I used Grammarly to grammar check this post so I’d have more time to bake cupcakes.
Adventures in Alternate History: Steampunking the Mormon Battalion
By Suzanne Lazear
One of the things I enjoy most about writing steampunk is the ability to play around with history. For me, it’s fun to find odd facts from the past, exploring the what-ifs and never-wases and moving things around in order to create a new history–and a good story.
I remember when it started. I was teaching my very first online class on writing steampunk. Someone in the class was from Arizona, which was where I grew up. We started talking about little known bits of history, which led to a discussion about the the Mormon Battalion and how it could be neat to steampunk it.
“I know where I can put that,” I told her. I wish I remembered which student she was, because I’d like to thank her for the idea.
The Mormon Battalion was the only the religiously based military unit and they served from 1846-1847 during the Mexican-American war. Their march secured much of the Southwest and opened a southern wagon route to California. From a purely historical POV it’s actually quite facinating.
CHARMED VENGEANCE book 2 of my Aether Chronicles series takes place in an alternate version of 1901, where there is advanced technology such as airships and hoverboards.
In my alternate reality after the war the Mormon Battalion eventually became the private security for Deseret territory. In my world, Deseret, (a state that never was) is now an accepted territory, roughly the size and placement of Utah. (The original proposed state of Deseret was much bigger). I include Deseret, because it’s also an odd bit of history which pairs well with my MoBatts–after all, they need to protect something, right?
The MoBatts protect the skies of Desert, especially against air pirates. They are fierce and vigilant. The air pirates fear the MoBotts more than the air patrol. For the most part, they try to avoid flying over Deseret. When they can’t they engage decoys — small, fast ships that draw the MoBatts away so the other ship can pass unharmed.
It was really fun researching both the Mormon Battalion and the state of Deseret so I could figure out how to mold and change things to suit my story. It was even more fun writing the scenes where my characters get chased by (and shot down by) MoBatts.
For my intents and purposes I left religion out of it (the MoBatts were a very small plot thread) and there really is no discussion as to how you become one, nor do we meet any. We don’t know much about Desert either other than it’s a territory, anyone can settle there, drinking and gambling are illegal, and they have little tolerance for air piracy.
Maybe one day I’ll write something where I can develop the MoBatts a little further. As exciting as being an air pirate is, I bet chasing down air pirates for a living is exciting as well, not to mention, as a writer it’s always interesting to create societies and organizations.
Would you rather chase air pirates or be one?
CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13 from Flux, and is available wherever books are sold and as an e-book.
Learn more about the Aether Chronicles on the series website.