  6. Books available in small-town libraries.
  7. A school (hopefully a high school -- but probably a grammar school. I'll let you know when I get back).
  8. Etc etc.

The basic rule is: NO CHEATING. There will not be any "convevient" stuff that wouldn't likely be in a small town. (No military convoys which just "happen" to be parading through town, for instance). On the other hand, the population of the town (which includes a lot of coal miners from the area who are in town that day for a wedding) are the type of blue-collar folks who can jury-rig damn near anything if the stuff is either there or can be obtained.

Finally, a TIP. Alternate history novels have a tendency (for obvious dramatic reasons) to focus too narrowly on the military dimension of the problem. I want to cast a broader net. One of the things my heroes will be doing, for instance, is a lot of publishing. (Pamphlets, newspaper, etc -- the kind of "psychological warfare" that we take for granted in modern times.) Don't worry, folks. There'll be plenty of action. But I want to tackle a broader range of problems. One big one is how to prevent disease from spreading, for instance -- with the resources available to a modern small-town doctor and/or clinic. (Can you make penecillin, for instance? I dunno.)

All right, that's it. Like I said, I'll be gone from Friday March 5 to Friday March 12. Any help will be appreciated.


Two points were corrected in some later posts from Eric Flint:

The arrival would be in spring/summer of 1631 (not 1630).

The question about insulation was mostly about new buildings that the modern Americans would build.