Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dieselpunk Fiction: Fistful of Reefer

Much is happening in Dieselpunk at this time. One exciting trend is the growth of Dieselpunk fiction. While my regularly scheduled update will still take place this weekend, because of the importance of this growth I’ve decided to have an extra early posting.

In this posting, I turn my blog over to David Mark Brown to explain about his new Dieselpunk novel Fistful of Reefer and his series of Reeferpunk novels.

David Mark Brown

The Texas Company Town
By 1915 Thurber, TX existed as the largest producer of coal in Texas. It supplied a dozen railways with coal, paved much of the state with brick, and was the largest city along Interstate 20 between Ft. Worth and El Paso. And every bit of the town (from scratching post to hitching post, from pew to crapper) was company owned by Texas and Pacific Coal Company.

Yet by the 1930's Thurber was gone, and its success began to unravel during the winter of 1921-22. At their peak, company towns across the nation hosted 3% of the population. But were these towns a blight? or progressive beacons? Was Thurber a bastion of enlightened industrialist Paternalism or a cesspool of oppressive and monopolizing Capitalism?

Sexy, dieselpunk history
Either way, the dieselpunk history of Thurber is dripping with alternate-history sex appeal for an author like me. A entire town where the municipal government has been replaced by the sour bosom of the Company. It's perfect.

Sure you could take a crap in a state-of-the-art indoor commode, but any and all creative endeavors undertaken within its sacred walls belonged to the "Man." The washroom door might as well have included a cross-stitched plaque, "material and creative rights to all processes contained therein property of Texas and Pacific. Now you're cooking with gas!"
Thurber was the first completely electrified town in the United States with its own power plant built in 1895. By it's prime in 1915 every home included plumbing, power and natural gas heat. Sounds splendorific to me! But these company town modernizations came with a cost.

The cost
In 1921 the coal industry began to struggle as oil replaced coal in train engines and other applications. When the company tried to cut wages the local unions and the company came to an impasse. Some say it was a strike while others say a lock out. But miners living in company houses without company wages were soon evicted, giving birth to a tent city north of town.
Mexican scabs poured in to pick up the slack for a short time, until eventually Texas and Pacific Coal Company became Texas and Pacific Oil Company and relocated to its Ranger Oil Fields location, leaving Thurber to the history books.

The coal still sits there today, the good vibrations long gone. Possibly the Paternalism and enlightened instincts of industrialists with good intentions simply couldn't be sustained when the price of coal fell. Or possibly the greed and lust of energy-hungry capitalists demanded a shift to oil at the expense of the common worker. Or maybe both.

Bringing ghosts to life

Locals still muse and ponder over the fate of Thurber. What really happened back in '21? Why was such a profitable area and rich coal deposit simply abandoned? Why did the first fully unionized town in Texas suddenly fail? As an author free to speculate wildly about such things and meld history to my liking, I've come up with my own answers.

Reeferpunk is the series of novels and shorts in which I create such historical abominations of the imagination. Fistful of Reefer, the first in the series, is available from an ebook retailer near you. But it's the second book in the series, Twitch and Die! a Western plague novel,(hopefully available by Christmas) that will deal with the mysteries of Thurber. If all history was like this, I wouldn't have gotten so much sleep in high school.

Now through Saturday I'm running an Amazon/Kindle blitz to get as many people to download during that time period in order to bump my ratings.

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