Flint - Ring of Fire

April 28, 2004

Eric Flint [ed], Ring of Fire.

I have blogged about Flint before. He is a good thinker and a solid writer, and I do like his stuff. This is a collection of short stories set in his 1632 universe. He did something interesting, unusual, and typical for him with that universe.

The basic premise is simple - a town in West Virginia is transported to Germany in 1632, in the middle of the 30 Year's War, by a cosmic plot device. The inhabitants then adapt to their new surroundings, transforming them along the way, and the most powerful new technology that came back through time was basic civics.

The premise is simple enough that people began to wonder what they would do if they were in that situation, or what the people in that situation might logically start to do, and almost immediatly Flint's fan bulletin board flooded with people who wanted to talk about the universe. He set up a new bulletin board solely for them and, like a good Science Fiction author, turned to the fan base for ideas and technical help. Someone at a Worldcon once commented that you can discover anything if you just ask fans, and she was right.

While picking through this material he realized that his fans were already writing stories and creating characters in his new universe. So, he opened it up to a shared worlds book, and did so while he was still working on 1633, the second novel in that world and the start of a transition from stand-alone to series. Some of the fan ideas made it into that novel, more made it into this collection of short stories.

As Flint comments in his introduction, history is not just the deeds and actions of a handful of major characters, even though the narrative conventions of both fiction and biography require the author to focus on a few people over an extended period of time. (Exception, Harry Turtledove's unreadable wrecks of alternate history, where he focuses on lots of people over a short period of time and does so badly.) Real history is a lot of stories all going on at once, and by encouraging the shared world folks to publish early, he hopes to capture some of the diversity of real life.

Anyhow, the stories are mixed. Some are quite good - Dave Freer's "Between the Armies" was to my taste. Others are quite clunky, with characters who engage in tedious exposition framed in dialogue that no living human would speak as conversation. Several of them take on the conflict between religious freedom and state churches, with Freer being the most emphatic in making Lyman Beecher's argument that it is only under a voluntary religious regime that truly pious people can act according to the dictates of their faith rather than the pressures of power politics. Not surprisingly, Freer and Flint have co-authored a novel about a transplanted American priest who takes the modern catechism and Bible to the Vatican in an attempt to reform the counter-Reformation Catholic Church. I look forward to reading
1634: The Galileo Affair and have asked the local library to buy a copy.

I like Flint, I like this Grantville universe, I am glad I read the book.

I wish I had slept instead, but I was tired and not sleepy last night, and so I finished the book.

Posted by Red Ted at April 28, 2004 09:24 AM
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