Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Mini Ice Age (With eventual reference to Waking the Dead!)

The imaginings of any story start with a seed. And for me, history always tends to leave a lot of seeds that we can allow to grow into something else—fiction.
                With our current watch on the weather and global warming, I found it fascinating that in relative recent history--in the grand scope of the Earth and humanity--we had a “mini ice age.” And that mini ice age affected the world in many ways.
                Naturally, famine. Crops were destroyed. People starved. Disease went rampant.
                But it’s not just the obvious.
                So, let’s start more or less at the beginning of this story—the real story, or history. The ‘mini’ ice age began in approximately 1350 and ended in 1850, but scientists argue even those dates. At any rate, Rome had long fallen and the dark ages had come and gone. The Catholic Church reigned supreme and people were superstitious, liking to blame the weather on witchcraft and demons and what have you.
                Beyond the known dangers of the periods of fierce cold that popped up during those years—famine, pestilence, etc.—there were tremendous social upheavals and many of those were indirectly influenced by the ice age.
                The French Revolution, for one. Who would imagine that winter weather might have had the revolutionaries yelling, “Off with their heads!” But the fierce cold brought about that famine. And famine brought about hundreds of thousands of starving peasants angrier each day that they were starving and the King and Queen were dining quite nicely. 
                Then, of course, it would be interesting to imagine the world if Napoleon Bonaparte had managed to have his way with the world. But his eyes were actually way bigger than his concept of that Russian winter. Now, we all know that Russian winters can be fierce to begin with. Couple that with a climate in which the Russians themselves had succumbed in vast number, and the force of Napoleon, bogged down with accoutrements of war and running out of food that was not to be found on the bitter cold Russian frontier—and voila. Down with Napoleon—there was an island in his future.
                Some scientists/historians think that the mini ice age helped America to win her Revolution. Let’s face it—we weren’t doing so well. The British were in New York. Washington was on the run—his men were freezing and there was a lot of hunger going on among them, too. So, the weather is wretched—wretched! Beyond wretched. Ice floes are clogging the Delaware River. No one in their right mind would have gone out on that bitter Christmas night in 1776 when Washington decided that he would cross the river with horses, men, boats, and canon. He took a chance—and surprised the hell out of the Hessian troops quartered at and around Trenton. His victory there—and over the next day—allowed for his army to remain undefeated. Hell, yes, it got very bad again, but Washington might well have lost the entire army by the end of the brutal winter if it hadn’t been for his mad dash across the Delaware. And we might have wound up being the United Provinces of Southern Canada. Who knows?
                So the mini ice age might have been responsible for a tremendous amount of bad—hundreds dead of starvation and disease, heads rolling and “witches” and “demons” hanged or burning—but it might have caused a few good things, too. Well, despite our many problems and the fact that we’re now aware we’d best fear the climate—I’m glad to be an American. So, I see it as good!
                There was more good—and bad. Tune in again in the next few days. And, oh, just for the record, this all has to do with the next Cafferty and Quinn book, Waking the Dead (if you happened to have read the first, they’ve apparently slept long enough.) The mini ice age combined with another natural disaster to create the “year with no summer.” And from that seed, came my book.

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