Finding a Historical Footing in Æther & Iron

Writing an alternative history of New York in Aether and Iron demands a decent understanding of the subject matter to create anything resembling the massive complexity of New York. The mountain of reading and research to cover everything from vehicles to dress to architecture has proved difficult from both the volume of work to sift through and the barriers to accessing old primary documents. But despite a hundred plus years that separate us from the era we are recreating, we are dedicated to creating a living breathing world to explore.

Lithograph of 1873 New York, restored by Adam Cuerden.

Identifying the Timeline

The first step we took was trying to figure out when in New York’s history does the timeline to diverge to create a flying city filled with automatons and feudal lords. At first we considered having the timeline diverge during the American Revolution where the Founding Fathers became Feudal Lords over their American Empires, but such a plan quickly got out of hand. There would be so much backfill to add to our story that the effort didn’t seem worth the payoff.

Instead we tried to isolate a time later in history, closer to the date in world, where we could link all the major changes to a singular event: the discovery of Aether, a substance that allows things to fly. We have this discovery occurring at the dawn of the Gilded Age, when invention, industry, immigration, and commerce are all about to hit New York like a moon hitting Lamentis-1. This gives us enough real world material and time to explain the creation of a massive city by the time we reach the late 1930’s.

Does this early concept of an Aether mining rig fit our timeline? Maybe...

Finding Sources

Our version of New York spans several different aesthetics in American life starting from the end of the Civil War and a town filled with mansions and farm animals to the city of skyscrapers built from steel, concrete, glass to a picture of a streamlined future imagined in the 1930’s. To build out this spectrum of ideas, I’ve dove into litany of online archives for Popular Mechanics, Poplar Science, Motor, Electrical Experimenter, Amazing Stories (these are seriously wild visions of the future!), Harpers Magazine, The Independent, and sooooo many other magazines found in the far corners of the internet. Each provides some insight to a different part of what seems like a long forgotten world.

Then, between skimming through old ads about weight gain and the miraculous future of Radio, I have a stack of open books around the office including Burrows and Wallace’s massive history of Gotham (so much to read, so so much to read), Frank Oppels Tales of Gaslight New York, Esther Crain’s The Gilded Age of New York, Eric Homberger’s Historical Atlas of New York City, and several others have come in handy in helping craft our version of New York.

How do we build a version of New York rooted in history yet real only through fantasy?

What Other Resources do you Suggest?

There are so many resources that can help us understand New York at the turn of the century, so if any of you have fun stories from a long lost New York, make sure that you share it on our Facebook! Who knows, we may feature your idea on our blog! Make sure you subscribe below so you don’t miss anything!


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