By Craig Neumeier.
Third and last in my series of realities from GURPS Alternate Earths translated for use with Feng Shui. Once again, this will be cryptic, perhaps incomprehensible, if you don't know the source material.
Gernsback cannot really be made to fit the standard Feng Shui junctures. Which is a pity, because its attitude, based on 1930s pulp novels, is cinematic in the extreme. Furthermore, the global power of the World Science Council is rather better explained by control of feng shui sites than by any sort of real history.
To use Gernsback in a Feng Shui game, however, either the junctures must be moved or the timeline must be modified. Its current year, as given, is 1965; given Gernsback's worship of progress, the thirty years to the 1996 timeline will surely involve some fairly important changes from the status quo. (It's hard to see how they could avoid a space program, for instance.) Similarly, while Gernsback could develop from a changed 1850, the history of the world from 1850 to about 1920 would almost certainly be altered a great deal.
The easiest way to deal with this problem is to ignore it, on the grounds that movies don't pay much attention to historical details (and when they do, often get it wrong). Use the sourcebook as written for the contemporary juncture, and don't worry too much about the fact that nothing much seems to have happened since the Soviet War in the 1950s. Taller buildings, more channels for the televisors, larger and more powerful Electronic Brains -- but no serious qualitative changes. (For that matter, it would be easy enough for some of the inventions in the sourcebook to be changed into post-1965 developments.)
Gernsback might be presented as the result of an outright Dragon victory in 1850. More to my taste, however, would be giving the critical shift an origin with the Ascended of the 1850 juncture. Centuries of dominance have left those Ascended unaccustomed to serious opposition, especially from the Netherworld. They find it difficult to manage challenges from other junctures. Optionally, they might have considerable friction with "help" from the 20th-century Ascended, who will tend to assume dominance in joint operations on the grounds that they are from the future and know more. Victorian-era Ascended won't respond particularly well to this if they share the attitude of their era, and will lose even more respect for their counterparts from the later 20th as the word spreads that they're going to lose the planet to the Architects in the near future and don't seem able to stop it. Finally, some precipitating event causes the Ascended of 1850 to break with those of 1996, ideally a major defeat of the 1996 Lodge by the Dragons.
The decision is made that the Lodge needs new blood to survive and prosper. In a bold, unprecedented action Lodge membership is expanded to allow selected human beings the opportunity to join up. The Ascended recruit from their own Pledged and actively seek to recruit the Dragons and the sort of people that might otherwise join up with them. The carrot offered is a share in control of the world, and the corresponding power to make it a better place. Under the influence of a mass of recruited Techies, science (uncorrupted by arcanowaves) becomes the focus for the new vitality. Fu powers are also taught, but only in the traditional master-tostudent way, and not in anything like the same numbers. Magic, of course, is strictly forbidden.
Start with the 1850 juncture and assume that weird science started in the Victorian Era: see Verne, Wells, and Castle Falkenstein (without magic) for suggestions. The more advanced inventions in Europe (those that aren't already the sole property of the insidious Doctor Verdegast and his ilk) get flattened by WWI, and the historical pattern joins with that shown in Gernsback. Meanwhile, the Ascended of 1996 don't really have any defense against this; since very, very few of the Lodge members are innerwalkers they simply blend in to the new Ascended Dragon hegemony with no fuss.
The contemporary juncture is controlled by the World Science Council, the sort of hegemony the Dragons probably would produce if they took over the world. As world governments go, it is less repressive and far more cheerful than the Buro or the Lodge. It is scarcely any more democratic, however; the WSC is typically convinced that it knows best and displays little or no interest in any alternative points of view. The Confucians of the Guiding Hand, no less than the magicians of the Lotus, will be dismissed as reactionary fools of no possible interest in building the world of tomorrow. GMs could choose either to make the WSC truly benevolent in intention (but with limited vision) or make the whole image a facade, according to their tastes.
2056 is a problem. It may still end up in the control of the Architects, for GMs with a penchant for inevitable fate -- since we don't know how the Buro can possibly win control now, we don't know that the changes will prevent them. In this case, the CDCA will be a research group that manages to win internal control within the WSC.
Or maybe all the Abominations get laterally reincarnated into the results of genetic engineering experiments gone horribly wrong, as the different branches of the WSC start fighting among themselves.
Or, I suppose, the Ascended Dragons could turn out to be decent masters of the world, ruling in accordance with the Mandate of Heaven. In which case the Buro vanishes completely, and 2056 is a bright, harmonious sort of future full of bright, harmonious people in silver jumpsuits, with advanced technology that can do anything arcanogear can without all the nasty side effects. Heck, you could even have them integrate chi powers into the new world -- think of it as Jedi Knights. Maybe they'll decide that since they obviously are the only ones who know how to run things properly, it is their moral duty to extend the benefits into the past as opportunity permits.
Switching things back from Gernsback might be as easy as finding the key Dragons who will set up the whole thing and persuading them that it's a bad idea. There will be more incentive to do this with some options than others; Gernsback has its share of creepy aspects but they are relatively hidden compared to a lot of places.
Last modified: January 8, 1997; please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.