What is the 1632 Series? A Short History of the (Alternate) Universe

The year is 1631 AD. The place is an insignificant patch of land in the middle of the Germanies ( Germany as a united country did not yet exist). The historical backdrop is the Thirty Years’ War, a bloody and terrible struggle between Catholic and Protestant nations for control of central Europe. In the midst of this scene, a miracle appears; a perfectly circular ring of flame burning so high it can be seen for miles throughout the surrounding countryside. When the flames die, what the Ring of Fire [1] left behind may be still more miraculous: a modern-day West Virginia town from the future, the year 2000 AD, full of the normal assortment of farmers, miners, scoundrels, champions, hippies, reactionaries, and folks just trying to live their lives. In West Virginia, in 2000, they were just ordinary people, but in this time and place, they have the power to shake the world . . .

This is the setting for Eric Flint’s first novel in the 1632 universe, entitled 1632 [2]. The book follows a fairly familiar alternate-history plotline; a modern American (or a group in this case) is dropped without warning into an historical time period in a foreign land, and are forced to adapt to their new surroundings. In this case, the hillbillies (a term that is used with pride throughout the series) adapt by setting up a new democratic state in Thuringia, one of the Germanies, with the assistance of the fortuitously encountered King of Sweden and leader of one of the Protestant sides of the war, Gustav Adolf. That’s when things begin to get complicated.

As its main premise is to alter history, the events in the 1632 series start to diverge fairly quickly from the recorded timeline. Battles are fought out of sequence, new alliances are forged, new dynasties produced, new technologies introduced, historical personages refuse to die “on schedule,” pianofortes are introduced before the end of the Baroque period, and most of North America is bought up by Cardinal Richelieu, sold by King Charles to help finance a war in the Baltic Sea.

These are only a few of many examples of alterations the series has produced in OTL (1632 shorthand for “Our Time Line”). Each new book in the series takes the reader a little further down the path of the altered timeline, and as Eric Flint is opposed to the “Great Man [3]” interpretation of history, the stories often cover several interlocking subplots with different casts of characters, and sometimes different authors as well. There are, to date, over four-and-a-half million words in print, and the printed books in this series are just the tip of the iceberg. It would take a small army, or at least a platoon, to keep track of all these details; fortunately Eric Flint has enlisted one.

What is the Grantville Gazette?

It started with an online discussion forum. The forum was called the “1632 Tech Manual,” and it was set up by Baen Books for fans of 1632 to discuss the series, and for Eric Flint to solicit technical advice on relevant questions. That was its original purpose, but when fans gather together online, fan fiction is sure to follow.

To Eric Flint and his publisher, Jim Baen, some of the fan fiction produced on the “1632 Tech Manual” was noticeably good; even good enough to publish. So they did. The first instance of fan-written stories for the 1632 series appearing in print was an anthology entitled Ring of Fire. The anthology contained some works by established authors as well as first-time (fan) authors, but all the stories were fictional accounts set in the 1632 universe.

A second anthology was planned, but more stories were being submitted than could possibly fit into it, even after the submission deadline had passed. Rather than ignore these stories, Eric Flint and Jim Baen decided to incorporate them into an experimental online magazine. Thus, the Grantville Gazette [4] was born.

The GrantvilleGazette is a collection of fiction stories set in the 1632 universe and non-fiction articles dealing with topics relevant to the series. It was originally put out every six months, but now new volumes are published online bimonthly. It has an administrative staff which is in part selected from the fan base, and solicits new stories and articles via yet another unique process, discussed below in the “Baen’s Bar Forums” section. The Gazette also has five print editions out. To distinguish between print and electronic editions, online volumes of the Grantville Gazette have Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3 . . . ) while the print editions have Roman numerals (I, II, III . . . ). The first four books in the print edition (Grantville Gazette I–IV) contain the same contents as the electronic versions (Grantville Gazette Vol. 1–4), but the speed of online publishing was fast outpacing the printed books, so the latest print edition, Grantville Gazette V, collects stories from Volumes 5–11 of the online edition. The online edition is currently up to Volume 36. (Editor’s note: You’re reading this in Volume 37.)

It is important to understand that in its current incarnation, the Gazette is not a fan fiction collection, but a web magazine. While the Gazette is not strictly speaking fan fiction, it does what fan fiction has always done; it creates a filled space between major storylines, populated by the imaginations of the readers. Unlike most other fan fiction in existence, however, the contents of the Gazette are considered “canonized,” and can and frequently do impact the main storyline, taking the 1632 universe in directions Eric Flint could not have foreseen.

It is not unusual for authors to call upon fans for help in keeping track of series details, or to solicit technical advice, but this is usually where it ends. There have been some instances in the past of series authors letting fan fiction feed back into the main storyline, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series, and the FanDemonium publishing house for Stargate novels. For the Darkover series, fans submitted their stories to Bradley, and those she approved of sometimes made it into print. In their heyday, Darkover fans collaborated in the publication of twelve anthologies of fan fiction over the course of two decades. (Coker, 1) Some of the stories in these books even became canonized.

Unfortunately, the interaction of fans with the Darkover universe ended due to a kerfuffle over a threatened lawsuit, and Bradley moved to disband her fan organizations. (Coker, 1) Fandemonium is a publishing company that puts out fan-produced stories in the Stargate universe, but with strict limits on fan fiction. The company is licensed directly from Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer (MGM), and MGM has approval power over “each stage of the novel’s production, from initial outline to final draft.” (“Stargate Novels,” 1)

The Grantville Gazette is different. Here, stories are not subject to authorial or corporate approval. All stories are submitted to a public forum (Baen’s Bar “1632 Slush”) for critiquing and comments. Story editing and peer review can be and is performed by any member of the Baen’s Bar community, in addition to the editorial board. Perhaps most important is Eric Flint’s role in the process, or, rather, lack thereof. As one member of the forum put it:

“Eric has relinquished control of that process. Frequently—VERY FREQUENTLY—there are stories in the Gazette he has not read. He doesn’t have time. The ed board does it. THAT is unique. Public submission, public review, group editorial selection, primary author relinquishing control[.] Never been done before. Unique.” (Rick Boatright)

In letting his fans shape the developing world of 1632 without direct supervision, Eric Flint has taken fan participation to a whole new level. This is cultural convergence happening even as we speak.

The Gazette Stories

As an alternate history series, the Grantville Gazette stories often have to challenge the preconceived notions that many Americans hold about early modern Europe, such as the idea that society was strait-laced in the Victorian Age and got more rigid going further back in time. Many authors use the fumblings of the American up-timers to poke gentle fun at the inadequacies of the American educational system regarding European history.

One of the most common uses of fan fiction is to expand the story to explore themes that the author did not or could not cover in the original storyline. It is often a chance to develop unseen or alternative relationships between main characters, especially for the predominantly female authors of most fan fiction. The Grantville Gazette offers a particularly rich source of material for these explorations, as the writers can challenge not only common standards of what a relationship should be, but perceptions on what historical standards of relationships were.

As with any culture meeting another, there are instances of up-timers and down-timers intermarrying, with all the miss-steps and culture clashes one would expect. One of the common themes in these stories is the historical status of betrothals, dowries, and family expectations of marriage in seventeenth-century Europe, and these do not always live up to twenty-first-century American expectations. The historical status of queer lifestyles is also up for challenge. There is at least one continuing serial featuring a lesbian couple (“Game, Set, and Match,” “Boom Toys”), and two stand-alone stories that feature real historical characters who were known to be gay or transgender (“Venus and Mercury,” ” Land of Ice and Sun”).

Another common theme in the Gazette fiction stories is exploration. Several authors have taken the opportunity to extend the influence of the 1632 characters to wildly separate parts of the globe. Their travels include founding a new settlement in North America in ” Northwest Passage,” hunting for quinine and rubber in South America in “Stretching Out,” advising Russian nobles in “Butterflies in the Kremlin,” and trying to prevent the dodo’s extinction on the island of Mauritius in “Second Chance Bird.”

Technological adaptations and applications of twentieth-century knowledge to seventeenth-century resources are also a common story theme. One of the earliest continuing serials dealt with the efforts of a group of teenagers to start a company manufacturing pedal-powered sewing machines. Other stories have dealt with military weaponry, airships, planes, radios, and even road paving.

Of course, all of this technological convergence requires a lot of research, as well as historical acumen in knowing what would be plausible in the seventeenth century. This is part of the reason that the original “1632 Tech Manual” was established, and why every Gazette volume has contained non-fiction articles as well as fiction stories. The articles are designed to inform the authors and potential authors as well as the readership of various details of the state of the 1632 universe, and the historical aspects of the seventeenth century. They include such diverse topics as finance, mineralogy, farming, period-specific dancing, astronomy, population studies, and early disease theory. The nonfiction section of the Gazette can also be considered writer’s tools, in that they provide valuable information that other authors can use to shape their stories for the 1632 universe.

The Baen’s Bar Forums

The Baen’s Bar forums are the main clearinghouse for Grantville Gazette stories. Stories are first submitted to the “1632 Slush” forum. Stories are the only content allowed to be posted here, and all potential stories must be submitted to the forum first, even those written by established authors. Comments and criticisms are reserved for the “1632 Slush Comments” forum. This process takes advantage of the long history of beta readers in the fan fiction editorial process, but with the unique twist that the end results are being considered for professional publication. This peer review process also involves more than just editing for grammar and style. Since all the contributions to the Gazette take place in a shared alternate-history universe with an established canon [5], the stories are also carefully screened for continuity, anachronisms, and overall fit within the world’s development and timeline. More comments on the beta reading process are below in the “Gazette Authors” section.

The comments on stories also have a direct impact on which get chosen for publication. When asked about the story selection process of the editorial board, Paula Goodlett, the current editor of the Grantville Gazette, stated,

“A potential author will usually post his first effort and have it get ripped up by the commenters. Then, if he’s serious, he’ll listen to what they tell him and rewrite it. Once a story is getting a lot of comments, I’ll take a look at it, or another member of the ed board will do so. After making sure the story doesn’t violate already published canon in the series, we’ll also determine whether or not any technology that’s developed or used in the story is even possible, once we consider the limitations of the seventeenth century. Just staying within canon and the technology limits isn’t quite enough, though. We want a story people want to read and that’s our primary goal.”

One of the unique elements of the Gazette is that some story characters, before being used in a submitted story, must be “claimed,” or checked out of a central database. The three character types available are up-timers [6], real, historical seventeenth-century down-timers, and invented down-timers. The up-timers, and the invented down-timers are kept track of on “ Virginia ‘s Grid,” a spreadsheet where Dr. Virginia DeMarce, a retired historian, keeps track of the essential data on these characters in the 1632 universe. It contains birth dates, education, employment, marital status, and most importantly, who currently has claim to the character for serials. It is the rough equivalent of a census table, with the addition of authorial rights.

In order to claim a character, a writer first decides character type, looks over the grid to see if there are any previous claims active, and then starts a thread on the “1632 Tech” forum with the subject line “Ping Virginia.” If Virginia DeMarce comes back with the all clear, the writer is free to develop that character in their story, with the caveat that they cannot change previously canonized events.

Historical personages are also available for stories, but are not kept track of in the same manner. However, the first person to use a historical person in a Gazette story is generally regarded as having dibs. Another possibility of character use is the cameo, where a character that someone else may have claim to makes a brief appearance in a story. Cameos do not involve character development and must take place in a location the cameo characters would logically be in. Using characters in cameos is less formalized, but it is generally regarded as good etiquette to consult with the character’s creator or current claimant before using him or her. [7]

The 1632 universe started with a small West Virginia town, Grantville, plonked in the middle of seventeenth-century Germany, with a scattered handful of down-timer Europeans (from the seventeenth century) passing through. As the series grows and the characters wander, more and more people are introduced to the world. With so many characters available, many scenarios can be explored without reliance on the “main” characters, which may be a blessing.

The downfall of many fan fiction stories is their inability to merge with the main storyline; they take characters in directions they were not meant to go, or simply into situations the main story producers don’t wish to deal with. In the Gazette, such explorations are actually a helpful means of story development. As Eric Flint’s universe has expanded, some of the personages introduced in the Gazette have since been introduced into the larger novels that make up the backbone of the series. If these novels are the backbone, the stories of the Gazette are its arteries, pumping new blood to outlying regions. One of these character sets was a family of professional middlemen named Cavriani, who carry one of the main story threads in 1634: The Bavarian Crisis.

By letting others play in “his” sandbox, Eric Flint has turned the Grantville Gazette into a writer’s playground. He stated in the afterword to 1634: The Galileo Affair that part of his goal in the establishment of the Gazette was to encourage new writers; he seems to have more than accomplished this. The Baen’s Bar 1632 Slush/Comments forums are a never-ending writer’s workshop, where new authors can hone their skills, seek commentary, and feedback is nigh-instantaneous and constructive.

The Gazette Authors

It is perhaps telling that many of the stories and authors of the Gazette originated in the 1632 Tech forums on the Baen’s Bar website; a message board that started as a technical advice forum for Eric Flint when he started working on the series. Jenkins in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers suggests that women fan writers are drawn to continuing serial stories and emotional character development, while male writers are more drawn to technical details and quick resolutions. The Gazette from the beginning has contained both fiction and non-fiction articles, and the fiction sections contain both continuing serials and stand-alone stories. It is perhaps for this reason that the normal fan fiction gender gap is reversed in the Grantville Gazette; the profiles on the “Authors” page are about 80% male. Whether by accident or by design, the Grantville Gazette has created a writing space that welcomes all types of burgeoning writers, and fulfilled at least one utopian goal laid out by early participatory culture predictors.

Because of the open nature of the 1632/Baen’s Bar forums, I was lucky enough to be able to start a Q & A dialogue with some of the Baen’s Bar forum-goers in the “1632 Tech” forum. For reference, the question set and selected responses are in Appendix A. The forum-goers’ answers were enlightening and often opened up new modes of enquiry. When asked to self-identify as an author, beta reader, or series fan, most respondents stated “all of the above”; a few identified their growth sequence from fan to author to reader/commenter on the forums, in that order. When asked how working with the Gazette had impacted their development as a writer, only one person out of fourteen replied that it had no impact; of the rest, the most popular response was that the Grantville Gazette was their first professional sale, first time writing fiction, or entry point into the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America). Based on the responses, it seems that fiction writers were more likely to respond to the questions posted; looking back there may have been an unintentional responder bias in the way the questions were set up.

Some of the most diverse replies came in response to the question “How has your work contributed to the shared world of 1632?” These included: the introduction of new technologies such as ballet dance techniques and engineering education, cultural innovations like modern musical theory, maintenance of complex character databases, expanding the storyline into other countries outside Europe, dealing with the problems of using radio during the Maunder Minimum [8], establishing strategy for Cardinal Richelieu (one of the recurring characters in the series), art direction, and the creation of “How-To” writing guides.

I also asked the first-time authors why they chose to submit their first work to the Gazette. Nearly everyone cited the helpfulness of the forums in providing feedback, or stated that they were actively encouraged to write something by another forum member. (In fact, most of the replies to this section could probably be summed up tongue-in-cheek as “The forums made me do it!”) I think most of the responses to this question are fairly well encapsulated by the first answer, “This community not only [recruits] new authors, and pays professional rates, they actively teach writing to those willing to listen and act on advice, and respond with useful information within hours.” (Jack Carroll)

Another question involved the rules for beta readers. There do not appear to be any established guidelines, but most of the forum members cited personal rules fairly similar to those listed by Henry Jenkins in Convergence Culture, i.e. staying positive, making suggestions, and making an honest effort to help improve writing skills. (189) Comments included, “We check each other for accuracy and suggest research resources” (Jack Carroll), “Try and be constructive . . . and sometimes it’s a real emphasis on try . . . ”, “No hitting . . . ”, “Are the events/situations logical/plausible? Economically viable? Physically viable? Is the time line too compressed (a common problem)?” (Kerryn Offord), “I try to be constructive, yet at the same time realistic.” (David Carrico), “I try very hard to be honest.” (Rick Boatright), “Honesty and Thumper’s mother’s advice [9]” (John Zeek) “Rule Number One: BE NICE!” (Garrett W. Vance).

I also asked what the respondents previous involvement with fan fiction was, thinking that most of them would have used the Grantville Gazette as a stepping stone from fan fiction to published work. To my surprise, most of the people surveyed had no previous involvement with fan fiction at all; they were far more likely to have written nothing previously or only technical works. This may be a logical outcome of the Gazette‘s history as an outgrowth of a technical advice forum, but it did lead me to re-examine some of my main assumptions about the Gazette authors. In fact, after I responded to another’s urging me to write my own story with an explanation of my busy finals week schedule, this was posted on the forum: “WOW . . . you have the PERFECT qualifications to write 1632 fiction. Never written fiction in your life. Never intended to[.] More educated than you have any reason to be[.] Absolutely balls-to-the-wall busy—no time at all[.] Yep. PERFECT qualifications.” (Rick Boatright) It would seem that first-time fiction writers are more the rule than the exception in the Grantville Gazette universe.

I ended the questions with an open comments section. Several people commented on the amount of research necessary for this particular genre, but a few that I specifically want to draw attention to commented on the environment presented by the forums themselves, such as, “Because all submitted drafts are visible on-line to all members of the 1632 community who hold a log-in password, authors receive help that no print publication could come anywhere near matching. Rather than feedback from a single first reader, we get feedback from dozens of fellow writers as well as the editorial board members. Instead of a couple of sentences, we get detailed analyses that can run for pages.” (Jack Carroll), and “This is an utterly unique forum, due partly to Baen’s general support, but mostly to Eric’s willingness to let people play in his sandbox with very few restrictions.” (David Carrico) This last comment, along with a few other iterations of the word “sandbox,” is the inspiration for the title of this essay.

Sharing the Sandbox: Fan Fiction vs. Open-Source Authorship

Eric Flint himself said in the afterword to 1634: The Galileo Affair, just before the first print edition of the Grantville Gazette came out, that “ “Fan fiction” usually has a negative connotation to science fiction readers—“derivative, unimaginative, poorly written dreck [10]” being the gist of most complaints—but there is no intrinsic reason that needs to be true.” This negative reputation of fan fiction in the publishing industry was one of the first topics of my initial email conversation with Paula Goodlett, the current editor of the Grantville Gazette. When asked what made the Grantville Gazette‘s attitude toward fan fiction different than that of many other publishers, she responded,

“Jim Baen was never opposed to experimenting. Eric Flint was impressed by the stories that were being written. The Gazette is different because the authors have Eric Flint’s permission to write in his universe, for one thing. Most authors aren’t willing to allow fan fiction, much less publish it. And certainly they aren’t usually willing to modify their own plans for a series to accommodate events written in a fan fic story. But Eric is.”

Henry Jenkins in Convergence Culture wrote that the normal approach to fan fiction is to “—get to know your characters, remain consistent with the aired [or written] material, and speculate based on what you know about people in the real world.” This may be a good basic approach for generic fan fiction, but the structure of the Grantville Gazette means that these writers need to go through several extra steps. The expected end point for their stories is not just an online forum; it’s a web magazine with paid subscribers and certain standards of professionalism. Stories must pass through a peer review system before even being considered for publication. Arguably, the willingness of Eric Flint and Baen Books to incorporate these divergent storylines into the main series canon, along with the self-correcting nature of the forums, has taken the stories of the Gazette to a place beyond simple fan fiction. The Grantville Gazette occupies some kind of happy middle ground, between the free-for-all continuity-less space of speculative fanfic and the structured collaborative novel.

Eric Flint perhaps said it best in his afterword to 1634:The Galileo Affair:

“In terms of its narrative structure—as well as the way it’s written—the 1632 series could just as easily be considered a shared universe as a series in the traditional sense of that term . . . The basic premises of the setting and the story as a whole are established in 1632 and then expanded and elaborated in 1633. From there, the story branches in many directions. Branches—and constantly reconnects. Characters who play a major role in one novel will not necessarily appear onstage in another, although their actions will often have an indirect effect. Minor or secondary characters in one story will become major characters in their own right in another.” (670)

In attempting to give new writers/tech advisers access, one could argue that Eric Flint and Baen actually followed an old science fiction publishing model of the shared universe, where multiple authors contribute stories with different characters and plotlines that do not necessarily overlap but are all based in the same “world.” Robert Aspirin’s Thieves’ World springs to mind as a good example of the genre. This shared universe, however, is a place whose continuity and rules are policed and in part defined by the readers themselves, and is in effect an open-source universe.

Towards a Convergence Culture

Henry Jenkins suggests in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers that academic studies of fandom have gone through three generational developments, from outside objectivity to attempting to integrate new media studies to the new hybrid academic fan (13). However, since Jenkins’ book was published, a new generation has arisen, which doesn’t consider participatory culture to be “fandom” at all, but an ordinary part of life in a digital world. The authors and reviewers of the Grantville Gazette may be the pioneering wave of this generation in the literary world. Their work is a striking example of what can happen when the barriers between creators and fans break down, or never come into existence in the first place.

In Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers, Jenkins states of Levy’s concept of knowledge community, that fandom is a rehearsal for the real world, that the way these people interact to a shared purpose is a model for future politics or online communities. The Grantville Gazette is certainly an example of a collective intelligence [11], but it does not need to serve as a model of anything other than itself; a shared community space where fans/technical consultants/series readers can share ideas, improve writing skills, and ultimately produce a finished product for the enjoyment of the community.

I would politely assert that this community is not a model for all online knowledge communities; I think we have already seen in the development of niche groups online that different paradigms beget different digital environments based on the needs of their users. The early alt message boards were not a scaled-down version of today’s social media, nor is the Grantville Gazette an early utopian version of the way in which all writing interaction needs to work. What the Grantville Gazette is, and what it can serve as a model for, is a means of sharing this fan-supported collective intelligence within an existing world framework, without infringing on creative license or intellectual property rights. The end result is a sort of open-source, distributed authorship, produced and policed by the fans.

Some might say that forcing fan fiction to work within set boundaries is taking away some of its best elements, that you give these authors a sandbox but take away the limitless shore. I would say that this sandbox has expanded, beyond the original shoreline to include an entire world.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to all the members of the Baen’s Bar Forums who answered survey questions, provided feedback, and conducted the initial reviews of this paper. Thanks also to Paula Goodlett for helping me with my initial research questions. Thank you to Virginia DeMarce for pointing out that “dreck” is a real word in the German language. I am especially indebted to Kerryn Offord for explaining the character claiming process and to Rick Boatright for pointing out that incorporating fan fiction into the main storyline is not unique to the Gazette. Thanks to Jack Carroll for very patiently explaining (twice) that the Ring of Fire was not actually a ring and not actually fire, and also for pointing out that the Gazette authorship can be considered open-source. I would also like to thank John Zeek for pointing out that non-fiction articles are there partly to help guide novice writers. A big thank you to any and all who provided useful quotes for this essay. Also grateful acknowledgements to anyone who pointed out technical mistakes along the way. Finally, thank you to Professor Ede, who helped me find my topic and let me have fun with my assignment.

References and Works Cited

“1632: Tech: The Grid.” Official 1632 Fan Site. Web. 16 May 2011..

“Baen’s Bar >> 1632 Slush.” Baen’s Bar — 1632 Slush. Baen’s Books. Web. 16 May 2011..

“Baen’s Bar >> 1632 Slush Comments.” Baen’s Bar — 1632 Slush Comments. Baen’s Books. Web. 16 May 2011..

“Baen’s Bar >> 1632 Tech.” Baen’s Bar — 1632 Tech. Baen’s Books. Web. 16 May 2011..

Boatright, Rick. “Online posting. Baen’s Bar » 1632 Tech » English paper research questions. Baen Books. 25 May 2011. Web. 6 June 2011.

Boatright, Rick. “Online posting. Baen’s Bar » 1632 Tech » English paper research questions. Baen Books. 25 May 2011. Web. 7 June 2011.

Boatright, Rick. “Online posting. Baen’s Bar » 1632 Tech » English paper research questions. Baen Books. 7 June 2011. Web. 9 June 2011.

“Bradley, Marion Zimmer.” Fanworks.org:: Fan Fiction Policies. Fanworks. Web. 9 June 2011..

Carroll, Jack. Online posting. Baen’s Bar » 1632 Tech » English paper research questions. Baen Books. 10 June 2011. Web. 14 June 2011.

Carroll, Jack. Online posting. Baen’s Bar » 1632 Tech » English paper research questions. Baen Books. 25 May 2011. Web. 6 June 2011.

Coker, Catherine. “The Contraband Incident: The Strange Case of Marion Zimmer Bradley.” The Contraband Incident. Transformative Works and Cultures, 2011. Web. 9 June 2011..

David Carrico. “Online posting. Baen’s Bar » 1632 Tech » English paper research questions. Baen Books. 25 May 2011. Web. 6 June 2011.

Flint, Eric. 1634: The Galileo Affair. Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2004. Print. Ring of Fire

Flint, Eric. Grantville Gazette: Sequels to 1632. Vol. 1. Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2004. Print. Ring of Fire

Flint, Eric. Grantville Gazette IV: Sequels to 1632. Vol. IV. Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2008. Print. Ring of Fire.

Flint, Eric. “Grantville Gazette » Submissions.” Grantville Gazette » Grantville Gazette. Baen Books, 15 June 2010. Web. 16 May 2011..

Flint, Eric. Ring of Fire. Vol. 1. Riverdale, NY: Baen Pub., 2004. Print. Ring of Fire.

Goodlett, Paula. “Re: Researching the History of the Grantville Gazette.” Message to the author. 21 May 2011. E-mail.

Goodlett, Paula. “Re: Researching the History of the Grantville Gazette.” Message to the author. 11 May 2011. E-mail.

Hawnt, Andrew. “Fandemonium Books | Designer Whey Protein.” Designer Whey Protein | Designer Whey Protein On Sale Now. Web. 09 June 2011.

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York UP, 2008. Print.

Jenkins, Henry. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York UP, 2006. Print.

Offord, Kerryn. “Online posting. Baen’s Bar » 1632 Tech » English paper research questions. Baen Books. 25 May 2011. Web. 6 June 2011.

Offord, Kerryn. “Online posting. Baen’s Bar » 1632 Tech » English paper research questions. Baen Books. 25 May 2011. Web. 6 June 2011.

“Stargate Novels::Frequently Asked Questions.” Stargate Novels::Home. Fandemonium. Web. 09 June 2011..

Appendix A: Snippets from Question and Answer Session on Baen’s Bar Forum, with Grantville Gazette Writers

1. What is your relationship with the 1632 world (author/fan/beta reader/etc) ?

rboatright

Yes . . . all the above. I was recruited from fan position to consultant during the writing of 1633. Now, writer, editor, researcher, fan, etc.

Johnzeek

yes Reader, Beta reader, Fan, Writer(author would be pretensious)

Karen

I’m an author of a number of fact articles and fiction stories. I’m also one of the GG Ed Board members and so read every story posted. Every one who reads and comments on stories is a beta reader.

GWV17

I write stories, I participate in the ‘writing group’ discussions here on the bar, and I’m the art director for the magazine.

2. How has working with the Grantville Gazette impacted your development as a writer?

 

W1PK

It’s entirely responsible for my becoming a fiction writer. The EB nagged me to attempt a piece of fiction, and then showed me what I was doing wrong. I had no idea I was capable of it.

 

kao16

It’s where I’ve done all my writing. Looking back at my early efforts (published) sometimes makes me cringe

 

virginiaeasleyd..

I still have trouble thinking of myself as a writer (of fiction) rather than a historian.

 

LisaS

Can’t really say it has.

 

dvdscar

Definitely improved my skills at the craft, and proved to me that I can write professional level work that editors will buy.

 

ivergmail

I doubt I would have written fiction otherwise. In terms of nonfiction, I have already published quite a bit, both in my field (intellectual property law) and in connection with other hobbies (in the early 80s, Apple II assembly language programming).

I was sending out queries and proposals for a book on mirrors in history and science to agents around the time I became active in the bar. If I hadn’t started writing for the 1632 universe, I would have rejiggered my book proposal as one agent suggested to focus on mirrors in nature. But the Bar’s quick response times rather spoiled me.

 

bhasseler

The two more frequent pieces of advice given are “show, don’t tell” and only change the point of view at a section break. Trying to keep that in mind as I write & revise hopefully means that a story comes out tighter & more coherent. In general, I’ve learned to be more aware that just because I know what I meant doesn’t mean a reader can automatically keep track. There’s a balancing act where I want my characters to seem like they really do have some idea what’s going on around them in the 1632verse but without needing to comment on every development in the series to date.

Karen

Before the Gazette I had made a few minor attempts at writing fiction. Now I am published and qualified for SFWA. Writing for the Gazette taught me how to be a writer.:-)

 

f/Russiaw/Love

It has helped tremendously. It helps to restrain all the crazy ideas into a workable mold. Also before this, I had no idea how to do dialogue between characters; it was a mystery.

3. How has your work contributed to the shared world of 1632?

 

virginiaeasleyd..

I nag, I correct, I post lots of notes and bibliographical references, I have a database of historical down-timers with over 150,000 individuals in it, and I keep reminding people that the real world is infinitely more complicated than any known theory of history wants it to be.

 

bhasseler

When Virginia made the 7G edition of the up-timer grid, I was surprised to see how many characters my story canonized. It was cool to see a business and an organization that I made up appear on the grid. But I was really surprised to see I was the first one to specifically mention the Jesuit Collegium of Grantville in a story.

4. If you submitted a story to the Grantville Gazette/Ring of Fire series as a first-time author, what made you start here?

 

W1PK

This community not only rectuits new authors, and pays professional rates, they actively teach writing to those willing to listen and act on advice, and respond with useful feedback within hours.

 

virginiaeasleyd..

I wrote in the first Ring of Fire anthology, before the Gazette started. I did that because Eric nagged me into it and the people on Baen’s Bar urged me on.

 

dvdscar

It was here?:-) Seriously, I discovered the opportunity and developed my first story idea within minutes of each other. And once I sold, it was the greatest feeling in the world. Better than your intoxicant of choice.

jones

A challenge. I complained to Eric Flint (by E-mail) that his portrail of the European Jewish community of the era was less than accurate. His reply, paraphrased, was “fix it, write a story”. The Joseph Hanauer series is that story. I wrote SchwarzaFalls as a crutch to support Joseph Hanauer. I had to get Joeseph into the Ring of Fire from the Soutwest, and to do that, I needed to understand the roads and geography of that side of the RoF. The crutch, being a self-contained short story, was easy to publish

GWV17

I started here because of the blurb I saw in the back of Eric Flint’s 1632 (I was completely mesmerized by that novel!) that said you could work on and submit stories set in Eric’s wonderful world online and they pay pro rates. I had Birdwatching half written in my head as fanfic and ended up getting to sell it, a huge boost to my career! Little did I know I would eventually become art director, which I’m pleased to say happened because I was goofing around making funny pictures and teasing Paula Goodlett, our editor extraordinaire- she saw I was fast with Photoshop and gave me the job (which no one else wanted, especially Paula!). It’s been a great experience, especially the art- only a nut like me would want to take on an entire issue of diverse stories and articles single handed, its a HUGE amount of work, which I always like to take the opportunity to remind everyone of. LOL

5. If you’re a beta reader, what rules do you try to follow when commenting on/editing other people’s work?

 

kao16

Try and be constructive . . . and sometimes it’s a real emphasis on try . . .

Try and read the first few paragraphs before giving up (Ignore language problems, especially if it looks like the writer is a non native English speaker (We get a few of these . . . the language problems are easily dealt with if the story is good))

Look for plot.. Is the story interesting? Does it further the 1632 universe?

Are the events/ situations logical/ plausible? Economically viable? Physically viable? Is the time line too compressed (a common problem)?

Did I enjoy it?

Then start thinking about “how to make it better/ make it work”.

GWV17

Rule Number One: BE NICE! -It’s easy! I believe that we should offer constructive writing critique in a helpful and positive way. If I don’t think someone elses’ story is working I will try to help them fix it. There’s little I hate worse than people in writing groups who are snide and put other writer’s work down without making any attempt to help them improve (oh yeah, it has happened), there is simply no need for that kind of poor behavior and I tend to stamp it out when I come across it, ouch for them. All in all this is a great place to write, most folks are very helpful and professional, and this uniue alternate history is a lot of fun to work in, especially if you like research.

6. Have you written/read fan fiction before visiting the 1632 forums, and for how long?

 

dvdscar

Nope. Had been writing on/at a novel for 15+ years at the time I sold my first story, but no urge to do fan fic before 1632.

Johnzeek

The isn’t really Fan-Fic since many of the ideas of the writers of stories in GG and the RoF influnce the prime authors

GWV17

I’ve read a bit of fan fiction and written some odds and ends over the years, it’s fun of course, but I have always felt that unless its a shared universe, like a TV series or our 163X alternate history where collaboration is intended, that you are playing with other people’s toys and you can’t keep them. It’s much more fun to make my own toys.

7. Feel free to comment on any part of your experience that I haven’t covered.

 

W1PK

Grantville Gazette is a unique place to learn to write and sell fiction. Because all submitted drafts are visible on-line to all members of the 1632 community who hold a log-in password, authors receive help that no print publication could come anywhere near matching. Rather than feedback from a single first reader, we get feedback from dozens of fellow writers as well as the editorial board members. Instead of a couple of sentences, we get detailed analyses that can run for pages. Instead of waiting a year to get a response, we get it in hours, sometimes minutes. In my case, I went from first attempt to write a story to acceptance in four days. The one caution is that all this is forthcoming only to those who actually make use of the advice they receive, and make the necessary corrections promptly and without nagging. Arguing, blowing off comments, or just not getting the point are quick ways to get ignored.

 

virginiaeasleyd..

It’s often been fun. Sometimes it’s just plain drudgery.

 

dvdscar

This is an utterly unique forum, due partly to Baen’s general support, but mostly to Eric’s willingness to let people play in his sandbox with very few restrictions.

 

ivergmail

I also maintain story time frames, which tracks the temporal settings of the stories, to make it easier to spot potential conflicts.

rboatright

“How did you do it?” Lucky. In the right place at the right time.

jones

Feel free to comment on any part of your experience that I haven’t covered. Thank you!

— Research. It takes a lot of research to write historical fiction. When you’ve got a large community as we have in the 1632 universe, you can leverage that to get a lot of research done. Writing the Joseph Hanauer series forced me to dig up topo maps and geologic maps of the entire route from Frankfort to the Ring of Fire, just so I could make sure that, when he walked up a hill, there was really a hill in that place, and so the chalky soil could be chalky here, and the rocks sandstone there. Then, I had to research the coal mine, digging up photos of the actual mine, re-engineering it to fit where Eric Flint moved it, so that I could write properly about such simple things as the bus trip from Grantville to the mine on Joseph’s first day of work. The research of others was immensely important in this, particularly Virginia DeMarce’s population database and story timeframes database, and Jack Carroll and I collaborated on much of the work on gearing down the power plant as it plays strongly into his work on the growth of the post RoF electrical industry.

Karen

I’ve been at this since “1632” was first published. It has been interesting, sometimes amusing, often frustrating (why won’t they do the simplest research!) and I’ve learned a great deal about many things.

We love stories so write us one! No excuses. We’ve heard ‘I can’t write, I can’t write fiction, I’m too busy’ from many of our now published authors.:-P]

Appendix B: 1632 Books in Print as of June 2011

1632, February 2000

1633, August 2002

1634: The Galileo Affair, April 2004

1634: The Ram Rebellion, May 2006

1634: The Baltic War, May 2007

1634: The Bavarian Crisis, October 2007

1635: The Cannon Law, October 2006

1635: The Dreeson Incident, December 2008

1635: The Eastern Front, October 2010

1636: The Saxon Uprising, April 2011

Ring of Fire, January 2004

Ring of Fire II, January 2008

Ring of Fire III, July 2011

Grantville Gazette I, November 2004

Grantville Gazette II, March 2006

Grantville Gazette III, January 2007

Grantville Gazette IV, June 2008

Grantville Gazette V, August 2009

[1] Though the event is referred to colloquially as the “Ring of Fire”, this is more of a poetic metaphor than a technical term. What the characters actually saw (based on later authorial discussions) was “a very brief, very bright flash of light emitted from a spherical surface 6.1 miles in diameter centered somewhat below ground level. The flash of light lasted much less than the blink of an eye, but was probably a quantum mechanical after-effect of a spatio-temporal transfer event that was orders of magnitude briefer than the visible flash. Milliseconds for the flash, possibly picoseconds for the transfer event.” (Jack Carroll)

[2] The book starts in the year 1631 but ends in 1632. The series which followed, also generally called “1632,” is named for the first book.

[3] The “Great Man” theory is a once-popular historical approach credited to Thomas Carlyle, who declared that all history was essentially the biographies of great men.

[4] Grantville, West Virginia, was the fictional town transported back in time at the beginning of the series.

[5] Canon: A body of works considered to be established or significant (Oxford English Dictionary). In fan-speak, established facts or an unalterable part of the storyline.

[6] Up-timer: one who comes from up-time, i.e. the future. Down-timer: one who comes from down-time, i.e. the present.

[7] I am grateful to Kerryn Offord for clarifying the ins and outs of the character claiming process.

[8] A period of sunspot inactivity in the late 17th – early 18th century, which would have adversely impacted the ionosphere, and hence short-wave radio transmissions

[9] Paraphrased: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

[10] “dreck” is a mild swearword in fan-speak, meaning something like “yuck.” It is also the German word for “manure.”

[11] Henry Jenkins, in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers, defines the term collective intelligence as “knowledge available to all members of the community”, in contrast to shared knowledge, which is “information known by all members of the community”. He further defines the term by saying, “Collective intelligence expands a community’s productive capacity because it frees individual members from the limitations of their memory and enables the group to act upon a broader range of expertise.” (139)