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Turn-of-the-Century Toughs is a cycle of diverse alternate history series about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.
Updated May 2017.
The cycle consists of the following series:
The Eternal Dungeon. In a cool, dark cavern, guarded by men and by oaths, lies a dungeon in which prisoners fearfully await the inevitable. The inevitable will be replaced by the unexpected. ¶ The Eternal Dungeon is a speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.
Dungeon Guards. In the Eternal Dungeon, there are only two types of guards: skilled guards or dead guards. But one guard has been both. ¶ Dungeon Guards is an alternate history series about nineteenth-century prison workers who seek love and companionship as they fight together against danger.
Michael's House. In a world where temples are dying and sacred theaters have been replaced by brothels, what will happen when a hard-headed businessman joins forces with an idealist? ¶ Michael's House is a speculative fiction series set in a Progressive Era slum.
Life Prison. They are imprisoned until death, and their lives cannot get worse . . . or so they think. But when an unlikely alliance forms against their captors, the reformers risk losing what little comforts they possess. ¶ Life Prison is a speculative fiction series about male desire and determination in nineteenth-century prisons.
Commando. The nautical nation is backed by the military might of an empire. The mountainous republic is populated by farmers and shopkeepers, and it has no standing army. The nautical nation is about to make the mistake of attacking the mountainous republic. ¶ Commando is a speculative fiction series that imagines what the South African Boer War could have been like if it had been fought on American soil.
Waterman. How can a youth from a bay island boarding school survive when he is sent to a futuristic prison? ¶ Waterman is a speculative fiction series set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s and during the future as it was envisioned in the 1960s.
Young Toughs. During the turbulent years between the cannonball battles and the atom bomb, life is not easy for young people. ¶ Young Toughs is an alternate history series about the struggles of youths in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Dark Light. Only in the dark
can one truly see the light. ¶ Dark Light presents short reads
from Turn-of-the-Century Toughs.
More maps of the Midcoast nations.
The Midcoast nations are as follows:
Yclau. Technologically advanced, the Queendom of Yclau espouses ideals of egalitarianism and encourages humane treatment of commoners and criminals. It is the birthplace of various reform movements. However, Yclau struggles with class divisions that are reflected in its punitive justice system. Yclau folk are believers in eternal rebirth, a concept that foreigners find puzzling.
Vovim. Considered the epitome of barbaric violence and ignorance by its neighbors, the Kingdom of Vovim is a multiracial home for various cultures who are united by their love of the gods and their devotion to the arts, especially theater. Vovim is located to the north and west of Yclau. Its ancient system of government finds itself under strain at the beginning of the cycle, leading to social upheavals.
The Dozen Landsteads: Originally the most politically advanced of the Midcoast nations, the Dozen Landsteads ends up being overshadowed by Vovim and Yclau. Religiously and ethnically, the Landsteaders are identical to the Yclau, but the Landsteaders remain stubbornly traditional, holding to a centuries-old system of ranking masters, liegemen, and servants. The official name of the bay-oriented nation is "The Alliance of the Dozen Landsteads," for the individual landsteads refuse to centralize their political power, other than through a high law that tries to settle differences between the leaders of the Landsteads. As a result, the Dozen Landsteads' greatest conflicts are usually internal . . . but that will change as pressure builds at the nation's western border.
Mip. This tiny, egalitarian nation – north of Yclau, south and east of Vovim, and west of the Dozen Landsteads – has long been the battleground for Vovimian and Yclau troops who try to control it. As a result, Vovimian and Yclau culture play a strong role in this land. Virtually ignored is Mip's native tribe, which is on the verge of extinction. However, the poor people of the Magisterial Republic of Mip take heart from the tales of the tribe's struggle to free itself from its oppressors.
Akbar. Located to the east of the Dozen Landsteads and Vovim,
but usually not counted as part of the Midcoast nations, Akbar plays a
cameo role in the first novel of Waterman.
In Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, the period in our world between 1880 and 1912 is spread out to cover just under a century. Two companion series in the cycle, Waterman and Young Toughs, combine elements of the 1910s with retrofuturistic imagery from the 1960s.
In the United States of America, the first two decades of the twentieth century are referred to as the Progressive Era. In England, the same period is called the Edwardian Era. In both countries and in other English-speaking countries, this period and the two decades preceding it were a time of intense interest in social reform. The social reformers sometimes looked to the past for inspiration and sometimes strove to depart from the past through new technologies and through changes in social structure. This era of social reform would climax in World War One, when traditional values eroded in trench warfare.
Turn-of-the-Century Toughs takes the social concerns and outward
appearance of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and applies
them to events in an alternative version of the Mid-Atlantic, one in which
the New World was invaded and settled by people from the Old World in ancient
Islanders and Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay. Bibliography for Waterman and Commando.
Masculinity, Crime, and Everyday Life in Victorian and Edwardian Times. Bibliography for all of the series in the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle.
Retrofuture: Visions of the Future, 1945-1975. Bibliography for Waterman.
Index page for all the bibliographies.
Eternal Dungeon research.
Life Prison research.
Commando research. Blog entries by the author on research trips around Maryland. (Some of the entries are marked "Life Prison research," because the two series overlap in location. "Triad" is the earlier name for the Commando series.)
research. Earlier entries are labelled "Prison City research."
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This text, or a variation on it, was originally published at duskpeterson.com as part of the novel cycle Turn-of-the-Century Toughs. Copyright © 2006-2016 Dusk Peterson. Some rights reserved. The text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0). You may freely print, post, e-mail, share, or otherwise distribute the text for noncommercial purposes, provided that you include this paragraph. The author's policies on derivative works and fan works are available online (duskpeterson.com/copyright.htm).
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