1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 07

1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 07


          The city of Magdeburg in the year 1635 was unique throughout Europe; throughout the world, actually. There was no place like it.

          On the one hand, it was old. The city name originally meant “Mighty Fortress,” and historical records indicated that it was founded in the year 805 by none other than the Emperor Charlemagne. Histories of the Germanies, whether contemporary or from the up-time library in Grantville, mentioned the city often. It had many connections with Holy Roman Emperors over the years. It became the See of the Archbishop of Magdeburg in 968, and its first patent and charter was given in1035. It was even one of the easternmost members of the Hanseatic League. And Martin Luther had spent time there, beginning in 1524, which perhaps explained the subsequent dogged Protestantism of the city.

On the other hand, Magdeburg was new. The city had been besieged by the army of the Holy Roman Empire from November 1630 until May 20, 1631. The siege culminated in The Sack of Magdeburg, in which over 20,000 residents were massacred. Over ninety percent of the city was destroyed by fire, and what little wasn’t burned was ransacked, looted, plundered, and pillaged. Magdeburg was devastated; prostrate.

Then came the Ring of Fire, with the arrival of Grantville, West Virginia, from the future. And everything changed.

Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden and champion of the Protestant cause, connected with the up-timers from Grantville, and set in motion a train of events which gave birth — or rebirth, if you prefer — to the modern Magdeburg of 1635.

Pre-Ring of Fire Magdeburg was small, by up-timer standards. The area within the city walls was about half a square mile. It was shaped something like a right triangle, with the long side of the triangle running parallel to the river Elbe, and the hypotenuse side running from northeast to southwest. The normal population of the city had been about 25,000 people. That boosted to nearly 35,000 during the siege, as everyone from the surrounding regions who had a contracted right for shelter and sanctuary moved into the city when the HRE army approached.

Magdeburg in 1635 was a very different creature. Gustavus Adolphus, now proclaimed emperor, had decreed that the city would be the capitol of what became the United States of Europe. Otto Gericke was appointed mayor of the city, and was given imperial instruction to make Magdeburg a capitol city of which the emperor could be proud. And things just kind of mushroomed from there.

Instigated by the up-timers, north of the city were the naval yards, where the iron-clad and timber-clad ships of the USE Navy had been constructed. There wouldn’t be any more ironclads in the foreseeable future, and the timberclad construction had slowed down considerably. But the yard was still working and its work force was still fully employed. The Navy Yard’s machine tools and facilities were being turned into the USE’s major weapons manufacturing center and were now working around the clock. In theory, that was to provide the army fighting the Poles with the weapons they needed. But nobody was oblivious to the fact that those same weapons could easily be used to defend Magdeburg itself, in the event the current crisis turned into an all-out civil war.

South of the city was the coal gas plant, surrounded by a constellation of factories which were powered by the plant’s output. All of these operations drew hungry unemployed and underemployed men from all over the Germanies. So, since early 1634, the city had become home to a horde of Navy men, factory workers and skilled craftsmen. Inevitably, construction workers had followed to provide homes for the workforce and facilities for the employers. All this gave Magdeburg a certain flavor, a “blue-collar” spirit, as some of the Grantvillers called it, which was certainly fostered by the Committees of Correspondence. It also made for interesting times.

But workers, and their families, need places to sleep, and food to eat, so rooming houses and bakeries and such began to grow up to the west of the old city. And it turned out that the big businesses along the river side needed smaller businesses to make things for them, so various workshops began to appear in the western districts.

By late 1635, Greater Magdeburg occupied several square miles along the riverside and to the west. No one had a good estimate as to how many people lived in the new city because of the constant influx of new residents, but the Committees of Correspondence had recently told the mayor that they thought it was approaching one hundred thousand. Germans, Swedes, Dutch, Poles, Hungarians, Bohemians, even the odd Austrian, Bavarian, or Rumanian could be found in the city streets or swinging a hammer at the Navy yard.

A population of that size would naturally have a leavening of rough-edged men. Hard men, one might call them, who would be more inclined to follow the ways of Cain than of Abel. Mayor Gericke realized in late 1634 that the city watch of the old city was not able to deal with the influx of these men, so in early 1635 he requisitioned a couple of Grantvillers with police experience from the up-timer units contributed to the USE army to try to mold the city watch into something that could provide up-time style civic protection and police services to the whole city.

The city watch had never been held in high esteem, so there was a certain reservation on the part of many of the citizens and residents to take issues to them. The well to do patricians and burghers of Old Magdeburg could afford to utilize the courts. The workers of Greater Magdeburg couldn’t afford a lawyer, most times, so their recourses were three: take it to the Committees of Correspondence, if the matter was one that the CoC was interested in; handle it themselves or with the aid of their friends; or take it to the newly formed Polizei.

Such was Greater Magdeburg in December 1635: newly born, vibrant, alive, with a spirit like no other city in the world; and sometimes an edge to it that could leave you bleeding.

Such was the city Gotthilf thought of as his own. Such was the city that he and his partner watched over.


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29 Responses to 1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 07

  1. Tweeky says:

    An interesting exposition on how the Ring of Fire has resulted in not only the quick regeneration of Madgeburg but its explosive expansion and it’s clear that it’s got an early start to becoming a mega-city too. But it was good to have a brief description of where all the new suburbs were located however I think that Eric needs to include a map of the new Madgeburg in this novel.

  2. Joe Cozart says:

    The long side of a right triangle is the hypotenuse.

  3. Bruce says:

    “It was shaped something like a right triangle, with the long side of the triangle running parallel to the river Elbe, and the hypotenuse side running from northeast to southwest.”

    Ummm, the long side IS the hypotenuse, isn’t it?

    • Doug Lampert says:

      The longest side is the hypotenuse, but the longer of the two other sides can be called the long side to distinguish it from the short side. Long leg is probably more common than long side, but if you have a 3, 4, 5 triangle then the side of length 5 is the hypotenuse, so what would YOU call the sides of lengths 3 & 4? Long and short side or leg works since there’s already a separate term for the hypotenuse.

      On a 5, 12, 13 triangle for example it’s even clearer that of the legs one is reasonably called the long leg or long side.

      • momreads says:

        How about calling it the middle leg. I think it just sounds wrong to refer to a long leg and a separate hypotenuse.

  4. dave o says:

    I don’t want to get involved in geometric discussions. I do think that this snippet and the preceding one don’t add a lot to the developing story. If the story is developing. I don’t mind rehashes if they give a different viewpoint on past events. These don’t.

  5. Owen says:

    While I agree some of the phrasing could be better, I do think this provides new information. This story is going to be set in Magdeburg, and we need to get a picture of both what it was, and what it is becoming to get an accurate viewpoint of how events link together.

  6. Blackmoore says:

    It’s needed for people just jumping onto the series; and it’s never been set on paper in another novel. Frankly i like the description and the way it frames the common person living in the reborn city.

  7. zak ryerson says:

    Try 189, 340, 389 for an exmple of a pythagorian triplet where c is not equal to b+1.

    • Doug Lampert says:

      Or 12, 35, 37; or 6, 8, 10 for that matter if you’ll accept common factors.

      It’s not hard to come up with triplets where c>b+1. But for any right triangle that’s not isosceles there is a longer leg and a shorter leg. (And an isosceles right triangle isn’t a valid triplet since that requires integers.)

      • There is no isosceles Pythagorean triangle, because if the legs are equal, the hypotenuse must be the square root of two times the length of a leg, so if the length of a leg is an integer, the length of the hypotenuse isn’t, and vice versa. But there are an infinite number of Pænisosceles Pythagorean Triangles (PTs), which asymptotically approach the shape of an isosceles right triangle. (that is, each succeeding triangle is closer to isosceles than the one before it. The number in square brackets after each PT is the ratio of the legs, b/a.
        The first few are (4,3,5)[.75], (20,21,29)[1.05], (120,119,169)[0.991], and (696,697,985)[1.0014], the nineteenth is (211,929,657,785,304), (211,929,657,785,303), (299,713,796,309,065)[0.999 999 999 999 995].
        The ratio b/a for an isosceles triangle is, of course, exactly 1.

        • Doug Lampert says:

          Eh, there are no pytagorean triplets for isocoles triangles, but there are DEFINITELY isocoles right triangles which obey the pythagorean theorem.

          And the discussion grew out of the mention that the city is a right triangle. Use of pythagorean tripplets is for examples is simply a conveinence for discussion. There is NOTHING that indicates that the city is a pythagorean tripplet.

        • Oops! That last PT should be (211,929,657,785,304, 211,929,657,785,303, 299,713,796,309,065). Sorry about that.

  8. jimhacker says:

    I will point at that the incorrect usage of ‘Capitol’ is starting to annoy me. I understand it may be to late to change this but I hope it can be changed. How is it that no proof-reader or copy-editor caught this yet?

  9. jimhacker says:

    That’s a relief, as if that was repeated throughout the book it would drive me to distraction. And Baen’s editing/proof-reading is usually really good, especially for a smaller publisher.

    • Greg Noel says:

      Um, I’m sorry to break this to you, but Baen’s copy-editing is horrible. In most books, there are literally _hundreds_ of errors. I don’t know who they use for copy-editing, but they need to hire some high-school graduate who paid attention in English class and has a clue how a sentence is put together.

      I just got the second edition of _A Desert Called Peace_ on Kindle because one of the reviews said that there were far fewer mistakes than in the initial version. While that is certainly true, the copy-editing was still appalling, and the improvement was not worth the price I paid.

      Given Baen’s stellar record for involving fans through things like these snippets, I keep wondering why they don’t come up with some way to crowdsource the copy-editing, e.g., by allowing (selected?) fans to copy-edit the book in exchange for being able to read the book a few months in advance. I’d do it; I’m going to wince every time I run across bad editing anyway, so I may as well feed the errors back to them, in the hope that the published book will be that much better.

      • jimhacker says:

        Yes Baen desn’t have the best copy-editing. But its very good compared to outfits like TOR, Titan Books, ROC. The sheer number of errors in some of their books has actually made me give up on a couple of series published by them.

        • Greg Noel says:

          I have books by those publishers, and my observation is that it’s hit-or-miss: some are OK, some are not. In general, not a lot different than Baen.

          It does bother me that in a complaint about copy-editing, you have two errors: there should be a comma after “Yes” in the first sentence, and you want “it’s” (i.e., the contraction of “it is”) in the second sentence. (For the latter, the Rule of the Apostrophe is the simplest rule in the English language. It never ceases to appall me at the level of illiteracy required for so many people to fail to apply the rule correctly.)

          • jimhacker says:

            Yep, I know hat. And that sort of thing annoys me in books, formal documents, etc. But what annoys me more are things like mixing up capitol and capital – ie, words which are being misused.

            Errors in posts like this used to annoy me but then I grew up, started touch typing and realised that we all make mistakes, especially when being quick.

            • Jim: You missed “desn’t.” Excellent example of why having more than one proofreader is desirable. Any one proofreader is almost guaranteed to miss a few.

            • vikingted says:

              Jim, you have “i.e.,” incorrect in your statement, obviously this is a quick typing thing. : } Let us all enjoy the snippets for what they are… a tease to get us to buy the upcoming book.

  10. Tweeky says:

    I just hope that when this book comes out the maps will include a map of Madgeburg too.

  11. Andy Andrews says:

    As long as we are talking about typos, don’t forget “in1035” in line 6 of the first large paragraph.

  12. Margo says:

    Yes “capitol” grates – it is the building, though a capital is also part of a building- part of a column – as well as the chief city of a country. Sorry to be so pedantic!
    Re the proofing and editing of Baen books and snippets which are after all taken from pre-proofed eARC versions, I too have problems; some authors seem to have more errors than others. Especially those with larger output, such as David Weber. A lot of his are changes in spelling of names which are harder to catch, though Word grammar checking has a fieldday! Mind you, from a verbal viewpoint his output sounds better and as he uses Dragon Naturally Speaking that makes sense, and I doubt we’d get the volume (excuse me) and frequency otherwise and we’d be waiting for ‘what happens next’ even longer!
    I would like to offer my services as proofreader – I trained before they had spell-checkers and though New Zealand born and bred have long experience in US spelling, but it is difficult to convince clients. Eric’s output isn’t usually as bad, unless allied to either of DW or Dave Freer (who freely admits his shortcomings in spelling but writes so humorously and obviously has good backup). So Baen needs a few specialist readers as well as editors.

  13. I, too, would be happy to proofread an advance copy of each new book, and an added benefit of my doing so would be that the book would be indexed sooner on RoFindex.com

  14. Tweeky says:


    “I would like to offer my services as proofreader – I trained before they had spell-checkers and though New Zealand born and bred have long experience in US spelling, but it is difficult to convince clients.”

    It’s nice to hear from a fellow kiwi and as for US spelling, well, I personally have a low opinion of it.

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