(OTL, as ever, means Our Time Line, the world we usually stumble around in)
It is thirty-three years since Lord Rathbone engineered the deaths of the multiple notables that stood between his ambition and the throne, thirty-three years since a shocked nation learned (through Rathbone-owned or suborned papers) of the evil Boxer-Socialist-Anarchist plot which had killed their beloved queen and so many others, thirty-three years since a new monarch and the more conservative elements in Parliament joined forces to pursue a War on Terror to ensure the safety of the British public and the Empire. And things begin to fall apart.
Lord Rathbone, King Nelson I, is an old man now, and his bones ache. He is angry, paranoid, and maybe a bit crazy. The many measures taken to pursue imaginary enemies (substantially enhanced over the years, particularly during the Great War against France and its allies) have brought into existence actual revolutionaries and plots and revolts. That there was a rising in British France (King Nelson, a tradition-minded fellow, had seen fit to undo some of the failures of the 15th century) was tediously normal: that there was a rising in Ireland was troublesome, but not without plenty of precedent: that there was a rising in the north of England, where the much-persecuted Socialists still held the loyalty of many, was a crisis of the first water. Much of the British isles remain under Emergency Rule (well, there have been various “emergency measures” of an increasingly permanent nature for decades, but the current Emergency has pretty much meant full-blown martial law in the “rebel” areas). Parliament and the Courts may be packed with his supporters, but their loyalty is wavering, and he lacks adequate blackmail material for many. Most of the papers are suborned or owned by the Monarchy through various fronts, and radio and the new development of television remain firmly under government control, but many independent magazines constantly skirt the censorship laws, and “pirate radio” stations pop up like toxic mushrooms.
Things have not gone well abroad, either. Although the Great War (1899-1902) expanded the Empire (and the power of the Monarchy and its allies at home), crushed France, and broke Russia, it made a permanent enemy of the US (“Lafayette, we remember!”), which over the last 20 years has grown in industrial power until the point where it now looms over the UK and Germany like a colossus. And while Germany is still an ally, the German government is being troublesome and increasingly critical of British “autocracy”: the Socialists are ever more influential, and that twit Wilhelm never listened to his advice on how to cripple the German democratic movement. He’s working, through his agents, with various right-wing forces in Germany behind the scenes, in hopes some “special measures” can be taken at some point, but it may be too little, too late (he has some hopes for that young Hitler fellow: he can make a rattling good speech.) Canada has been lost for a while: desperate measures may be needed to hold onto Australia. He is the first king in over two centuries to hold real power (although so very much of it through secret back passages, fronts and agents), but it never seems to be enough to keep things from slipping through his fingers. Where’s the rum?
It is a steam-shifting-to-diesel-punk kind of world. It was always more technologically advanced world than ours, with such things as film, the automobile, aircraft and weapons at least thirty years ahead of ours, with steam-powered Jules-Verne-ish flying machines leaving their contrails in the sky as early as the late 1880s. Great oily battle Mecha and giant mechanical spiders, their joints squirting steam, stomp along in military exercises alongside land-battleships with hundreds of little metal feet rather than treads. Colossal flying fortresses with dozens of propellers cruise the skies, while huge submarines with treads for moving onto land move beneath the seas. Baroque jet fliers hurtle across the heavens on vast tails of flame. The motion pictures that play in vast and ornate theatres are all talkies nowadays, and now there is talk of color. Dirigibles are already passé. Architecture is bigger, more baroque and ornate than in our 1920.
The United States lost Hawaii in the last war, but holds North America in a firm grip. It is a more liberal and anti-racist place than our US at the time, part and parcel of its ferocious enmity to the British Empire, which finely fulfills US stereotypes of an aristocratic tyranny brutally exploiting peoples both dusky and white (see, the Irish). Immigration from abroad remains high.
The US is a technology leader and the land of Big, its machines the most titanic, its bridges the most wide-spanning, its skyscrapers the tallest. (The pollution is pretty impressive, too). Its flying machines reach higher and higher, and there is some talk of using a rocket plane to put an Aeronaut in orbit. Canada is a bit of a pain: the post-conquest loss of Quebec, the Pacific coast, and much of the NW territory pissed people off to the point where the US does not trust them to the point of taking the Boot off, and the Boot pisses the Canadians off further, especially with British agents-provocateurs always busy at work with bomb and gun, trying to incite the US government into violence against the Canadian people. Black people are still getting the short end of the stick, but at least there finally is movement on that anti-lynching federal law.
Even as the US builds up its navy and air force in expectations of future conflict, and acts as a distributer of anti-Imperial propaganda and a refuge for revolutionaries, there are ongoing shifts within the Quadruple Alliance. The Germans remain convinced, even the leftists, of their righteousness and the superiority of their Kultur, but are beginning to feel that the British are setting a Poor Example for the Lesser Races to be brought to civilization. (King Nelson nee Rathbone is fond of Asian peoples, but as ornaments or tools: he has no patience whatsoever for the “training them for self-government” crowd. The Indian National Congress is vigorously suppressed). There is talk of patching up relations with the US, as another “Germanic” (if regrettably racially mixed) nation which has its head on straight. Things are a bit of a mess in Austria-Hungary at present, where Franz Ferdinand is busy running roughshod over the Hungarians (a people he has always disliked) in his ambitious programs for reform: whether or not he will succeed and how long he may need the aid of the German army remains uncertain). Italy remains convinced it has been shorted on colonies (Ethiopia was supposed to be theirs, damn it!)
Jazz flourishes, as does something resembling a paleo-rock-and-roll, although the US will miss out on our “20s”, other distractions having led to the failure of the “dry” movement. (Selling alcohol is illegal in a great many states, but there is no federal law). Art tends towards the flamboyant, and a great many artists have lived and continued to produce that would have died in our longer and bloodier (for the Brits and Germans, anyway) WWI. Movies have been around since the 1880s, and horror movies have been around long enough for zombies and vampires to become cliché. (Monsters from Space have recently become popular, what with the writings of the British exile HG Wells and others, and the current talk of putting rockets into orbit). Hollywood began to boom as a movie production center three decades earlier, and is already an alarming sprawl by 1920, although New York studios (New York is even bigger than OTL) remain stiff competition. Arthur Doyle never wrote Sherlock Holmes stories, but eventually became a consulting detective, with the young Charles Chaplin (born some 12 years before our comedian of that name) serving as the Archie Goodwin to his Nero Wolfe. (Mr. Doyle never really was up for fisticuffs with Grimesby Roylott types).
While most of the globe is tied to one side of another, much of South America remains contested, with US and British and German agents and corporations all struggling for influence. The Middle East has recently seen a bit of a diplomatic revolution as the Ottomans have moved firmly into the US sphere, one K. Attaturk having displaced his rivals and moved to the top of the Union and Progress movement that dominates local politics: the British and the Germans, it is increasingly clear, will never accept the Ottomans as an equal partner and indeed hope to make a puppet out of them, while the Ottoman neighborhood in the Middle East will remain firmly under British control until and unless they lose another war. France plots revenge and builds strange new war machines in hidden Saharan factories, while French biologists from the Pasteur institute carry out nasty experiments on bacteria in sub-sub-basement laboratories.
Revolutionaries are abundant, stimulated by the increased autocracy of Britain and the expansion of colonialism worldwide, plus the ongoing struggles of the Chinese and the Russians. Revolutionary pirate submarines cruise beneath the waves, and in out of the way parts of Asia or shady dives in US ports, anarchists, socialists, Triad leaders with armies of kung-fu followers, French spies, gangsters with revolutionary credentials and Russian agents meet to plot and do business. Mysterious black rocket planes are seen over Tibet, and hidden tunnels are dug beneath St. Petersburg with a ray machine developed by Nikola Tesla.
The most troublesome part of the world, from the point of view of the conservative Powers, is that which lies east of Moscow. Germany ultimately failed to create a stable puppet Russia running to the Pacific, and was only barely able to salvage a rump “Imperial” Russia (capital, St. Petersburg) from the revolutionaries. The Eurasian Socialist Union is rather smaller than the USSR of OTL, but doesn’t pay for industrial growth in the coin of mass murder, and the state trusts its citizens enough that the Militia includes (potentially) every single non-disabled adult between 18 and 60. Its main efforts are at present directed towards destabilizing “Imperial” Russia and forcing a German occupation of the same (which will be a colossal clusterfuck), but ending Imperialism everywhere is on its To Do list.
Closely allied to the ESU is the Republic of Free China, which has so far managed to hold out against the piecemeal absorption of their nation by three members of the Quadruple Alliance (and the Japanese). In the mountainous interior, a combination of Russian arms, wacky revolutionary guerilla leaders, dazzling martial arts moves, and the technological creations of various mad scientists of the revolutionary sort have so far held off efforts to crush the remaining bastion of Chinese independence, and revolt and revolution spreads from there into British and German territory.
(Wu Chow ruled as emperor for less than two years, and never controlled all of China. Like many others, he was betrayed by Rathbone in the end).
Chon Wang is now a Revered Elder (with really bushy eyebrows, at that) of the Martial Arts and most of his time is spent instructing his many pupils at the temple where some of the best fighters of the Republic are trained. But he still takes time ever now and then to visit the shrine he has built to his old friend, Roy O’Bannon, who died all those years ago in London. He sometimes wonders what might have been if they had managed to beat Lord Rathbone and saved the Queen. Would they have gone to Hollywood and become film stars? Would O’Bannon have married his sister? (And wouldn’t his extended family, down to the umpteenth cousin, have raised a stink about that!) And would the world be a better place? He does not dwell too long on that one: the world is what it is, and he has work to do: the fight to keep his little piece of China free is never ending. So, as ever, he finishes his prayers for his old friend’s well-being wherever laowai go after death, lights some incense sticks, and gets back to instructing his pupils in How Not to Die.
Edit: alliance systems shown a bit more clearly here: [link]
Wouldn´t China be a British allie? There is not much to be gained from betraying Wu Chow and much to gain from a strong China allied to the British Empire.
The Anglo-Germanic alliance needing massive numbers of soldiers and workers to support their New World order while the Chinese needs import of food and oil from the Anglo-Germanic alliance on acount of a massively expanding population* and some industrial steam-punk cities already bigger than New York and London.
* So much that novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jule Verne´s predicts that with the current rate, in 2020, a massive "megacity" covers the whole of eastern China and much of Indochina too, while western europe have Britannia and Mittleuropa, blanketing much of the planet in a global brown-orange cloud of pollution.
I assumed Rathbone would be too much a typical upper crust British racist to consider Chinese as being of any use save as "coolies", but on the other hand industrializing China does kinda fit in with the general steam/deisel - punk theme of the setting (which novels are you referring to, BTW?)
Well, my thought is that with the different history and the butterfly effect, past 1887 both authors would not have written the novels they did historically, instead writting new ones.
With time, as the divergence increases, these novels comes to reflect some of the most notable features of their times.
Then again it wouldn't be that hard to deport the entire population and resettle them in Africa. Soviet style.
Originally it involved greater anti-Catholic/anti-Irish sentiment in America, culminating in the Irish just being kicked out of most of the big cities. A bunch of them head west, Bob's your uncle exiled Irish population.
Of course it would be cooler in Africa.
Anyway keep it small, a chunk of north-west Australia would do.