Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lao Steampunk: 19th century historical figures to incorporate?

We've discussed a number of interesting alternate history scenarios as they might be seen from a Lao perspective in the past. For writers interested in taking the matter on, here are a few additional figures who might plausibly find themselves in Laos or involved with Lao affairs in a world driven by steam-powered technology, presuming much of the world followed its traditional development in terms of discoveries and intellectual progress.

Hong Xiuquan was a  Hakka Chinese who led the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing Dynasty. Among his accomplishments, he established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in much of southern China. He declared himself the "Heavenly King" and brother of Jesus Christ and went about destroying Buddhist and Confucian statues and relics. He ordered the forging of two giant "demons-slaying" swords, approximately 3 feet in length to symbolize his desire to purge China of Confucian influence. His key rebellion takes place from 1850 to 1864. We can see some interesting scenarios emerge if Hong Xiuquan decided to spread his influence further south into the realms of Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Champassak at the time, and where that might have come into conflict with local cultural beliefs.

José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda, the Filipino nationalist and reformist. Rizal is often noted as a polymath who practiced medicine and was fluent in 22 languages. He was a painter, illustrator and sculptor with literary talents as poet, essayist, and novelist. How might he have interacted with the Lao if he traveled beyond the Phillipines?

Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire. Many have noted that the Sikhs allowed men from many religions other than their own to rise to commanding positions of authority. How might figures under his reign have interacted and exchanged ideas with Lao thinkers and diplomats? He had at least four mercenary generals from Europe: Jean-François Allard and Claude August Court from France, and the italians Jean-Baptiste Ventura and Paolo Di Avitabile. Americans also served under him including Josiah Harlan and Alexander Gardner. So it's not impossible Lao and others might have found their way into his service in an alternate history scenario.

Jack the Ripper, who some have considered possibly to have been a sailor or to have escaped abroad, is typically theorized to have fled to the Americas. But what if that's wrong, and he made it to Laos instead, where he was free to mingle around with no one the wiser, his grisly murders perhaps attributed to a weretiger or some other malign spirit. Or perhaps he was a weretiger on holiday all along...

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