Walking Through Dreams: Lands of Red and Gold (preview)

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Jared, May 30, 2008.

  1. Jared Voldemort Jnr

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2004
    Location:
    Kingdom of Australia
    This is a preview thread for what will become my next timeline after DoD. It has two working titles, Walking Through Dreams and Lands of Red and Gold. Since I still haven't settled on either of those names, I've just included both of them in the thread title. The eventual name of the timeline may be one of those names, but I reserve the right to pick another name entirely.

    This timeline is an extension of the ideas which I had in For Want of a Yam, and which I also mentioned a few things about in this thread (which someone else started). The basic idea is that rather than having no suitable domesticable crops, Australia has the relatively easily domesticable "red yam" as a food source. This will be cultivated by the *Aboriginals... and things change from there.

    This timeline features an alternative Australia with a variety of agricultural societies and a population of around 5-8 million at the time of first contact with Europeans (which will be early in the seventeenth century). *Australia has several domesticated crops which are widely used throughout the more fertile areas of the continent.

    All of these plants are real species, by the way, apart from the red yam. My motivation to turn this idea into a fully-fledged timeline came when I discovered how wrong Jared Diamond was about Australia having no domesticable crops. It has several, including several species of plants which are farmed today in a couple of places to form a major component of people's diets - and this is before those plants have been properly domesticated according to Diamond's standards.

    This timeline will not be properly started until some time after I've finished DoD. I'll do some intermittent work on it as and when I have time and/or ideas. (Or when I hit a mental block with DoD, which sometimes happens.) For now, though, DoD remains my main focus. And as a side note, one of the effects of the timeline is a considerably increased Maori population in New Zealand. Since this would duplicate several of the ideas I had for one of my earlier-planned timelines (For Want of a Pig), I'm folding the gist of that timeline into this one.

    In the meantime, here's an excerpt of part of the timeline:

    --

    August 1619
    Western Coast of Australia

    Commander Frederik de Houtman stood on the deck of the Dordrecht, beneath stars which always struck him as unfamiliar. Even though he had named some of these southern constellations himself, in his voyages of half a lifetime ago, he still found them strange to this day. In the moonlight, the coastline was only a murky shadow on the eastern horizon, but its shape filled his thoughts.

    For several days he had watched the shore here. It appeared so inviting, yet he had been unable to land. The roughness of the seas meant that he did not dare to let the ships go closer, not even to launch boats - if any boats would survive that treacherous surf. If his ships had not been so heavily laden with goods due in Batavia, he might have risked venturing closer. As it was, he could only wait, and decide.

    He did not wish to delay for much longer, but he was intrigued, and more than intrigued. The southern route to Batavia had only been in use for nine years, since Hendrik Brouwer discovered the strong winds in the southern latitudes, and reduced the sailing time by two-thirds. With more ships taking that route, some of them were bound to overshoot and end up on the coast of this land. His old friend Dirck Hatichs had been the first, and left an inscribed plaque on what he had privately called a "God-forsaken stretch of emptiness". Other ships had landed here since, and said much the same thing - but none of them had come this far south.

    A few days before, he had found an island he named Rottnest, for the strange rat-like creature which lived there. It hadn't been a true rat - it didn't look quite right - but it was close enough to name it that. Of course, that he only been a small island. This land, Terra Australis, the unknown great southern land, seemed to be much larger. No-one knew what creatures lived here, but there would surely be many more than that little rat. De Houtman wondered about them, but he had limits to his curiosity. He thought for a moment longer, than decided that he would wait until morning. If the seas had not calmed by then, he would give the order to turn north. With that decision made, he retired below to some well-earned sleep.

    The next morning, de Houtman came out on deck and looked at calm seas. The wind had died down, although some remained to sail, and the ocean swell was mild enough for him to sail close without a guilty conscience. He gave the order, and the ship came close into shore. He raised a telescope to his eye and searched the new land. He saw strange trees, some with white bark. A flock of black birds flew above them. Even through the telescope, he could not be sure, but he thought they looked like swans.

    “Black swans?” De Houtman had been trained in logic as a child, even if he spent most of his time daydreaming, and he remember Aristotle's triumphant example of inductive reasoning. The ship sailed closer, but the birds flew off, so De Houtman could only wonder.

    He saw an inlet, or what might have been a river, and instructed the crew to sail into it. They did so, and the ship sailed into what he would later call the Swan River, after his glimpse of the birds which, in due course, he discovered had indeed been black swans.

    * * *

    “Commander, we found something ashore you should see,” Pieter Stins said.

    De Houtman looked up from his chart, shrugged, and gestured for the sailor to lead the way back to the boats.

    “Ah, you might want to find yourself a musket first, sir.”

    “Did you find people here?” De Houtman asked. If so, the sailor should have told him at once. If they found people here whom they could trade with, the East Indies Company would forgive almost anything, including late ships.

    Stins went pale beneath his sunburnt skin. “Not yet. But there must be people about, somewhere. Best if you see it for yourself.”

    “Wait by the boat; I’ll join you in a few moments.” He found another sailor, and gave a quick order. “Send this message to the Amsterdam: Reports of strange people on land. I am going ashore to explore.” The Amsterdam, the other ship on his expedition, was commanded by Jacob d’Edel, Councillor of the Indies, who despite his status had the sense to leave navigation to professionals like de Houtman.

    After getting himself a musket, de Houtman took a boat with a few sailors and landed on the bank of the river. Another group of a dozen sailors waited on the shore. “Where are the people?” he asked.

    Stins said, “Somewhere inland, I presume, sir. But look at what we’ve found.” The sailor gestured inland.

    “Not so fast,” de Houtman said. “Load your muskets, men," he said. The sailors did. De Houtman offered a quick prayer of thanks that his men had wheel locks, not the old matchlock muskets some sailors still used. He wouldn't want to face hostile natives while trying to light a fuse.

    Just above the river, the low scrubs gave way to what had to be cultivation, although it looked little like any farmer’s fields he knew back in the Netherlands. There were some scraggly areas of grass, but the field was dominated by a staggered series of sticks dug into the ground. As they got closer, he saw that some of the sticks were forked branches, while others had smaller sticks tied across. Vines crept up most of the sticks, twirling around and extending dark-green leaves in every direction. The vines spread along the ground, too, and in most places shaded out the grass.

    “Strange plants,” he murmured. Grapes were the only crop he knew of that grew on vines, and these things did not look like grapes. He wondered when they fruited.

    One of the sailors said, “I’ve seen something like them which the natives grow in the Gold Coast [i.e. modern Ghana]. The roots grow large and sweet. They call them... yams, I think.”

    De Houtman nodded. Whether these vines were yams or not – just because something looked similar did not prove it was the same – they were obviously quite important to the natives. There were a lot of vines in this field. And that wasn’t all.

    “What are those trees around the edges of the fields?” he asked. Two kinds of trees, now that he looked more closely. The left and right edges of the field were marked with lines of trees that all reached to about nine feet tall, and had clearly been trimmed to keep them at that height. What looked like a shorter line of trees – large shrubs, really – marked the far end of the field. These were closer to the ground, although their branches had been trimmed to stop them touching the ground. And those trees were in the early stages of flowering, with golden blooms emerging from many of the branches.

    “Another strange thing, sir,” Stins said. “The seasons are backwards hereabouts. What kind of tree flowers in winter?”

    “That one, I presume,” de Houtman said, allowing himself a touch of irony. “Have you looked further inland?”

    “Not much, sir. There’s another row of fields. Do you want to explore further?”

    “Is the King of Spain a bastard?” de Houtman replied. “But carefully. The natives have to be here somewhere.” Wherever they were, they didn’t seem to spend much time tending to these fields. Or maybe it was just the wrong time of year. Who could tell, with crops like these?

    The party moved further across the fields. A few brightly-coloured birds flew up from amongst the trees at the field’s edge, but de Houtman gave them little notice. They reached a couple more fields, with more of the yams or whatever those vines were planted. Each of the fields was lined with the same rows of pruned trees.

    At the third field, he stopped the sailors for a closer look at the trees. The nearer trees had thorns on the branches. The trees were carefully-pruned, too. They had the look of something which had been shaped for harvest. “They look almost like olives,” he said. Well, the trees themselves looked nothing like olive trees, but they were pruned to a similar height and shape to what he had seen of olives in Spain during his one visit to that country. Whatever fruit was harvested from these trees was probably gathered like olives, too. And it was clearly valuable, from the way the natives had shaped these trees.

    “Look up there, sir,” Stins said. He indicated a hill rising above the fields. It was covered in regularly-spaced trees and shrubs. The eastern side, lit by the morning sun, had what looked to be the same kinds of trees as the thorny ones here. The western side of the hill had the shrubs, and those were blooming golden.

    “Beautiful flowers,” one of the sailors murmured. And the golden flowers indeed offered an impressive sight.

    “Never mind the flowers,” de Houtman said, although he thought that they looked good. “Where are the natives?” They had to be somewhere nearby, if they had these fields here. “Muskets ready, men, and let’s go find them.”

    De Houtman led the sailors further inland past the fields, looking for glimpses of the natives.

    --

    And that's it for the excerpt. As I mentioned, I'll be working on this timeline later. For now, we now return you to your regularly scheduled DoD broadcasting.
     
    What if and Shador like this.
  2. Nicksplace27 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2005
    Location:
    minnesota
    very very cool jared. I can't wait to see the aboriginal states you've thought up. Also I like the Lands Of Red and Gold as a title.
     
  3. Bavarian Raven Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    cool...i like it....more soon i hope...and a map too:rolleyes:
     
  4. Analytical Engine Monarchist Collectivist Federalist

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    Mar 12, 2007
    Location:
    UK, EU (for the moment), Earth
    Damn it Jared... Why must your writing skills rock so much? :cool:

    I look forward to this...

    I take it that the only butterflies are in Australia at this point...
     
  5. Louis XI ****** in the Nuts

    Joined:
    May 19, 2008
    Location:
    Bordeaux, France
    Sounds very promising. I wonder what you are going to do with the word "dreams"...

    I guess Aboriginals will probably have an interesting religion.
     
  6. Analytical Engine Monarchist Collectivist Federalist

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    Mar 12, 2007
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    UK, EU (for the moment), Earth
    Dreams probably relates to the dreamtime of various Aboriginal religions.
     
  7. Hnau free radical

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    Salt Lake City, Utah
    That was awesome. Quite the ambitious timeline. Good luck, Jared! :)
     
  8. Hendryk Banned

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    Aug 24, 2004
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    France
    Waiting eagerly to see where this will lead.
     
  9. Roberto FREE SUSAN O.

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2007
    Location:
    The Impenetrable Fortress of Kr'Rundor
    I agree with the other members on this. Very interesting. Realistically, the world would be unrecognizably due to butterflies, but TLs are much more fun when there's more comparison, that is there are OTL concepts mixed in.
     
  10. Kriegdämmerung Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2008
    While I'm sightly sad you didn't go with your "Maximum Mexico" idea, I can't wait to see another timeline with the level of almost insane detail that we've come to love in Decades of Darkness...
     
  11. Hnau free radical

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2007
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    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Especially with an entire civilization to build from scratch. That will be very entertaining indeed.
     
  12. Atom Future Human

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2006
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    Amber
    Very interesting. Will you start by describing the *Aborigines or will you jump into the 16th century?
     
  13. tallwingedgoat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2007
    What kind of technology would the aboriginal society have mastered? Maroi level, Mesoamerican level, North American level?

    I find it interesting that African tribes, despite not having much in the ways of technology, managed to manufacture steel tools and weapons. Even the Romans never really had steel to work with.
     
  14. Jared Voldemort Jnr

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2004
    Location:
    Kingdom of Australia
    I'll probably end up using that title, but this timeline has gone through about four name changes while I've been jotting down ideas for it, so who knows?

    There will be a map for this one, but I'll refer to OTL names for places most of the time too, and there are decent maps of Australia available online. I hope.

    Yes, there's a "butterfly trap" involved which stops the butterflies escaping the continent until there's contact between them and other peoples.

    Yes, "dreams" refers to the Dreamtime and related religious concepts. These have... changed quite a bit, though.

    Danke schon. Although let me repeat that this won't be started until some time after I finish DoD.

    Yeah, I figure that the First Law of Alternative History should be: It ain't alternative history unless there's some history to work with.

    The Maximum Mexico idea was already looking like being shelved for other reasons; the timeline ideas I was looking at were For Want of a Pig and Zimmerman Uber Alles. As mentioned, this timeline will incorporate many of the same effects on New Zealand as For Want of a Pig, although it's a case of NZ getting extra domesticated crops rather than pigs.

    Yeah, several civilizations to build from scratch, actually. I'll be inspired in a broad way by various OTL early civilizations, but the details are going to be oh so different.

    The first bit will be a date-by-date timeline of some of the highlight events within *Australian history, then a region-by-region overview of *Australian cultures. Then the timeline will move forward from European contact... which will unfortunately but inevitably be disastrous for the locals.

    I still haven't settled on the exact level of technology, but no more than Iron Age. Probably Bronze Age at best, maybe not even that. I'm still trying to map where the locally exploitable sources of copper, tin and iron would be. Australia actually has a lot of those things, but not necessarily in a form and location where early civilizations could exploit them...
     
  15. tallwingedgoat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2007
    One of the nice things about steel is that its actually easier to make than bronze in a lot of ways. Iron is much more abundant. The furnace is very simple. You don't need two metals, copper and tin and therefore do not need an elaborate settled society to marshal mineral resources across large territories. The Haya people of Africa were making steel 2,000 years ago, disproving conventional wisdom that iron age must come after the bronze age. These people went from stone age straight to iron and steel.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2008
  16. tallwingedgoat Well-Known Member

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  17. Roberto FREE SUSAN O.

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    Aug 22, 2007
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    The Impenetrable Fortress of Kr'Rundor
    Interesting article, TWG. This part I found very interesting:

    The Australian aborigines could do all of this except for the goatskin blowpipes; does anybody know if wombat, kangaroo, or any other semi-large Australian animal has hide that could fit this pupose?
     
  18. Kriegdämmerung Well-Known Member

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    Feb 27, 2008
    Question: Does New Zealand get this "Red Yam"? If so, could we see Aotearoa pulling a Meiji?
     
  19. Haggis Well-Known Member

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    Apr 27, 2006
    Location:
    Old Alabammy
    Simply amazing kind sir.
     
  20. corourke Member Donor

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    Jan 1, 2004
    It seems to me that it is likely that Australia probably was noticed by the seafaring civilizations of Indonesia, but simply ignored due to there being nothing really of note there. In the event that a civilization develops in Australia, I'm not sure if this will be the case, because the Australians are probably likely to produce some type of desirable trade goods, if only just gold and silver.

    Either way, I am looking forward to this TL, it sounds quite interesting.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2008