Since I’m losing my cable on Thursday, I’ve been frantically trying to watch all the stuff I’ve recorded on my DVR. When something came on that I thought might make good reference material for a book I might work on, I recorded it, and I was planning to watch those things when time came around to work on that book. But now I’m having to watch all of it and take notes, and hope I can still remember it all when it comes time to write that book (or hope I can get some of those programs through other means, like through the library or some streaming service).
And, wouldn’t you know, tonight something that would make an excellent reference for a Rebels book is going to be on PBS, and recording it would do me no good since I have to get rid of the recorder in a couple of days. So I guess I’ll be watching and taking notes.
The program is an American Experience episode about the Gilded Age, which is the period in which the Rebels books are set. I chose that period to base my steampunk world on because of all the things that it looks like this program will highlight. There was a massive inequality of resources, with a few extremely rich people, a small middle class, and a vast number of people barely getting by and pretty much being held back by the extremely rich people who owned most of the factories and other means of employment and who kept wages so ridiculously low that their employees didn’t stand a chance. Poor people lived in terrible slums that were breeding grounds for diseases while rich people owned mansions on Fifth Avenue and spent millions of dollars throwing parties. It’s actually kind of a miracle that there wasn’t a revolution during that time, since the number of poor people vastly outnumbered the wealthy.
I thought that made it a good setting for a book that moved the American Revolution to a later time. In my world, it’s magic that gives the upper class a monopoly on power and production, and the revolution is as much against the British Empire as it is against the economic inequality, but all of it comes into play.
I don’t know if I’ll learn that much from watching this show, since I did a ton of research before writing these books, but if you want some good visuals to go with the books and some broader info about the world that inspired the books — or if you’re a teacher or librarian wanting to work these books into your curriculum — this would be worth a watch tonight (and they usually have these episodes available on the PBS web site for a week or two).