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Literature / anachronauts

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anachronism - [uh-nak-ruh-niz-uhm]
1. something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological context.
-Opening epigraph

The Earth of the anachronauts world is one of chaos: two hundred years before the narrative, something known as the Pandora Event causes Faeries to invade what would otherwise be our world, having taken over most of the Southern United States and Canada. The seas are populated by kraken, Latin America is overwhelmed by "Los Muertos", and the Western United States has been sealed off by the Faerie Goddesses because not even they can control it. As far as can be told, the only known human population is "Eastusa," a territory consisting of (most of) the north-eastern quadrant of the United States. This fusion of realms allows for a narrative Anachronism Stew, as evidenced by the series tagline, "a web novel series of broomsticks, semiautomatics, and jetpacks."

The anachronauts saga is written by Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne and comprises five books:

  1. The First Age (chapters referred to as a##), in which a witch, a soldier, and a space girl encounter a laser gun and try to uncover its source;
  2. Forsaken Shores (chapters referred to as fs##), in which a battle witch, a mathematician, a space girl, and an elf explore the western continent;
  3. London's Fog (chapters referred to as lf##), in which a small party of people attempt to prevent a war from happening;
  4. The Second Age (chapters referred to as sa##), a collection of side stories taking place after The First Age and running concurrently with the series from Forsaken Shores onward; and
  5. Stars Fall (chapters referred to as sf##), in which things come to a head.

Currently, all but The Second Age are available for sale, both as actual books and in Kindle format; each novel contains an extra story not available on-line. The series is now complete.


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    Overall series 
  • After the End: The series takes place two hundred years after the Pandora Event.
  • all lowercase letters: The author never capitalizes "anachronauts" or any of the titles of the books or chapters.
  • Another Dimension: Each different faction introduced in the Pandora Event comes from one of these.
  • Apocalypse How: The Pandora Event appears to be a societal disruption of regional (/multiversal) scope, although inversed: large sections of Earth As We Know It were invaded by fantasy / Science Fiction / steampunk tropes and creatures, leaving only the northeastern quadrant of the USA populated by humans as we know them. It's actually an attempted species extinction of a planetary/multiversal scope.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Aleph radiation powers the Mass Capacitors the Orbitals use in their technology. A significant arc throughout the series involves finding new ways to harvest the Aleph Radiation, as the Orbitals have a limited supply of it.
  • Arc Number: A minor one: "91%" is both Una's average grade (considered below-average in Orbital culture) and Elisa Morales' mission success rate (third-lowest in the FACT Team).
  • Arc Words: "The stars will [rise/fall], " introduced in LF and carry through SA and SF (as well as inspiring the title of the latter)
  • Canon Welding: The timeline on the website suggests that this and Unreal Estate share the same universe, but references to the UE world were only introduced in sf02. The end of the final Print Bonus chapter suggests one of the characters has been exploring the City of Angles.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Gagne has had one-sided, unrequited lesbian interests in both Sailor Nothing and this.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The Orbitals.
  • Divided States of America: Divided between humans and two Faerie courts, with some no-sentient's-land a Grey Goo city (Seattle) and Lovecraftian horror city (Anchorage).
  • Eating Optional: For Winterhounds, although they still get hunger pains and do snack to quell them.
  • Epigraph: Pre-SF, each chapter starts with a definition of the title of the chapter before carrying into the Cold Open. The sole exception to this is sa05.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future/Zeerust: The Orbital aesthetic is a combination of the two, with shiny iPod sleekness imposed on 50's sci-fi design.
  • Expospeak Gag: Orbitals speak like this.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: It starts with Dark Fantasyish After the End America visited by tourists from a Space Opera. Then adds elements from biblical mythology, the Lovecraft mythos, superhero comics and steampunk.
  • Human Resources: Orbital Mass Capacitors are powered by aleph radiation, traditionally harvested from planets they destroy with engineered overpopulation and war.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Pre-SF, all chapters are pluralized nouns. SF's chapter-naming scheme is "the [noun]."
  • Insistent Terminology: A reversal, as Emily insists the word "anachronauts" sounds stupid, and it's only a working title.
  • Magic Versus Science: Orbital technology is vulnerable to being bypassed or attacked by Fae magic and tends to go haywire whenever it tries to analyze magical beings or objects.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Starting in the Forsaken Shores, the haughty Lady of War Jesse and Gilbert.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Played with. While originally referred to as zombies, the official designation became "Los Muertos," since the term "zombie" carries a number of preconceptions about them, which may not hold true. (The name "Los Muertos" itself comes from the person who sent out the distress call.)
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Between the Winterhounds (Type R) and Los Muertos (Type P), you have both spans of the undead covered. In sa04 you have a Type M (when Daelyn, a Winterhound, is infected; the Winterhound regenerative effect isn't enough to deal with the infection of Los Muertos), and in sf02, it's discovered that Los Muertos also have an element of psychic communication between one another and gain knowledge from their victims' experiences, thus throwing in a bit of Type O to the mixture.
  • The Remnants: Because of the nature of post-Pandora Earth, there are at least two of these factions out there. Neither of them are the actual enemy, but do get in the way:
    • The Braid of Dawn is a group of Well Intentioned Extremists for the Fae, which was a peaceful group in the First Age but got more violent from the Second Age.
    • The Federalists are more Absolute Xenophobes, working to keep Eastusa isolationist.
  • La Résistance: The Gatherers are introduced in LF and are occasionally mentioned in SA stories.
  • Schizo Tech: The first book's protagonists wield spells, rifles, and laser cannons. The math is DONE.
  • Shout-Out: Several, but notably the Winterhound/Summerlion dichotomy is taken almost from whole cloth from The Dresden Files.
    • Some shout-outs are acknowledged as such what with the story taking place on an After the End Earth with many examples of media surviving.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: A variation: Humans utilize iron-based weapons, to which the Fae have a weakness; Fae magic can cause Orbital technology to fail; humans have no recourse against Orbital technology.
  • The Teaser: Each chapter starts out with a scene or two before the chapter title is introduced.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Multiple mediums of transportation are mentioned over the course of the series:
    • Winterhounds (one of them being Scout) are able to teleport through shadows to anywhere in sight.
    • The Mirror Realm is an alternative way to travel, as long as you have the favor of Esrever, the Mirror Fiend.
    • Benny the Broker (by implication, at least some of the infernal) are able to teleport through flames.
  • Wham Episode:
    • a08, being the book finale but the end of the introduction to the anachronauts universe, contains numerous developments which change both the world and the characters significantly, all of which culminates in the Second Age.
    • lf04 is one for the characters with Jeeves choking Chloe to death, being revealed as the traitor; lf06 proceeds to significantly change the status quo in the universe with Benny and Chloe working in tandem with the British Crown.
    • sa07's final scene contains some major revelations, including the suggestion that the film version of The Mister managed to get away, as well as the revelation that President Petersen is Archivist Sen, head of The Gatherers.
    • sa08 also details the story of Kas, who they say eventually becomes the savior of the Orbitals, and show some of what she did to earn that title. It contains some significant, world-changing details.
    • sf01 opens on so many changes it's difficult to know where to begin. The murder of Ono, Esrever and Kas; the decimation of the mutants, Los Muertos, and the Kraken, and the revelation that Lar is behind it all.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: An underlying theme of Emily's arc from the dawn of the Second Age on, as well as of sa05.

    First Age 
  • Cast from Sanity: Magic spells destroy whatever they're written on when cast, and most human mages memorize their spells, meaning some brain cells get fried with every casting.
    • Emily is Cursed with Awesome to be unable to memorize spells, and has to copy them and read them to cast them, retaining her sanity. She also prefers utility spells, which means she has to think tactically in a way that tends to elude the other human witches (sanity loss) as well as the elves who trained them (not very creative).
  • Chekhov's Gun: A short list of examples, because the book is full of them:
    • Emily considers using her last Escape tattoo in a01 when first imprisoned with Scout. She eventually uses it in a08.
    • The bands controlling the ogres in a01 are revisited in a04 and a08. It turns out that the conspirators used the same technology to murder Lea and attempt to use it to frame the Orbitals for the destruction of the Earth.
    • Una talks about how her family would picnic in the arboretum in Arcology #BE12 as she was growing up. The group encounters this arcology in a05 and Una's care of the arboretum becomes vital to their survival.
    • The Perfectea spell that Emily learns in a04 gets used in a06. Emily uses it as her single spell, filling Archmagus Lillith's lungs with tea in order to drown her.
  • Colony Drop: Already happened, and repercussions extend to the storyline proper. It's the Arcology #BE12, and Summer interpreted it dropping as Winter's attack, retaliated, for which Winter retaliated by taking Austin.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Part of a trial each of the main characters has to undertake during their Psychological Torment Zone in a04, most literally by:
    • Una: Optimism vs. Pragmatism, and
    • Scout: Control vs. Base Desire.
Emily's dilemma can be forced into this light (human desires vs. her responsibilities as a witch), but it's best represented by the other two.

    Forsaken Shores 
  • Camping a Crapper: Jesse and Gilbert fighting in fs01.
  • Cassandra Truth: The Mister actually manages one of these when he says that "...all of this is going to end with [Jesse] stabbing [Gilbert] in the back." (Turns out it's a Healing Shiv.)
  • Metafictional Paradox: fs05 has Cthulhu Mythos denizens in it: Nyarlatholep, Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath, and a reference to an as-yet-unwoken Cthulhu. They do not like it when H. P. Lovecraft is mentioned.
  • Kiss of Life: Delivered in fs04 between Jesse and Gilbert, with Jesse delivering it in the most tsundere manner possible.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Happiness, from fs04. Complete with "Rescued from the Underworld" bandits working with and against each other to free people from Happiness. Happiness is allowing this because she believes it makes them happy.
  • Louis Cypher: The Mister, from fs02. While not Satan himself, he introduces himself to each of the party members with a name that begins with an L. (In fact, he introduces himself to Una with the name "Luc.")
  • Nanomachines: Seattle in fs03 is entirely populated by these.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The Mister speaks with everyone in private (invisible to the person's companions). He offers any one thing they desire, for a negligible price of being complicit in murder. Not killing anyone by themselves — just voicing their agreement. Nobody else has to know. The heroes don't take the bait. In a situational inversion, Lilith does, via teleconference, while Morgana—her sister and victim—is right next to her and fully aware of the proceedings.

    London's Fog 

    Second Age 
  • Because Destiny Says So: sa05 firmly embraces this concept: the narrator has an idea of how she would die, and won't change it because of what she saw.
  • Character Blog: sa05 is this for a character we don't actually know, although it features a number of known characters in the anachronauts narrative posting under online monikers. A few examples:
    SexyElf86: Yavain, from the First Age
    TrinitySix: Chloe Manchester, from sa01 and London's Fog
    WitchBlogGwen: Gwen Berners-Lee, from sa03
    ArielSkydancer: Ariel, the Wind Elemental, from sa03
    Emily makes one anonymous post in the beginning and at the end, as well.
  • A Day in the Limelight/Lower-Deck Episode: Second Age is the series in which many of the minor characters who would become major (or significant) players are introduced. Benny and Chloe, two of the main characters, are introduced in sa01, and establish their history enough that the print edition of London's Fog will include this chapter. We also meet characters like Kas (sa08), Elisa Morales (sa04), and Carrie Lane (sa06), who are set up to be major characters in Stars Fall.
  • Expy:
    • sa03's Melvin Tinker serves as the Pandora equivalent of Harry Potter (down to his names; both his given name and the moniker he was given, "The Boy Who Didn't Die"), and Sylph Starlyte a riff on HP Mary Sues, what with trying to disown her "muggle" name in favor of a more glamorous one, looking every bit like the ideal witch of her mind, and making suggestions that sound very much in line with the HP-verse.
    • Carrie "Astro Gal" Lane from sa09 is a throwback to the Golden Age of comic book characters; however, is an eternally-fifteen-year-old girl with a sort of Kryptonian powerset, like Supergirl, and she catches the phrases of Superman.
  • Indecisive Medium:
    • sa05, as noted above, is a blog, complete with people making apparently hastily typed first posts, people complaining about them, extremist rhetoric and trolling followed by bans, etc.
    • sa07 is told as a fairytale, with its own chapter markings and enlarged font.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: While they are in fact referred to as Zombies at first, after first contact with Doctor Ruiz in sa04, they are subsequently referred to as "Los Muertos," as despite appearing to follow many zombie conventions, they aren't certain how much of the legends apply in this case.
  • Odd Couple: sa08's Kas and Yew, despite both being Pragmatists, are still pretty much polar opposites, personality-wise. Yew can be considered Kas's Manic Pixie Dream Girl, despite her not being a romantic interest.
  • Ret-Gone: Oblivion, a large and ornately-decorated revolver which never runs out of bullets, does this to anything it shoots. It's lampshaded several times in the text that its "edits" are relatively clumsy, as these things go; it's a freakin' Hand Cannon, it doesn't do "subtle". The full horrific potential of such a weapon comes up a couple of times, such as when Carrie realizes why the current owner has no parents (an accident; it's implied the thing is more than a little cursed), and when he brings it to school and opens fire in an empty library.

    Stars Fall 
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: The Ascendancy tries to portray themselves as one of these, while quietly (but sinisterly) seizing control of Earth's governments and neutralizing political opponents.
  • Human Resources: It is revealed in sf02 that the new Essence Capacitors the Ascendancy introduced involves reaping human souls. While a single human's soul can power an Essence Capacitor (and it's revealed that this is what happened to Nel's mother and the leader of the Federalists), the Ascendancy has been harvesting the souls of Los Muertos and mutants, a dozen at a time, on order to compensate for the corruption of their souls.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted. In sf01, in the midst of Arcology #A076's breakdown, Kas e-mails Yew all the notes detailing Project Pangea and Project Lite.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: "Los Muertos" is the accepted terminology of the undead pervasive throughout South America; this fact is lampshaded by Gwen in sf02.
    Gwen: Of course, the city's completely overrun by zombies...
    Una: Los Muertos. ...Ah. Sorry, just... zombies sounds so silly...
    Gwen: It's completely overrun by zombies. Flesh-eating zombies. Grrrr chompy.
  • Previously on…: As the Second Age books set the stage for a number of characters in Stars Fall, the latter includes a prelude chapter which functions as an introduction to these characters for people who may only be following the print editions, as Second Age was deemed too expensive for print form.
  • Soul-Powered Engine: Turns out ALL the Orbital technology is this.