The 1632 series, also known as the 1632-verse or Ring of Fire series, is an alternate history book series and sub-series created, primarily co-written, and coordinated by American author Eric Flint and published by Baen Books.
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|Author||Eric Flint and others|
Eric Flint's Ring of Fire Press
|Published||February 2000 – ongoing|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback), audiobook, e-book|
|No. of books||60+|
The series is set in 17th-century Europe, in which the small fictional town of Grantville, West Virginia, in the year 2000 was sent to the past in central Germany in the year 1631, during the Thirty Years' War.
As of 2015, the series has five published novels propelling the main plot and over ten published novels moving several subplots and threads forward. The series also includes fan-written, but professionally edited, collaborative material which are published in bi-monthly magazine titled The Grantville Gazettes and some collaborative short fictions.
In terms of the history of Time Travel literature, the 1632 series can be considered an extension and modification of the basic idea dating back to Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", in which a 19th-century American engineer, finding himself in 5th-century England, is able—all by himself—to introduce into the past society the full range of his time's technologies. In Flint's version, a whole modern community is transplanted into the past, in possession of a considerable amount of the material and written resources of modern society—making their success in changing the past more plausible.
The 1632 series began with Flint's stand alone novel 1632 (released February 2000). It is, excepting the lead novel and the serialized e-novel The Anaconda Project (2007), virtually all collaboratively written, including some "main works" with multiple co-authors. However, Flint has mentioned contracts with the publisher for at least two additional solo novels he has in planning on his website. Flint, whose bibliography is dominated by collaborative work, claims that this approach encourages the cross-fertilization of ideas and styles, stimulating the creative process and preventing stale, formulaic works.
As stated in the first Grantville Gazette and on his site, Flint's novel 1632 was an experiment wherein he explores the effect of transporting a mass of people through time.
1632 occurs in the midst of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). The plot situation allows pragmatic, American, union-oriented, political thought to grind against the authoritarian, religion-driven societies of an unconsolidated Holy Roman Empire barely out of the Middle Ages. Flint explores examples of suffering due to the petty politics of self-aggrandizement and self-interest on the one hand, and the irreconcilable differences of the schism in Christianity such as the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation on the other. Despite the fact that the shift puts Grantville in May 1631 initially, because of the ongoing war and the primitive transportation networks of the day Grantville's arrival has something of a delayed impact, so the bulk of the book's action takes place in 1632, hence the name.
The series was initially continued with two collaborative works that were more or less written concurrently: 1633 (with best selling novelist David Weber) and an anthology called Ring of Fire (with other established science-fiction writers, including long, "deep background" stories by both Weber and Flint).
Overall, the narratives are not oriented on one group of protagonists with a strong lead character, but instead are carried by an ensemble cast—though most books or short stories do have several strong characters who carry the action and plot forward. Flint had intended from the outset that the whole town would be the collective protagonist; a reflection of his philosophy that historic forces are not centered in the main on the actions of one or two key individuals, but on the many small independent actions of the many going about their daily lives and coping as best they can.
By late in 1632, the New United States-led coalition of the Confederated Principalities of Europe had become the arsenal and financier (through Jewish connections of real historical interest) for Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus (the displaced Americans' intervention in history already had the effect of preventing Gustavus from being killed in the Battle of Lützen, as happened in the "original" history). This leads the scheming Cardinal Richelieu, who'd been previously financing him to spite and weaken the Habsburgs, to turn on the Swedes. Various books from up-time Grantville, especially history books, had found avid readers amongst Europe's ruling elites, changing the plans and strategies of major players of the time. The readers, not understanding the chaotic nature of events (i.e., trivial-seeming changes can have large effects, and vice versa), often believe that these histories give them a strong idea of how they can guide events in a different direction. The "players" sent back through time have no intention of strongly guiding events, but understand how key forces (democracy, sanitation, medicine, egalitarianism, etc.) affect things in the long run to the betterment of mankind, and intend to promote and spread those even if they themselves are not "in control" of what results.
Richelieu forms a four-way alliance, the League of Ostend, to oppose the New United States, Gustavus' expeditionary army, and allied princes of the German states. After the first book, the series begins multiple plot lines or story threads reflecting this independence of action by a multitude of characters. The sequel 1633 spreads the Americans out geographically over Central Europe. Next, the novel 1634: The Galileo Affair, and the first of the anthologies called the Grantville Gazettes introduced new strong characters. The former begins what is called the South European thread, and some of the stories in the latter and Ring of Fire began the Eastern European thread (Austria-Hungary northwards to Poland).
Co-author of 1633, New York Times best-selling author David Weber was contracted for no less than five books in the series in what is called the Central European thread or Main thread of the series, but there was a delay before the two authors synchronized their schedules to write that next mainline sequel, 1634: The Baltic War, released in May 2007.
Without waiting for Weber, other sequels such as 1634: The Ram Rebellion, 1635: The Cannon Law, and the Grantville Gazettes continue in one thread or another with in-depth looks at societal ramifications from technology, religion, and social unrest as Europe deals with the outlandish ideas of Grantville's influential presence, to machinations of Europe's elites trying to maintain their hold on power, or leverage off of Grantville-triggered events or knowledge for reasons of self-interest.
Collective collaborative effort
When the novel 1632 was written, Flint did not intend to write an immediate sequel. However, following popular demand for a sequel Flint (a relatively new writer, but an experienced editor) invited other authors contracted to Baen to share the universe to rapidly develop its potential. As a result, while the first long sequel was being written, Flint concurrently put together the Ring of Fire anthology of short fiction by a wide range of authors.
In parallel, the online message board Baen's Bar received a strong response from fans following the release of the digital advance copy of 1632. The forum rapidly evolved into several sub-communities, some act as technical consultant to Flint - for example on how modern technology could be implemented within the series. The high quality of fan fiction submitted to the message board prompted to creation of the official Grantville Gazette magazine that publishes short stories and factual articles as part of the official 1632 series canon, reviewed by Flint. Originally released sporadically, the Gazette has since evolved to become an online subscription magazine, published every 2 months, with authors paid for their submissions. Several volumes of the Gazette were released in print form by Baen Books, and serialized stories that were originally published in multiple issues of the Gazette have been released in print form by The Ring of Fire Press. The Ring of Fire anthologies of commissioned short fiction also continue, with one volume approximately every 4–5 years.
The end result is a collaborative alternative history series consisting of interlinked novels and short stories, that can be regarded as adding additional layers of depth into the canon - the first level consisting of the "mainline" novels; the second level consisting of novels that take place in parallel "threads" (usually representing events in separate geographic regions); the third level consisting short fiction that has been published in print form (either drawn from the Grantville Gazette, or commissioned separately as part of the Ring of Fire anthology series); and the fourth level consisting of the stories published in the Grantville Gazette. The third and fourth levels frequently provide more in-depth background, and show the impact of the events in the novels on the ordinary population. The entire series canon is maintained by Flint.
1632 plot threads
The "mainline" novels (many of which are written by Flint alone) focus on the principal political developments within the series, along with several key characters. However, the opening of the canon to other writers allows for plot threads in other geographical regions to be explored in more details. As with real history, none of these are in isolation, and plot threads converge and diverge according to the needs of the story.
- Novel: 1632 (2000)
- Novel: 1633 (2002) with David Weber
- Novel: 1634: The Baltic War (2007) with David Weber, the direct main thread novel sequel to 1633.
- Novel: 1635: The Eastern Front (2010)
- Novel: 1636: The Saxon Uprising (2011)
- Novel: 1636: The Ottoman Onslaught (2017)
- Novel: 1637: The Polish Maelstrom (2019)
North-Central and Western European thread
The Central European thread or more correctly, the Central and Southwest Central European thread, is the main plot thread of the series. It concerns events in the region from west to east of the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland, Northern France, the Spanish Netherlands, French Netherlands, and the Dutch Republic, and the whole of western Germany eastwards to Brandenburg and the Electorate of Saxony, and southerly to the northern reaches of Bavaria. Bavaria proper, Switzerland, Austria, Bohemia, and points easterly and north are properly geographically part of the Eastern European thread.
- Anthology: Ring of Fire (2004), includes "The Wallenstein Gambit" with Mike Spehar which begins the Eastern Europe thread, "In the Navy" by David Weber, and other stories antedating 1633 in the neohistory.
- Novel: 1634: The Ram Rebellion (2006) with Virginia DeMarce, crafted as a collection of related "key developmental events". This is structured more as an anthology and includes substantial material from Paula Goodlett and other authors, but classed as a novel by the publishing trade since the stories all come together as having a related overall story arc.
- Novel: 1634: The Bavarian Crisis (2007) with Virginia DeMarce, chronological sequel to 1632, but continues the Eastern European thread.
- Anthology: Ring of Fire II (2008)
- Novel: 1635: The Dreeson Incident (2008) with Virginia DeMarce
- Novel: 1635: The Tangled Web (2009) by Virginia DeMarce
- Novel: 1635: Music and Murder (2013) by David Carrico
- Novel: 1636: The Devil's Opera (2013) by David Carrico
South European thread
The Southern European thread, or Western South Europe and South Central European thread, or perhaps more appropriately, the South-Central and Southwestern European thread, involves characters introduced in the short story "To Dye For" by Mercedes Lackey but the thread plot action proper continued in the second published novel sequel of the series, the best-selling 1634: The Galileo Affair and its direct sequel, 1635: The Cannon Law, both co-written by Flint and Andrew Dennis. The main characters are, in part, Lackey's The Stone Family, combined with Flint's Sharon Nichols and Larry Mazzare.
- Novel: 1634: The Galileo Affair (2004) with Andrew Dennis
- Novel: 1635: The Cannon Law (2006)
- Novel: 1635: The Papal Stakes (2012) with Charles E. Gannon
- Novel: 1636: The Vatican Sanction (2017) with Charles E. Gannon
Eastern European thread
The Eastern European thread is taken to be east of modern-day Germany, Austria, and western Hungary, to include mainly modern-day Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and parts of Ukraine and Belarus, but not Russia. The first fiction written within this thread was the novelette "The Wallenstein Gambit" and the prequel short stories leading up to it, all published in Ring of Fire, but subsequent long fiction planned in the setting had to await authors' scheduling issues.
- Novelette: "The Wallenstein Gambit", continues from two plot lines suggested in "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "A Lineman for the Country" in the same anthology.
- Serialized novel (discontinued): The Anaconda Project by Eric Flint, directly continues "The Wallenstein Gambit" and follows the establishment of a new empire with its capital at Prague. The serial was interrupted (and ultimately discontinued) in late 2009 due to the author having an unscheduled medical procedure that caused serious problems to his writing schedule. Ultimately, only 10 episodes were published in the Gazette with episodes 5–6 being incorporated into 1635: The Eastern Front, and episodes 1–4, and 7–8 incorporated into 1637: The Polish Maelstrom. Episodes 9–10 were abandoned and not incorporated in any printed novels.
The Russian thread was started by authors Paula Goodlett and Gorg Huff in the eighth issue of the Grantville Gazette with their introduction of the serial Butterflies in the Kremlin, which later became the novel 1636: The Kremlin Games. Goodlett and Huff has since written at least 5 novels within this thread with more on the way.
- Novel: 1636: The Kremlin Games (2012) by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett
- Novel: 1637: The Volga Rules (2018) by Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett, and Gorg Huff
- RoFP Novel: A Holmes For the Czar (2020) by Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett
- RoFP Novel: Two Cases for the Czar (2020) by Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett
- RoFP Novel: A Mission for the Czar (2021) by Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett
David Weber and Eric Flint in 2002 (writing 1633 and Ring of Fire) originally contracted together and with Baen's Books to co-write five "main series" books—the first two and perhaps some as yet unrevealed others being known as the naval thread. When working on the long-delayed 1634: The Baltic War novel and with the prolonged and ongoing demand for the series sequels, and considering the already-experienced delays imposed by the difficulty of getting schedules between themselves synchronized (it took three planned "windows of opportunity" before one worked in The Baltic War) well enough for the two to have the three to six months or so needed to collaborate successfully, the two decided to alter their original planning and spin off a new thread—one based on the United States of Europe as a naval power. The thread is continued in 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies, which is the story of the United States of Europe's naval task force, operating in the Caribbean Sea and surrounding waters, and the various forces it comes into contact with (including the surviving remnants of the Dutch naval force destroyed in 1633), and its sequel 1637: No Peace Beyond the Line.
The Americas and Asia thread
This agreement for Weber to leave aside European threads likely will follow up foreshadowings of overt dislike evinced by various Grantville natives for both the African slave trade and the Amerindian encounters with colonizing Europeans—and Flint has already written a very sympathetic, two-volume alternate history from the American Native's viewpoint in his Arkansas Wars series—and he'd written similar foreshadowings into the series' earlier works that were spun into pro-democracy and anti-anti-Semitic social themes now manifesting in the series in the Eastern Europe thread in particular, as well as an overall, muted sub-theme. This revised author's decision released a logjam of backup of other novels in the series, so that since rehashing their arrangement, 1632 series books have been released regularly every 4–6 months.
Stories in 1632 Slushpile regarding obtaining strategically important materials and some which have reached publication in regard to the Essen Steel Corporation and Essen Chemical are foreshadowing activities (mining chromium for one) in North America, and others are pursuing latex rubber in South America. In addition, the three books contracted between Flint and David Weber will in part involve expeditions sent by Gustavus and Mike Stearns to American shores.
Two novels focused on the Americas were initially serialized in The Grantville Gazette magazine:
- Serialized novel: Stretching Out by Iver P. Cooper, exploration and colonization for rubber in South America.
- Serialized novel: Northwest Passage by Herbert & William Sakalaucks, French takeover of British North America and Danish colonization of Newfoundland and Hudson Bay.
The first full novel in the Americas and Asia thread was published in 2013: 1636: Seas of Fortune (December 2013) by Iver Cooper.
- Stretching Out: the United States of Europe seeks out oil, rubber and aluminum ore. Pioneers cross the Atlantic and found a new colony in South America.
- Rising Sun: the changes caused by the Ring of Fire are reaching Japan. The Shogun, impressed by samples of up-time technology and influenced by information about Japan's possible future, decides to end a policy of isolation and change his country's fate forever.
South Asian Indian thread
- 1636: Mission to the Mughals (2017) by Eric Flint and Griffin Barber
- 1637: The Peacock Throne (2021) by Eric Flint and Griffin Barber
Books in the 1632 Series
The Ring of Fire Press
In June 2013, the Ring of Fire Press was created to reissue certain materials originally published online in the Grantville Gazette. First, it would publish certain stories that were serialized across several issues of the Gazette, so they can be read without hunting through the various Gazette issues. Second, it would publish several themed collections of fact articles.
In 2018, the scope of the Ring of Fire Press expanded, with the hiring of managing editor Walt Boyes and Joy Ward, and graphic artist Laura Givens. The release schedule was increased to two books per month, including original novels in the 1632 series (the first being 1635: The Battle for Newfoundland), collections of serialized 1632 stories, and non-1632 related novels - both new and reprinted.
The initial volumes were made available through Amazon as Kindle editions or print on demand paperback books. Later Baen began distributing selected titles for Ring of Fire Press through their web store and their other distribution channels.
Assiti Shards novels
Following the success of the 1632 series, two other alternative history series were started by Eric Flint, following the same conceit as 1632 - that there was a time displacement caused by an "Assiti Shard".
Literary significance and reception
As of 2014, four books in the series had significantly large number of sales of hardcover editions to become eligible for The New York Times Best Seller list. 1634: The Galileo Affair was on the best seller list for hardcover fiction for two weeks during April 2004 while reaching number 27. 1634: The Baltic War was on the same list for two weeks during May 2007, peaking at number 19. 1634: The Bavarian Crisis was on this list for a week in October 2007 at number 29. The most recent book, 1636: The Kremlin Games was on the NY Times list for a week during June 2012 at number 30.
Almost all of the books in the series sold well enough to get listed on the various Locus Magazine Bestsellers Lists with some titles listed multiple times, and a few even reached the top spot for the month.
1632-verse glossary of terminology
- "Uchronia: The Assiti Shards (1632) Series". www.uchronia.net.
- "Fantastic Fiction.com Ring of Fore (1632) Series".
- "Eric Flint: Remaking History". Locus Online. December 4, 2016. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
- Flint, Eric (March 2006). "Forward and Afterwords". In Eric Flint (ed.). Grantville Gazette II. 1632 (1st, Hardcover ed.). Afterword, pp. 316–317: Baen Books. p. 324. ISBN 978-1-4165-2051-1.
Beginning with 'Which is the way I intended things, from the moment I decided to turn 1632 from a stand-alone novel it was originally written to be into a series.' ... through 'where revolutions have typically been depicted as the product of magical hand waving by a handful of big-shot heros. They decree, and therefore it is done.'CS1 maint: location (link)
- Flint, Eric (March 2006). "afterword". In Eric Flint (ed.). Grantville Gazette II. 1632 (1st, Hardcover ed.). afterword: Baen Books. p. 324. ISBN 978-1-4165-2051-1.
pp316: "...which has to do with the way I see this entire story in the first place—and did from the beginning. 1632 was written as much as an American novel as a science fiction or alternate history novel. More precisely, as a novel that fits within that loosely defined literary category known as Americana. In particular, it was written from a desire on my part to make a relatively ordinary small American town the collective protagonist of the story. And then, as the story unfolded, to keep the focus as much as possible on what you might call the level of the common man and woman—understanding that, as the story unfolded, more and more seventeenth-century Europeans would become an integral part of that collective protagonist." (hyper links added herein)
- "The Anaconda Project, Further News". Grantville Gazette. Vol. 27. December 13, 2009.
- Flint, Eric. Grantville Gazette II. Baen Books, 2005, Afterword.
- "About Us". Eric Flint's Ring of Fire Press. Archived from the original on February 20, 2018. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
- R Boatright, "Ring of Fire Press – Formal Announcement", posted June 19, 2013, to the 1632 Tech forum on Baen's Bar, bar.baen.com; search for "Ring of Fire Press" on www.amazon.com.
- Flint, Eric (May 12, 2020). "Where we're going with Ring of Fire Press". EricFlint.net.
- "Ring of Fire Press – Publishers". Baen Books.
- "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. April 18, 2004. Archived from the original on April 10, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
- "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. April 25, 2004. Archived from the original on April 10, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
- "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. May 13, 2007. Archived from the original on April 10, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
- "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. May 20, 2007. Archived from the original on April 10, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
- "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. October 21, 2007. Archived from the original on April 2, 2014.
- "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. June 24, 2012. Archived from the original on April 5, 2014.
- "Locus Bestsellers, July 2004". Locus Magazine. July 2004.
- "Locus Bestsellers, November 2005". Locus Magazine. November 2005.
- "Locus Bestsellers, December 2005". Locus Magazine. December 2005.
- "Best-Selling Books, Week Ended Oct. 28; With data from Nielsen BookScan". The Wall Street Journal. November 3, 2012. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016.