1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 31

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 31


August, 1635

These steep and lofty cliffs

Chapter 15

The Saxon plain, between Merseburg and Lutzen

“Lutzen’s back there,” said Eric Krenz. “We’ve bypassed it already.” He turned in his saddle and pointed to the west, almost behind them.

Jeff turned to look. The road they’d been following from Merseburg had continued southward. The army had now turned east. Most of the units, including Jeff’s 12th Infantry Battalion, were now marching through fields. Fortunately, cavalry units had already gone ahead of them and partially cleared the way.

Partially cleared the way. That was a euphemistic way of saying that horsemen had already trampled flat most of the local farmers’ crops so it was a bit easier for the infantry. Jeff no longer had any trouble understanding why farmers generally detested soldiers, even their own. If this had still been Thuringian territory, the commanders would have given chits to the local authorities, which they could theoretically redeem to get repaid for at least some of the damages. In the State of Thuringia-Franconia, if not all of the USE’s provinces, they probably would have gotten something too.

But they wouldn’t here. This was Saxon territory, and Torstensson wasn’t making any pretense that he’d repay anyone for damages. Looking on the brighter side, he’d also made clear to his soldiers that he wouldn’t tolerate any atrocities either.

So be it. War was what it was. Jeff had gotten pretty inured to such things by now. He figure Sherman probably hadn’t repaid any Georgian farmers either, during his march to the sea.

When he turned around to face in the direction they were travelling, he had to squint a little. The sun had risen far enough above the horizon to be uncomfortable to look toward.

Eric had turned back too. “Gustav Adolf died very close to here, you know.”

Jeff Higgins sniffed. “Last I heard, Gustav Adolf was alive and well and leading his army toward Berlin.”

“In that other world, I meant. Your world.”

“Not my world any longer.”

Krenz looked at him sidewise for a moment. “Do you miss it?”

“I miss my family, sure. I’m the only one who came through the Ring of Fire, you know. But other than that…” He shrugged. “I can’t say I regret it. I would never have met Gretchen, for one thing. For another…”

He paused to check on his horse. The beast seemed placid enough, but you could never be sure what sort of bizarre notions might cross its little mind. Or was it “his” little mind? Jeff wasn’t sure of the protocol when it came to geldings.

Geldings weren’t really considered suitable war horses by cavalrymen and other such dashing fellows of the time. A true warrior would insist on riding a stallion into battle. But as far as Jeff was concerned, that was just more seventeenth century silliness. Stallions were temperamental and Jeff figured he’d have better things to worry about on a battlefield than a hyperactive half-ton animal.

Krenz wouldn’t make fun of him, of course, since he was riding a gelding himself.

“For another…” Eric prompted him.

“It’s a little hard to explain. Even leaving Gretchen aside, I feel… I don’t know. More alive, I guess. Like what I do here makes a real difference where in the world I left behind it probably never would have.”

Krenz chewed his lower lip for a while, thinking about it. “I suppose I understand. But I have to say the thought of being insignificant but alive and healthy seems quite a bit superior than the state of being oh-so-very-important and oh-so-very-dead. If you ask me, Achilles was an idiot.”

Jeff chuckled. “Oh, if that’s what’s bothering you! No, no, you’ve got it all backwards. You think the world I came from was safe?”

He clucked his tongue. “I guess you never heard of thermo-nuclear weapons. There were tens of thousands of those lovely things floating around. Any one of them could have turned the biggest city in the world — that world, forget this one — in a pile of slag.”

Ghastly details followed.

“– also had biological and chemical weapons. Take sarin gas, for instance –”

Eric listened intently.

“– course, there probably wasn’t any designed weapon as nasty as the Ebola virus. That came out of Central Africa, but I always figured it’d get loose some day. After that…” He made a face. “It’s a viral hemorrhagic fever. That means –”

Graphic and gruesome details followed. Jeff moved on to other ills of the twentieth century.

“– overpopulation. Oh, yeah, I figured someday even Fairmont would have skyscrapers and you’d be lucky to get five hundred square feet to –”

“– additives in everything. I mean, you had no idea what you were really eating. And it was even worse in the fast food joints where –”

He reserved particular venom for what had been his own bête noire, automated phone systems.

“– always changed their menus. Call the next day and the lying bastards would insist the menu had changed again. There were stories of people dying of thirst and ruptured bladders trying to figure how to actually talk to anybody. And the one phrase you never heard those fucking computer voices say was ‘call volumes are usually low so we’ll connect you to your party immediately.’ Oh, hell no. Call volumes were always high. It was like grading on a bell curve where everybody flunks.”

By the time he was done, Krenz was looking downright chipper.

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21 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 31

  1. dave o says:

    And how does this advance the story?

  2. TimC says:

    Maybe they will meet with an up time weapon- gas for example.

  3. Daryl says:

    @1 To me a big part of the enjoyment in reading alternative history books is comparing lifestyles and how people react to them. Like many modern people I wouldn’t like to go without modern medicine or comforts, yet I do feel restricted by our cotton wool PC society. These stories allow people to do swashbuckling things that would be frowned upon in a modern city. 45 years ago as a teenager I didn’t have a PS3 or mobile phone but I did get to carry and use a gun working on the family property, drive at speeds that you’d get locked up for now, and generally cut loose. Sigh.

  4. dcott says:

    “he figure Sherman” – figured

  5. Mike says:

    @1 It advances the story by 1) mentioning the route the army is advancing and their rough current location, 2)Contrasting the OTL 30YW with this one: G2A isn’t dead at Lutzen, the practice of giving chits to local farmers that are actually worth something (see 1633 conversation between G2A, Oxenstierna and Spartacus); 3)The first two items are conveyed in a conversation building rapport between superior office (Jeff) and subordinate (Eric) while also showing 4) the “average person on the ground” (Jeff) view of what’s actually happening and their perspective on what their new life is like.
    Given that the fourth point is what Eric Flint stated he wanted the series to be about and NOT the “Great Man of History” perspective, this passage is pretty much standard for the ethos of Flint’s writing style.
    But back to “how does this advance things?” – more likely than not, the second half of this snippet will do that for certain. Since it’s a new month, this is a new chapter and very few of the character POVs or chapters that start a new month in any of the books have been shorter than about 2 snippets worth.

  6. Michael says:

    Passages like this are the heart of the story. Jeff is being a bit disingenuous, though. There are so many ways to die in the 17th century that were solved in the 20th, and they tend to be much more important to the average person than nukes. This was touched on in the 1634 scene with Julie Simms and her child getting sick in Scotland.

    I can understand the feeling of being ‘alive’ in the sense that he means. I’m still not sure I’d trade it for having appendicitis be a death sentence, or wondering if the touch of flu you woke up with would kill you. I know the medical side of technology in 163X was waiting on stainless steel, but I do hope Eric touches on how well it’s progressing.

  7. robert says:

    And all of this (@4 and @5) is about one page or so in a 400 page book. Without a lot of long winded dialog…never mind.

  8. ronzo says:

    @5 Alot of technology is waiting for stainless steal not just medical, they also need it for smokeless powder production etc. I Think I recall hearing that it would probably be at least ten years before they would be turning it out in large quantities in 1633.

  9. Mike says:

    @6 – As mentioned in 4 – this is pretty much standard for Flint’s writing style. At a bare minimum this is the fourth book in the series “main track” (1632,33,34BW, now this) so it shouldn’t be a surprise by now. For that matter, if you’re unhappy with FLINT’s writing style, go read some of the gazettes. If you don’t consider this better than the average, you’d be in a distinct minority.

  10. dave O says:

    #8 et al. As it happens, I’ve read all the gazettes. Some of the writing is bad, Most of it is not. At least the fiction. I still think spending a half-page on 20th & 21st century horrors was a bad idea. Krenz doesn’t have the background to understand anything Jeff is talking about without tons and tons of explanation. And while I hate voice mail systems as much or more than Flint or anyone else, try explaining them to someone who has hardly ever seen a phone. I’m not unhappy with Flint’s style most of the time. I just think these passages are weak.

  11. DougL says:

    For that matter, the reason we have voicemail is that actual people are too valuable to waste answering the phone.

    I don’t consider having such high pay rates that there’s a “servant problem” to be a problem.

    And anyone in the middle of the 30YW that hasn’t NOTICED that you don’t need high tech to kill lots and lots of people is an idiot. Modern weapons? They’re not a horror, ultimately the worst they can do to you is the same thing that a stone ax can do. The wonder is how RARELY they are used. Two a-bombs dropped in anger in 65 years (Jeff only knows about 55 of them, but he should know about those 55). And when they were dropped they were no more destructive than any number of city sackings that had happened in earlier centuries.

    In the 1632 world, pirates are a real problem in the English Channel (and remember that pirates are almost always willing to take on coastal villages as well as ships). In the 1632 world, there are few governments that won’t arbitrarily arrest and torture anyone at any time, with no one questioning their methods. In the 1632 world, I’d be dead about 3 times over from various medical problems I’ve actually had, plus the risk of plague, and I’m niether all that old or all that unhealthy. The problem with this isn’t that it’s bad writing, it’s that it convinces me that a major character is a moron. He should have stopped with “Then I’d never have met Gretchen.”

  12. saladin says:

    this is just a nice talk on the move
    how many stupid or not really serious talks have you had while traveling (and they do it day after day)
    in short it is:”hey i am alive and feel good )and i ignore that the war can kill me tomorrow, or this horse could do it as well the next second”

  13. Jason says:

    you know is some ways this scene reminds me of a Chris Rock, Joe Peshi scene in the last lethal weapon movie where they both go on an on about different fubared things.

  14. lethargo says:

    I know everyone enjoys different stuff, but personally I really liked how thermonuclear weapons and the ebola virus segued into automated telephone menu systems. Nice humor (for me at least.)

  15. Sean Maxwell says:

    I see some foreshadowing here; and also call upon the Keeper Of The Blue Pencil to note the spelling of Lu[e]tzen.

    Quoting from _1632_:
    Now, the king pointed to the northeast. “Because in that universe, chancellor of Sweden, I will die. Less than three months from now, at a battlefield called Lützen.” His lips quirked. “Leading a perhaps reckless cavalry charge.”

  16. Michael says:

    @9: I think you’re replying to the wrong post. I love the style, and consider the mainline 163X books to be one of my favorite series of all time. The side series where Eric had minimal direct writing I find at best mediocre, and more commonly impossible to read. The Cannon Law line was the best of them.

    @3 “Like many modern people I wouldn’t like to go without modern medicine or comforts, yet I do feel restricted by our cotton wool PC society.”
    Agreed, but the vast, vast majority of people only feel restricted within the constraints of that modern society. Outside of both the benefits and restraints they’d run back to moderninity as fast as their feet would carry them. Can’t remember which famous author stated this, but it’s so true in stories like this: “Adventure is hearing about someone else, far away, having a wretched time.” :-)

  17. dean says:

    to 3 i was at work and a woman put her money in her bra and it made me wonder how would downtimers react to us uptimers quirky customs as those, i’ve never come cross anything like it in and the ring of fire series always just women clothes he refer to

  18. Mike says:

    @16 – as the writer of 9 I meant to reference post 5. My intent was not to knock Eric Flint’s writing style but to say his writing is far better than (most of) the other co-authors in the series. If you took my post to mean otherwise, that was not the intent.
    While the 34:GA and 35:CL with Andrew Dennis were decent, I still find Andrew Dennis short story in RoF 1 to be Dennis’s best work in the series. The other co-authors (especially for the Gazette’s) are very hit and miss. For some of the other sideline novels I even made a typed out list of the page #s for key passages so I didn’t have to go back through the whole thing again to see what is referenced in other books in the series.

  19. Sean Maxwell says:

    I send an appeal to the Keeper Of The Blue Pencil, for a correction in geography:

    Merseburg is northwest of Lützen; turning east from Lützen, one _cannot_ be between Lützen and Merseburg. One can, however, be between Lützen and Leipzig. The OTL battle at Lützen, in which Gustavus Adolphus died, was northeast of town, on the road to Leipzig.

    >>The Saxon plain, between Merseburg and Lutzen<>“Lutzen’s back there,” said Eric Krenz. “We’ve bypassed it already.” He turned in his saddle and pointed to the west, almost behind them.<>Jeff turned to look. The road they’d been following from Merseburg had continued southward. The army had now turned east.<>This was Saxon territory<>When he turned around to face in the direction they were travelling, he had to squint a little. The sun had risen far enough above the horizon to be uncomfortable to look toward.<>Eric had turned back too. “Gustav Adolf died very close to here, you know.”<>‘call volumes are [UN]usually low so we’ll connect you to your party immediately.’<<

  20. Sean Maxwell says:

    Let me try this post again… Odd, how the middle got mangled.

    >>Eric had turned back too. “Gustav Adolf died very close to here, you know.”<>‘call volumes are [UN]usually low so we’ll connect you to your party immediately.’<<

  21. Sean Maxwell says:

    Once more, with enthusiasm!
    Also see de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlacht_bei_Lützen

    I have _another_ appeal to the Keeper Of The Blue Pencil, for a correction in word usage:

    The word “usually” doesn’t make sense in conjunction with “so”. (You did _this_, so I did _that_.) Better to use “UNusually” to imply exceptional circumstances, like _good_ customer service. Alternatively, you could use “very” to mean much the same thing, or simply omit all three adverbs.

    “call volumes are [[UN]usually] low so we’ll connect you to your party immediately”

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