|Ring of Fire|
|Publication date||January 1, 2004|
|Followed by||1634: The Galileo Affair|
Ring of Fire is a collection of short stories —half by established science fiction authors invited into the setting, half fan-fiction by enthusiasts who helped take the stand alone novel into a series numbering works in the tens of books. All are set in the universe initially created by Flint's science fiction novel 1632. Unlike most short works in a novel created series, the stories within are important milieu shaping creations. The short story threads are formalized into the series canon they helped to establish, and act as a spring board for further developments in the books. Many characters who debut in these short stories later play an important role in longer works.
- By David Weber
Weber's short story sets up major story elements that play out in 1633 and 1634: The Baltic War. In particular, the story tells how the New United States (NUS) Navy (and that of future Empire of the United States of Europe (USE)) came to be in the resource strapped days of 1632–33. Most notably, through the eyes and experiences of young Eddie Cantrell, the story begins the rehabilitation of John Simpson, who was cast as quite unlikeable in 1632. Through the eyes of Simpson, Cantrell and fellow up-timers Jere Haygood and Pete McDougal, the reader gets a picture of the chaos involved in rebuilding Magdeburg after the city was sacked by Count Tilly's forces.
"To Dye For"Edit
"To Dye For" introduces the absent-minded marijuana purveyor Tom Stone, his three sons, and the travails of his love life. Magdelena Edelmann was wasting away as a spinster in her early thirties until a delegation from her town visited Grantville and she met Tom. His initial courting was received with favor, until her guildmaster father Karl Jurgen Edelmann decided "Stoner" wasn't the man of means he'd mistaken him to be.
"Stoner" is the sole remaining adult of the former Lothlorien Commune, having been enticed away from college by a hippy "Chick" named Lisa. Lisa left after giving birth to Tom's son Faramir (Frank Stone). In the free love community of Lothlorien, whether "Elrond" (Ron Stone) is in fact Tom's is a question he has long abandoned, but it is genetically certain that the "stop sign red" colored hair of "Gwaihir" (Gerry Stone) makes him someone else's son, who Tom nonetheless raised as his own.
As the beginning of the story, a glum Stoner is introduced to Dr. James Nichols by Mike Stearns. The two have come by to pick up a cartload of Stoner's "patented West Virginia Wildwood Weed" (which originated from an uptime pilgrimage to Holland). Uptime, Stoner used this as a cash crop grown in his ramshackle home-made greenhouse, made from various junk automobile sections, discarded windows, and a lot of effort and ingenuity. Stoner, a pharmacological graduate school drop-out from Purdue University, is particularly adept with recreational extra-sensory stimulatory compounds. However, he refuses to take payment for the weed which is intended for medical uses, saying repeatedly that he wouldn't make money from other people's pain. Downtimer cart driver Klaus states, "Dat earns you a place in Heaffen, maybe, but on Earth, no income." Tom's sons call a family discussion about this after their medical visitors have left. The family conference reminds Stoner of an uptime fiasco at a town fair, where a cloud-burst had ruined many exotically tie-dyed tee-shirts the family was selling. The tee-shirts hadn't been processed to set the dye into the cloth, inadvertently dyeing many an irate customer. When sober, Stoner knew how to make things colorfast, he was in fact a very good chemist, and had loads of left-over dyes here and there on the grounds.
Soon, with the boys eager help, the Stones went into serious production of embroidery yarns, as that product would stretch the dyes and return the maximum in income. Karl Edelman was impressed and Stoner had a new life partner, one who had a ruthless business savvy that he'd never own. As the story closes, Stoner is recalling the history of early organic dyes leading up to the Mauve Decade, when coal-tar dyes such as Perkin's mauve were developed and generated huge fortunes for the ready market existing in the mindset of status-conscious Europeans of the day, as it did in 1631-32 Germans. The neat thing was, it would be ecologically sound, for the dyes needed could be taken from the coal fired power plant with the addition of scrubbers on the chimneys. Splitting the profits bothered Stoner not a bit. They would be huge.
"A Lineman For the Country"Edit
- By Dave Freer
Scottish military dispatch carrier Douglas Lawrey falls in with telephone repairman Len Tanner and irascible coal mine switchboard operator Ellie Anderson. Due to their limited people skills, the technologically stranded pair have been unable to convince anyone to develop telecommunications abilities beyond Grantville. After Ellie reveals the old-tech phone she has been prototyping, Douglas talks them into forming a corporation.
While stringing the first phone line to nearby Saalfeld, Len and a downtime assistant are captured by a group of raiders planning to hijack a Grantville gun shipment. In the struggle, the prototype phone is damaged, but the trussed up Len finds the battery and wires and manages to send an SOS to Grantville.
After foiling the hijack, Ellie realizes that the old-tech phone was still too high tech for the time period. Morse keys can be manufactured quickly, and investors found to fund the telegraph wire network.
"Between the Armies"Edit
Jesuit Augustus Heinzerling is sent to Grantville to provide first hand reports to Giulio Mazarini, as well as to the Jesuits. Grantville Catholic priest Lawrence Mazzare takes him on as a curate due to increased demand for Catholic services. Gus has a woman and three children, and Mazarre marries them despite church policy. Gus's wife Hannelore cleans the church, but her former status infuriates elderly volunteer Irene Flannery, who eventually stops coming. When Mazarin visits Grantville himself, Croatians attack the city and Irene is found dead at her home, because she refused to join others in the shelter. Father Mazzare is shaken by her death, but decides to give Mazarini his newest uptime Catholic books, to try to show the downtime Church what Catholicism should evolve toward.
This story centers on Veronica Richter. It deals with her getting false teeth and opening a day care center/preparatory academy. During the course of this, she is courted by, and marries, Henry Dreeson.
"Power to the People"Edit
A technically plausible description of what happens at the power plant in the immediate aftermath of the Ring of Fire event. There is panic, of course, but also resourcefulness as the plant's staff struggles to recover from an event they don't understand.
"A Matter of Consultation"Edit
- By S. L. Viehl
Nichols and Jefferson face off against Dr. William Harvey, the "discoverer" of the circulatory system, and the two nurses "give him some pointers", including a severe dressing down. Concurrently, Anne Jefferson meets her future husband, diplomat and mathematician Adam Olearius, who is traveling as diplomat and guide to Harvey in this story. Dr. Harvey visits Grantville, and its libraries, and as a courtesy, has some medical books copied for him. While spending time in Grantville he discovers Trevelyan's History of England, and has pages with information about Charles I of England, including information about his death, copied at the end of his stay.
Johannes Grünwald, an artist forced by his mother's family to become a Jesuit priest, returns hunted, poor and starving to his family estate near Grantville. Johannes is welcomed by his old playmate Frank Erbst, who is now caring for the estate.
The Grünwald family has a complex religious history. Johannes' stiff-necked protestant brother Marcus allowed his beloved Catholic wife to raise their son Martin Catholic. After his wife's death, however, Marcus tried to force Martin and his wife Louisa to baptise their son Johann as a Protestant. To escape, Martin joined Tilly's army. Due to the turmoil of war, young Johann went missing. He is believed to be in Grantville, but Marcus regards Grantville as evil and has forbidden Frank to go there.
Johannes explains that he lost faith after the sack of Magdeburg and was unable to continue his task of drawing pictures of the war. He was arrested for heresy and blasphemy, and placed under guard. He escaped and walked to the estate, but the corpses he found in farmhouses along the way tormented him. Frank gives drawing materials to Johannes, who wrestles with his demons. When soldiers arrive on the estate, Johannes expects to be taken prisoner. However, they are Americans, and they take him back to Grantville.
"When the Chips are Down"Edit
"When the Chips are Down" explores some of the issues involved in "gearing down". Larry Wild is one of the Four Musketeers introduced midway through the novel 1632, and is the central character in the tale which involves both Larry's employment in one of Grantville's machine shops, where he demonstrates a regrettable inconsistency, an inability to always pay proper and timely attention, which results in occasionally breaking valuable -- and irreplaceable -- machine tool cutting heads. Most of the story involves his attempts to make potato chips for a Christmas celebration, which Larry presses forward with despite repeated difficulties and sometimes humorous adverse interactions with members of the extended family of Jeff Higgins and Gretchen Richter, and especially the formidable grandmother Veronica Richter.
"American Past Time"Edit
This story deals with the development of baseball in the new timeline.
- By Greg Donahue
Downtimer Gerd is concerned that many Germans who were formerly Tilly's soldiers have been welcomed into Grantville's army. He recognizes a trio that he served with, whose atrocities sickened him until he fled the group. The trio deserts, taking their valuable uptime guns and robbing several Grantville houses to get ammunition. Gerd knows their destination: a farm where they tortured and killed an old man for his wealth, then hid the loot in an outhouse. He ambushes them, and the loot is donated to a Grantville church.
The preface notes that this is the Gerd who later appears as one of Harry Lefferts' crew.
"A Witch to Live"Edit
- By Walt Boyes
Veronica Junius, daughter of the burgomaster of Bamberg who was burned as a witch, has also been tortured and found guilty of witchery by ecclesiastical court. She escaped, but was captured. Inquisitor Eberhardt suggests taking her to Würzburg for civil trial before she can be burned, but the Captain insists on bringing her to Suhl, where she will have no friends to aid her. Jesuit Friedrich von Spee, historical author of a treatise against using torture in witchcraft trials, is asked by the prince-bishop of Mainz to observe.
Suhl has been accepted into the New United States, and Veronica's previous trial is found invalid there due to the forced confession. She is sent to Grantville "for a new trial", where she is given medical treatment and comforted by Father Lawrence Mazzare. She explains that in the four years since her father was burned and all his property seized, she could only support herself via prostitution. Discussing witch hunts, Mazarre recalls a historical figure that they should recruit - von Spee, who then introduces himself.
"The Three R's"Edit
- By Jody Dorsett
Due to the Counter-Reformation, The Unity of the Brethren church has been expelled from Liechtenstein and Bohemia, and driven underground in Poland. Trying to keep the church alive in exile, Bishop Comenius sends Deacon Jan Billek to Grantville to see if they can help. Grantville and the Brethren agree on two important issues: religious tolerance and education. Billek finds that Grantville cannot assist the Brethren where they are, but offers sanctuary for any refugees. However, union agitator Red Sybolt is moved by their plight, and accompanies Billek on his return trip to teach the three R's: "reading, righting and revolution."
"Here Comes Santa Claus"Edit
- By K. D. Wentworth
Julie Sims Mackay decides that the downtime children orphaned by the war deserve a traditional uptime Christmas. She collects donations of toys, arranges for food, and engages a victim to dress as Santa Claus. However, there are some strangers skulking around town. Two are mercenaries who decide they will blow up the school with some powderkegs. As their plot reaches its crisis, "Santa" and two other strange men approach Julie. "Santa" turns out to be Gottfried Pappenheim, bringing a message from Wallenstein. He would like an alliance with Grantville, and he'd like Julie's dentist father to repair his jaw and teeth, which were shattered by Julie's sharpshooting at the Alte Veste.
"The Wallenstein Gambit"Edit
- By Eric Flint
The stories: A Lineman For the Country, The Three R's, and Here Comes Santa Claus are tied into The Wallenstein Gambit.
Timeline: March 1633 to August 1633
After being near-fatally wounded by the sniper fire of Julie Sims at the Battle of Alte Veste, Albrecht von Wallenstein had decided he'd prefer to ally with Gustavus and the Americans, on the condition that he receive American medical care to repair his damaged teeth and jaw. His health, which was not good to begin with, had declined, since he could not ingest solids.
Wallenstein plots (together with Gottfried Pappenheim) to expel imperial administrators from Bohemia and depose the absent Archduke Ferdinand III of Austria, then also king of Hungary (1625) and Bohemia (1629) while he was occupied opposing the Ottoman Empire, and while his father Ferdinand II prosecuted the Thirty Years' War -- which was triggered by his reign in Bohemia. Meanwhile, Len Tanner and Ellie Anderson come to install a telephone system for Wallenstein's residence in Prague, and a Jewish couple, Morris and Judith Roth from Grantville, settles in Prague and gains influence in the Josefov, the Jewish quarter.
Just before Wallenstein launches his coup, he is attacked by assassins sent by Ferdinand II, but the attempt is thwarted by Ellie Anderson and Edith Wild. The coup succeeds, however Wallenstein takes his army out of Prague to meet Ferdinand's army in the "Second Battle of the White Mountain". Mercenary leader Heinrich Holk decides to exploit their absence and attack the city. Successors of the Hussite religious movement ("The Brethren") and the Jewish population band together as citizen defenders of Prague, led by elderly American Morris Roth, who amazes himself by becoming a popular leader: "Don Morris, hidalgo of Jews".