Bearcats and Mustangs
Historical notes were featured at the end of every novel in the His Majesty’s New World series, so naturally I’ve been asked whether we’ll be doing them for Champions. Short answer: yes, but instead of including them with the books/ebooks, I’ll do them here as author notes… and this is the first. Some mild possible spoilers ahead for Firebox, though I’ll save the real spoilery stuff for a later post.
When Alex, Stephanie and Strong head to Virginia at the start of 1941, they’re moving into the midst of a United States military that evolved from the Hubrin War. But as I’ve already discussed, the real United States Army and Navy changed immensely after the First World War, so by removing that conflict from the equation, we undeniably set up a bunch of question marks.
For instance, Fort Eustice –– the base to which the team travels –– was (and is) a real training base on the James River… but it was first established in 1918, as part of the buildup for the Great War. Would it have similarly been created otherwise?
Or how about the United States Army Air Corps, and the United States Naval Air Corps? Alex, Stephanie and Strong find them flying Mustangs and Bearcats respectively, and as any aviation enthusiast might point out, neither of these planes was in service (perhaps even invented) in 1941.
In our real history, the Mustang would of course go on to fame as a long-range escort fighter, accompanying bombers into Germany after 1943. The Bearcat was developed towards the end of the Pacific War as an interceptor –– a compact, powerful plane that could get to altitude fast and hopefully shoot down kamikazes short of their targets. It arrived in service too late to ever do the job, but was beloved by many who did fly it.
Would either of these aircraft have realistically existed without the requirements of the Second World War –– and indeed, as early as 1941?
This is just a hint of the dilemma one runs into when an alternate history story has come so far from its point of divergence. By 1941, it’s been 60 years since humans discovered the new world, and the farther out we get, the more you can reasonably expect things to change. As such, I must admit that many of the references you’ll see in Champions are purely my own conceits.
The existence of Mustangs and Bearcats… Fort Eustice… even Spitfires, and Thompson submachine guns… are questionable. But somehow, as a student of military history, I just couldn’t bear to write stories set in the 1940s without them.
So to the historians out there, I apologize. Surely there’s a lot of coincidence in this alternate world, and Saa science has done much to help human engineers develop vehicles and aircraft far earlier than otherwise would have been the case… but when it comes down to it, whether the Fort was called Eustice or something else, and whether the pilots were flying Mustangs or Warhawks, Bearcats or Wildcats (or anything else), the story would still be about Alex, Stephanie and Strong facing a world on the brink of war.
This way it all just feels a little bit more familiar.