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Author's Afterword

The town of Grantville and the characters who populate it are purely fictitious. But Grantville, along with the nearby consolidated high school, is inspired by the real town of Mannington, West Virginia, and its surroundings.

Many years ago, I lived in northern West Virginia (Morgantown, to be precise), and I revisited the area in preparation for this novel. I'd like to thank the many people there who provided me with their help. I'd especially like to single out Paul Donato and Dave James for the hours they gave me, both at the time of my visit and in many phone calls later.

Paul is the principal of North Marion High School, which is the model for the high school which figures so prominently in 1632. He took the time, on a day when the school was closed due to a winter storm, to give me an extended tour of the high school and its facilities. Although I did not hesitate to make whatever changes were needed to fit the plot, the high school in the novel is true in essence to the one which really exists—down to the television station and the decor of the cafeteria. And yes, North Marion High did win the West Virginia AAA state football championships in 1980, 1981 and 1997—along with a number of other athletic and academic awards. The great trophy case which the imperial cavalrymen shatter in frustration toward the end of the book really exists, and it is just as large and impressive as depicted.

In a day when public high schools never seem to get any notice or attention until something goes wrong, let me take the time here to remind everyone that the vast majority of America's high schools are alive and well. As a boy, I attended a consolidated rural high school—Sierra Joint Union, near Tollhouse, California—and it was much of a piece with North Marion in West Virginia. Public schools, and high schools in particular, remain the principal forges of America's youth. Let others whine about their shortcomings and faults, I will not. You can have your damned playing fields of Eton, and all the other varieties of that exclusionary "vision." I'll stick with the democratic and plebeian methods which built the American republic, thank you.

Dave James is the chief of Mannington's small police force, and he was very helpful to me in preparing the material for the novel. Beyond the specifics he provided me concerning the police department, he was also a fount of information concerning the town and its environs.

In addition, I'd like to thank Herb Thompson, the manager of the power plant near Grant Town, for his explanation of the workings of a modern power plant. Also: Billy Burke, the WV State Executive Director for the USDA's Farm Service Agency; David Adams and Amy Harris, respectively the manager and a pharmacist at one of Mannington's largest drug stores; and Mike Workman, a former coal miner and currently a professor at West Virginia University.

It's a bit awkward for a writer to thank his publisher, without seeming like a sycophant. But simple honesty requires to me to thank Jim Baen. Jim gave close editorial attention to this novel from beginning to end, and his many suggestions and criticisms helped to improve it immensely. In particular, I owe him a debt of gratitude for restraining me when my emotions ran a tad too high. The historical villains of this story were every bit as vile as I depict them, and I sometimes found it difficult not to give them their just desserts in gory detail—down to a splendid scene involving a guillotine. But 1632 is a sunny book, when all is said and done, and Jim helped me to remember that.

Beyond that, the mentioning of specific names becomes difficult. There are just too many of them. But I need to thank, in general, all the many people who participate in Baen Books' very active chat room ( — "Hang Out at Baen's Bar") and who responded to my request for input. And, in particular, I want to thank Pam ("Pogo") Poggiani for reading the manuscript and helping me ferret out the factual or historical errors which are such a potential menace to writers of alternate history. Any errors which may remain are entirely my responsibility. There are at least a dozen which are gone, thanks to Pam's eagle eye.


Leaving aside possible errors on my part—which I strove mightily to avoid—the historical setting of this novel is accurate. The town of Badenburg is my invention, as are all the German characters, such as Gretchen Richter, whose social class puts them beyond the reach of history's notice. The rest of the places mentioned are real, as are all of the major historical figures such as Gustavus Adolphus and his generals, Axel Oxenstierna, Tilly and Wallenstein and their generals, John George of Saxony, Cardinal Richelieu and Emperor Ferdinand II. The Scottish officer Alexander Mackay is fictitious, but the prominent role of Scotsmen in Gustav Adolf's army was very much as I depict it. Likewise, while Rebecca and Balthazar and all the other specific members of the Abrabanel family who figure in the novel are my creations, the Abrabanel family itself is not. The Abrabanels were, indeed, one of the great families of the dispersed Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal.


More generally, the American characters who populate 1632 are all figments of my imagination. But I like to believe they are a faithful portrait of the American people. Part of the reason I chose to write this novel is because I am more than a little sick and tired of two characteristics of most modern fiction, including science fiction.

The first is that the common folk who built this country and keep it running—blue-collar workers, schoolteachers, farmers, and the like—hardly ever appear. If they figure at all, it is usually as spear carriers—or, more often than not, as a bastion of ignorance and bigotry. That is especially true of people from such rural areas as West Virginia. Hicks and hillbillies: a general, undifferentiated mass of darkness.

The second is the pervasive cynicism which seems to be the accepted "sophisticated" wisdom of so many of today's writers. (Not all, thankfully.) I will have no truck with it. Of all philosophies, cynicism is the most shallow and puerile. People may choose to believe that no young man like Jeff Higgins would ever make the decision concerning Gretchen which is portrayed in the novel. Yet that episode, like many in the book, was inspired by real life. A young American infantryman, who encountered a prostitute caring for her family during the Italian campaign in World War II, made exactly the same decision—and, like Jeff, made it within hours. Do not ask me his name, or where he came from, because I do not remember. I ran across the story in a history book which I read as a teenager. The specifics I forgot long ago, but I never forgot the incident. He may have been a boy from West Virginia or Kansas—but he could just have easily have come from the mean streets of New York. If there is one human characteristic which truly recognizes neither border, breed nor birth, it is the courage to face life squarely.

As for the coal miners who are central to the story, people may think the portrait unrealistic. That is their problem, not mine. I never had the honor of being a member of the United Mine Workers of America. But in my days as a trade-union activist, I had many occasions to work with the UMWA and its members. I know the union and its traditions, and those traditions are alive and well. That is as true of the Navajo miners in the southwest and the strip miners in Wyoming as it is of the Appalachian core of the union. I began this book by dedicating it to my mother, who comes from that Appalachian stock. Let me end by rededicating it to UMWA Local 1972 of Sheridan, Wyoming, especially to Dan Roberts and Ernie Roybal; and to Maurice Moorleghen, who came up from District 12 in southern Illinois to lend a hand.

Eric Flint
East Chicago, Indiana
August 1999




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