1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 48
“The Bavarians might not like that idea.”
Mike’s face had a very hard expression, now. “Ask me if I give a fuck. By the time we finish with them, the Bavarians will damn well do what we tell them to do. We’ll build a graveyard here and they will maintain it thereafter. They’ll pay for the upkeep too, the bastards.”
He went to his horse and got back in the saddle. “Get your men ready, Colonel Higgins. I want to start our march on Munich at first dawn.”
After he’d seen to it that his regiment was fed, and had whatever shelter could be scrounged up — luckily, it didn’t look like it was going to rain that night — Jeff indulged himself one last time. In clear violation of military rules and regulations, he had the regiment’s radio operator send a message to the Residenzschloss in Dresden.
He didn’t bother sending it in code. The Bavarians already knew they’d killed USE soldiers that day, so what difference did it make if they knew the name of one of them?
Jimmy Andersen was killed yesterday.
He didn’t add anything along the lines of “may God have mercy on his soul.” Gretchen was religiously inclined and he wasn’t. They’d known that about each other almost since the day they first met.
It had been what movie producers would have called “meet cute,” assuming they were producing a horror movie. Jeff had helped Gretchen haul her sister and some other girls out of an outhouse where she’d hidden them from rampaging soldiers.
Wannabe rampaging soldiers, rather. Jeff had held them off long enough for Mike Stearns and the APCs to get there. He hadn’t been alone, though. Larry Wild had stood next to him, and so had Jimmy Andersen and Eddie Cantrell.
He and Eddie were the only ones left. He wondered where Eddie was, now. Somewhere in the western hemisphere, the last he’d heard. Eddie had lost a foot in the years since then. On the other hand, like Jeff himself he’d gained a wife so he was still ahead of the game
“Is there any further message, Colonel?”
Jeff thought about it, for a moment. Then, shook his head. “No, that will be all.”
Anything he’d add to that — I miss you; I love you — Gretchen already knew. And while Jeff was willing to violate the rules and regulations when one of his oldest and best friends had gotten killed, he didn’t see any point in trampling the rules and regs and dancing on their grave.
Besides, Duke Maximilian might not know that the commander of one of the regiments that was about to lay siege to his capital was married to the most feared and feted — in some circles, not his — revolutionary in Europe. Maybe that secret would be his undoing, in some manner as yet unforeseen and unforeseeable.
“They don’t call me the DM for nothing,” he muttered.
Gretchen didn’t receive the message until the following morning. When she did, she immediately left the Residenzschloss and went looking for Ursula Gerisch.
It took her a while to find the woman. When she did, Ursula was just coming out of a grocery. The store, like most such in seventeenth century European cities, was on the ground floor of a narrow building pressed up against buildings on either side. The owner and his family would live upstairs.
Ursula was looking very pleased with herself. That meant she’d made another convert — or made significant progress in that direction, at least. Gerisch had made herself quite unpopular with the city’s Lutheran pastors since she arrived. Whether it was in spite of her disreputable past or because of it — Gretchen preferred the latter explanation, herself — Ursula was an extraordinarily good missionary.
Ernst Wettin had privately told Gretchen that several of the pastors had come to him to register their complaints, but he’d shrugged off the matter. First, he’d pointed out to them, the emperor himself had agreed to place unusual restrictions on Lutheran privileges in Saxony. And secondly, the pestiferous Gerisch creature was proselytizing on behalf of a creed which was subscribed to not only by Admiral Simpson — that would be the same admiral whose ironclads had leveled the walls of Hamburg along with a portion of Copenhagen — but by Gretchen Richter as well.
Yes, that Gretchen Richter. You hadn’t heard?
As soon as Ursula came up to her, Gretchen got right to the point. “We need our own church.”
“Yes, I know. But I don’t know of any vacant ones.” Gerisch looked dubious, adding: “I suppose we could take up a collection and see if we could buy one of the existing churchesâ€¦”
Gretchen shook her head. “None of these Lutheran pastors would sell to us. The problem’s not the money, anyway. I could afford to pay for it myself, if need be.”
That was something of an exaggeration. She and Jeff were quite wealthy now, measured in the way David Bartley and others like him gauged such things. But most of their wealth was tied up in the stock market or the apartment building they’d bought in Magdeburg. They didn’t have much in the way of liquid assets.
It didn’t matter. Gretchen had figured out a solution. All the Lutheran pastors in Dresden would shriek their outrage and Ernst Wettin was bound to wag his finger and express solemn disapproval — for the public record, at least. She didn’t think he’d really care that much, personally.
But the reason none of that mattered was because the only person who could have seriously objected was the Elector of Saxony, John George, who was no longer of this sinful earth.
“There’s a chapel in the Residenzschloss,” she explained. “It’s ours now.”
Gerisch stared at her. “Said who?”
“Says me. Round up as many church members as you can find and let’sâ€¦ well, I suppose we can’t say ‘consecrate’ it because we don’t have a priest yet. But we’ll do our layman best.”
She had no idea if what she was doing was part of accepted custom, tradition or ecclesiastical law according to the Episcopal Church. But she didn’t care very much because the church she now belonged to was not the Church of England but the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. And since the United States of America did not exist in this universe, Gretchen figured her church would soon enough transmute into the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of Europe — and could say what customs and traditions and ecclesiastical laws that church would eventually adopt?
Dresden customs and traditions, if Gretchen had anything to say about it.
Which, she probably would. She hadn’t leveled any fortified walls or brought down any royal towers, true. But she could lay a reasonable claim to having leveled an entire province. She’d turned a stinking dukedom into a republic, hadn’t she?
There was no service, when they all gathered in the chapel that afternoon, because they had no priest. Gretchen just proposed that all of them there — which was herself, Ursula, and eleven other people, all but three being women — say their own quiet prayers.
She did so herself.
Dear Lord, please care for the soul of Jimmy Andersen.
Gretchen hadn’t been that close to Jimmy herself. He’d been a quiet man, very introspective. But she knew how much he’d meant to Jeff.
And please care for my beloved husband, who is still in harm’s way.
And would be, possibly for a long time to come. But Gretchen felt greatly relieved. She hadn’t prayed inâ€¦
How many years had it been? Five years since she’d met and married Jeff. Two years before that, since her father had been murdered in front of her and she herself turned into her rapist’s concubine.
Seven years it had taken her, before she was finally able to forgive God. Long years for her; but, of course, not even a moment for Him who moved in such mysterious ways.
Eventually, she’d find a priest who could explain it all to her and put everything in proper theological context. She was quite sure that it was inappropriate for a mortal to forgive God. But those were what her husband would call optional technicalities.
They didn’t call him the DM for nothing.
“We build a graveyard here, and they will pay for it”. I have heard that somewhere.
Such a graveyard needs a yuge, beautiful wall around it.
There’s just a tiny bit of a difference between a graveyard for soldiers killed by the people in question, and a wall to keep unwanted, undesirable people out. In fact, you could almost say there’s a ‘yuge’ difference between the two.
Differences in the details doesn’t mean I can’t feel reminded. In fact, you feel the same, because you made the leap to “the wall” instantly.
Trump’s wall isn’t to keep “unwanted, undesireable people out”, as Gingrich just confirmed it was just a “campaign device” to appeal to voters, what uncharitable observers would call a flat out lie. And I mean, it worked didn’t? Now, Trump and his supporters are already backing down on “the wall” and instead are proposing more conventional border security, which is exactly what Obama did.
And the undocumented immigrants don’t seem to be all that “unwanted and undesireable”, considering the US economy depends on them, they are raising US citizens, they are even, for the most part more law-abiding than the actual citizens.
Eric doesn’t want discussions of Modern Politics here.
All I’m going to say is that I cued off of Robert Woodman’s comment above.
I’m not “blaming” anybody.
I’m just wanting to “head off” further trips down that path. [Smile]
Though Mike Stearns is already the Great Statesman, Eric Flint isn’t content with having his heroes be good at their jobs. They also have to be good in fields they never trained in, against enemies with far more experience and knowledge. Though I haven’t read every book, I can’t remember a single time that Mike Stearns actually loses. Even his apparent defeats are just excuses for him to show off how amazing he is and how vastly superior Working Class Heroes are to Evil Aristocrats.
Like Eric Flint, I stand on the left wing of politics. But there isn’t any dramatic tension in books where the author obviously wants his heroes to win, win, win without any major setbacks or difficulties. Even the Gustavus Adolphus in a coma plotline was just about allowing Our Heroes to defeat Oxenstierna, which they did almost effortlessly.
I like it when good guys win. I also like it when they earn their happy ending. Eric Flint needs to stop writing Mike Stearns fan fiction and think about ways for his characters to suffer some difficulties in the almost-impossible task of turning 17th century Europe into a decent place. It really wouldn’t be that hard if he wasn’t so concerned with making every one of his good guys into a perfectly virtuous and supremely capable revolutionary.
Agree to everything.
Eric did kick Harry Lefferts in the gut – Tom and Rita Simpson, too – and it wouldn’t surprise me if he has similar plans in the works for Mike Stearns, Gretchen Richter and David Bartley.
My bigger concern as a fellow leftie is that the popular frontism and reformism in the 1632 Universe have been awfully successful, so far, and I’m wondering if we’ll ever get that counter-revolutionary moment with Ed Piazza or Rebecca Stearns as Jean-Bertrand Aristide or Salvador Allende. Maybe Eric’s political machinations are succeeding because it’s pretty much the Dawn of Capitalism, but I have a feeling some of the new class of big bourgeoisie and capitalist aristocrats will be much tougher counter-revolutionaries than Oxenstierna was.
“with Ed Piazza or Rebecca Stearns as Jean-Bertrand Aristide or Salvador Allende.”
Please – no.
A good Marxist should enthusiastically support the rise of capitalism against the remnants of feudalism, as capitalism is considered a higher stage of development.
Speak for yourself; I’ve found there to be lots of dramatic tension through the books.
Also, you’re completely misreading the situation with Stearns. What you’re seeing as “effortless wins” are only possible because Stearns finds people who can do the jobs he doesn’t know how to do and then gets out of their way and lets them do their jobs. In short, he’s doing well because he’s good at organizing and managing the people who actually make his wins possible.
Let’s take this battle, for example; Stearns almost lost outright in the first day due to his aggressiveness. The reason he managed to turn it around is because he moved in a direction the other guy wasn’t expecting, but that wouldn’t even have been possible if he didn’t have good people in charge of the flanking operation.
Also, I think you are failing to recall situations where the good guys did not do so well. The Wrecking Crew was basically wiped out in The Papal Stakes. The Tsar of Russia was forced to retreat into what amounts to wilderness in The Kremlin Games. Then there’s Turenne’s raid which destroyed the oil works at Wietze, not to mention killing Quentin Underwood. Not to mention Cantrell’s difficulties in the Caribbean. The fact that the invasion of Poland was stopped cold, with a big chunk of the USE’s army locked down in siege lines. Need I go on?
The reason the good guys are doing as well as they are right now is because of compounded advantages that they built up early on. But when those advantages don’t apply, or when the opponent has advantages of their own, they tend to get their heads handed to them in a sling.
The defeat of the Wrecking Crew is a legitimate example of a major character losing in the 1632 Universe. Everything else…not so much. The defeat in Poland is an example of an arrogant monarch losing because he decided that dynastic politics were more important than national policy and common sense. Mike Stearns, and every other leading member of Team Revolution, opposed it from the start. Though I find Gustavus Adolphus’s decision quite realistic, it actually fits neatly with Flint’s general theme, since even the most competent of monarchs was blinded by his flawed perspective.
The Tzar of Russia is entirely disconnected from the main plot, and his opponents aren’t facing Mike Stearns. That book is about the junior varsity game, not the NBA championship. The Turenne raid conveniently disposed of an unredeemed Stearns opponent while doing nothing to prevent a crushing USE victory in the war; if that’s what “dramatic tension” looks like, then I don’t think the Revolution has much to worry about. Can’t comment on the Cantrell book, which I haven’t read. Do the baddies win, and do any significant characters die along the way? If the answer to both questions is no, I suspect that it’s not helping your case.
Completely agree that most of a general’s job is selecting the right people and letting them work. However, that kind of personnel selection and management is incredibly hard. Being able to recruit, organize and manage military professionals without any military experience to help you evaluate their skills…well, impossible is a step too far, but it’s more than merely improbable. When that kind of military genius is combined with charisma, political cunning, and perfect revolutionary virtue, the phrase “Marty Stu” is pretty much unavoidable.
I’m pretty sure that the reason the good guys are doing as well as they are right now is because Eric Flint loves Mike Stearns and doesn’t want to see him lose at anything. Even when he says that Stearns is too aggressive and reckless, Stearns wins the battle. Now he’s talking about how he’s going to make the Bavarians pay for the cemetery of the people who invaded their country. There’s a childish confidence there, a certainty that the universe is on his side. In the real world, that kind of pride goeth before a fall, but in the 1632 ‘verse, the universe really is on Mike Stearns’s team.
If you don’t like the way he does it, I look forward to reading YOUR more realistic book, with all the dramatic tension you feel should be in there.
Ad homenin: a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, rather than the argument itself
If my surgeon does a bad job, he doesn’t get to say that “You didn’t do better.” He’s a surgeon, and I’m not. In the same way, Eric Flint is a professional author, and he’s held to a higher standard than amateurs. By your standard, no one could ever criticize anything unless they were more skilled in the same field. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way.
OTOH we have a case of “Badass Decay” trope the very moment Richelieu became if not exactly a “good guy”, but stopped being an antagonist for them.
I still think that it was handed badly, plot-wise. Terrible in fact.
you do not seem realize that if the choice is Richelieu or Gaston, it’s Richelieu.
Eric Flint is capable of writing human characters who make mistakes; Lefferts is probably the best example. But Mike Stearns is the Leader of the Revolution, and his defeat means that the Revolution won’t always be victorious. Of course, in real life, the path of progress has plenty of detours. There are a hundred failed peasant rebellions for every successful revolution, and even triumphant revolutions often betray their original ideals. Making a better world is hard.
I’m very happy to see a work of science fiction where we aren’t expected to cheer for aristocrats or right-wing military officers. But neither Eric Flint nor Mike Stearns understand the problem of democracy. There’s no way for an enlightened few to guide the nation without creating a dictatorship; if the people are to be free, they have to be free to choose wrongly.
Germans in this timeline could decide to invade Poland, or tolerate the slave trade, or deny the vote to women. The same people who cheer Stearns when he redistributes land to peasants or wipes out feudal privilege could turn on him once he tries to suggest that women are equal to men or that the USE shouldn’t conquer their neighbors. Stearns can help Germany’s people gain freedom, but he can’t control what they do with it.
Eric Flint blames the aristocrats, and they’re certainly deserving of his scorn. But overcoming the outside threat is generally the easy part. Conquering our own worst tendencies, overcoming the bigotry and greed that make us want freedom for ourselves and slavery for others, is a much harder task. Tearing down the old world is a straightforward job; it’s building a new one that gets complicated.
“Germans in this timeline could decide to invade Poland” – What do you mean “could decide”? The USE, which is basically Germany, did invade Poland. And got stopped dead in their tracks, with their emperor in a coma for months, not to mention nearly going into a full-fledged civil war as a direct result of it.
They avoided it, sure. By the skin of their teeth, because Oxenstierna catastrophically misjudged the reaction of the CoCs and because Stearns attacked Baner in the middle of a snowstorm, immediately followed by a sally from Dresden’s defenders which broke the back of Baner’s army. I’ll give you that things broke in his favor by how the Hangman Regiment managed to decapitate Baner’s army, but there is no way Baner’s army would have held up against being attacked from in front and behind even if Baner had survived. I don’t think any army in history could have managed that feat.
I meant that, after Mike Stearns actually finishes building democracy in Germany, Germans could democratically decide that they want to invade Poland. Not because Gustavus Adolphus or any other aristo tells them to, but because ordinary people can make decisions just as awful as any inbred monarch. Stearns can help people gain their freedom from aristos, but he can’t magically turn them into revolutionary saints. Once they have freedom, Germans can do whatever they want with it, and Stearn won’t be able to stop them without destroying the democracy he helped to build.
Far from being a disaster, Gustavus Adolphus’s coma and the resulting conflict was a godsend for Team Revolution. If they’d stuck around and worked within the system, Oxenstierna and his fellow reactionaries could have partnered up with conservative German bourgeious and posed a real threat to the Fourth of July Party. Instead, they arrested their own party’s Prime Minister, declared open war on the Fourth of July Party and the CoC, and lost. Their actions couldn’t have hurt them more badly or helped the liberals more if Oxenstierna was a secret revolutionary working with Gretchen Richter.
Oxenstierna didn’t have support from his Emperor’s lawful heir, he didn’t have the military might to win decisively, and he forfeited political support and legitimacy when he arrested the German Prime Minister. In one act, he antagonized all of the conservative German voters who were happy to see a German nobleman as Prime Minister, but were not going to accept Swedish control of their country. The Crown Loyalist Party basically committed suicide, leaving Mike Stearns with no real organized political opposition. That’s pretty much the definition of a convenient break for the protagonist.
Oxenstierna had lost long before Stearns broke the siege of Dresden, and he would have lost even if Baner had done to Dresden what Tilly’s men did to Magdeburg. Of course, that couldn’t happen, because Gretchen Richter has Plot Armor, and Stearns can’t be defeated in battle. There’s only so many times that the heroes can win “by the skin of their teeth” before the reader starts asking why none of those close battles ever end in defeat.
I agree with everything you said here in comments. As for how to mitigate the effect of growing feeling of disbelief after yet another improbable victory – well, there are always some minor/half-forgotten characters to serve as the sacrifice to earn some Drama point. Like poor Jimmy.
Even in a “democracy,” what the people decide can turn out to be irrelevant: Those who control the vote count may be the real deciders. If the good guys can control the vote count, they probably won’t, but if the bad guys can control the vote count, they will probably steal the election, and they, not the people, will rule.
” There are a hundred failed peasant rebellions for every successful revolution,”
More like a thousand to one, or even ten thousand to one.
So far no one has commented bout the Episcopal church. I suspect that this will be important, although I can’t tell how.
The Episcopal Church in USE is so small that Gretchen may well be able to exert significant influence in shaping its policies. Will she become the next Episcopal bishop? the next governor of Saxony? Both?