The Father of Lights
By Jave Harron
Author's Notes: All of the historical nations, institutions, and individuals were used in a fictional and fantastic manner. Mattias Heinlein was science fiction writer Robert Heinlein's distant ancestor. As for fictional characters, all six main narrators were fictional. Many of the close friends and family members of the main characters (such as Captain Chang and Shen) were also fictional. The style of information heavy narration is deliberate, focusing on a more historical text than traditional novel. "The Father of Lights" is a genre I call "bizarro history," a combination of alternate history combined with fantasy and science fiction elements. Arguably, the most unrealistic thing in the novel is how overly positive the French are portrayed.
A few other interesting facts: The Song Dynasty in the FoL timeline was the primary reason for an industrialized China/Cathay. Supernatural Mongol invasions would later destroy most of the engineers and scientists, though the Ming would make significant technological progress, until political infighting collapses the dynasty. By the time of the Qing (like in our own world), Cathay is a battered shell of its former glory. In terms of most technologically advanced nations (at least human-derived technology), the order from top to bottom is: Volksreich/Prussia, America, Incan Empire, Cathay, and Papists. New technologies recovered from Mu will certainly change this in the near future. The title "The Father of Lights" came from Benjamin Franklin, who used the phrase to refer to God, in a deist sense.
The deist "God," a deity that created the world but did not intervene with it (though it certainly could). The basic idea with deism was that you use your rational mind, rather than religious scriptures (such as Bible or Koran), to determine what was moral and just, and how to best improve yourself using knowledge. The Founders of America were deists and Christian humanists, often skeptical of organized religions, as in their day, the Church of England was a means of British social control. In short, deism's main ideas can be summed up as "God's the man. Don't be a jerk."
Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet entitled "Age of Reason" where he attacked the organized religions of his day. Jefferson created the "Jefferson Bible" where he removed the stories of Jesus as the "Son of God" performing miracles, keeping only Jesus' moral teachings. As you can see, the rifts between deism and revealed religion were an inviting analogy for the fight between the Mechanist nations and the Entity's pawns (ironically including liberal revealed religions as a natural ally for the deists).
A number of allusions are made in the text of "Father of Lights" to other writers and sources. "20000 Leagues Under the Sea," "War of the Worlds," and Lovecraft's stories are also mentioned. As for my own inspirations, Tim Powers, HG Wells, Jules Verne, China Mieville (especially his 'Bas-Lag' books), and Alan Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" were the notable ones. Other influences are the computer games "Rise of Legends," "Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura," and the more steampunk "Final Fantasy" games. A strategy game mod or conversion for the FoL world is a project I have seriously considered.
I fully intend to revisit the universe and timeline of "Father of Lights," and return to the bizarro history version of the Napoleonic Wars for a possible sequel. A current project set in the universe of "Father of Lights" is a roleplaying campaign entitled "Legacy" located in the "Fantasy" forum section. Links can be found on my profile page. The primary storyline details two groups, one in 1300 BC, and another in1050 AD swapping bodies across eras to uncover a strange plot. If interested in learning more about the FoL world and history, or are just interested, feel free to check it out.
I've personally long felt fantasy needs more original works. Many times, fantasy writers copy the Romantic themes of Tolkien and Lewis, and yearn for a bucolic, primitive, and feudalistic past that never was. Real medieval history was violent and unhappy. Many writers unknowingly copy these themes, which go against the ideals of the Enlightenment. Many Enlightenment ideas include democracy (since feudalism and monarchism suck), science (which gives us wonderful things like medical technology, hygiene, and sewer systems), capitalism (which works better than the alternatives, since it goes with things we know on human nature), and individualism (since protecting individual rights and liberties are the only reason governments should exist). There is no reason fantasy fiction should regurgitate the same anti-intellectualist, anti-humanist, and anti-Enlightenment ideas that Tolkien and Lewis were enthralled with. The best living high fantasy writer is China Mieville.
I hope you enjoyed reading "The Father of Lights," and my opinions on fantasy. Feel free to leave a review, comment, flame, or send me a PM. Thanks!