In the 1860′s, Queen Victoria – she for whom the colony was named – was driving most members of her government and serving staff mad. Her extravagant grief over the deaths of her mother and husband (both of whom died in 1861) made her nearly impossible to deal with. (Unless you wanted to name something after her husband, that is. That was always just fine with her mourning Majesty.) Not only did she take to wearing mourning black, a style of dress she would maintain for the rest of her life (almost forty years), but she took to hiding away in the various royal residences throughout the (increasingly less) United Kingdom. About the only thing that would draw her out was to go to her husband’s grave site.
Prince Consort Albert was buried in Frogmore Mausoleum, with space set aside for his wife to eventually join him. But the Queen, although not the kind of person to take her own life, did not want to wait. She spent many an hour inside the Mausoleum, and probably would have moved in if she could. That she did was the result of the intervention of John Brown, a Scotsman who was the Queen’s closest friend. He arranged for locksmith who designed the locks to emigrate to Melbourne with a generous cash incentive, and sent with him the key to the Mausoleum, telling Victoria only that it had been ‘misplaced’. The locksmith was under strict instructions to surrender the key only to Brown himself or to a man who would identify himself as Brown’s emissary and provide the requisite passwords.
The locksmith, whose name is lost to history (almost certainly due to Brown’s machinations), moved to Victoria where he founded a good sized farm on the banks of the upper Maribyrnong, and named the property to signal to Brown where the Key to Albert’s mausoleum might be found. Upon Brown’s death in 1883, the mission passed to the Queen’s Physician-in-Ordinary, Sir William Gull. Gull’s death in 1890 saw the key temporarily lost, until it turned up by express post, sent direct from the antipodes, a few week’s after Victoria’s death in 1901 with detailed instructions as to its purpose. The servants of the Queen breathed a sigh of relief that it had been found, and thought no more about the matter. And the property of Kealba was subdivided into smaller lots shortly after the Great War, though even today the name abides.
Eisenhower didn’t originally want to run for President. He’d been repeatedly urged to by Harry Truman over the previous years, but Harry wanted Ike to be a Democrat, and Ike’s family were dyed-in-the-wool Republicans. At one point, he retorted to Truman that if he was going to run, it would be as a Republican, not a Democrat.
When word of that got out, Henry Cabot Lodge entered Eisenhower’s name on the ballot for the New Hampshire Primary without Ike’s knowledge. Garnering considerable popular support and a number of endorsements in newspaper editorials, Ike did no campaigning, saying only that if he won, he would contest the election. Eisenhower easily emerged victorious, winning 50% of the votes on March 11, 1952. The next day, he announced that he would indeed run, and come November, he was elected the 34th President of the United States.
Many a crackpot scheme has found eager supporters and even willing investors, if it could just be marketed in the right way to the right audience. There are still, even today, those who believe that the world is flat, or hollow (although there doesn’t seem to be anyone who believes it to be both). These people, peculiar beliefs though they may have, are models of sanity and restraint compared to the brains trust that founded Hampton Park.
In the 1840s, the theory of continental drift was in its infancy, and notion of deep time was still poorly understood by those brought up to believe that God the Almighty had created the world in six days, then settled down with a slab on the seventh. It is any wonder that there were people who thought that geographical features might well move as fast as ship at sail, or a horse at full gallop? Kevin Taverner was such a man, and he had the wit and charisma to persuade others to see things the same way. Left to his own devices, he might have been nothing more than a footnote to the history of science. But the last thing his business partner Michael Bray intended to do was leave him to obscurity.
Bray saw that Taverner’s followers were willing to pay great sums in to help their leader achieve his goals. So Bray set out to persuade Taverner that his theories were not only true, but monetizable – and Taverner was convinced. Thus it was that the creation of Hampton Park was announced. It was to be a carefully tended area designed to magnetically attract geographical features with the intent of creating a profitable vacation spot. The features in particular that they sought, as might be inferred from the name, were the Hamptons of New York state, which Taverner told his supporters were a particularly scenic mountain range. There were only three small problems with this plan: the Hamptons are in fact a series of coastal villages on Long Island, not mountains; even if they were mountains, continental drift doesn’t work that way; and finally, Bray was a con man who embezzled almost all of the money Taverner raised (it is widely assumed that the small monthly stipend that was mailed anonymously to Taverner for the next three decades was sent by Bray to assuage his thieving conscience).
Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone (best known for his four Charlie Chan films made from 1936 to 1938), “To The Shores of Tripoli” takes its named from a line of the Marine Corps Hymn. Like “Casablanca”, it was in production when that attack on Pearl Harbour took place, and the entry of America into the war led to changes in its plotline. From being simply a romance about Maureen O’Hara’s character, it changed to focus more on John Payne’s character enlisting.
The film was a hit in 1942, grossing 2 million dollars. It was credited by the US Marine Corps (who assisted in the film’s making by allowing the use of the actual Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego) as a major recruitment tool for them during the war.
Born Samuel Horwitz, Shemp Howard and his brother, Moe Howard, were two of the original Three Stooges, one the most successful acts of the vaudeville era, and also one of the few to make the jump to cinema. Shemp would come and go from the Stooges over the years, being replaced by his and Moe’s brother Curly in the lineup. In between times, Shemp was a fairly successful stand up comedian.
His stage name was derived from how his nickname, Sam, sounded when pronounced by his mother, who had a thick Litvak accent. Shemp was famous for his ability to improvise, and his quick wits belied the foolish image of the Stooges. In his solo years, he also performed in a few dramatic roles, showing a range that few would have suspected.
The Yallambie river had its springs in the hills north of La Trobe University, among the mad and distressed of the Mont Park Sanitorium and in the forest adjoining it. It flowed strong, true and mad almost due east, slicing Watsonia and View Bank apart, then swinging around the hills of Montmorency north toward Eltham then east and finally south as it followed their curves. Somewhere on the northern banks of the Yarra, not far upstream of modern day Fitzsimmons Lane, it finally reached the city’s mother river. The creek now known as the Plenty was a mere tributary of it, tending northerly from Montmorency.
But when the federal government was looking for a place to dump a few hundred members of the US Army’s Engineering Corps in 1942, the south bank of it between the railway and Lower Plenty Road looked like a good bet. As vital as the Engineers would be to the war effort, they weren’t needed just yet, and anyway, the fact that so many of them seemed surprised that Australia had such technologies as electricity, running water and the written word was just a touch insulting.
But a few hundred bored men with ready access to earth moving equipment and explosives, forbidden to date the local women and left with apparently endless time on their hands, could get up to not inconsiderable mischief. A few forged orders and a lot of hard work later, the Yallambie River was no more, and the Plenty had been realigned to the other side of Montmorency’s hills. Only Yallambie Road, which followed the line of the river (albeit much straighter in its course) remained to mark the watercourse’s existence. Local residents breathed a sigh of relief when the Engineers were sent north to build fortifications along the recaptured Kokoda Trail, and renamed their region to keep at least the river’s name alive.
Schlegel and his brother August were two of the leading members of the Jena Romantics, a group of artists and patrons between roughly 1798 and 1804 who were the earliest influential Romantic movement in Germany. Schlegel would pass through atheism and a firm commitment to individualism in his twenties before converting to Catholicism in 1808.
His contributions to philosophy mostly consist of his promotion of and work to develop the Romantic school in Germany, especially as a critical position from which to analyze art.
E.L. Sternwick was a Renaissance man in the 1890′s. A famed navigator, explorer and naturalist, he was also noted for his artistic achievements (including snapping the earliest recorded daguerreotype of a live platypus) and his athleticism (he played cricket for Victoria, bowling W.G. Grace out on the second bowl the one time they met – Grace, alas, hit the first one for six; Sternwick also played 47 games for St Kilda in the VFA). But as a Renaissance man, he was out of his time.
His Italian background, which he concealed behind his changed name (his birth name was Antonio Vincenzo Scolari) and Etonian manners (which he learned from his first captain along with navigation), was a source of constant fear to him – he lived in terror of being exposed as a fraud. Perhaps it was that terror that drove him to his many accomplishments – in his age as in ours, the famous and popular are rarely questioned.
The locality to the south of the mansion at Ripponlea was his home for many years, and he made himself a comfortable enough life there (or at least, a life that would have been comfortable had the pace of his activity ever dropped below the frenetic). But it was in 1923 that Sternwick, now in his sixties, distinguished himself to his neighbours in such a way that they decided to memorialise him forever: during the police strike that year, he rallied an unlikely coalition of shopkeepers, members of the local football team and a pair of rabbis to keep order along Glenhuntly Road and its environs with remarkable success.
Sternwick died later that year, and it was only then that the one failure of his imposture was exposed: if he had ever devised a first or middle name, he had never told them to anyone. No one could be found who knew him by anything other than his initials. After some debate, the local city council decided that that would do, and the suburb of Elsternwick was named forthwith.
Chris LeDoux was best known for his career in country music, which included 36 albums worth of material, a large portion of which he released himself. A good buddy of Garth Brooks, LeDoux was also a bronze sculptor and a one-time world bareback rodeo riding champion – in fact, his musical career began as a means of paying the bills while touring the rodeo circuit, and his first album was sold exclusively from his trailer.
But his star rose over the years, peaking with a duet with Brooks entitled “Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy?” which reached #7 on the US Country Music charts. However, in 2000, LeDoux’s doctor advised him that he had developed primary sclerosing cholangitis. This condition necessitated a liver transplant later that year (Brooks volunteered his, but was unfortunately incompatible). LeDoux recorded two more albums after the transplant, but the disease and its treatment took a toll on him. He died of complications arising from them on March 9, 2005.
In the year 2199, things on the Blue Planet of Poseidon are only gettting more interesting. Meanwhile, back in the Sol System, Earth is living up to its name as the World of Darkness.
The declaration of victory in the Ascendance War by the Technocracy at the dawn of the 21st Century set the tone for the two subsequent centuries. As the years went by, the rule of technology and science, through both success and failure, became more and more apparent, and deviation from reality became less and less common.
The rest of mage-kind were not slow to fight back, and as increasing numbers of Tradition mages either went Marauder or were corrupted by the Nephandi, the war only became nastier. The terrorist acts of Zero Nation, the inexplicable failure of El Nino to form in the 2030′s, the Big One that wiped out California in 2033, even the apparently impossible jump of the Blight across species – all these and more were the doing of Nephandus mages and their allies.
The Blight changed everything. As it grew worse and worse, numbers of Vampires grew and grew and grew. Even after the human population topped out and began to fall back rapidly, vampire numbers continued to grow. And as they did, the number of Hunters called to fight them grew also. As global population stabilised at less than half its previous level, the vampires were left increasingly exposed, falling to a combination of Hunter onslaughts, their own savage in-fighting and organised Technocracy pogroms. A last dicth effort, allying themselves with the Marauders, only saw both groups decimated by the Technocracy’s superior power and numbers.
As the worst of the Blight receded, the new status quo arose between the factions of the World of Darkness, as yet unaware of the dangers posed to it by the aborigines of Posiedon.
Increasingly cut off from humanity – and crushed along with the dreams of the mortals they depended upon, the changelings have almost entirely retreated to their freeholds or into the Dreaming. Only recently, with the reports of possible alien intelligences on Poseidon, have many fae returned to the worlds of mortals – and only in limited numbers. The only exceptions to this have been those fae most intimately connected to the oceans – the Selkies, Merfolk and Murdhuacha have always thrived on Poseidon.
In addition, strange new fae have been reported in the Dreaming and in mundane reality. Reports are sketchy at best, but these new fae may have been brought into being by the dreams of the Cetaceans of Posiedon.
Called in record numbers to fight the vampire armies of the Blight years, the Hunters remain relatively common among humanity – certainly vastly more common than at any previous time. But as always, they are divided and factionalised over more human concerns than any other group. There are those who are Poseidon separatists, and those who believe in unity. There are Hunters who believe that the aborigines of Poseidon are simply another kind of monster to fight, and those who think that they are potential allies in the fight against the unnatural.
As a result of the Blight years, the majority of Hunters in 2199 care deeply about environmental issues – and a large faction of these have made a Faustian bargain with the few surviving Bete, striving to clean up the Earth of both pollutants and monsters.
The Technocracy rules pretty much uncontestedly over both the Sol and Serpentis systems. While there are isolated Tradition and Orphan mages, they are necessarily circumspect. But with the Technocracy’s control stretched ever thinner over both Earth and Posiedon, they are finding it easier to escape detection – and even to fight back. For the first time in centuries, the Traditions have the initiative in the long war with the Technocracy – and they intend to push it.
Vampiric bloodlines have been hunted almost to extinction. Only the very oldest and the very youngest vampires still survive – nearly all members of the 7th through to the 14th generations have been wiped out. The major factions of Kindred society are no more – all vampires are, to some extent, Anarchs now. But as the vigilance of their two greatest scourges, the Hunters and the Technocracy, is trained more and more at each other, the vampires are making a slow comeback.
The genetic screening of the early 21st century made things harder and harder for all the shapechangers. The day was only won at last when the Glass Walkers, acting alone, managed to place a virus deep within the computers of the Human Genome Project that would effectively mask the existence of all Bete. By this time, however, it was already almost too late. Although the Glass Walkers, Bone Gnawers , Corax and Ratkin thrived, several other races of Bete seem to have been wiped out altogether, including the Gurahl, and the Kitsune. (The Nagah were reported destroyed, but they have been reported destroyed before now). The Bastet were decimated, and several of their breeds became extinct – only the Swara and Celican have managed to remain at more or less the same populations.
Then came the Blight. Hard-line factions within most of the surviving Bete saw it as a golden opportunity to re-institute the Impergium, and many gladly gave their lives towards this goal. Perhaps half the deaths attributed to Blight-induced rioting or wars were under the claws and fangs of the Bete. In the wake of the Blight, Gaia is in a better condition, in many ways, than she has been since the Industrial Revolution hit its stride. And now that humanity has been reduced to a more manageable level, the Bete are preparing to take this world back from the Technocrats.
Things are different on Posiedon. The few Bete to make it here have almost always been found out and destroyed, with one significant exception: the Rokea. The were-sharks have adpated quickly to this ocean world, although their efforts to communicate with the Aborigines have met with, at best, mixed results. Still, the more isolated reaches of Poseidon are dotted with tiny human settlements that are actually composed almost entirely of weresharks and their kinfolk.
But they are no longer alone in these oceans, and their dealings with the uplifted Cetaceans have been almost entirely a matter of war. Deep out of sight of most humans, and genocidal three-way struggle is fought, too-finely balanced for there to be an end in sight.
The first Wraiths to find their way to Poseidon did so involuntarily. When their fetters were moved there, knowingly or otherwise by mortals, the Wraiths found themselves drawn through the Tempests to this strange new world. Over time, more and more Wraiths joined them there, as colonists began to die. The new arrivals noted two strange phenomena: first, that there is no Labyrinth at the bottom of the Dark Kingdom of the Seas (although there are still a few Spectres – some souls are naturally drawn to that end), and second, that there is a strange kingdom inhabited by the departed spirits of the natives of Poseidon, the so-called Aborigines.
Back in Stygia, the Blight years created an almost constant Tempest, even greater than that of the World War Two years. The Kingdoms of the Dead, all of them, are filled night to bursting, and more souls are drawn into nihils every day. Fortunately for the Wraiths, the rate at which Spectres fall prey to their own natures has mostly kept up.