I’ve been playing with terrain again, punching holes where no holes exist and moving ancient monuments to better suit my purposes. Hey, this is alt-history, so why not alt-terrain? Everything I’m writing about exists, just not always where I need it to. How inconsiderate of reality.
I blame Kipling. You see, if you ever read the poem ” The Road Past Mandalay,” the refrain includes the line “And the dawn comes up like thunder/ Outer’ China ‘cross the bay.” Except if you look at a map of the places described in the poem, um, well, the bay faces west. In her notes on the poem, M.M. Kaye described how another author wrote to critics that if they objected to his moving something, well, they had no sense of imagination. Kipling liked the response and left the poem as it is. If he could do it, so can I.
The first thing I moved was Eszterhaza, the palace built by Prince Nicholas (Miklos) Eszterházy. He was Hayden’s patron, for those interested in classical music. The real palace, a very nice estate with lovely grounds that is in the process of being restored after decades of Communist neglect and mild abuse, is in west-central Hungary, not far from the Austrian border. Which makes perfect sense, because it is close to both Eisenstadt, where the main Eszterházy residence was, and to Vienna, the seat of power (and where the family had a lovely town palace.) But that would not suit the story I needed to tell, so I moved the palace east, roughly 80 KM south of Budapest. As it turns out, I may need to move it again, back to the original location. I’m still thinking about that, although the way traffic and trains can be, it might not be necessary.
This week, I relocated a couple archaeological sites and caves in the Vienna Woods. For those unfamiliar with the Vienna Woods, they are a large area of hills and woodlands west of the city of Vienna. This is not a greenbelt version of Central Park (what it sounds like in a lot of guides and quick descriptions). The Vienna Woods are the eastern tip of the Alps, and the area is very rugged, still relatively lightly inhabited, and full of old castles and hunting lodges, hot springs and mineral water wells, and a few monasteries and holy sites that go back to the paleolithic. There are a lot of “odd” spots in the Woods, but not where I needed them. So I borrowed a church here, a ruined monastery there, and one of the caverns, and put them together in a different location.
I try to be careful with much of the material I’m working with. I did not move anything in Galicia or relocate any battles. Although, I know already that I will have to have a map in the book, because pre-1920 locations no longer exist, or have different names (Lemberg/Lviv/Lvov/Lwow). I am basing everything off of “what could have happened,” based on a few minor changes that almost did happen (the Austrians winning at Sadowa, for example, which puts the Habsburg government in a much stronger position vis-a-vis the Hungarians within the Habsburg Empire). But the basic topography of eastern and central Europe, and the plans of the Allies and Entente in 1914, demand that certain things happen in certain locations. I’m just too lazy to, say, figure out what would happen if I got rid of the Masurian Lakes, and how close to Berlin the Russians would have gotten (probably not that close, given the problems within the Russian Army, but the Germans would have had a h-ll of a scare.)
I’ve also added a few places to England and Scotland, made up some mines in Cornwall, relocated a few minor bits and pieces. It’s fun to play with topography, trying to imagine would changes if you add hills here, or flatten out this bit.