When I was a kid, I loved books with maps in them. And I still do! So when I began developing the idea for my forthcoming alternate history middle grade steampunk adventure, The League of Seven, I started with a map.
My world is steampunk because there are giant, ancient monsters in it called the Mangleborn (think Lovecraftian creatures like Cthulhu) that feed on electricity. Every time human civilization discovers electricity and covers the world with generators and electric lines, the monsters rise up and destroy the world. Seven archetypal heroes rise each time to put the Mangleborn back in their prisons beneath the earth and the sea, but in time people forget, the Mangleborn become creatures of myth and legend, and we do it all over again. Mu, Lemuria, Atlantis, Rome, they've all conquered the world, discovered electricity, and been destroyed by the Mangleborn.
To break the cycle, a group called the Septemberist Society arose after the last cataclysm with a dual mission: keep an eye on the Mangleborn, and keep humanity from rediscovering and developing electricity again. They've been successful in the Americas, but in Europe they failed. Most alternate histories I've read have one pivotal point where history diverged from what we know, and although my world history is very different (Mu, Lemuria, and Atlantis were all real civilizations, originating in China, South America, and North America, respectively), my world of 1875 America has a lot of similarities to the real America of the 1870s. (Because that's more fun, right?)
In my world, the Mangleborn rose in Europe in 1770. The moon turned blood red, the seas became choppy an impassable, and all contact with the Old World was lost. Stranded, starving, and alone, the thirteen colonies turned to the Iroquois League and became their seventh “tribe”—the Yankee tribe. In time, more First Nations joined the league, and by 1875 the United Nations of America stretches from the Atlantis Ocean in the east to the Mississippi River in the west and the Gulf of Mexico in the south to Acadia in the north.
New Spain still exists in the south—they had a much stronger foothold there by 1770 than did the English in North America by that time. Louisiana is a monarchy, ruled by Queen Theodosia, daughter of King Aaron Burr, whose conspiracy to conquer New Orleans was never stopped by the fledgling United States of America in my world. Texas and California are their own countries (naturally), and the Japanese have a colonial foothold in the Pacific Northwest, pushed east by the rise of Mangleborn in China (Cathay). Between the United Nations and California are the remaining unaffiliated tribes of North America, all of whom are nations unto themselves. But these are not the American Indians of the Westerns—they are the remnants of a once-great Atlantean civilization, with rayguns and steam engines and advanced cities all their own.
When I sold the book to Tor/Starscape, they redesigned the map for the front of the book. I changed some of the tribe names as I did more research and clarified who would be where by 1875. I also added a few more Native American cities, like Cahokia, Sonnionto, and Broken Arrow, all of which really had been large settlements prior to the coming of Europeans. The Tor map doesn't have the benefit of color like my original map, unfortunately; it had to be black and white to be printed in the book. Still, I'm just excited to have a map in one of my books at last. After seven published novels for young readers, this will be my first with a map in it—and it's definitely one I would have pored over as a kid.
The League of Seven debuts on August 19, 2014. I'm partnering with my local indie bookstore, Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina, to publish a special prequel short story called “Join, or Die,” that's about the formation of the United Nations of America. It also has Benjamin Franklin battling a sea serpent during a very different version of the Boston Tea Party. The prequel chapbook is available exclusively to folks who pre-order The League of Seven from Malaprop's Bookstore. For more information about the book and links to get it and the free chapbook, please visit www.septemberistsociety.com.
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