Technology in Dr. Nick's world.
by -3-

As mentioned previously, scientific development has been significantly altered. A secondary sociological effect of the Church has been to weaken the effect of suppression of new tech by entrenched money. If a private inventor develops something that the current moneyed business doesn't like and they try to keep it off the market or stifle the development, the inventor can just go to the Church and see what kind of help they'll provide against those who stand in the way of following God's command to understand the world. (See the previous Secrets Of The World blog entry)
So, while in our history Westinghouse may have decided is was impractical to meter & bill for broadcast power, the money was easily found to develop it. At least in Europe, and the Persian Empire is considering the advantages of developing such a system.
Did you know that a method for generating electricity from cosmic rays (yep - the same stuff that gave us the Fantastic Four) was patented way back in the 1800s? Think of what might be accomplished by another few decades of development by the time of our current tale. Dr. Nick is perhaps the world's greatest authority on energy & electrical power. The heavy belt he wears is actually a portable cosmic ray energy generation system, coupled with a broadcast power emitter. Thus, any device enable to receive broadcast power is automatically powered whenever Nick is nearby. And, of course, all of Nick's own gear is built with such a design. That includes vehicles. Fuel is never an issue, though much tech still uses steam, and so requires water. No messy coal, though - heating elements are electrically powered.
Technology at this time is in a state of constant advance and exploration, with very little standardization as yet. And different countries/kingdoms can have vastly different tech levels in general. But one never knows what technology individuals or small groups are developing here and there. This leads to such contrasts as zeppelins with electrical beam weapons.

And then there's the luminiferous aether. Here, it exists. This leads to many small changes in the understanding/laws of physics - none of which might show up in this story, so we'll move right along.

Does Orgone energy exist? Has anyone besides the Traveller (of H.G. Welles fame) cracked the time barrier? And how prevalent is Magick in this world of Science?

So much waiting to be explored!
I'm all a-tingle.   

Scenic Kutna Hora
by -3-

Kutná Hora and the neighboring town of Sedlec are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The oldest Alchemy Museum in the world is only one of many fascinating things we find here.
One of the most important buildings in the area are the Gothic, five-naved St. Barbara's Church, begun in 1388. You can see its distinctive five spired roof in the first 2 strips.
Another world famous location is the Ossuary.

I don't know if we'll visit the Bone Church in this story, but if you happen to be passing near Prague, i highly recommend the side trip.
See, back in the late 13th century, King Otakar II of Bohemia sent Abbot Henry to the Holy Land. When the good abbot returned, he brought with him a pot of earth from Golgotha, which he sprinkled over the cemetary. Word of this spread, and soon it was seen as holy land in its own right, and people all over Europe wanted to get buried there. Things were booming right along until that pesky Black Death dropped in to visit. Now suddenly, we've got way too many people wanting/needing to be buried, and no place left to put them.
"Hey! I know!
Why don't we dig up the bodies, clean 'em up, and use the bones to build a church? Think of it as just moving all the old residents indoors. We're upgrading their accomodations!"

Well, some strange conversation like that must have happened, and this is the eventual magnificent result:

Irina Alexandra has a fine page of photos on Weirdomatic to give you a better look around.

A Chinese Sherlock Holmes (but real)
by -3-

Once upon a time in China, way back in the Tang dynasty (back in the 600s on the CE calendar), there was a Magistrate named Di (or Dee, if you prefer). Di RenJie worked his way up from a small town magistrate to a key court figure by virtue of his righteous character and his ability to solve seeming unsolvable crimes.
A millenium later, in the Ming Dynasty, Di became a popular literary figure, with detective tales written placing the Tang Magistrate into Ming dynasty life. Then, in the middle of the last century, Dutch diplomat Robert Van Gulick translated some of these Ming Dynasty tales, and even went on to write original Judge Dee fiction.

Now i could go look up some more accurate info than that top-of-my-head summary. But, no.
Instead i've been working on his descendant. Or maybe his reincarnation? We'll see.
Magistrate-Under-Heaven Di will be a significant figure from the new Chinese Empire. And his story walks hand-in-hand with that of Gwai WuMei - the "Lovely Ghost", with Sifu T'ien Lung weaving his web between.

When it comes to Sifu T'ien Lung, think a mix of Fu Manchu, the Mandarin, and Dr. Fate. Sort of. But sort of not.

To learn more about the original Judge Dee, may i suggest reading Dee Goong An (Celebrated Cases Of Judge Dee). It's a fine peek at detective novels that were written hundreds of years before they were "invented" in the West. (Of course, if you're a cheap old bastard like me, you might just pop over to the OpenLibrary and see what your options are for Judge Dee At Work instead.)

Jazzman was Axeman
by -3-

Up until a few months before our story takes place, New Orleans was held in the grip of the fearful Axeman. For at least the period of 1918-1919, possibly longer, he killed indiscriminately, without stealing from the victims, usually using the victim's own axe or straight razor. Then in March of 1919, he sent his final note to the media, warning that he would strike shortly after midnight on the 19th, but would spare anyone in a place where jazz music played. Came the time, jazz was everywhere - late night clubs were packed and hundreds of private parties raged all across town.

The night passed, and he was never heard from again.

Here's that last note he sent to papers:

Hell, March 13, 1919

Esteemed Mortal:

They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman.

When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know whom they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with blood and brains of he whom I have sent below to keep me company.

If you wish you may tell the police to be careful not to rile me. Of course, I am a reasonable spirit. I take no offense at the way they have conducted their investigations in the past. In fact, they have been so utterly stupid as to not only amuse me, but His Satanic Majesty, Francis Josef, etc. But tell them to beware. Let them not try to discover what I am, for it were better that they were never born than to incur the wrath of the Axeman. I don‘t think there is any need of such a warning, for I feel sure the police will always dodge me, as they have in the past. They are wise and know how to keep away from all harm.

Undoubtedly, you Orleanians think of me as a most horrible murderer, which I am, but I could be much worse if I wanted to. If I wished, I could pay a visit to your city every night. At will I could slay thousands of your best citizens, for I am in close relationship with the Angel of Death.

Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to pass over New Orleans. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a little proposition to you people. Here it is:

I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have just mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band going, well, then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain and that is that some of your people who do not jazz it on Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the axe.

Well, as I am cold and crave the warmth of my native Tartarus, and it is about time I leave your earthly home, I will cease my discourse. Hoping that thou wilt publish this, that it may go well with thee, I have been, am and will be the worst spirit that ever existed either in fact or realm of fancy.

The Axeman
The Empire Of China
by -3-

This is one that's been scratching at the back of my head for a long time, since the start of developing Frank'n'Cindy - Who is the Emperor of China?
I always knew i wanted an Emperor instead of the Republic in this world, but how was the Dynastic system still in play? Who would be the new Emperor?
Would it be the Guangxu Emperor, having avoided the poison that took his life the day before the Dowager Empress died - continuing the Qing Dynasty?

I have to say, i like that one a lot, and it was #2 by an exceedingly narrow margin. The things he tried to do in his young life, he would be finally free to do now - shaping a new China for the new Century.

Another obvious candidate was Sun Yat-sen, the first President & founding father of the Republic of China. What if his revolution had sought reform of the Dynasties, instead of an end to them? What new China might he have created?

And, of course, there was always the fascinating possiblity of someone totally unknown to history as the new Emperor. A blank slate to work with. Couldn't happen, you think?
Ah, but in this world, legends live and old powers still walk this realm. Any number of artifacts might have been used by an obscure monk, scholar, merchant or peasant to seize control from the chaotic times at the beginning of the last century.

But, finally, i decided to go with the Hongxian Emperor - whose rule can be counted in weeks or days. Naturally, i've twisted things leading up to the formation at the end of 1915, so it was more solidly set and didn't collapse by March. The choice of Yuan ShiKai may piss of some people, confuse others. But i think he'll make for a most "interesting" Emperor. (BTW - that whole "Chinese Curse" of 'May you live in interesting times' isn't at all Chinese.)