Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Some Thoughts On The World of Aleksander Liyosh

In the history of our world, there has been a repeating pattern of barbarian invasions coming out of central Asia and crashing into the civilizations of Europe and the Middle East. This can be traced all the way back to the original Indo-European speakers, and continued with the Huns, the Magyars, the Turks, and the Mongols, as well as many others. This happened because there were real limits to the abilities of central governments to maintain standing armies, particularly on frontiers. Nomadic tribes, by contrast, could easily shift from a peacetime footing to an aggressive, expansionist force. Nomads, in turn, were limited by the ability of their leaders to hold such non-cohesive groups together and so were never able to completely overrun the West. 

In the 16th Century, however, the age-old pattern began to shift. This was due to the increasing effectiveness of muskets. A peasant conscript army or a farmer's militia with guns had a huge advantage over guys on horses. Huge. Nations like Russia began pushing into the Asian steppes, seizing territory, conveting it to agriculture, and blowing away marauders. 

But the invention of gunpowder is a funny thing. It appeared around AD 1000, but took several centuries to develop into an effective weapon. In the 1400s bronze cannons brought about the fall of Constantinople and the English sub-kingdom in France. And in the 1500s hand weapons changed infantry warfare forever. But gunpowder is made from three very common ingredients: sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter. There were no prerequisite inventions - anyone could have figured out how to combine these elements a thousand years earlier, possibly preserving the Western Roman Empire. Or, it could have never have happened at all.

Which brings me to Aleksander Liyosh. He lives in a world where gunpowder was never invented. In many ways it's comparable to the early Victorian era. Ships sail the seas, central governments are managed by bureaucrats, young men and women dress in high fashion and attend balls and operas. It just happens that there are no farmer militias to hold he barbarians at bay.

1 comment:

  1. I hope someday that you will return to the World of Aleksander Liyosh, good sir.