A brief history of Municipal Darwinism by Deputy Head Historian Chudleigh Pomeroy

Sunday, December 31, 2017
chudleigh pomery mortal engines

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MUNICIPAL DARWINISM By Deputy Head Historian Chudleigh Pomeroy

 
(Re-published by kind permission of the Guild of Historians.)

1: The World After The War


After the Ancients destroyed themselves in the Sixty Minute War, there were several thousand years when Nothing Much Happened.  These were the Black Centuries.  Mankind was reduced to a few thousand individuals; scattered bands of savages who hid in cellars and caverns to escape the plague-winds and the poisoned rain, and survived on the canned goods they managed to dig up from the ruins of their ancestors' great cities.  It was a savage age, when life was cheap, and most people would happily have sold their own children for a tin of rice pudding.

Even when the ash-clouds thinned and the sun returned, bringing new growth to the scorched earth, humanity was still beset by famines, pestilence and other types of unpleasantness.  Vast upheavals and rearrangements of the Earth's surface were underway.  Whether these were due to the lingering effects of the mighty weapons which the Ancients had used in their war, or were merely a natural process, we cannot know.  

What is certain is that mighty new mountain ranges arose (the Shan Guo uplands, the Deccan Volcano Maze and the Tannhauser Mountains being the prime examples).  At around this time, among other great changes, some violent storm or convulsion in the planet's crust caused the western edges of the island called 'Britain' or 'Uk' to sink beneath the Atlantic, while the North Sea drained away entirely, leaving Britain attached by a land-bridge to the rest of Europe.  (This was one day to have great consequences for a miserable, ruinous city called London, which clung on, barely inhabited, to a place beside the muddy river Thames.)

http://amzn.to/2C5A4eh

2:  New Shoots From The Ashes


Life in the Black Centuries was difficult, disagreeable and generally pretty short, and it would be many thousands of years before anyone had the time or inclination to set about building a new civilization.  In most parts of the world, all knowledge of the past had been swept away, and human beings lived little better than animals.  Indeed, some were not truly human at all, for lingering poisons from the war had caused mutant off-shoots of humanity to arise; chief among them the warlike Scriven and the sinister Nightwights.  (Not only that, but a race of semi-intelligent gulls haunted the Atlantic coastlines, and in the north herds of mammoth-like 'hairyphants' once more roamed the tundra!)

In Africa, however, where the plague-bombs and orbit-to-earth atomics had not fallen so thickly, a certain amount of learning had been preserved, and it was here that the first flowers of civilisation began to bloom afresh.  The so-called 'Spring Cultures' of Zagwa, Ogbomosho and the Tibesti Caliphate eventually grew into great trading cultures whose merchants and missionaries helped to restore civilisation to the rest of the world.  As millennium followed millennium new societies arose in Europe and South America, as well as in the remnants of India and China and among the Thousand Islands of the Pacific.  Some fell by the wayside, and we know little of them now beyond their names - the Raffia Hat civilisation, the Ash Boundary Culture, the Slate Bowl People.  Others, like the great culture of Shan Guo and the Mountain Kingdoms, have endured into modern times.


guild of engineers mortal engines


3: Of Nomad Empires and the Dawn Of Traction


In none of these new societies did anyone attempt to match the technological achievements of the Ancients.  Most, indeed, prohibited science and the building of complex machines, which they blamed for the disaster of the Sixty Minute War.  Some, such as the Zagwans, persecuted anyone who tried to preserve scientific knowledge, and destroyed whatever vestiges of the Ancient World they could find.  We can only guess at the loss to historians which such vandalism has caused!

In the northern part of Europe, however, certain remnants of the old world were revered, as we can see in those so-called machine-shrines where, in the depths of the Black Centuries, people prayed and made sacrifices to the battered computer-brains, toasters and automatic drinks dispensers they had found among the rubble of Ancient settlements.  Slowly, cultures arose which did not just worship the old machines, but tried to make them work again.  

The Blue Metal Culture, the Electric Empire with their earthenware batteries and strange electro-magnetic helixes, and the mysterious Pyramid Builders of the High Arctic were among them, but all were eventually swept away by natural disasters (the frequent Ice Ages of the period 10,000 to 3,000 BT), or by the rise of the Nomad Empires, rowdy hordes of barbarians who used whatever technologies they could find or steal in their endless wars with one another.  

They built armies of 'Stalkers' or 'Resurrected Men', and their mobile battle-platforms and 'traction fortresses' have been seen as the fore-runners of the Traction Cities we live upon today. One of these Nomad Empires was the Scriven, a mutant race from the high north, famous for their speckled skin and spectacular cruelty.  As their numbers dwindled and the climate grew cooler they were gradually driven south and east out of their old strongholds in Siberia and found their way at last to London, a squalid trading-post in eastern UK.  

They conquered it easily, and ruled it for almost two hundred years.  They were eccentric and tyrannical, yet under their rule London began to thrive again.  Merchants and scholars were drawn to the city by the relics from the Ancient world which scavengers dug up in great quantities from the soil around it, and vast advances in knowledge and technological prowess were made.  

The Scriven even set up the Order of Engineers, a fore-runner of our present-day Guild of Engineers, to study and re-use the things they found.  But the Scriven line was growing weak, and eventually, they were overthrown in their turn during a bloody rebellion led by the self-styled 'Skinners Guilds'.  There then followed a brief period of independence for the city, before new nomad conquerors swept in from the north.  These new arrivals called themselves the Movement, and their arrival marks the beginning of a new age; the Traction Era.  For they were led by the genius who would transform our city, the immortal First Helmsman Nikolas Quirke.

When the notion of Traction Cities first came to him, none now can say.  Some legends that as a young man travelling aboard his nomad Traction Fortress he was visited by a dream in which he saw an entire city moving across the face of the earth.  Others claim that the idea had first been conceived by the last of London's Scriven rulers, Auric Godshawk, and that Quirke merely inherited it, but few people nowadays believe that.  Whatever the origin of the plan, Londoners soon came to see its wisdom - especially when it was pointed out to them that a mobile London need not just flee its enemies; it could conquer them, and use their raw materials to make itself larger, stronger and faster-moving!

Over the following few years the city was torn down and rebuilt in the form of a gigantic vehicle, based on the linked and extended chassis of the Movement's Traction Fortresses.  These were dangerous times, for while all Quirke's energy and resources were employed in the rebuilding of the city his nomad rivals in the north hatched plots and alliances to overthrow him and take the city's riches for their own.  The most serious of these crises was the Northern War, in which many rival bands of nomads joined together and drove south to attack London with Stalkers, armoured mammoths and their own traction fortresses.  But Quirke's genius defeated and obliterated them, and London moved north to devour their former strongholds.

Today's Londoners would scarcely recognise the city on which their ancestors first set forth.  Far smaller than modern London, it rolled on wheels instead of tracks, it had no jaws yet, and its three tiers were protected with armour and ringed with cannon and catapults.  It looked more like a giant-sized version of the nomads traction fortresses than a city.  But in the hundred years that followed it was to eat most of the richer settlements in UK, and the raw materials it took from them were used to expand the base-plate, construct the first tracks and add a further four tiers were added to the city, bringing the total to the seven on which Londoners live today.  

Also at this time we see the beginnings of the Guild system, with the groups responsible for each aspect of London's movements clubbing together to protect their own interests and educate their children in their own fields of expertise.  

All the Guilds met together in council to decide on the city's future course and likely meals.  

The Navigators who were responsible for steering it, and the Merchants who helped fund it quickly came to dominate the council.  

Historians, while lacking political power, were greatly respected, for they had already begun to create the London Museum, one of the greatest centres of learning about the past since the fall of the Ancient world, and the means by which many Old-Tech devices have been rediscovered, and restored to every day use.

(It is interesting to note that London's engineers had very little power at that time.  Despite the fact that it was their skills which kept London moving, they were divided into small groups; the Designers, Axle-Strengtheners, Wheelwrights, Cog-Cutters, Power-Teams, Duct-Managers etc, etc. 

It would still be several more centuries before they achieved the dominion over London affairs which they presently enjoy.

traction cities concpet art
 

4: The 'Traction Boom'


As London increased its size and speed, and started to look hungrily at larger settlements on the far side of the old North Sea, other cities began to copy its lead, either in order to escape London's jaws, or in the hope of emulating its success.

  At first Londoners were indignant at what they saw as this poaching of their great idea.  But Quirke-ite thinkers it thus.  The Great Quirke, they said, has brought about a new phase of history.  From this time on all civilised people will wish to live aboard towns which move.  Those that are strong and swift will eat up those which are slow and weak.  And in this way the affairs of men will come into harmony with the natural world, where the fittest survive.  The theories of the Ancient philosopher Chas Darwin had recently been re-discovered in the library of one of the towns London had eaten, and the new system was quickly labelled Municipal Darwinism.

  There then followed the period known to vulgar people as the 'Traction Boom', during which cities and settlements of every size were compelled to 'go mobile', or to face being eaten up by others which had.  Some added tracks like London's, other experimented with inflatable wheels, systems of rails, or even, in the case of the short-lived Pogo-city of Borsanski Novi, some large springs.  Others, meanwhile, rebuilt themselves as rafts and took to the seas.  Some, like Airhaven and Kipperhawk, became airborne, taking advantage of developments in aviation.  Even the mountains can now be gnawed asunder by specialised mining towns in search of ore.  Even the icy polar wastes are traversed by cities, and the floors of the oceans have become the hunting grounds of submarine towns like Pacifica.  

Can it be long before Airhaven is joined in the sky by hunting cities, perhaps ones capable of ascending to the very fringes of space?  

The Ancients, as anyone who has looked up at the night sky will know, built homes and observatories in orbit.  It is not inconceivable that cities may one day evolve to hunt there, too.  Like life, our cities adapt to exploit every environment.

As Municipal Darwinism spread, the static cultures soon began to wither away.  Today they survive only in mountainous regions, such as Shan Guo, where the warrior-monk Batmunkh founded his Anti-Traction League.  In Africa the degraded remnants of the Spring Cultures still protect their heartlands against mobile towns, but even with the League's help their territories grow smaller every year.  Despite such League atrocities as the sinking of Marseilles, most people believe firmly that moving cities are the future, and that Municipal Darwinism will triumph.  Indeed, most city people nowadays imagine that it is barbarous and even unhealthy to set foot upon the bare earth.  In years to come, the only thing left of the old way of life will be a few precious relics, preserved in places like our London Museum.


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This was a wonderful early essay written by Philip Reeve which gives a bit of further insight into the world of Mortal Engines. It is written from the point of view of Chudleigh Pomery, a character from the first Mortal Engines novel. 

It's probably not considered canon but serves as a fair idea of how giant traction cities came to roam the globe!

Pomery is played by veteran British actor Colin Salmon.

If you want to learn more about the stories that happened during the times the essay refers, check out Reeve's prequel series which starts with the novel Fever Crumb.

This work used to be on Reeve's own site but was found at The Way Back Machine. All rights, Mr Reeve.

Show me the money, Mr Jackson!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017
An article was published today on Stuff which explains how Mortal Engines film production qualifies for a bit of a hand out from the NZ government.

NZ gives a hand out to attract film productions to take advantage of the economic benefits.

It seems odd that ME gets it given Peter Jackson is going to only ever work in NZ as the production money is coming anyway.

There was a bit of a stoush over the production of The Hobbit and the status of contractors being classed as employees a few years ago and the American companies threatened to take it away from NZ and they simply outplayed the Government.

NE ways that's just some local history, the reason we mention the article is that it featured a great picture of Christian Rivers and Peter Jackson and producer Fran Walsh appearing to be at the start of a ceremonial welcome for the movie.

They look to be in Mirimar, Wellington so I'm going to suggest this is Stone Street where the film was shot.

christian rivers peter jackson mortal engines

IV with Philip Reeve about Mortal Engines

Monday, December 18, 2017
traction city of london

Robert Sheehan Fan Club site, The Sheehab has managed to score an interview with the writer of Mortal Engines, the fantastic Mr Philip Reeve. 


This interview gives two insights - some of the behind the scenes stuff for the movie (though minimal) but it also highlights the warmth and sincerity that is a clear part of Mr Reeve.

I'd love to have a cup of tea with him!

Here's some key parts from the interview which relate to the movie and Reeve's thoughts.

Which are you most looking forward to seeing on the big screen?


I was shown some of the concept art a while back, and there’s all sorts of stuff I can’t wait to see.

Apart from the huge things, like the cities and the Shield wall, I’m looking forward to seeing what the airship Jenny Haniver looks like - it becomes the nearest thing the main characters have to a home once their adventures begin, so I spent a lot of time aboard it in my imagination.

Will Tom’s age be advanced for the film to match Robert’s or will Robert will be made to look younger, closer to Tom’s?


You mustn’t take anything I say about the movie as gospel truth, because I’m not directly involved with it, but I think movie-Tom will be older than book-Tom.

That’s fine by me, because when I first wrote Mortal Engines, Tom was in his early twenties, and I only made him a teenager when I realised I could publish it as a children’s book.

It actually makes very little difference to the character, because London is a rather old-fashioned society where young men have to do as they’re told and respect their elders and betters.

Did you ever imagine a dream cast and are you pleased with the casting choices?


I sometimes toyed with a fantasy cast while I was writing, but that was so long ago that most of the actors I had in mind have grown too old or even died by now!

But I think one of the things that Peter Jackson and his team are really good at is casting - the Lord of the Rings movies are full of actors who I’d never have thought of putting in those roles, but who turn out to be just right - so I’m confident they’ll find the right people.

I’m very pleased with all the actors who’ve been announced so far, and looking forward to learning who else will be involved.

What was your first reaction when you knew that your book would be produced by Peter Jackson?


A massive YAY!

It was unbelievable, really. And then nothing happened for years and years, so I had to assume that it wasn’t going ahead, and I sort of forgot about it and got busy doing other things.

Then about a year ago I heard the movie was finally going into production, and people in New Zealand were going to be busy building all these things I’d dreamed up twenty years ago. It still feels quite unreal. I won’t fully believe it until I can see it at the cinema, and perhaps not even then.

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We love that because Jackson option the novels so long ago that Reeves kind of just moved on and then one day boom! the movie is in production, indeed now in post.

Image by the talented Rebecca Wright.

Mortal Engines trailer revealed at last! (officially)

Saturday, December 16, 2017
mortal engines movie logo

For some, Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey is one of the greatest science fiction moments in history*.

For others, it's when the first Mortal Engines novel was published by Phillip Reeve which means some keen readers have been waiting some 17 years in a wishful kind of hope for a movie to be made.

And now, first teaser trailer of the Mortal Engines movie has been leaked. We had Peter Jackson release concept art, production team photos and the odd official Philip Reeve set visit.

It's actually amazing there has been no leaks by the cast, extras accidental or otherwise

But. Now. Here. It. Is.



Salthook being towered over by London




How cool was that?

Christian Rivers is clearly hitting this one out of the Hunting Grounds! First of all let's talk about scope.

Did you see the size of that thing?

That's no moon, it's the giant mechanical city of London!

Here's a we detail - the time on the clock is nearly midday - it really should be afternoon to reflect the famous opening line of the novel.

“It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea."

The town being just is called Salthook and it looks zippy and cool!

We also see Hester Shaw. 


So Christian and Peter didn't have the balls to stay true to the character. We get that, being Hollywood and all. We wonder what her psyche will be like then?

Pretty sure that's Anna Fang actress Jihae singing too!

* The truth is it's Star Wars but who are we to argue with such greatness?

london city captures salthook
A captured Salthook city


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A wee grizzle, Peter Jackson announced the trailer would debut with Star Wars - it did not which meant keen fans were quite disappointed when they went to The Last Jedi and got the Black Panther trailer ... (it was quite good but still...). While Peter was technically correct with his words, perhaps a date would have avoided any confusion and disappointment.

Also, Mortal Engines is nothing like Mad Max!

What is the Traction Codex?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

You might have discovered that Philip Reeve's The Traction Codex is getting a re-release in 2018, quite handily timed with the first Mortal Engines movie, it will be formally known as An Illustrated Guide to the World of Mortal Engines.

Reeve's stated on Twitter in response to a question about the Codex's availability outside of UK Amazons:



But, what is The Traction Codex? 


In Reeve's own words:

"It’s a sort of encyclopaedia/history of the World of Mortal Engines, featuring all those things you Always Wanted To Know But Could Never Be Bothered To Ask, like, how did Airhaven get airborne?

Why do the cities use heavier-than-air fighters while the Green Storm stick to airships? 

Who was Red Loki? etc, etc. 

We’ve also added some details which never made it into the books, like the alarming sport of ‘Traktionturnieren‘ or civic jousting…"

‘Traktionturnieren' in Mortal Engines


Jeremy Levett, has confirmed to us via Twitter that he has again collaborated with Reeve on the new expanded release called the Illustrated World of Mortal Engines. He said "It's much bigger, longer, more comprehensive and has been enormous fun to write. Especially the Australian cities..." I hope there's a Shrimp on the Barbie joke somewhere... >> Levett did a Reddit AMA about his work with Reeve.

If you want to have a peek at The Traction Codex right now, go and grab your battered copy of Infernal Devices or any of the others. At the end are a few sample subjects which reveal traction city use of Bumper Stickers that say things like "How's our Hunting", the prior mentioned sport of Traktionturnieren and a handy explanation of the origins of the concept of Municipal Darwinism.

The airships in the top picture above are Reeve's thoughts as to what they might look like. Match the number below to the number on each ship. What do you think of the Jenny Hanniver?

1. Green Storm Air Destroyer
2. Twin-envelope ‘sky cat’
3. The 13th Floor Elevator
4. Spice Freighter from the Thousand Islands
5. Murasaki Fox Spirit
6. Cruiser of the Anti-Traction League
7. The Jenny Haniver
8. ‘Goddess’ class passenger liner
9. Serapis Moonshadow
10. Spudbury Sunbeam
11. Experimental rocket-assisted Zhang Chen Hawkmoth Mk VI, firing its boosters on an attack run.
12. Heavier-than-air fighter, as used by the freelance air-forces of the Traction War.
13. Zhang-Chen Hawkmoth

Menik Gooneratne is playing Sathya in Mortal Engines

Menik Gooneratne from Mortal Engines movie as Sathya

We've learned that Menik Gooneratne is playing the character of Sathya in the Christian Rivers director Mortal Engines movie. Sathya is a friend of Anna Fang's.

Gooneratne last appeared on the silver screen in the well received  Dev Patel film, Lion.

Like a couple of Kiwis in Mortal Engines who took a turn on Shortland Street (Joel Tobeck), Menik has done the same Australian route by way of Neighbours.  You know, where Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan made their names...

Follow Menik on Twitter

A Mortal Engines teaser trailer is on its way. SOON. Like The Last Jedi SOON.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Update: Peter Jackson has confirmed the news.

An eagle eyed fan has discovered that Canada's Consumer Protection BC unit has approved the release of a Mortal Engines movie teaser trailer.

This is a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.

Consumer Protection BC is a Canadian government entity and a key role is "Classifying all motion pictures exhibited in BC".

If you're a true blue Star Wars fan you will know two things right now.

You will have noted the Star Wars quote above from Emperor Palpatine and you'll also know that The Last Jedi is released in less that two weeks!

We're thus of a firm view that the Mortal Engines teaser will be shown during screenings of The Last Jedi.

Which kind of makes sense - Universal Pictures will be going in large on this Peter Jackson produced movie so a great way to get the hype train going as fast as a railhead can go is to get in in front of as many people as possible and the new Star Wars movie will serve that need!

Here's the proof:

mortal engines teaser trailer

Approved means approval to release to the Canadian public so we can reasonably expect that similar arrangements are happening across the globe.

Art credit: KAEK
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