The fact I was trained a historian does not make the world of Silver Crescent Blues a fully plausible alternate reality—it is a fun mixture of historic musings, wishful thinking and outright fantasy. Including the latter was the suggestion of my publisher, but I never regretted complying: the fantasy element proved instrumental to the initial success of the book, and more or less guaranteed its cult status.
By now it is quite obvious how it managed to affect so many different people, including those gloriously immune to my more elaborate literary endeavors. Economically written to meet the very first deadline of my professional career, it tells an elaborate tale in a surprisingly straightforward manner. As my second published title, it is practically devoid of ‘first novel’ manierisms, and sparkles with a youthful vigor one can but envy in retrospect.
Apart from being fresh and inventive as a writer, I was one lucky sonofabitch of a former Soviet subject too. I had my freedom, I did not have to kill anyone for it, and both of my early novels profited greatly from the jubliant mood of a populace that witnessed the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and saw our homeland regain her independence within a 10 month period. Pretty much anything seemed plausible in those days, and Silver Crescent Blues was published just in time to ride the winds of change.
The novel is set in a Zoroastrian universe, a world shaped by the eternal struggle between Light and Darkness. Embodied in gods, daemons and a wide assortment of lesser magical beings, these forces confront via mortal champions in an infinite number of alternate realities. Interlooping is uncommon, but not impossible—at least not for the magii who guard the singular points of periodically overlapping planes of existence.
Blessed with supernatural powers by Ahura Mazda, the magii are boundless in all four dimensions, and posess a peculiar sense of multiple identies. They are roughly the same person in all continuums: if one has a problem, it’s a problem for them all. They are lone sentries backed up by a zillion brothers, one man armies meant to keep the lesser daemons of Ahriman, Lord of Darkness, at bay.
Sensing a powerful talisman (lost in the 17th Century) is about to be found by the wrong man, a disgraced mage living in an alternate East Europe forges a daring plan to secure it – if only to get rid of the curse which is poisoning his existence for over three centuries. On the Midsummer night of 1990, he ensnares an unemployed Hungarian economist named Wolf, and sets him on collision course with fate.
Spinning over a singularity from his native world to another, Wolf accidentally fouls the plans of Ahriman and his champion, the renegade mercenary Tamil who spent most of his adult life seeking the talisman. Obsessed with the idea of becoming the next savior of Islam, the Tamil wovs revenge before reluctantly leaving Wolf at the mercy of Ottoman soldiers—warriors of a crumbling Empire still holding the Balkans and most of Asia Minor in its iron grip.
Their paths cross four years later when Wolf , seemingly unaware of his past, returns to Buda-Pest with his French mistress to attend an investors’ conference. His quest to uncover the secret of his origins brings him into direct conflict with the Tamil, and the two battle it out for the talisman in various exotic locations including an old watchtower, a downtown social club and the catacombs under the city. The Tamil traces Wolf back to the appartment of the mage and gets killed in the showdown by none other than the creator of the talisman-the Accadian warrior-goddess Arama’iuta.
Her departure signals the beginning of a full scale war between the Turks and the West, but she has not forgotten her unwilling champion entirely. Wolf and his headstrong mistress make a run for it, escape a now burning Buda-Pest and speed on towards the sunset.
Timeline – Past events
The first and most important point of departure in Silver Crescent Blues is a major earthquake hitting the Dead Sea Fault Zone in 32 BC. It levels the Eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean, shatters the Paleozoic sediments of Arabia and deepens the crease along the divide between the Arabic and African plates—to put a long story short, it creates the natural equivalent of our Suez Canal, later to be known as the Iulian Straits.
The early opening of the Levantean trade routes brings about a multitude of lesser changes and establishes Jerusalem as the Eternal City a century before the fall of Rome. By the time the Ottoman turks appear, the colonies of the Holy Eastern Empire stretch from South Africa to the Konkan coastline, and Emperor Angelos Comnemos sends explorers to seek out the lost Western and Southern continents, clearly identifiable on the ancient world map of Idris. Cristobal Colon reaches Florida in 1504, but never makes it to Logotete of the Americas: he dies in combat with the Seminole during his second expedition in 1507.
The Ottomans launch a massive attack on Constantinople in 1499. With the Crusader army of Matthias I of Hungary defeated, the heart of the Holy Eastern Empire falls to the Islam. Mahomet II proceeds to invade the Balkans and advances all the way to Marienburg where his onslaught is finally stopped by the Polish army of Sigismund Jagellowsk. The latter launches his own campaign to retake the Balkans next year, but leaves the job unfinished when the Plague strikes him down in Moldva.
Unnerved by the feuding of the Baronic Leagues in Hungary, young Charles V of the Holy Western Empire decides to give up Buda and starts fortifying Pressburg instead. In 1512, a new Ottoman offensive sweeps over Hungary, taking heavy toll on its starving population. Wise of the clear and present danger in Jerusalem, the Papal State refuses the French offer of accommodation in Monaco and relocates to Kalikut instead. Catholization of the Orient begins in earnest, the Middle Kingdom isolates completely.
With the Balkans and Hungary lost and the principates of the Holy Western Empire bled out by over a century of defensive warfare, the leadership of the Holy League goes to Cardinal Richelieu of France. The Ottomans are held at bay in the Mediterranean until the end of the 17th century.
In the late 1600s a new Islamic warlord emerges in Asia Minor, assumes the title of Mahdi and declares Holy War on the infidels once again. Seemingly invincible, he decimates the Christian fleet at Cyprus, takes Jerusalem and razes Vienna before disappearing without a trace. He is rumored to have been assassinated by his greek concubine and stashed away in a secret turbe (burial mound) somewhere in Buda-Pest1. Without the Mahdi to lead them, the Ottomans abandon Vienna and retire to their fortified positions beyond the Leeth River.
As the western advance of Islam grinds to a halt, old hatreds are rekindled, and the Christian nations of Europe turn on each other again. The fierce battles of the Four Years War leave the House of Capet victorious; the French take control of Gibraltar, Jerusalem and both entrances of the Iulian Straits. The economic effects practically compensate for British naval superiority.
Louis XIV and his successors go to great lengths to keep the British under constant pressure worldwide—Colbert even creates a Jewish freestate to guard the Iulian Straits. The excessive overspending, combined with the ill-fated French involvement in the supressed uprising of the British colonies of North America causes general unrest, and culminates in the Civil Revolution of 1785. From the ensuing turmoil emerges an artillery commander named Bonaparte and a Consular Dinasty which rules France and the rest of the civilised world until today.
We are entering the mainstream of historic speculation at this point, so I will not go into lenghty explanations how it all came about. Letting Napoleon prevail was strictly emotional decision on my part2. I made him Republican enough to stick to Consularship after Austerlitz and gave him several Hungarian marshalls (crack mercenaries in the Silver Crescent Blues timeline) to win the ‘near run thing’ at Waterloo. The latter modified the mot Cambronne to this effect: ‘Cease fire, shitheads! They’re ours!’
The novel mentions several minor clashes between the West and the Ottomans since 1790 – the most serious of these being the Turbe War staged by Crux—the Hungarian equivalent of Sinn Fein—in the 1920s. Following three weeks of heavy fighting in Northern Hungary and Buda-Pest, the Western troops involved were withdrawn from Ottoman territory. No serious attempt was made to drive the Ottomans out of Central Europe to date—this is to be achieved by the conflict we actually see developing in the background of the fantasy-adventure plot of Silver Crescent Blues.
Timeline – Present conditions
Due to Napoleon’s well-documented resent of innovation, Révo Industriel was a mild affair compared to our own Industrial Revolution. It favored Lenoir’s steam turbine to Watt’s steam engine, delayed the switch to volumenized gunpowder for three decades and sticks to natural alcaloides ever since. There is radio astronomy, penicillin and television, but there is no rocket science or atomic research. Naval power is all about dreadnoughts and big guns3. Jet planes do exist, but see little practical use while the Entente of Consular France and Greater Britain (the Hanovers ruling over Netherlands, Denmark, Saxony, Nova Scotia and India) faces a technically inferior enemy.
Parts of Central Europe and most of Ukraine belongs to the Polish Commonwealth. Russia is blood-tied to the Hanovers by her Romanov rulers. The Mameluk states of North Africa are under French protectorate, North America is mostly French Outremer except Nova Scotia and the Mormon state of Israel (former Spanish Californa; not to be confused with the Jewish Freestate of Kanaan on the banks of the Iulian Straits.) South America and the Pacific is Portugal or Spanish, and ardently Christian. There’s little mention of the Extreme Orient in Silver Crescent Blues except the fact that the Middle Kingdom (including the Nippon archipelago and the coastline of South-East Asia) is off-limits to Western explorers.
1 Part of the main plot. The Mahdi had a talisman which gave him supernatural powers. The Tamil (the Islamic equivalent of Carlos the Jackal) finds it in his tomb, loses it to the hero and goes on pursuing it until the bitter end.
2 Rooted in 19th century romanticism, Marxism did likewise by glorifying Imperial France as a progressive force in history
3 SCB features a clash between several Ottoman ironclads and a single French submersible cruiser. The war sparkled by this incident sweeps through Eastern Europe, and will probably bring about the liberation of Hungary
András Gáspár (Wayne Chapman)
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The book did get republished in 2007, right? It should be published again in the next couple of years.