Friday, November 02, 2012

Lao Steampunk: Airship designs?

I recently became a backer of the "Pulp" Strategic Airship Combat game set in a steampunk environment. We'll be following their heroine, Riva; a "formerly disgraced Commander of Dawns navy for voicing public opposition to her Commander The last hope in the conflict she lost everything to avoid, Riva returns to the sky to set things right, and to save Dawn from the promised annihilation by the invading Duskan forces."

I'll be submitting in a flag design of the famed Lao Airship Corps, the Flying Naks, of course, but it also got me wondering what the ship designs would look like based on historical Lao boat designs. I know, it sounds strange talking about boats, considering that Laos is a landlocked nation.

A great overview can be found at Boats and Rice. They point out: "For the most part, you can think of the variety of Laotian boats as simply different sizes of otherwise very similar boats: flat bottomed, with shovel ends, flaring sides, and quite long for their width. The smallest are about fifteen feet long usually, paddled with canoe paddles and have no motors. There is a large class of motor powered canoes ranging in size from about 18 feet long to upwards of 25 feet long."

It's not inconceivable that they could be ideal frames for airships, but there would also have to be more to it than just strapping balloons onto them.

With Lao terrain over 70% mountain and jungle, how would Lao society develop reliable landing strips and aerodromes? Would we see the major airbases still established in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse and Long Tieng? Would makeshift airfields such as the Lima landing strip models be used during the 20th century?

There aren't many references I've found that the Lao built elaborate boats such as the Thai royal barge the Anantanagaraj with its seven-head naga, or the Anekajatbhujonga. As a side note, the crew complement for the Anantanagaraj crew typically consistsed of 54 oarsmen, 2 steersmen, 2 officers, 1 standard bearer, 1signalman, 1 chanter and 7 royal insignia bearers. It's an impressive sight.

There are many questions we could ask about what role a parallel vessel would have in a Lao navy, let alone the Lao Air Corps.

Perhaps, in the retro-future, given the Lao relationship to the Nak, would they take a different approach to building vessels. The Nak traditionally are very protective of bodies of water, so, a story conceivably might suggest Lao who ply the rivers would do their best to reduce disrupting and upsetting the Nak through loud motors or pollutants.

The Nak have traditionally been in conflict with the Garuda, and I would see that still playing out in a world of airships. Lao might be more inclined to embrace the flying Vanon war monkeys or the Kinnaly in imagery on their air vessels in this alternate retro-future, as well as the classic Xang, although images of flying elephants brings to mind a certain Disney character.

These are just a few of the things to consider as one addresses transit in an alternate retro-future.

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