DUSK PETERSON: Historical speculative fiction

History-inspired mythic fantasy. Alternate history. Retrofuture science fiction. Love.

HOME | New stories | E-books | Awards | Story lists and tags | About me | Contact me

WATERMAN: a Turn-of-the Century Toughs series By Dusk Peterson

How can a youth from a bay island boarding school survive when he is sent to a futuristic prison?

Waterman is an award-winning speculative fiction series of love in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s and during the future as it was envisioned in the 1960s.

The series is part of the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle.


Note: Many of the side stories were originally published under the series name Young Toughs.


Honors and reviews

=== HONORS ===

Finalist, Best Gay Fantasy category, in the Rainbow Awards 2013, for Master and Servant #1: The Abolitionist.

Four honors in the Rainbow Awards 2016 for the stories Lost Haven, Master's Piece, The Lure, and Journey to Manhood, as part of the collection Risk:

=== REVIEWS ===

"What I love of Dusk Peterson's stories is that they are all fantasy . . . with deep roots in real history. While reading one of his books, whatever the historical period [they] picked and reinvented, you have the feeling [of being] plunged in a true historical novel, sometime even more an historical essay than a romance, but in the end, Dusk Peterson manages also to give you the romance, and odd as it sounds, most of the time [their] romances are among the most romantic I have ever read. Why odd? Since I think I have never heard Dusk Peterson associated with the romance world; so here is my suggestion to all the romance readers: go and pick one of Dusk Peterson's [e-books], this one in particular is a good pick, and give [them] a try, I'm sure you will not be disappointed." —My Reviews and Ramblings (Elisa Rolle).

"The underlying theme of the stories is inherited power relationships, the effect on individuals of being unable to fit into the established hierarchies, and the wisdom of learning from those below you." —Goodreads (Catana).

"The emotions and ethics and world-building are rich, deeply satisfying and sexy." —Amazon (Yingtai/Justine).

"Finally someone who is good at writing stories which appeal to my quirky intellectual mind and deliver the goods (so to speak). Extremely satisfying." —Anne Blue, publisher of Kanallje Press.


Master and Servant (Volume 1 of Waterman)

"Carr turned his head toward the water in time to see an Oyster Navy schooner dash round Bentley Point, hot in pursuit of the skipjacks. The cannon on the schooner's bow boomed."

Born into a society with a strictly ranked system of masters and servants, Carr has sought to tread his way delicately between the clashing values of the parents who raised him and the uncle whose household Carr will one day live in. Yet when he and other students at his boarding school become the latest participants in an ongoing battle between the oystermen of their Bay, Carr finds that his position of power may bring danger, not only to himself, but also to a schoolfellow he is drawn toward.



The Abolitionist. When a foul-mouthed, seditious foreigner turns up at your door, what are the benefits of letting him in?

Honor: Finalist, Gay Fantasy category, in the Rainbow Awards 2013.

Archive of Our OwnGoodreads

The True Master. In a society where the rank of master or slave defines every aspect of a person's being, what do you do when you're a master and you envy your slaves?

Archive of Our OwnGoodreads

Unmarked. "Fair play" is the motto of the Third House at Narrows School, but that motto takes on a different meaning when a lonely member of the Third House is secretly wooed by a young man from a rival House.

Archive of Our OwnGoodreads

Side stories set before, during, or after the events of Master and Servant.

Sacrifice (Volume 2 of Waterman)

The deepest sacrifices arise from love.

The Playing Field.

Lost Haven. Amidst a servant's nightmare, can a haven of hope be found?

Honors (as part of the collection Risk): Four honors in the Rainbow Awards 2016: Honorable Mention. Finalist. Winner, Best LGBT Alternative Universe/Reality. 3rd Place, Best LGBT Book.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads

Harbor of Grace.


Upcoming. To receive notice of new fiction, subscribe to Dusk Peterson's e-mail list, blog, or Patreon account. See below for a progress report on upcoming fiction in this series. 


Side stories

Set before, during, or after the events of Master and Servant:

Master's Piece

"He had watched his master try to sculpt smiles – had followed his master's orders to smile – but the smile was never quite right."

He was his master's piece: the model for his master's sculptures. But his master was different.

As Pip longs for the unobtainable, his master finds that he is beginning to have doubts about a long-standing custom in his nation. Yet how can he risk giving up what he values most?

Honors (as part of the collection Risk): Four honors in the Rainbow Awards 2016: Honorable Mention. Finalist. Winner, Best LGBT Alternative Universe/Reality. 3rd Place, Best LGBT Book.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundle

The Lure

"The panic was stronger, now that they had reached the wharf. It was his parents' mightiest rule: Never allow himself to be seen. If, by terrible chance, he met someone in the woods, he must run away immediately."

His entire life has been a secret. Now he must rip open the secret.

Hannibal S. Mercer has lived all his life in an isolated island home with his loving parents and two servants. Hannibal never receives the opportunity to meet anyone else. The older servant doesn't speak to Hannibal. The younger servant might or might not be an ally in time of trouble.

Now trouble has arrived. When hostile strangers invade Hannibal's world, he must uncover the truth his parents have been hiding from him. And then he must make a choice that will determine the course of his life.

Honors (as part of the collection Risk): Four honors in the Rainbow Awards 2016: Honorable Mention. Finalist. Winner, Best LGBT Alternative Universe/Reality. 3rd Place, Best LGBT Book.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads

Far Enough Away

"He came down the mountain one early summer afternoon, toward the end of what had not yet been dubbed the Hydrogen War. He was just in time to catch the climax of the war."

He knew he wasn't normal. Now he must save others who have been left behind.

For two years, since his parents left for the west coast of the continent, Phillip Schafer has lived in a mountain home, as far as he can get from society. But when the loss of his beloved companion forces him out of his refuge, he finds that the world is on the cusp of change. And he may be one of the few people left who is able to outrace that change.

Accompanied by two unusual allies, Phillip must escape from his nation before disaster strikes. But with no jet-car, he must somehow reach the skyport before the last rocket blasts off. . . .

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads


Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble.

In this cycle of five short stories, five young men in troubling situations must make choices that will change the path of their upcoming lives . . . and the path of the societies they dwell in.

Crossover story for the following series: The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison / Commando / Michael's House / Waterman.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundle

New Day

"Having a servant-boy accompany them on this trip was annoying, Kit thought. But there was no way around it; Honey's parents would never have allowed Honey to visit Yclau without her young bodyguard."

Kit has reached her apprenticeship birthday and is on a path to inherit power. But what sort of power will she wield?

A journey from the First Landstead to the neighboring Queendom of Yclau seems an easy enough day-trip for two young women and a faithful young servant. Kit and Honey will simply catch a monorail to the queendom's capital and enjoy their first sight of a foreign nation.

But Yclau is not the First Landstead. It is a land of robots, memories of the Bomb, and a lingering fear of what might occur next.

Kit is determined to have her birthday the way she wanted. But she will need allies for her fight, and one of them is an ally she did not expect.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundle

Survival School

"This is the right place for you, boy. They'll school you here to be a right-standing man, one who can keep control over his actions, like any good man should. You just got to keep yourself open to learn and to grow."

How far can trust grow, when you're in a place you despise?

Arrested for a crime he doesn't regret, Bat ends up handcuffed to a group of fellow city boys and sent on a long journey into the countryside. He know that he is being transported to a prison for delinquent servant boys, but what form will his imprisonment take?

Tattooed with the rank-mark of servant, Bat must learn how to keep from losing his temper with the men who carry the keys to his freedom. But in the unbelievable world where he has been deposited, in which a genial master orders strict punishments and a servant acts like a master, will Bat be able to locate the door to his release? Which of his fellow prisoners can he trust to help him?

And will he survive long enough to find out?

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads


"Tripp leaned back against the leather. Leather reminded him of Jack, roughly masculine. That wasn't quite Tripp either. 'Al, what material are you?' he asked finally, closing his eyes.

"There was a pause before Al said, 'Ferrite, mainly.'"

Tripp has two friends in high school: a rebel without a cause, and a girl fighting the social restraints upon her. But only one human being has any real hope of understanding Tripp, and he isn't human at all.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundle

Sweeping Day

"When she was hired as a maid, no one told her that she'd hold the future of the Dozen Landsteads in her bosom."

It's sweeping day again, and her task seems straightforward: clean the dirt in her master's study and leave.

But Sally's master is no ordinary master, and Sally's sweeping could be the trigger for war. Finding herself in a dangerous trap, Sally must draw upon the wisdom of her allies in the servants' kitchen before disaster strikes.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundle


"What wonders would he see in Yclau? Robots? Holovisions? Visiphones? Microwave ovens?"

Bat is in trouble. Again.

The only way out of the trap this time is to take a leap into the future, into a world of wonders that his mind can scarcely grasp.

But trouble awaits him at the border to his refuge. How Bat handles that trouble will determine his own future . . . and the future of what he is leaving behind.

Archive of Our Own

Duties of a Second-Ranked Master

"Trafford came first. Trafford was always going to come first, Davenham quickly gathered when he announced his intention to take a liegeman."

Studying at boarding school is hard enough. Balancing the needs of your liege-master and liegeman is impossible.

As Davenham struggles to be both loyal and protective, he finds that he must consult the most despised student at school. But what use is it to seek advice on duties from a boy who seems incapable of mastering his own duties?

Archive of Our Own


"Depositing money in the bank was always the worst problem."

What should a young servant do when his employer may fire him at any moment, his employer's beautiful daughter is absorbed with her high school textbook ("How to be Firm with Servants"), and he's blocked from carrying out a simple task by a snooty cyborg?

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads

Journey to Manhood

"Perhaps, when they spoke next, the other young man could tell Simmons of any masters here who were in need of an apprentice who was perilously close to the age of journeymanship."

Simmons has been waiting all his life for the day when he would come of age and pledge his service to a liege-master. But at the last minute, all his plans go awry; he is left in the awful position of having to find a liege-master quickly. Desperation may force Simmons to pick the worst of liege-masters.

Working at his uncle's waterfront store on a bay island, Simmons seeks a way out of his dilemma. Then another young man walks through the door, one whose problems may be even worse than Simmons's. . . .

Honors (as part of the collection Risk): Four honors in the Rainbow Awards 2016: Honorable Mention. Finalist. Winner, Best LGBT Alternative Universe/Reality. 3rd Place, Best LGBT Book.

Archive of Our OwnStory bundleGoodreads

Return to the volume index.

Set before, during, or after the events of Sacrifice:

Liegeman's Service

"On the other side of the postcard was a message from his liegeman: 'My research goes well here, sir. If I may be of further service, please let me know.' Nothing more. Nothing about him missing Pembroke. Nothing about him wishing Pembroke was there."

Bereft of his liegeman, Pembroke is forced to cut short his education in order to serve his liege-master at the Third Landstead University. War upon the waters seems imminent in their bayside landstead. But Master Rudd, who will soon rule over their landstead, is interested in nothing but food, games, and his most recent passion, women.

With his own bed now cold, Pembroke must decide how far his loyalty extends to his liege-master. The answer may lie in long-remembered tales from Pembroke's boyhood.

Archive of Our Own

Return to the volume index.

Maps and series resources

Maps for this series and related series.

Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of historical speculative fiction series that includes this series. This page includes resources such as a chronology of major political events in the cycle.

Waterman research. Blog entries by the author on research for the series. Earlier entries are labelled "Prison City research."

Bibliographies for the series:
Islanders and Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay.
Masculinity, Crime, and Everyday Life in Victorian and Edwardian Times: Boarding Schools.
Retrofuture: Visions of the Future, 1945-1975.

Progress report: status of upcoming stories

Updated July 2020. All titles and ordering are tentative at this point.

Sacrifice (Volume 2).

  1. The Playing Field. In progress.
  2. Lost Haven. Published.
  3. Harbor of Grace. In progress.
  4. Protection. Completed. On hold for final stages of editing.

Cycle (Volume 3).

  1. Prologue. Completed.
  2. Cycle. In progress.
  3. Epilogue. Completed.

Warden (Volume 4).

  1. Trapped. In progress.
  2. [Untitled]. Not yet started.
  3. Data Modification. In progress.
  4. Head of the House. In progress.
  5. [Untitled]. Not yet started.
  6. [Untitled]. Not yet started.
  7. Eve of Destruction. In progress.

Blackout (Volume 5).

The numbering within this volume is especially tentative. I'm not sure how many stories there will be, other than the ones I've listed.

  1. Valet. In progress.
  2. Mistress. In progress.
  3. Liegeman. In progress.
  4. Liege-master. In progress.
  5. The True Servant. In progress.

Side stories.

Next series in the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle:

[ Dark Light ]

[ HOME ] [ E-mail]

Creative Commons License: Some Rights ReservedThis text, or a variation on it, was originally published at duskpeterson.com as part of the series Waterman. Copyright 2002-2020 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).

Logos are provided for the sake of identifying story links and are not intended to indicate affiliation with companies or organizations.

Permission is granted for the reposting and reprinting of the banner, covers, and story summaries for the purposes of providing information on Dusk Peterson's writings. Please link to duskpeterson.com if possible.