Saturday, January 31, 2015

On Flags, Commissions and Sean Sherman

I can safely say that I'm enjoying having a blog.  I should probably limit myself to two post per day, or three if I'm feeling especially ambitious.  That way I don't flood you guys with my material and I'll be able to stretch things out.  I guess I've been missing writing for an Internet audiance the way I did when I wrote for Fanfiction and Fictionpress, and don't worry, we will talk about what I did on those sites sooner or later.  For right now, though, let's talk about flags.

I've loved flags for as long as I can remember.  I've always been fascinated by their designs and their histories.  I even have a collection of flags of world nations, American states, Canadian provances and historical flags of various nations.  Therefore, it was perhaps only natural that sooner or later I'd make my own flags, especially after I got into alternate history.  Hey, I've been fascinated by maps and geography for many years, and I started making those when I got into alternate history.  

Now let's take a minute to talk about Sean Sherman, frequent contributor at Alternate History Weekly Update, but he also has his own blog known as Other Times.  Sean frequently contributes to the Flag Friday posts.  What I like the most about Sean's flags is that they're simple but effective.  What I mean by that is that they're the kind of things I can easily see myself replicating.  It was this simple effectiveness that gave me the confidence to submit my own flags to the Alternate History Weekly Update.  I have submitted for Flag Friday a couple other times as well.   

Recently, I noticed one of Sean's flags had the colors from two of the bands over laps with each other. This is something I've had occurred in my own flags, but it didn't bother Sean or Matt.  It's little things like this that let me know I'm doing something right, and that my flags really are good just as they are.  As you may have guess my flags have appeared on Flag Friday a few times as well.  

Speaking of flags of mine I have some very exciting news.  Toixstory, on of my favorite map makers, recently commissioned me to make a series of flags for his/her (I was never quite clear on Toixstory's gender) Grand War series.  It all started when Toixstory expressed a desire to have more flags based on his/her timelines.  So I took it upon myself to make a flag based on Islamic China from the Grand War map, pictured here

Toixstory loved it so much that I was asked to make flags for the other nations of the Grand War universe.  I made good on my promise and I will receive credit when the map and story come out, which should be relatively soon.  

Speaking of flags I've made, just as I'll be posting maps I've made to this blog I will also be posting flags while I work on my column, The Audio File, for Alternate History Weekly Update.  I should post the first flag soon so stay tuned for that.  

Cato's War: A Twilight Histories Map

Well, I promised you that I'd post one of my Twilight Histories maps and here it is.  With these maps I take what is said in the show and expand on it to try to flesh out the worlds and their histories.  This maps was based on the episode Cato's War and is set in 1962:

The South won the American Civil War. There were numerous factor that caused this. Among them included the deaths of Union generals Grant and Sherman early into the war, and the survival of Confederate generals Albert Sydney Johnson and Stonewall Jackson. The Confederates saw victory at the battles of Shiloh, Antietam and Gettysburg. These victories allowed the Confederacy to receive support from Britain and France. Eventually, the fighting came all the way to Washington DC. While standing on a rampart and observing a battle, Abraham Lincoln was shot by a stray bullet and died of his injures a few hours latter. Andrew Johnson was also injured, but not quite as badly; he died of his injuries a few months later. Johnson's successor proved to be less than competent at handling the war effort and was defeated in a landslide in election of 1864.

By 1865 the Union's will to continue the war had dried up, and the Confederacy officially received its independence. As part of the peace treaty Kentucky and Indian Territory were ceded to the Confederacy. The Confederate sympathizers within Kentucky had tightened their grip on the state government early on. Though Kentucky saw more battle than in our world, it also served as a buffer for the rest of the Confederacy. Though the Confederacy promised Native Americans a place in the new government, even granting them their own state of Sequoyah, they would violate these treaties increasingly over the years. Native Americans were frequently forced off of their land to make way for white settlers.

The early years of independence would come to define the Confederacy. The Confederacy was far from united, and many of its citizens had been opposed to the War of Succession. Rebellions are uprisings were frequent, but most were quickly put down, and this served to strengthen the power of the federal government. As the years went on, however, the Confederate government had to take increasingly authoritarian measures to maintain order. Eventually, the Confederacy devolved into little more than a tin pot dictatorship. Industrialization occurred, but at a snails pace and the Confederacy remained primarily an agrarian nation. An anti-slavery movements were quickly put down, and after considerable debate, it was decided that Native Americans counted as blacks and thus could be enslaved.

In the United States, the Republicans continued to unsuccessfully field candidates against the Democrats. Over the next few decades the Democrats ran almost completely unopposed. However, that changed when Theodore Roosevelt and a group of splinter Republicans formed the Bull Moose Party. Around the same time the Labor Movement, along with more left leaning Republicans, formed the Labor Party. In contrast to the Democrats right-wing nature the Bull Moose Party took a centrist stance, while the Labor Party stood as the primary left-wing party. The formation of the Bull Moose and Labour parties officially signaled the end of the Republican Party.

The United States lead an expiation to open Japan to the world. Over the years the two nations grew very close to each other. During the Spanish-American War the Japanese provided support for the United States. After the war Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam were ceded to the United States; while the Philippines was ceded to Japan. Eventually, Cuba and Puerto Rico were admitted as states. The United States had previously accepted the Dominican Republic's request to become a territory; it too became a state in time.

In China, the Taiping Rebellion was more successful. More emphasis was placed on civil administration, and foreign aid was received in exchange for favorable trade agreements following the rebellion. Hong Xiuquan was killed early into the rebellion, but his charismatic brand of Christianity would live on. Shi Dakai took over command of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and instigated reforms. One such reform was that Hong Xiuquan's interpretation of Christianity would be the nation's official religion, but other religions would not be penalized. Over the years the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom grew to encompass most of southern China.

The Ottoman Empire won the Russo-Turkish War. The empire had been undergoing reforms before the war, but victory over the Russians gave the reformers the extra boost they need to make real changes. In the issuing years the empire was reformed into a parliamentary monarchy, non-Turks were granted increasing rights and the army and navy remained at their peak. The Sultanate of Aceh appealed to the Ottomans for help fighting the Dutch. The Ottoman's defeated the Dutch and established Aceh as a protectorate, but in time would incorporate Aceh and Sumatra as a whole into the empire.

In Thailand, King Mongkut managed to survive his malaria long enough to name Prince Chulalongkorn heir to the throne. Chulalongkorn promised reforms such as the abolition of slavery and free elementary education for all citizens. Though an anti-reform faction soon arose it was quickly put down thanks to Chulalongkorn's strong political base. Upon ascending the throne Chulalongkorn began expanding the canal systems and ordered the construction of shipping fleets for increasing international trade. A general industrialization program was instituted, numerous schools and hospitals were established, and the military was reformed to be comprised of volunteers rather than the defendants of prisoners of war. Thailand also reaffirmed their good relations with nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Mexican Revolution ended in a victory for the Revolutionaries. This was partially thanks to support from the United States and the German Empire. Mexico, with the help of their American and German allies, was able to reform and mend most of its internal issues. Eventually, Mexico was raised to what we would call first world status. Mexico and the United States helped to unite the nations Central America into the United Proveniences of Central America. A canal was constructed in Nicaragua both to compliment and compete with the Panama Canal.

Over the years the United States grew close to the German Empire, and remained bitter at Britain and France for their support of the Confederacy. When the First World War broke out in 1914 the United States, along with Italy and Japan, joined the Central Powers. The Confederacy remained neutral during the war. The United States invaded Canada on the grounds that the British might use it as an invasion route (despite the fact that the British had never attempted anything like that before). Ultimately the war end with a Central Powers victory in 1917. Following the war the Ententes were stripped of large sections of their colonial empires and forced to pay crushing reparations.

Following the war the United States passed a bill granting universal Civil Rights to all of its citizens. Meanwhile, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was unable to solve its internal issues and collapsed in the early 1920s. The former empire was split between Germany and Italy. Among nations that were granted independence as a result of the war included Ireland (which included the Ulster provinces) and India (which was never partitioned). India is a federation of semiautonomous provinces, which has helped ease religious and ethnic tensions.

Russia had originally fought for the Ententes, but later pulled out due to their revolution. What few members of the Royal Family that managed to survive the revolution were able to find refuge in Ethiopia. Upon Lenin's death in 1924 a speech was read naming his successor as Premier of the Soviet Union. However, Leon Trotsky made a series of creative "edits" so that the speech denounced Stalin and named himself as successor. Unfortunately, Trotsky soon wound up alienating most of his would-be supporters and was soon assassinated. Some of the effects of this meant that the Great Purge never occurred and Jews received somewhat better treatment.

The Spanish Civil War ended in a victory for the Republicans. Following infighting among groups such as the Marxist, Anarchists and Communists it was decided that the Spanish Republic would be a social democracy. Since its founding the Spanish Republic has always been somewhat close to the Soviet Union, but has maintained good relations with the other major powers as well.

The war reparations France was forced to pay lead to runaway hyperinflation and economic collapse. Millions of French citizens were homeless and starving in the streets. France wanted revenge against the Central Powers, and they wanted it soon. The United Kingdom's reparations weren't quite as severe as those of France, but they too had grown bitter towards the Central Powers. While the British found solace in the assurances of the British Fascist Party, lead by Oswald Mosley, the French found hope in the form of Gaston Delacroix. Delacroix had written a nationally best selling memoir entitled The Dream Within: Those Who Seek Tomorrow. In his memoir Delacroix blamed France's fall from glory on the influences of foreigners, but especially the Romani. By 1938 Action Francaise had come to power and Delacroix now ruled as King of France.

By 1940 the world was in engulfed in a Second World War. Within a matter of months France controlled the Iberian Peninsula, the Low Countries, Italy, the Balkans and Greece. An anti-Delacroix coalition, lead by Charles de Gaulle, established a government-in-exile centered in Algeria named France-outré-mer. The exiles correctly guessed that Delacroix would focus more on conquering Europe and getting revenge on the Central Powers. The war raged on, but the Central Powers continued to push back the British and French. By 1946 victory was finally in sight thanks to a new invention created by a coalition of German and American scientists: the atomic bomb. The French and British formally surrendered following the atomic bombings of Orleans, Lyon and Southampton.

During the war hundreds of thousands of Romani had been shipped to Madagascar as part of Delacroix's anti-Romani policies. Unfortunately, many American and German submarines targeted several ships bound for Madagascar; not knowing the true purpose of the ships. As the war drew on it became increasingly costly to ship the Romani to Madagascar. As a result the Romani, along with several Irish Travelers, were shipped to a series of mass extermination camps. In total over 2,000,000 Romani died either in the camps, en route to Madagascar or due to poor conditions after arriving. However, over 300,000 Romani successfully made it to Madagascar.

After the war Madagascar was turned into a Romani homeland and received millions of immigrants. This was somewhat controversial as there had also been a movement to establish Madagascar as a Jewish homeland since before the war. It was decided that the island was more than big enough for both peoples, and at worst could be divided into two separate nations. The Romani and Jews have so far managed to coexist relatively peacefully, but the treatment of the native Malagasy, and their calls for great representation in the government of Madagascar, remains a pressing issue.

Japan stayed out of the European Theater and focused on securing its holdings in Asia and the Pacific. Following the First World War, Japan had taken Malaysia from the British and Indochina from the French; by the Second World War they had expanded their holdings to include Manchuria (renamed Manchukuo) as well as most of Indonesia. Japan attempted to extend its rule into China and the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, but ultimately this proved to be more trouble than it was worth. After the war it was decided the Japanese would keep Manchukuo, the Taiping would remain independent and a communist People's Republic of China serve as a buffer state between the two. Japan, along with the Soviet Union, acquired atomic bombs after the war thanks to the work of its scientists and spies.

The leaders of France-outré-mer had long since decided that they liked their new position of power reorganized themselves into the Republic of Algeria. Many international experts have noted, in light of the increasing tensions between the Algerian government and its native inhabitants, worry that the Algerian government may be heading in a similar direction to the Delacroix Regime and South Africa. Elsewhere, decolonization have been going slow, but also much more smoothly than in our world. Infrastructure is being established and the natives of the colonies are being educated in how to manage their nations when they achieve independence. Germany's colonies have been doing especially well in this regard. In a few years elections will be held to decide if the colonies will go independent, stay as they are or if the empire should be reformed into a federation.

The Soviet Union has been on everyone's minds lately. The Soviets first attempted to flex their international muscles when they intervened in the Greek Civil War, which resulted in a communist victory. The Soviets began to grow worried being surrounded by three nuclear armed nations. Things only got worse when the United States and Germany offered to help start nuclear weapons programs in the Italian and Ottoman Empires. In response, the Soviet Union attempted to send a shipment of atomic bombs to the Confederacy; and event later referred to as the Confederate Missile Crisis. For a few tense days it seemed that a Third World War would be imminent. However, the United States and Germany agreed to halt their efforts with the Italians and Ottoman's if the Soviets recalled the missiles from the Confederacy. Fortunately both sides held up their end of the agreement.

A space race has been established between the major nations of the world. Germany lead the way with the launch of the first artificial satellite in 1950, shortly followed by the first manned mission to orbit. The ultimate prize was a mission to the Moon by 1961. It was a close call but the Germans made it first, followed by the United States and Japan. The next major destination is a mission to Mars by either the 1970s or 1980s. Recently, work has begun on an international space station as well as establishing permanent bases on the Moon.

By the present day, the Confederacy has become an international pariah; it's only ally, and primary supplier of slaves, is South Africa. To overall state can generally be described as a cross between North Korea and South Africa under Apartheid. Seven out of ever ten citizens are slaves, technology is severely behind that of most other nations and there's a staggering wealth gap. Confederate slavery got so bad over the years that by the 20th century almost completely discredited all previous notions of racism. To many nations the Confederacy is evil incarnate.

However, things are about to change. In a textile mill in Stonewall, Louisiana lives a factory slave named Cato. To his friends he's easy going and makes the best of his horrible lot in life. He has a wife and children despite this being illegal for factory slaves. Cato may seem unassuming, but he's about to lead a rebellion that will bring the entire Confederacy to its knees.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Twilight Histories Podcast

So we begin with the first official blog post.  There's a lot of topics that could be covered in this post, but I think I start with one that, if you've followed my work in the past, you're probably familiar with.  In this post we're going to talk about one of my favorite podcasts: The Twilight Histories with Jordan Harbour.  

It feel at this point that I should point out that this podcast has nothing to do with a certain book series by Stephenie Meyer.  The title is intended to be an allusion to Rod Serling's classic series The Twilight Zone.  Trust me, there are no sparkly vampires, and if vampires ever do appear in the show I assure you they will be proper ones.  Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about the podcast.  

This is both a time travel and alternate history podcast in the style of old time radio adventure serials where you, yes you the listener, go on an adventure.  The first few episodes, collected as bonus material in the members only section of the website, tell their stories in a detached narrative focusing more on the history of their timeline rather than on stories and characters.  Starting with the episodes Roma Islamica and Ice Age Misery, however, things changed.  Jordan really found his voice, and the stories became much more character driven and personal.  Bonus tracks to the mains shows, continuing the stories of the world's presented, have recently become available on the show's website.  A series of shorter blitz shows, focusing on first-hand accounts of historical events, have also recently been produced.   

There's not enough words to describe how much I love this podcast.  The engaging stories, the creative new worlds, fresh takes on familiar places, the music and sound effects.  It all just works so well!  Ah, but maybe I have other reasons?  Perhaps I have a bit of a personal connection?  Well, you not to terribly off the mark.  

Last year I'd been trying to find my voice/style in alternate history map making.  I had posted a few joke maps, as well as some more serious maps, on's maps and graphics section.  I knew what my next map would be: based on my favorite episode of the Twilight Histories, Roma Islamica, and set 500 years in the future of the timeline.  I made the map, consulted the companion book for details, used my imagination and posted it to  The say it was almost universally negative would perhaps be a major understatement.  

I was under a nearly nonstop attack from all sides.  The other members of the maps board seemed to be under the impression that I'd just massacred 1000 handicapped orphans by hail of gunfire; or that's how there comments seemed anyway.  Thankfully, a few kind hearted members actually stood up for me and called for an end to the torment.  I know it was just a stupid message board, and a bunch of stupid (mostly) Brits, Scots, Aussies and Kiwis (the Americans, by contrast, were much nicer and more laid back) but the damage had been done.  

I began to doubt my ability as a map maker and I was at the end of my rope.  Then I thought, what if I were to post to the Twilight Histories Facebook Page?  I figured I didn't have much left to lose, and if Jordan didn't like it I figured it would be a fitting final nail in the coffin for my map making career.  So I posted the map and...he absolutely loved it!  I really loved it!  

Not only did Jordan repost it on the main page, but it got honorable mention on a Map Monday in Alternate History Weekly Update.  Before long I made maps of other episodes, and then they got an article all to themselves on the Update (two in fact).  I got to meet someone I admired, a celebrity if only to me, and I couldn't think of a happier ending to the story.  

Oh, but the story doesn't end there.  I'm a fairly regular contributor over at Alternate History Weekly Update; and ever since my recent column,The Audio File, skyrocketed in popularity it seems that I'll be writing about audio magazines offering free alternate history, historical fantasy, time travel and all the various punks for the foreseeable future.  That might seem like a problem with regards to the maps and flags I make, but then I started this blog.  I also want to make it clear I'm not being forced to write about audio magazines, it's just how I feel that, for the moment, I can best contribute to the Update.  

So, I shall be posting my future maps for the Twilight Histories to this blog, as well as my own original maps and maps I have produced in the past.  I can't wait to post these maps, I might even post one tonight, and I hope you can't wait either.  Here's too good times, good maps, and good stories all around.  

And to Jordan Harbour and Matt Mitrovich, although I've probably told you both many times and many ways, thank you both for everything you've done for me and all the opportunities you've granted me.  I only know how to pay you back with even more maps and articles, and I can only hope it's enough. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Meet Your Author

Hello, hello hello.  I have many names.  Some call me Arthur Drakoni, to other I am Nick Griffalco and to yet more I am known as Castor Pollux.  Officially, however, my name is Sam McDonald, and this is the first post of my official blog.  People have been telling me for a while now that I should get a blog, and now I have one.  Well, I'm very excited and I hope you are too.  

We'll talk about all kinds of things.  We'll tackle current events, muse about topics related to the world of genre writing, maybe I'll even throw in a few in a few of my maps if you're good.  Some of you probably recognize me from the Alternate History Weekly Update, and don't worry, I'll still be contributing and I have many great articles in the works that I'm planning on sending in.  You might also remember me as the map maker for the Twilight Histories Podcast, and I assure you I will continue in my duties as map maker there as well.  

I guess I really can't say much else, but this was just a introductory post.  This will be a learning experience and I'm sure it will also be a lot of fun.  I should have my first real post out tomorrow.  I'll see you then.