Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"Snapshot" Started With a Question

Guest post by Dale Cozort.

Snapshot: Power, Sex & Revenge started with a question: What if someone was making backups of Earth--the way we should be backing up our computers? A comet hits and wipes out the dinosaurs or us? Not a problem. There is an off-site backup.

That was an interesting idea, but as I thought about it, I realized that the backups could be more interesting than what was happening on Earth. What if the backups were living rather than static? With the right technology you could essentially travel through time by going from backup to backup.

I refined the idea more and ended up with the backups--I call them Snapshots--becoming continent-sized and sitting in snow-globe-shaped artificial universes, sort of like the 'pocket universes in PJ Farmer's World of the Tiers books.

Snapshots are connected like strings of pearls by vents high over their oceans, which means that a plane that can fly to thirty-thousand feet can fly between Snapshots, between realities, a cross between flying through time and flying between alternate histories.

About that "Power, Sex & Revenge" bit in the title: if you're looking for explicit sex scenes you'll be disappointed. Sex occurs, as does revenge, but the sex is not explicit, nor is it a major focus of the novel.

Fair warning: the Snapshot universe is huge and complex, with two-dozen known Snapshots. Several human powers are exploring, competing for influence on or colonizing Snapshots, including the obligatory Nazi, Napoleonic France, both Tsarist and Soviet Russians and two versions of the US, one isolated in its Snapshot since 1953, the other essentially the modern US, complete with a President Obama that the 1953 Snapshot of the US finds incomprehensible.

Another fair warning: I throw a LOT at you about the Snapshot universe in the first thirty pages of the novel and it inevitably slows the pace a bit. You'll need that info, though. Snapshot's characters and plot grow out of the universe and wouldn't work outside it. Don't prejudge what is going to be important and what isn't. I have a mystery-writer's habit of including red herrings and setting up later plot twists with seemingly trivial details sitting in plain sight.

Plot and characters: Major Delia Stiener, posted to the German colony of New Prussia, is both far more and in some ways less than what she seems. Her job in New Prussia is to keep an eye out for incursions from a lurking menace (every fictional universe needs a lurking menace, right?) on the other side of a barren Antarctic Snapshot. That knowledge makes her special because the existence of the menace is a closely guarded secret among top German leaders from the Europe-1939 Snapshot.

Stiener also has her own agenda, stemming from being the only survivor of a decades-old massacre of German ranchers during the Lemur Republic rebellion, a successful attempt by US ranchers to break away from German control. Think Texas versus Mexico. At nine years old, Stiener spent weeks trapped and starving in a cave as a result of that massacre. The resulting trauma shut down many of her memories from that period. She can't remember the location of the cave.

Stiener is obsessed with revenge against one of the leaders of the massacre, Neil McLaury. She has never actually met McLaury, though she has seen him in pictures and on TV. Her obsession is natural, but unhealthy, with hatred sometimes mixing with sexual images.

Stumbling unwillingly into this toxic mix: Greg Dunne. The novel starts moments after a new Snapshot, this one of North America as of late 2014 (Halloween to be exact). One moment Greg has a good job as a Middle East analyst with a think tank that sometimes works for the CIA. He has a wife, daughter, twin sons moments away from being born and a large, supportive extended family. Unfortunately for Greg, almost that entire family is at a family reunion in Hawaii and he isn't. Hawaii isn't a part of the Snapshot, so effectively, for Greg his family no longer exists. He wants desperately to get them back, but the rules of his new universe say that can't happen. Oh, and with no Middle East, his job will soon be gone too.

What I like about the book: I love world-building and then finding characters and situations that make a strong story, but couldn't happen anywhere else but in the universe I set up. The Snapshot universe is by far my most ambitious effort yet, five years in the making, with twenty-four continent-sized interacting Snapshots and hundreds if not thousands more lurking on the unknown frontiers. The Snapshot universe allows something very much like space opera, but with competing cultures out of Earth's history. It also offers the opportunity to explore a limitless frontier--like exploring the stars, but with each new exploration finding some portion of Earth's history.

I also love the characters. Major Stiener, Neil McLaury and Greg Dunne each have their own traumas and dark sides, but each is also strong. They fight for what they want, risk everything for it, even if, as in Greg's case, the laws of the universe say they have to lose.

If you like unique, thought-provoking universes and science fiction adventures, you'll enjoy Snapshot. Don't give up on it. There is an epic story in a wonderful  universe there for your enjoyment.

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Dale Cozort is a novelist, editor of Point of Divergence, the alternate history APA, and a long-term Chicago area fan and writer. Check out his websiteblogFacebook and Twitter profiles.


  1. Cool. Look forward to reading it, Dale!

  2. I've already had the pleasure of reading this book and really enjoyed it! I'm hoping there are Snapsot sequels in the future. Lots of great possibilities!

  3. Sounds really intriguing and satisfying.

  4. A remarkable concept, Dale. I'll have to drop in on this world one of these days.


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