Many of the individuals, places, and events in this novel were inspired by history. The land of Ipukarea and its culture are based on historical New Zealand and its native Maori culture. In particular, Ipukarea is inspired by New Zealand during the Musket Wars, when firearms and foreigners began to reshape Maori affairs. The main character's name comes from the Maori phrasete toka tu moana, or "the stone against the sea." Notable historical inspirations include Hone Heke and Te Rauparaha. The nations in this story are also analogs of historic ones: Anglavia (Great Britain, the Confederate States of America, and the Dutch Republic), Bordeaux (Bourbon France and Imperial Spain), Ursia (Tsarist Russia and Byzantium), Hurun (Iroquois Confederacy and the early United States), Yamashi (Edo Japan), and Zhao (Ming and Qing China). Further details about these nations and others will be explored in future stories.
Specific inspirations on each chapter are detailed below. Be warned, as major spoilers are present:
-The Ebon Tide: Britain had all manner of strange cults, such as the Hellfire Club and School of Night. In addition, many persecuted religious groups, such as the Puritans, sought to establish colonies to practice their religion free of persecution. Unfortunately for Toka, a foreign cult settles near his own village and begins looking for sacrifices, beginning the events of the story. As contact with the unknown is a major theme of the novel, Toka is forced to confront foes unlike any he has faced before, to say nothing of Matarere. In the Age of Sail, the carpenter and surgeon on a ship were often the same person due to similar tools - hence William Burke's ability at repairs and surgery. In addition, shipwrecked sailors often joined Maori tribes, becoming known as the pakeha Maori. They brought outside expertise to the Maori, including knowledge of firearms. Toka's own home region is based on the Canterbury Plains and Banks Peninsula of the South Island, although some forms of wildlife were changed.
-The Priest of Rotting Talons: Like the historical Maori, the Ipukareans would engage in conservation efforts by declaring certain animals off-limitsfor hunting during the year (often mating or spawning periods). Certain areas (such as nesting grounds) would be put under rahui, to prevent unauthorized access. Arapeta found a foreign ship in one such area, and began abusing their trust for his own ends. The undead creatures present in this story come from two sources. The first are my take on the jiangshi, the hopping vampire of Chinese mythology. My versions of them are fast and feral undead adept at climbing and jumping, made from the bodies of Arapeta's victims. The bird is an undead Haast eagle, a now-extinct apex predator of New Zealand. The Haast eagle was slightly less than 2 meters (about 6 feet) tall, and able to carry off children. Its primary prey wasthe moa, a large flightless bird about 3 meters (10 feet) tall and weighing 200 kg (450 lbs). Needless to say, a Haast eagle made quite a fun creature for our hero to deal with.
-From Distant Shores: The settlement of Valmont is based (very loosely) on the town of Akaroa in New Zealand. Akaroa was the only French colony in the country, but was soon overtaken by British settlement. Jean-Luc Gaspard and Pierre Calvet, however, are completely fictional figures. Unlike the story, the settlers in Akaroa were on good terms with their Maori neighbors. The fictional Robuste is a frigate named for a real ship-of-the-line used in the French navy during the Napoleonic Wars. The Harbinger, however, has no direct real counterpart, save the smaller merchantmen used by pirates and privateers in the Age of Sail (although it has been outfitted with more firepower, including the powerful short range cannon known as the carronade).
-The Poison Sea: The sand-snake depicted in this story is an entirely fictional species. The monitor lizards are nastier, aggressive versions of real-life Komodo dragons. Lord Ishimura Sato and his forces use weapons and tactics inspired by Edo-period Japan. Their masks were inspired by those often seen on samurai helmets. The shinobi in this story wore dark robes as camouflage for the thick undergrowth of the tropical island. Likewise, sniper attacks (including those with matchlock firearms) were used by assassins in feudal Japan. (A famous story details an assassination attempt by snipers on samurai warlord Oda Nobunaga, only for them to miss and kill his attendants and guards.)
-The Island of Other Days: Due to excessive hunting in the Atlantic, American and European whalers in the early 18th century traveled further south in search of new prey. They often found their returns were not worth the risks they encountered. However, whaling outposts were some of the first European settlements in the South Pacific. The dinosaurs that Toka faced are known as Deinonychus, relatives of the velociraptor. They are pack hunters with a claw, and the name of the dinosaur itself translates to "terrible claw." The dragoon pistol used by Eleanor (and later Toka) was based on a British design used during the Seven Years War, American Revolution, and Napoleonic Wars. The electric weapon used by the Other was based on a modern taser, but with an archaic chemical battery and current-generating crank instead of more reliable modern components.
-Homeward Bound: There was, indeed, a Pacific slave trade during the mid-to late-19th century. It was smaller than the earlier Atlantic slave trade, but was no less deplorable. It was primarily focused on using kidnapping and lies to lure unwary islanders into indentured servitude on plantations. The forced laborers were treated as slaves, with high mortality rates and little pay. Those who survived were often dumped in foreign lands without a care where they originated from. The people behind the notorious trade were known as 'blackbirders,' and were active across the South Pacific, from Fiji and Samoa to Queensland, Australia. Interestingly, former Confederates from the American Civil War often ran such plantations, and a chapter of the infamous Ku Klux Klan existed on Fiji at the time. During the period of the Musket Wars in New Zealand, many tribes would sell land, foodstuffs, or other supplies in exchange for modern weapons, although some tribes began to rely on slave labor. Toka chopping down the flag, however, was inspired by Hone Heke's persistence with chopping down the British flag during the aptly-named Flagstaff Wars.
Armaments: Weapons are often prized by those who use them, and the period of the Musket Wars in New Zealand marked a transition from traditional weapons to firearms.
-Maori Weapons: The weapons appearing the story are based upon specific historical counterparts, although certain creative liberties are taken. Before European contact, the Maori of Aotearoa made weapons of wood, bone, and stone instead of metal. Toka and the inhabitants of Ipukarea use weapons like their real-life counterparts did, including the mere club, taiaha fighting staff, spear, and hoeroa. The historic hoeroa is a whalebone staff approximately 1.3 meters (about 4 feet) in length, unlike the tethered short club presented in this story. The Maori did use poi, balls on the end of strings, in various performances, and in rowing. Toka's hoeroa is a combination of the historic version, a militarized version of the poi, and a bit of the Chinese rope dart and meteor hammer.
-Edged Weapons: The inaccuracy of early firearms required soldiers also be able to fight in melee. The edged weapons in this story are largely based on weapons in widespread use between the Renaissance and Napoleonic Wars. Bayonets of the socket type (fitting over the barrel, thus allowing it to be fired safely while fitted) were often issued to infantry. Most of the swords are cutlasses, cavalry sabers, and long knives used by sailors and officers. Thinner blades, such as rapiers and small swords, were largely being displaced from battlefield use, but still present in some hands. Toka's sword, however, was based on two Chinese blades: the pudao and dadao. Both of these are heavy, single-edged chopping weapons very much able to separate heads from necks. They are often used with two hands, and earn the moniker of zhanmadao, or "horse-chopping blades," due to their use in removing the legs of charging horses. Locke's tomahawk was based on a metallic version of the Native American weapon, carried by settlers and useful as both a tool and weapon. Erin's dirk was based on a short Scottish blade, although it was also used as a utility knife by sailors. Rafiki's machete was a tool pressed into service as a weapon, just as in many tropical countries in the present. Axes were often used in boarding actions, commonly as a means to chop down an opponent's mast and rigging.
-Firearms: The musket greatly impacted warfare in Aotearoa, just as it did in Ipukarea. The Maori even designed special pas (fortified villages) that took advantage of firearms and were incredibly troublesome for even the British to remove even with heavy artillery. The firearms in this story are primarily black-powder muzzle-loaders of the flintlock variety, as percussion caps, metallic cartridges, and other systems do not exist in Toka's world. The inaccuracy and unreliability of flintlock weapons means that melee combat is still an important aspect of warfare. Many of the weapons presented in the story have direct real counterparts. Toka's first flintlock pistol is based on a Royal Navy Sea Service pistol. His second one is based on a dragoon pistol, popular amongst British heavy cavalry from the Seven Years War to the Napoleonic Wars. Locke's Aquilan long rifle is based on the Pennsylvania long rifle. His pneumatic pistol is based on a scaled-down version of the Austrian Girandoni military air rifle of the late 18th century. Renault's duckfoot is based on a design popular amongst naval officers. Erin's steel-handled pistols are based on Scottish designs.
-Other Firearms: The Anglavian Blue Betsy is based on the British Brown Bess musket. The matchlock firearms used by Ishimura's troops were based on early sniper rifles used during the Sengoku and Edo periods of Japanese history, where they were used in a botched assassination attempt on Oda Nobunaga. The Anglavian volley gun was based on the multi-barreled Nock gun used during the Napoleonic Wars, a massive and unwieldy weapon. The flintlock repeating rifle was based on the Collier flintlock repeating rifle and pistol, invented during the 1810s by Boston inventor Elisha Collier. Due to the weapon's high cost, unreliability, and tendency to explode in the user's face, it was not as successful as the later percussion cap Colt revolvers. A Collier repeating rifle, however, does sit in a museum in Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island, probably brought by a British or American sailor before finding its way into the hands of a local Maori warrior. Double-barreled pistols were also used by some officers, although they were expensive. Given the Anglavian marines' status as elite light infantry, they'd prioritize volume of firepower over cost.