As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m less a fan of Steampunk in and of itself than I am of the aesthetic. I’m also partial to the historical implications of early industrialization, early cultural contact, etc. Basically, I’m a fan of alternate histories, the wilder and woollier, the better. Which brings us to the Ameriquetzlan Ambassador, and his strange world.
Ulrich Popoca is the junior ambassador from the court of Hueyi Tlatoani Ahuitzotl V, Lord of the Horizons, Scion of the Sun, emperor of the Ameriquetzlan Empire and its Expanses to the court of Victoria Gloriana Regina, queen of Greater Britain, Alba and Eire. The son of an Ameriquetzlan nobleman and a woman from Vinland, Popoca has a fascination for European culture that serves him in good stead as he attempts to navigate the Byzantine political web that is the Court of St. James. He’s also something of an amateur sleuth, prone to sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong.
This tendency towards ratiocination has brought him to the dubious attentions of the shadowy cabal known as the Diogenes Club. The club is believed by some to be the true power behind the British throne, and that it is only by its machinations that the island nation has not been devoured by the predatory empires that wage war across the Channel. The club’s attentions are personified in the form of the flamboyant and utterly ruthless Countess (in-exile) Francesca Felluci, late of Venice, currently of the Savoy. If Popoca is Sherlock Holmes (or, better yet, Lord Peter Wimsey), then Felluci is James Bond, if Bond was a lady, and less of an asshole.
Together, Popoca and the Countess investigate those crimes which perplex and baffle the police, and which inevitably have some political ramification. The Countess has also had a number of solo adventures, battling the agents of the Basarab of the Greater Wallachian Union, Cathar separatists, and Spider-King of France.
The stories are more pulpy than a good alternate history should be, ideally. As with the Mr. Brass stories, I basically took a bunch of elements I thought were neat and jammed them into a narrative blender without any real regard for the historical or cultural implications.
Its a world where the Age of Exploration and the Reconquista turned out very differently. Its a world where a Mongol-controlled China sold the secret of gunpowder to the Aztecs, who several centuries later rode the modern descendants of the dinosaurs into battle against the Spanish, when the latter battled England, the Basques and Ethiopia during the Andalusian War of 1875.
Fifteen years later, the Martians invaded. Nobody likes to talk about it.
Dracula (or his descendant) is at war with the Ottomans, the Russ and the United Germanies, and has been since the Second October Crusade of 1880. The Mughals are still going strong, as are the Hussites, the Cathars and the Knights of Malta.
Ethiopia is a major world power, as is Malaysia. The Berbers and the Tuaregs are significant political factions in geopolitical affairs, as are the Teutonic Knights and the Vinlanders. France is still under the thumb of the Valois and the Free Italian States exiled the Pope to Wallachia a decade ago.
Also, there are vampires, werewolves and assorted nightmarish entities and Nikola Tesla rules a floating Electric Duchy. There are manticores in the Royal Zoo and the Fellowship of Herne hunts criminals through the English countryside for sport.
See what I mean? It’s an interesting, confusing little world, that makes for some exciting stories, even if it’s as confusing as all heck. Hopefully I’ll get to go back to it someday soon, schedule and markets permitting.
Popoca and the Countess have had (separately and together) ten appearances to date, not counting reprints. In no particular order, chronological or otherwise:
“The Strange Affair of the Artisan’s Heart”
Popoca is an Ameriquetzlan diplomat abroad in the world’s capitol, London. He is summoned to the scene of a crime, where he meets an old friend and finds a murdered man.
“The Strange Affair of the Martian Engine”
Countess (in-exile) Felluci battles mercenaries and monsters in order to prevent an alien device from falling into the hands of the Basarab of Wallachia.
- 2010 Cossmass Infinities Podcast episode 1
“The Strange Affair of the Skull at the Window”
Popoca and the Countess are back, this time they are on the trail of a thief that has stolen a rare moth from the London Zoo…a rare, four foot moth. Sword fights, dirigibles, and electric velocipedes ensue.
“The Strange Affair of the Phantom Vinlander”
Popoca and his fellow diplomats attempt to prevent the murder of Queen Victoria during a holiday celebration aboard the royal aether-yacht.
- 2009 Free Advent Day Story
“The Moorish Sign”
Popoca and the Countess investigate a locked room murder mystery.
“The Strange Affair of the Sundered Man”
Popoca returns, this time to investigate a baffling case involving a person still alive, despite being–quite literally–half the man he used to be.
“The Adventure of the Beastly Concubines”
Popoca and the Countess attempt to unravel a murderous conspiracy as a Wallachian diplomat seeks sanctuary in the Ameriquetzlan embassy.
- 2011 Peculiar Adventures issue 2 (Pro Se Productions)
“The Strange Affair of the Viennese Mathematician”
The Countess races the deadly war-dirigibles of Wallachia and the Basarab’s lycanthropic agents to retrieve a valuable informant from Vienna.
“The Matryoshka Affair”
Popoca and the Countess attempt to solve another locked room murder, with explosive results.
- 2012 Free Download
“The Adventure of the Albigensian Agent”
The Countess fights clockwork Cathars and feline French agents in order to escort an English spy to safety
- 2013 Psychopunk (Artifice Comics)