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Literature / Fitzpatrick's War

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Fitzpatrick's War is a 2004 post-apocalyptic Steampunk Science Fiction book by Theodore Judson (author of The Martian General's Daughter), as well as the author's first novel. Set in the 25th Century, the story is framed through the annotated autobiography of Brigadier General Sir Robert Mayfair Bruce of the Yukon Confederacy, which also chronicles the life of Lord Isaac Prophet Fitzpatrick, a consul of the Confederacy whose life closely parallels that of Alexander the Great and is glorified as a hero after his death. But as deadly intrigue lurks behind the scenes and more of the world's backstory is revealed, all is not what it seems. Something that extends into the very notion of history itself.

See also Julian Comstock for a similar premise involving a post-apocalyptic America.

This novel features examples of:

  • After the End: The Storm Times in the late 21st Century trashed all electrical and electronic technology as well as devastated the developed world. The Yukon Confederacy in particular emerged from the ashes of the United States.
  • Airstrip One: Great Britain is part of the Yukon Confederacy. It’s mentioned that save for farmland, some ruins and scattered towns, it's little more than a massive military garrison to deter the Muslim "Turks" in continental Europe. Justified due to the depopulation and devastation wrought by the Storm Times on the developed world.
  • Appropriated Appellation: The Yukons got their name from urban elites who saw them as ignorant yokels and called them "Yukons" in reference to the remote Canadian territory.
  • The Apunkalypse: The final years of 21st Century America prior to the Storm Times were heavily implied to have been descending into this. Various gangs and mobs, many of whom with monikers straight out of a Mad Max film, are mentioned as not only duking it out on the streets but also being large enough to have representatives in Congress. The early Yukons, by contrast, stood out by not invoking this trope, instead presenting themselves as civilized survivalists that eventually adopt more traditionalist pretentions (though it's also implied that some of this is Yukon racism making them describe other groups as gangs and mobs simply because they were multi-racial).
  • The Antichrist: Bartholomew Iz was essentially the culmination of every single dictator in modern history combined, a school teacher turned lawyer, who took over the American federal government in the mid-to-late 21st century and attempted global genocide. Due to his initial targeted pursecution of the early Yukons, who were some of the only remaining and deeply conservative Christians left, he was literally demonised as "The Enemy of God". And long after his death and the destruction of his government, all Yukon history going into the 25th century refers to him as such.
  • Author Filibuster: Some of the exposition and in-verse annotations from Professor Van Buren can come across as this.
  • As You Know/Lecture as Exposition: The general history of how the world turned into a post-apocalyptic steampunk Neo-British Empire-dominated dystopia is recited in a verbal exam by the novel's protagonist, Robert Mayfair Bruce. Coincidentally, Bruce is shocked to have gotten such an easy topic.
  • The Bad Guys Win: At least, From a Certain Point of View. The Timermen ultimately succeed in derailing Fitzpatrick's plans and set the status quo back into place. That said, they incorporate some of his ideas into said status quo and see to it that he's remembered as a great hero. It's also implied that they arranged to give Bruce more than enough to make his remaining years comfortable, and to keep him from objecting too much.
  • Broken Pedestal: Although Bruce would always admire Fitzpatrick's vision, over the course of the plot he becomes increasingly jaded and disillusioned with the man himself, who he considered a good friend. Going so far as to take part in Fitzpatrick's death.
  • The Conspiracy: The Timermen. Though their existence and general activities are relatively well-known among the Yukons, the extent of their machinations go much deeper than what’s believed.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Played With in the case of the Yukons. They originated as a band of rural survivalists in 21st Century America, through their "craziness" largely came from their deliberate hearkening back to traditionalist and old-fashioned norms. They even retained a strong intellectual base, which became the foundation for the Timermen who in turn were responsible for the Storm Times.
  • The Cycle of Empires: The Yukon Confederacy fits the bill for being a Rising Empire falling under the first two stages. This is deliberately invoked by the Timermen, who have sought to keep it that way indefinitely, both encouraging Yukon ascendancy and fostering internal discontent. They decide to intervene once Fitzpatrick tries fully going all the way, threatening the status quo.
  • Depopulation Bomb: The Storm Times also coincided with an epidemic that would leave regions like Japan and the British Isles sparsely inhabited.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Yukon society comes across as a twisted melange of Victorian and Edwardian cultural norms.
  • Enemy Mine: In the novel's backstory, the early Yukons allied themselves with what's left of the Federal Government in dealing some of the more dangerous gangs and movements. Only for them to turn against Washington during the Storm Times.
  • Enforced Cold War: The Timermen have been maintaining this as part of the status quo. It's only when Fitzpatrick begins unraveling said status quo, however, that they're forced to more directly intervene.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Yukon Confederacy is very much a warped recreation of The British Empire and memories of 19th Century America by way of Columbia. This is in addition to being based on the Yukons' own origins as a collective of rural survivalists.
  • Fallen States of America: The United States by the latter years of the 21st Century was a dysfunctional mess in which gangs and populist movements not only terrorized the streets but had grown powerful enough to control Congress. It's little wonder the early Timermen concluded that unleashing the Storm Times and destroying modern civlization would be an improvement.
  • Feudal Future: Deliberately invoked by the Yukons and their Timermen colleagues after the fall of 21st Century America. It helped as well that the chaos of those times made such arrangements more appealing. By the letter of the Yukon Confederacy's constitution, it's supposed to blend feudalism and democracy with the people of a region electing their lord, but in practice everyone knows to vote for the oldest male heir of the previous lord.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: On top of wanting to document the "true" story of Fitzpatrick as he remembered him, Bruce wrote his autobiography in the hopes that the Yukons of the future would both live up to his vision and learn from his era's mistakes. Given Professor Van Buren's commentary in the 26th Century and the Timermen's assessments remaining firm as ever, that's still a long way off.
  • Forever War: The Yukons have been in an on-off war with a "Turkish" Muslim empire that's since expanded to include much of continental Europe. They've also been fighting the Chinese, who are implied to still be Communist.
  • Framing Device: The story is told through Bruce's autobiography, as annotated by the ludicrously biased Professor Roland Modesty Van Buren in the 26th Century, long after all the characters portrayed are dead.
  • Future Imperfect: Given how much surviving relics from 20th and 21st Centuries are censored. Completely averted with the Timermen, who know perfectly what happened in those times and see to it they never repeat. That’s in part because they were involved in some of those events.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Played With in the case of Bruce. While he's scorned by the Yukons of the 26th Century, especially by Van Buren and thanks to the Timermen's machinations, they still respect him to a degree as a hero and nobleman.
  • Hero-Worshipper: It's established early on how much Fitzpatrick idolizes Alexander the Great. So much so that many of his actions later on (such as setting up a new capital at Samarkand) seem designed specifically to emulate, if not surpass the famed conqueror. This eventually comes to backfire on him.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Sandwich Islands (aka, Hawaii) is described as a high-tech bastion filled with sophisticated technology and where rocket launches are still made. It's also the private property of the Timermen and where the last Storm Times machines are located.
  • Insult Backfire: How the first Yukons got their name back in 21st Century America. Not only had they appropriated the name as a badge of honor, but they would later on lend it to the Yukon Confederacy that arose after the Storm Times.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): Owing to their racism, the Yukons have renamed cities that used to have Spanish or Native American names-for example, San Francisco is now "Grand Harbor" and Kansas City is now "Centralia".
  • Kicked Upstairs/Reassigned to Antarctica: Bruce's final fate. The Timermen are implied to have arranged for him to be given significant concessions befitting his status as Fitzpatrick's close friend. While this deal comes at the cost of the feudal estate granted to him being near the Mexican frontier, away from the halls of power, it allows him to live out the rest of his life in peace and ensures his family's social standing for posterity.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the official Yukon view (reading behind the lines it's implied that the reality was a bit more... nuanced, and far less sympathetic to the actions of the early Yukons). The people who ran the federal government of America had this happen to them after decades of being untouchable, thanks to their corruption of the government itself. After a bloodly war between the Yukons and the US federal government, everyone associated with American government at the end of the 21st century were slaughtered mercilessly. Bartholomew Iz was even impaled infront of the nation's capital and reviled in history as "The Enemy of God".
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The way the Timerman agent describes a modern-day everyman in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Bruce at the end of the novel seems to be addressing the audience, as well as deconstructing how someone like Bruce could thrive in 25th Century society.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: Even as the Timermen set the status quo back in place, they retain some of Fitzpatrick's reforms and his network of airbases, if out of pragmatism and convenience.
  • Ludd Was Right: Downplayed by the Yukons in general and the Timermen especially. It’s not so much science and technology in themselves that they take issue with, given that the Yukon Confederacy isn't afraid to use industrial-era technology on its foes. Rather, it's with how they’re used and whether humanity is ready for them. The Timermen also rationalize keeping the Storm Times devices on as due to this, in addition to being content with the status quo.
  • Man Behind the Man: The Timermen, the Yukon Confederacy's "secret society" of their best and brightest. Their origins are traced to the earliest Yukons in 21st Century America and are responsible for the Storm Times and the ensuing turmoil, all to guarantee the Yukons' survival and what they deemed the best for all mankind.
  • Medieval Stasis: Well, Steampunk Stasis. The Yukon Confederacy is a very stagnant place, including technologically, and while it's implied that other countries (China in particular) at least try to be more innovative, the military advantage conferred on the Yukon Confederacy by the Timermen's complete orbital domination keeps them contained.
  • Motive Decay: Downplayed with the Timermen. They still hold fast to their original intentions, but they also make it clear that they also keep up the status quo because they like it that way, and might switch the Storm Times devices off in the distant future if they're bored.
  • Open Secret: Played with in the case of the Timermen. Most everyone in the Yukon Confederacy knows of them as a “secret society” of their best and brightest, as well as their role in the country’s founding. Some even know of the advanced equipment reputedly to be in their possession. These have helped in masking the true extent of their machinations, their involvement in the Storm Times, and why they continue to keep up the facade.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Timermen are content with having the Yukons use the airbases Fitzpatrick establishes over the course of his rule, allow some of his policies to remain, and even arrange it such that his surviving comrades like Bruce could live the rest of their lives comfortably. After all, it'd make maintaining the status quo even easier for them.
  • Recycled In Space: Similarly to Julian Comstock, the story transplants Alexander the Great's life into what amounts to a 25th Century Columbia.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Bruce gets a backhanded one in the end from the Timermen, explaining how he should be thankful for their actions. Pointing out in particular how someone like him would never have had the chance to shine through the way he did throughout the book in the kind of world Fitzpatrick would usher in. In other words, the modern world as we would know it would leave him nothing more than a tormented Salaryman doomed to languish in obscurity.
  • Retro Universe: Yukon society and the world at large take more than a few cues from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. And enforced by the Timermen.
  • Schizo Tech: This is a world where sailing ships and steam-powered fleets have carbon-polymer holds, where satellite communications are made possible with special paper and industrial equipment.
  • Space-Filling Empire: At the start of Bruce's tale, the Yukons hold control over much of North America, Britain and Australasia. In addition to their network of allies like India and Pan-Slavia, which are considered by some of the more bigoted Yukons as little more than savages.
  • Status Quo Is God: The Yukons and their Timermen allies have tried keeping this for centuries. The Timermen however intervene once Fitzpatrick threatens to avert this trope altogether.
  • Steampunk: With a little bit of Diesel Punk for good measure, which has been going on for centuries. And in the centuries to come, as enforced by the Timermen.
  • A Taste of Power: The Timermen are revealed to be giving the Yukons a systemic take on this trope. Allowing them just enough in the way of prosperity and technological superiority to strive for more, but the end goal is kept always out of reach. This in part allows them to sustain the Yukon Confederacy as a Rising Empire indefinitely.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Bruce is revealed to have ultimately retired in Astoria, Oregon as a fairly well-off nobleman who's respected by his family and peers. It's heavily implied as well that the Timermen arranged it that way to both give him more than enough to live his remaining years comfortably and to keep quiet.
  • Too Good for Exploiters: The status quo serves the Timermen just fine. Keeping the Storm Times devices on only guarantees that the Yukons are perpetually a Rising Empire, but it also ensures their own power and influence indefinitely, at least until the Timermen of the future get bored.
  • Unlikely Hero: Bruce is a deconstruction. While initially presented as The Everyman who rises to new heights alongside Fitzpatrick in the name of building a better world the Timerman at the end reveals to him that he’s only able to get as far as he has because of the status quo he wanted to change. Moreover, he would be otherwise just be an average office worker in the kind of world he would usher in.
  • Unreliable Narrator: It's left to the reader to figure out whether it's Bruce or Professor Van Buren who's the unreliable narrator (though Van Buren is implied to be less reliable, and neither are operating from an accurate view of the past when it comes to things that were history in Bruce's day).
  • Vestigial Empire: Pan-Slavia, the remains of Russia and the various Slavic countries is also the last true "European" country after the "Turks" took over everything else.
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: Carried over from their survivalist origins in 21st Century America, Yukon naming conventions could be best described as mix of Puritan and Victorian styles, further reinforcing their rather archaic pretensions.
  • War Is Hell: As Bruce discovers the hard way as he rises through the Yukon ranks and takes part in Fitzpatrick's campaigns, there's nothing romantic or glorious about war other than surviving it long enough to savor victory.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Fitzpatrick, who has grand plans on moving all humanity forward under Yukon rule, whether people like it or not. As the story progresses, his dreams of enlightened glory clash with the actions being done to achieve them, to Bruce’s growing dismay.
    • The Timermen, who not only maintain an enclave of advanced technology to ensure "perpetual" Yukon survival. But are also responsible for the Storm Times and the buildup to them. As well as making sure through their proxies and direct intervention that no one breaks their status quo too much, including Fitzpatrick himself. All these, in the name of saving civilization and controlling history.
  • The World Is Not Ready: The Timerman who meets with Bruce at the end points out how neither the Yukons or humanity at large deserve having the systems responsible for the Storm Times switched off for good and letting 21st Century progress return. He also mentions that they might be turned off eventually and allow some progress back, if the Timermen of the distant future are bored.
  • Written by the Winners: The novel goes quite a bit into satirizing and deconstructing the premise.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: The Yukons make plentiful use of them in their air force.