1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 09

1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 09


Chapter 8



          Bernie had a private letter from Vladimir to his sister Natasha, whose legal name was Natalia. Vladimir hadn’t made a big deal of it, but Bernie had the impression that Vladimir would prefer that Boris didn’t know about the private letter. So Bernie waited while Boris sent a message to warn the great lady that Boris was bringing a barbarian to be examined and to put mats down on the floor in case the strange creature should decide to take a dump on it. At least that was Bernie’s impression of Boris’ attitude. It was hard to tell what the little guy thought.


          As promised, Boris delivered Bernie the next day. They were ushered in by an armed retainer who looked a warning at Bernie and left them in a warm, well lit, room with a great big stonework heater. In the room was a tall, willow-thin woman with long, black hair and snow-white makeup and red-painted lips. Boris went ahead and kissed her on the cheek as was the custom. She had to lean down to accept the kiss and suddenly they looked to Bernie like nothing so much as Boris and Natasha from the Bullwinkle cartoons.


          Boris and Natasha looked like Boris and Natasha. Bernie cracked up. He couldn’t help it. He had been nervous all morning after the lecture Mrs. Petrov had given him on how important the Gorchakov family was. And suddenly it was like he was in a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon with Boris and Natasha. He cracked up. He almost had himself under control. “Where’s Bullwinkle?” slipped out. He lost it again.


          Things were getting tense by the time Bernie really got himself under control. “I’m sorry. I’m away from home and nervous about the new job. It was just that you two right then happened to look like Boris and Natasha.”


          Now the princess was looking confused again. “But we are,” she said with a distinctly Slavic accent. “He’s Boris and I’m called Natasha.”


          “I know.” Bernie shook his head. “I think that’s what really did it. Not like you, Boris and Natasha; like the cartoon Boris and Natasha. Natasha was tall and slinky, ah, beautiful with a very pale face and red lips, Boris was short and stocky. They were spies.” Another giggle. “Spies who were constantly trying to blow up Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose. I used to watch it on Nickelodeon when I was a kid.”


          “What is a cartoon?” Princess Natasha was apparently much mollified by the notion that this other Natasha was beautiful. Bernie was less confident of her reaction to slinky, though you never knew.


          “It’s a simple drawing,” Bernie tried to explain.


          “Something like an icon but without the religious significance,” Boris clarified.


          “Except the ones with Boris and Natasha moved.”


          “Moved how?” Natasha’s forehead creased under the makeup. “Did they shake the paper?”


          Which lead to a discussion of moving pictures in general and how they were made. By the end of this discussion, Natasha was too interested to be offended.




          “Now I see how it works.” Natasha saw something else too. This was why they needed Bernie Zeppi and the dacha turned into a research center. He had not come here to introduce moving icons on a screen. It had just popped out like a chicken laying an egg. He cackled a bit and there it was. How many other eggs were buried in this stranger from the future and how valuable would they be to the family? Natasha had seen mimes and clowns perform. In spite of his comments, she knew that the movies and cartoons didn’t need sound to attract an audience. She was pleased again when, while Boris was talking to her Aunt Sofia, Bernie managed to pass her a letter “from your brother.” Then he had gone on about Rocky and Bullwinkle blundering along and thwarting Boris and Natasha while Bullwinkle at least didn’t have a clue what was going on.


          Over all, Natasha was quite impressed with Vladimir’s up-timer, as were some of the other people Boris introduced him to over the next week.


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23 Responses to 1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 09

  1. TimC says:

    Being a Brit born in 1946 I am afraid the cultural allusion to Bullwinkle entirely escapes me. I assume Bernie could demonstrate cartoons with matchstick figures and a paper flip-pad -if they have crisp paper in Muscovy that is. On a general point those of us who avoid the GG publications and wait for these main sequence novels will enjoy this even if GGers feel short changed. Oner novel by Virginia de M was enough to decide me to stick to Eric’s stuff!

  2. Stan Leghorn says:

    “Magic lanterns” powered by candles using a glass image are well within the technical capabilities anyone at this time. Travelling shows using them were common in the late 1800’s. And their use for training people who are illiterate can not be ignored. In most cases, it is simply the concept that is needed. With money and time, everything else can follow.

  3. Malchus says:

    I noticed that the Natasha point of view pieces in the original Gazette series were cut. Is that an artifact of this snippet being, well, a snippet, or is this how it will be published? If so, how prominent of a POV character will she be? I kinda liked her POV pieces in the Gazette series.

  4. Drak Bibliophile says:

    While there will be additional edits/proof-readings to this, it is how it will be published.

    While this version will be different than the Gazette version, Natasha’s POV will be shown later in the story.

    Oh, I liked her POV pieces in this book and I hope you do as well.

  5. Jack says:

    I think it’s just being a Brit. I was born in 1945 and watched Rocky and Bullwinkle.

  6. robert says:

    @5 I was born before television and watched them. In fact I have several episodes on um, whatchacallit, tape.

    Natasha is correct about Bernie laying golden eggs. Except he ain’t no goose.

  7. Ed T. says:

    To Tim C. of comment 1, if you care to look on youtube for “Boris Badinov” and “Natasha Fatale” you will find some short episodes featuring the two spies. At least they were on youtube some months ago.

  8. dave o says:

    #2 Stan: Magic lanterns: perfectly possible, except that I don’t think Russia has anyone to make the lenses. Still, I guess they can hire a Dutchman for that. How about Spinoza? I know he’s way too young, and Becky won’t let him, but it’s no more implausible than the rest of this story.

    #7 Robert: Bernie knows about stuff. I see no sign he has the slightest idea how to make the stuff. Suppose he tells them about ICBM’s? Or the Internet, Or IPods? or lot of other stuff which it would be great to have but which they have zero chance of producing? Doing research in Grantville isn’t going to help. This story is not alternate history. It’s fantasy.

  9. Dahigi says:

    @1 – Think “Danger Mouse”

  10. Arlo says:

    Dave You do not understand they do not need a ICBM. They need a reaper,harrow and a plow. Bernie job is to translate not words but concepts. He need not make anything these men just need to understand and they be able to make it.

  11. dave o says:

    #11 Arlo: I find it difficult to believe that a bunch of aristocrats are interested in making things easier for their serfs. So far as I know, serfdom isn’t quite as bad in Russia as it later became, but it’s quite bad enough. And you miss the point that Russia does not have the craftsmen to build a reaper. Plows and harrows they probably have already.

    Russia in this period was largely limited to the Taiga, and therefore is not a major grain growing power. That came from the steppes in what is now southern Russia and the Ukraine.

    Furthermore, Bernie is from Grantville, which is a town with only small scale agriculture. He may know something about mining (coal) and something about mechanics, but he has no idea how to make the tools for either.

    I repeat. This book is NOT an alternate historu. It’s fantasy.

  12. ET1swaw says:

    @12 dave o: Russia, better known ATT as Muscovy, did have grain producing areas. IIRC Novgorod, Karelia, the southern steppes, and the northern Taiga (Archangelesk, etc.) were less than a third of their not-yet-empire. They shared quite a bit of area with the Ottomans (Crimea, Black Sea, Transdanubians, etc.) and the PLC (Belarus, etc.) in grain areas. They had recently extended over the Urals but not yet to their pacific coast AFAIK.
    The aristocrats are interested in freeing up the serfs not to aid them but to use them in an industrial setting to increase productivity and therefore their own income and prestige. Second serfdom is still devolving in Eastern Europe, even while feudalism is dying in the west.
    Craftsmen and craftsmanship are –NOT– absent in Eastern Europe (neither in PLC, Russia, nor even Romania (Transdanubians)); while not as prevalent as in Ottoman lands or Western Europe, it is present!!!! Even the Cossacks and Tartars had pools of excellant craftsmen/craftmanship (maybe shallow, but present none-the-less)!!
    Bernie’s worth is not in his specific internal knowledge (which WILL be limited), but in his ability to translate American/modern concepts to very smart people who can run with it. It is no more a fantasy than any entrepeneur?sp? getting a vague idea and parlaying it to full-blown reality. The rapidity might be surprising or even optimistic, but grounding in physical reality is an editorial requirement (no handwavium built with unobtanium!!!!!).
    It is alternate history, but that damn butterfly is enormous and it has spawned an uncountable litter that are all flapping away!!!

  13. ET1swaw says:

    Last snippet I think. Got to get the dead-tree!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. ET1swaw says:

    @14 by ET1swaw was misposted; it was meant for A Rising thunder. Apologies!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. dave o says:

    #13 asa The nearest my political atlas comes to the time of the story is 1648. At that time PLC occupied the entire Dniester valley and well beyond. The Khanate of the Crimea occupied the Crimea proper and the mouths of the Don and Volga. As far as I understand both the PLC and Khanate were no friends of Russia, quite the opposite.
    The Khanate was backed by the Turks, also no friend of Russia. So I have no idea what you mean by “sharing territory”.

    I don’t deny that Russia had skilled craftsmen in traditional arts, woodworking and the like. What they don’t have are metalworkers much beyond village blacksmiths. There are a host of very difficult and rare trades which need to be learned, and an enormous amount of infrastructure built before Russia can become anything like an industrialized society. In western europe, making the transition is somewhat plausible. Not in Russia. The original authors of this book seem to have some familiarity with 20th century technology. They don’t seem to have much at all about 19th century technology, upon which the later tech was built. Their recent story about ball bearing manufacture is a case in point. Most machines and most engines did not use ball bearing until late in the twentieth century, They used a soft alloy with a relatively low melting temperature cast around rotating shafts. I can’t recall the name of the alloy at the moment, but I’ll get on Wikipedia and get back later. Ford used this kind of bearings on cars until the 1950’s.

    There are undoubtably a lot of very smart people in Russia. There are even more tradition bound xenophobes. I find it almost impossible to believe that any advances other than purely military ones would gain acceptance.

    As for using serfs as factory workers, the nearest analogy I know is the small number of slave who were rented out to factories in pre-civil war U.S. There weren’t many of them, and their existence was considered a threat to the very idea of slavery by most masters. Do you really think Russian nobility would be happy to let their serfs get the training to make weapons? Or for that matter have one once of freedom?


  16. dave o says:

    Back from Wikipedia. The name I was looking for is Babbitt, I didn’t know that it’s still used in cars. And that it has some advantages as compared with ball or roller bearings. Babbitt is a number of different alloys, some containing tin, others lead. Anyone interested should look it up.

  17. ET1swaw says:

    @16 dave o: What I meant by shared territory should maybe have been stated as contested territory instead. The Black Sea regions and the Ukraine/Belarus grain territories borderlands constantly varied. PLC / Muscovy / Ottoman (including Transdanubian and Crimean semi-independents) territories were much interspersed AFAIK.
    As for factory serfs, I do think the Boyarich (nobility), Streltsoi?sp? (military), and bureaucracy may be arrogant enugh to try though. From what little I recall it might little differ from pre-Bolshevik?sp? industrialization.
    For skilled craftsmen, don’t forget all that iconography?sp?. IMO you seem to be seeing them on par with the Cossacks, Magyars, and Tartars rather than with the Spaniards and Poles.
    KGB mentality does seem endemic but so is top-down enforcement. One of the biggest problems I foresee is that Russia ATT is basically still barter economy (the only thing slowing a strong economy is not having an economy!) but they do deal with the West (and the East) so ARE familiar with the concepts.
    Babbit bearings, Muntz metal?sp?, etc. have already been explored during the gearing down. I think the ball bearing production is part of the new gearing up!

  18. dave o says:

    #18 ETiswaw. Agreed that the Black Sea and Ukraine/ Belarus regions were in a constant state of flux. But Russia didn’t move into them until the middle of the 18th century, I believe under Catherine the ‘Great’. The Ukraine/Belarus regions were dominated by PLC for the entire period, long before, and long after. To the extent they were driven out, it was by the Turks rather than Russians. ‘

    Babbit is quite different than Muntz metal and is used for different purposes. I thought I had read everything in Grantville Gazette but I don’t (with my imperfect memory) recall either. Can you give me a reference?

    One of the points I’ve been trying to make is that gearing down is a lot more practical than introducing late 20th century technology.

    I’m no expert on the subject: I merely know enough to tell that making large and complex cast iron or steel parts is a lot more complicated than making icons. And requires skills which don’t exist in most of contemporary Europe. A good number don’t exist anywhere in Europe. Most were developed in middle to late 18th century and 19th century. I suppose they could be reinvented, but most of them involve tradecraft which no one in Grantville has, and which can’t be learned from encyclopedias. Don’t you think this is going to make the whole process harder?
    And longer?

  19. ET1swaw says:

    @19 dave o: Sorry can’t give textev references (my own memory is a collander and it may just be an impression (possibly mistaken)).
    As for tech detail possiblities: Eric is a former master machinist, and contributing Barflies and EdBoard are engineers, doctors, etc.. AFAIK they do subject premises within stories to some reality check process (both for historical accuracy of historical characters (pre-ROF and characterization if known) and feasibility of tech (even economic somewhat). Besides which ‘vague is our friend’ and ‘keep it to people stories’ seem to set some limits. The rapidity and comprehensiveness may be overly optimistic, but it is fiction. The butterfly wings help as well (look at Denmark and/or fallout from Battle of Lutzen that never happened: both Ulric and Eddie’s girl died OTL as did G2A, Horn, Pappenheim, and others; and look at what early deaths of Mad Max’s wife and Ferdinand II set in motion)!!
    No way any ICE is going to built in Russia, but IMO 19th century farm/heavy equipment (road graders, reapers, disk harrows, etc.) are within their capabilities. And they have better ties to the Silk Road than Western Europe and the concepts are simple (difficult to get right, but not as mortally finicky as HTA) so LTA seems possible for them and Ottomans as well.

  20. ET1swaw says:

    @19 dave o: Sorry, hit submit early.
    As for expertise: this is an area where jackleg jack-of-all-trades skills are prized and pursued; has 5 or more extremely capable machine shops; had a decent, practical, and eclectic education level; and are greatly motivated (downtimer and uptimer) to dig it out of what came back with them. And don’t forget that the restrictions of thinking like a redneck don’t always apply!

  21. Mark L says:

    “As for using serfs as factory workers, the nearest analogy I know is the small number of slave who were rented out to factories in pre-civil war U.S. There weren’t many of them, and their existence was considered a threat to the very idea of slavery by most masters.”

    Ah . . . no. Many of the iron works in the pre-war South, especially the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia used slave labor. About half of the workers, including those in skilled positions at Tredegar *were* slaves. And many plantations employed slaves as skilled metalworkers, training intelligent youth for those positions.

    I really believe that one of the motivating factors for the growth of the abolitionist movement was economic. Most Northern whites did not care about the fate of black slaves in the South. However, the combination of the Dred Scott decision and the Fugitive Slave Law made it possible for Southern slaveowners to take their slaves North, and rent them out to a factory owner in Cleveland or Philadephia. At worst, the owner would be forced by the state to remove his slaves — after a lengthy court battle — out of the free state. As far as I know, this never happened (and there would have been risks that the slaveowner might lose his property), but I am pretty sure that this possibility occurred to white factory workers in the North. It is curious that much of the abolitionist movement was centered in industrial (rather than rural) parts of the North, and I suspect that the prospect of potentially having to compete with slave labor contributed. And that fear was fueled by the commonality of the practice of employing slaves in Southern factories.

    (Note that slave labor in factories was also common in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.)

  22. Bret Hooper says:

    @16 dave o: You say “Most machines and most engines did not use ball bearing until late in the twentieth century,” True, I am sure, but not relevant; ball bearings are not suitable for every application. To the best of my knowledge, even to this day sleeve bearings, not ball bearings, are used on automotive crankshafts, and wheel bearings are typically tapered roller bearings, not ball bearings. Machines that rarely use ball bearings include inclined planes, levers, toasters, watches, clocks, radios, cameras, clamps, staplers . . . . I would be very surprised if as many as one in ten of the machines in use today have ball bearings, but ball bearings were in common use by the beginning of the twentieth century.

    The first bicycle road race, in 1869, was won with a bicycle equipped with ball bearings, and soon thereafter ball bearings became a standard feature of bikes. For the last hundred years or so, bicycles have typically had nine to thirteen ball bearings: two pedal crank bearings, two head bearings, five wheel bearings (2 front, 3 rear), and usually two in each pedal.

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