Ah! More fluffy clouds to develop as I further define this new world to write within. Before jumping in with the next subject, I need to take a moment to share a question I was asked. The person wanted to know what I considered important to make these clouds of world building. Perfectly legit question! You can do whatever makes the most sense to you, but when world building, I use a list that you may or may not have seen. The list I use is the 13 (sometimes stated as few as 6) aspects of culture. These aspects are “Food, Clothing, Recreation, Government, Education, Language, Religion, Transportation, Economy, Environment, Culture, Arts and Celebrations.” As you’ve read in a previous post, I started with Environment (Geography) because the “Rendering” was such a major event and one that would affect the others the most (in my mind). The last post was ‘Transportation’. See? No magic needed. Google ‘aspects of culture’ and use any or all of them to help you set your world apart from the known world. Thanks for the question. Now, on with the next cloud.
Thus far, it has been a struggle not to go over-board in the defining of each clouds that pops up on my to-do list. With each, ideas naturally creep into my mind as I consider these elements that make up the backdrop of the world, but the goal is to layout basic outlines and not make them the subject. That is the duty of the theme of each story. I just need enough information to work from. Later, when I’ve covered the bases, I may go back to each and add more to it, but that is for another time.
Knowing each of these subjects interact like spilled paint of different colors running into each other on the floor, I need to at least know what they were (looked like) before the mixing.
Today, our dart landed on Economy. At first glance, not the most interesting of subject to most, but it is an important part of world building. It encompasses who has what and how they got it. It also will be affected by my first two clouds (geography and transportation). Like the others, it will need to be tweaked as we better define the world. Let’s start.
First, I want to take a few moments, hours, days, or months, to delve into what actually happened in this range of time. How much you need to know is entirely up to you, but since I’m working off a legitimate history (to a point) I want to just jot down what ‘was’ before I start messing with things.
Sifting through the mountains of information on the web, here are the things I’ve noted that I found important. Some events were previous to my suggested 1878 time frame, but that’s what I need to see “where we were” before the Rendering.
- Panic of 1873 – The financial crises caused by post-Civil War inflation, over speculation in the railroads, the demonetization of US and German silver, HUGE trade deficits caused by the Franco-Prussian War, property losses from the Chicago (1871) and Boston (1872) fires. These issues broke the bank.
- The Long Depression (1873-1879) – Kicked off by the above, the US and Europe suffered a major downturn from their previous success in the Second Industrial Revolution. Afterwards, it is estimated that 18,000 businesses went bankrupt. Sites state that 89 railroads, ten states, and hundreds of banks were bankrupt. In addition, the unemployment rate was estimated between 8.25 to 14%.
- Black Hills gold – A debated topic, but some suggest that a major reason the 7th US cavalry was in the Black Hills was to confirming rumors of gold. When these rumors were found to be true, the papers made it sound like anyone could just come and pick it off the ground. The gold dug up did help the economy but the land was held sacred by the Lakota, Kiowa and Cheyenne people.
- The ‘end’ of the Reconstruction Era.
- Other notes: Coal had replaced wood for fuel, machinery made of iron which increased production of everything from shoes to cultivating crops. Steam power is king. Telegraph system grew with the expansion of the railroads, which in turn, increase business communication. Urbanization with the growth of an industrialization of the world.
Without the consideration of the above, plopping my stories in the time period would be really odd. Still, I’m writing fiction and can take bits and pieces of the severely shortened and generalized list and work off of them. Here are the first ideas of playing off them.
As an overall theme, I will keep the economic downturn that really happened. In general, people will suffer economically if there was a sudden splitting of East and West. The geographical separation would certainly impact the movement of goods if not cut it off entirely. However, as stated in a previous post, people will find a way to get things done no matter the cost. It is a matter of life or death, after all. With the economic crisis in play, there isn’t going to be banks (those still in existence) jumping at the chance to offer loans. It will be slow growth with only will power and well planned out goals to make hopes and dreams come true.
The gap in wealth will need to be apparent when thinking of groups within society. This will obviously cause issues as many will struggle to make enough to feed their families and note the difference of the well-to-do. I believe this will also mold the political cloud when I come to it.
The idea of Western expansion will rekindle in the east, but with the geographical change, one can’t simply hop on a train as that tether has been broken. Will people flock to the west? Certainly, many will want to, but the expense of such an endeavor has exploded now that traversing enlarged rivers is a must.
What about the gold and where it was found? Well, since my eraser basically wiped out the west coast, the places where precious metals can be found becomes all the more important. This will definitely play into racial issues with the native peoples as the note of the Black Hills suggests. With the geological separation then make the west wealthier and more influential part of the country? Perhaps. I could certainly play with that idea.
I would also like to jot down a hint that people react to economic crisis differently. If resources are sparse, we generally see people share what they have with others or hoard it like miserly old men. In the Great Depression of 1929-39, it is my opinion that it was neighbor helping neighbor that truly got us through the tough time. With the reconstruction of the South after the Civil War previous to depression beginning 1873, I would like to reflect the kindness of neighbors in my stories. I believe it will contrast the general selfishness stemming from fear of starvation that I believe would happen. Ooops, I touched on the ‘Cultural’ cloud a bit. See how easily that happens?
In terms of where wealth is focused and where it might be found, I believe I will jot a note that it will be in the hands of those with natural resources (coal, gold mines, forests), those with the means of transporting these resources (railroad, ships, wagons, boats) and scoundrels (politicians who have been bought-off.)
So, in broad strokes, we can say that my ‘economy’ cloud will be tinted in the color of struggle. I believe it is safe to say the depression would only deepen with such a world-altering event. I think what I will be more apt to do is comment on the micro economics while hinting at the larger. With this in mind, I think the discussion of how communities survive will prove to be more interesting. But, as seen in the past, the banding together of people will be the thing to watch.
On to the next cloud.
Bless and Keep,