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1632 plot threads refers to the complex mix of overall story arches or sequences within the best selling alternate history series Ring of Fire, which grew rapidly from a stand-alone novel (1632) to published works numbering in the high teens as of October 2007—and most of that since 2004. This article will attempt to survey the general meaning of the term plot threads within the series and on the very active Baen's Bar web discussion forums related to the series, in particular, 1632 Tech Manual which is the sub-forum where many of the details of the shared universe mega-series have been hammered out, researched and reported on to other participants.

ApproachesEdit

Milieu creator, series Editor, and keeper of the fictional canon Eric Flint has opined he thinks in terms of plot threads in terms of major protagonists. But most web chatter devolves around geographical "spheres of influence", locations, or where protagonists have a general effect. As a series focused on displaying a believable neohistory given the series beginning—of being as realistic as possible given the initial series premises—the two approaches both fail equally in covering all the cases by any strict measure, because the rich character set who is starring in one thread will almost invariably appear in one or more other story lines as a personal departure point for that characters personal biographical history, or as a supporting role for events depicted in a book mainly covering events in another thread.

Messy historyEdit

"Real history is messy," Flint has written in the foreword to Ring of Fire in explaining why he took the unusual step of opening a universe consisting of a single novel at the time into a shared universe. A champion of the common man, Flint disdains the "Strong Man theory of History", where big figures of heroic scope define events, but instead lays claim throughout the entirety of works in the series, that history is the small actions of common men acting in their own self-interest who in the aggregate determine historical forces and force events and responses from those in power, who might lay some claim to being a giant of history—the statesmen and power brokers who dot the I's and cross the T's and add occasional curlicues to the historic march of events—riding the torrent far more often than leading it in Churchillian or Rooseveltian fashion. That some persons of that mold have existed is not disputed, but that the narrative report that makes up historical reporting tends to overstate their impact and role, is Flints theme.

Plot threadsEdit

No matter what approach one takes to classifying a plot sequence in the series—be it geographical or character based—the key element of the series to comprehend is that the events depicted in its now voluminous works are not taking place in a vacuum, but in most cases are concurrent with developments in other parts of the European center. Indeed, in an October 2007 announcement on his web site, Flint announced an agreement that the three joint books (under contract since 2002) with best selling author David Weber will take place in a Naval thread, indicating the Eurocentric focus of the series, at least taken with some expressed interest by Michael Stearns to curtail slave trading before it builds up steam, will likely create settings well outside Europe as the technologically advanced naval capabilities of the United States of Europe give it a reach not available to the average European power, even if it resorts to sailing ships over oceanic distances where the Emergency Committee and New United States authorities were careful to hide key portions of their library resources in order to maintain a technological edge as they "gearing down".

Geographical threadsEdit

Central European threadEdit

The "Central European thread" or more correctly, the "Central and Southwest Central European thread", is the "main plot thread" of the series. It concerns events in the region from west to east of the kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland, Northern France, The Spanish Netherlands, French Netherlands and the Dutch Republic, and the whole of western Germany eastwards to Brandenburg (where Gustavus entered the continent) the Electorate of Saxony, and southerly to the northern reaches of Bavaria. Bavaria proper, Switzerland, Austria, Bohemia and points easterly and north are properly geographically part of the Eastern European thread as the breakdown of sequels focuses a reader's attention.

Eastern European threadEdit

The Eastern European thread is taken to be east of the East Central European thread, the later of which may be understood as the base line through eastern parts of modern day Germany, Austria, western Hungary. The first fiction written within these theatres was the novelette "The Wallenstein Gambit" and the prequel short stories leading up to it, all published in Ring of Fire but subsequent long fiction planned in the setting had to await authors scheduling issues, so the plot begun by Flint and finished in outline took a back seat to southern, western and central European events which both had ready collaborating authors and themes of their own to explore in the neohistory. So in June 2006, the writing team of Paula Goodlett and Gorg Huff cracked the Eastern European barrier in "Butterflies in the Kremlin, Part 1: A Russian Noble" when they began the series action in Tsarist Russia in the sometimes comic, sometimes serious serialized novel Butterflies in the Kremlin, which is part adventure, part romance and part spy story. In action to date, an uptime American has moved to Moscow, scandalized the elite of the society, ticked off the bureaucracy and much of the nobility, and helped fight a battle and win it with Poland. Meanwhile the Prince-spy in Grantville has fallen for an American girl (both a commoner and a non-virgin) and as of Grantville Gazette XVIII are getting married, which is a big deal back in the society of old Moscovy, where the church and the nobility hasn't quite come to grips with a changing world and after a century, half of them still haven't noticed that the grand-duchy has become the Tsardom of Russia.

East Central European threadEdit

Other works that can be characterized in the setting are parts of the novel 1634: The Bavarian Crisis and the forthcoming sequels 1635: Soldier of Bohemia (long delayed while resolving the demanding schedules of Flint and David Weber— which delayed the whole series for several years as the 1634: The Baltic War sequel would have been adversely affected.) and 1635: The Eastern Front are also believed to be set in the Eastern or East Central threads. Beginning in September 2007 Flint began the ongoing serialization of the The Anaconda Project novel which continues from where The Wallenstein Gambit left off beginning in the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague with discussions in the early chapters about acting militarily and politically (by local CoCs) in the east (Silesia and other outlying areas of southern Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth).

The original "working title" of Soldier of Bohemia was 1635: King of Bohemia, and that title and clues revealed in 1634: The Bavarian Crisis, which in the most part geographically can be laid in this regional setting. The solo Flint novel, The Anaconda Project (Serialized to date solely in the Grantville Gazettes) is also in the setting, and is believed to be the prequel to Soldier of Bohemia which it is speculated, will center its action on the reactions of the new king of Austria-Hungary, Ferdinand III of Austria, and his attack on Wallenstein even as he makes peace with Gustavus and the United States of Europe, or not. That coming conflict has been foreshadowed in three separate works: The Bavarian Crisis, Flint's tale in Ring of Fire II, and in the Anaconda Project itself, where Wallenstein is strong arming the popular accidental-hero (part of The Wallenstein Gambit) Morris Roth into becoming a general and heading up his army and plans in the east for he and Pappenheim expect to be busy in the south with Ferdinand III of Austria's armies.

Southern European threadEdit

The "Southern European thread", or "Western South Europe and South Central European thread", or perhaps more appropriately, the "South-central and southwestern European thread" involves characters introduced in the short story "To Dye For" by Mercedes Lackey but the thread plot action proper kicked off in the second published novel sequel of the series, the best selling 1634: The Galileo Affair and its direct sequel, 1635: The Cannon Law, both co-written by Flint and Andrew Dennis. The main characters are in part, Lackey's The Stone Family, combined with Flint's Sharon Nichols and Larry Mazarre.

Naval threadEdit

Busy best selling authors David Weber and Eric Flint in 2002 (writing 1633 and Ring of Fire) originally contracted together and with Baen's Books to co-write the five "main series" books. When working on the long delayed 1634: The Baltic War novel and with the prolonged and ongoing demand for the series sequels, and considering the already experienced delays imposed by the difficulty of getting schedules between themselves synchronized (It took three planned "windows-of-opportunity" before one worked in The Baltic War) well enough for the two to have the three to six months or so needed to collaborate successfully given the attention-to-detail needs, general reasonableness, and characteristic "historical accuracy" imposed by Flint from the beginning[1], the two decided to alter their original planning and spin off a new thread—one based on the United States of Europe as a naval power, which historically alters the fact that Gustavus's Swedish Empire was not (Many are unaware that Sweden did colonize north America—colonies which were absorbed into British North American colonies behind the wall of ships helping the nascent British Empire come into being during the Seventeenth century).

The Americas threadEdit

Stories in 1632 Slushpile regarding obtaining strategically important materials and some which have reached publication in regard to the Essen Steel Corporation and Essen Chemical are foreshadowing activities (mining Chromium for one) in North America, and others are pursuing latex Rubber in South America. In addition, the three books contracted between Flint and David Weber (see above The Naval thread) will in part involve expeditions sent by Gustavus and Mike Stearns to American shores, as Stearns (de facto: Flint's alter-ego), has a burn to address and cut off the slave trade as he did in his Rivers of War series.

Notes Edit

  1. "How it all started (Baen Bar Authors forum post 2 March 1999)". Archived from the original on 2002-10-29. http://web.archive.org/20021029164913/homepage.mac.com/msb/163x/faqs/how_it_started.html. Retrieved 2008-06-12. "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:

    ...[Several paragraphs and lists omitted]

    The basic rule is: NO CHEATING. There will not be any "convenient" 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. ... (more)"
     

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