Blackwood Empire

I probably should have answered this question a LOOOONG time ago, but better late than never.

JUST WHAT THE HECK IS BLACKWOOD EMPIRE?

“Blackwood Empire” is the overall title of a collection of works set in a steampunk universe. I hesitate to call it a ‘series’, because ‘series’ implies some sort of order, and given my penchant for writing this stuff as it comes to me, very rarely do the novels and short stories I’m working on follow chronologically. It’s complete chaos, much like the period in time the stories take place. Right now, it comprises of two main works: Where, No One Knows, a full length novel, and the ongoing Blackwood Gazette. There’s also the short story The Doomsday Toad. There are several other works in progress, of course, like The ‘Shroom Job, which I’ve put on hold but parts of which can be found on this site, A True Account of Waystation Bravo, currently in progress, and Night of the Scarlet Circle, a novel I started but completely lost when my previous computer decided to off itself last year.

JUST WHAT THE HECK IS THE BLACKWOOD GAZETTE?

The Blackwood Gazette is an in universe newspaper detailing the lives of the Empire’s people, and the major events of the day. My initial intent was to be mostly comedic, and while comedy is still something I try to squeeze in whenever I can (the overall tone is meant to be more ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ rather than ‘Game of Thrones’), but some things just can’t be made funny. It’s also an exercise at world building and back story. I also hope to use it as a way of illustrating the tenuous relationship between truth, fact, and interpretation. Also, there are moments when the Gazette might be used for straight up propaganda, or misinformation, When I start getting around to writing actual narratives based on the stories in the Gazette, sometimes what happens in the stories won’t line up with what’s reported in the Gazette. I’m hoping that A True Account of Waystation Bravo will illustrate this idea.

The concept is also a complete rip-off of the Cerberus HQ news updates that ran alongside the release of the video game, “Mass Effect 2.”

Man, that was an awesome game.

WHAT SETS BLACKWOOD EMPIRE APART FROM OTHER STEAMPUNK?

I honestly have no idea. I’m operating with a decidedly shallow idea of the genre. I’m aware of the cliches (gears on everything! everyone wears goggles!), but I’ve only dabbled. In the works I have read, however, I’ve never seen the question asked, how does a steam based society sustain itself? Wouldn’t the constant need for lumber and coal lead to rapid deforestation and strip mining? So using that conceit, I came up with a McGuffin in the form of Blackwood, not necessarily to prevent the idea of rapid deforestation, but slow it down long enough to make it something interesting.

SO, BLACKWOOD ISN’T JUST A WEIRD SCI-FANTASY SUBSTITUTE NAME FOR COAL.

No. Blackwood is its own thing.

SO, WHAT IS BLACKWOOD, WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE STORY?

Blackwood is an artificial substance, created by ancient alchemical formulae that have been lost over the course of a millennium. It burns slowly but powerfully, allowing entire cities to be powered on chunks the size of a boulder. It isn’t unlimited, however, and the rapid advancement of a society comprised of three united empires isn’t helping. That’s the central conceit: Blackwood is running out, Rigel Rinkenbach is working on figuring out how to make it, and pretty much anyone with a modicum of power either wants that secret for themselves, or wants it silenced forever.

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE OF POWER?

Well, you have the three members of the Imperial Triumvirate: Crowndon, Nor Easter, and Monteddor, and their various leaders. Though they’re united, there’s all kinds of bad blood between them, and between the nations and factions within (Monteddor especially, whose nations are basically run by criminal overlords. Also, the source of Blackwood is in Monteddor, making them real important). Then you have all kinds of shady characters in the periphery: The independent Empire of Sarnwain, which has little to no access to Blackwood; The Scarlet Circle, an organization of female assassins that is supposedly neutral; the Nor Eastern Subterfuge Society, which, despite its name, isn’t very big on subtlety;  The Triumvirate Colonies, who mostly have their own problems; rogue entities like the outlaw Argyle Von Grimm, the pirate Roderick Beauchamp La Pierre, the pirate huntress Johanna McKilroy, and the rebel bandit Dougherty; and finally, the extremely secretive, illuminati-ish Ephemeral Cartographers. All that, plus anyone I haven’t made up, yet.

YOU HAVEN’T REALLY MENTIONED RELIGION AT ALL IN THESE STORIES. WHAT GIVES?

I’m still trying to figure all that stuff out. Religion hasn’t really had a part to play. I’m playing with some ideas though, got a few broadstrokes down: Basically, Crowndon has this really weird concept of religion: they believe in a higher power, but their relationship to that power is antagonistic. All their building and development is meant as a big finger to whatever it was that created them; they’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re better creators than you.’ Or something like that. There are several smaller systems in different regions, pockets of polytheism and such. Like I said, I’m trying to iron this shit out. Nor Easter, they’re pretty much atheists. They used to have religions, and they still tell the stories, but for them its mostly just quaint amusement or tales to tell around a fire. Monteddor, on the other hand, is religious in a traditional sense; its mostly the citizenry that truly believe. For the most part, however, the leaders of Monteddor use religion as a political tool.

ANY THING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW?

Not that I can think of right now. Check back later.

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