Marvellous Melbourne and Alternate History

So I’m neck-deep in researching and writing my Australian steampunk novel. Truth is, the research has been distracting me a bit from the writing, because it’s just so interesting. Also, I’ve become a little obsessional with getting the details right, which is odd considering the book is, by its very nature, alternate history. This does raise a question about the relationship between alternate history and ‘rea’l history. You have to get certain facts right, of course. You can’t get the street orientations and names wrong (unless it’s by design). In this way, alternate history is a little like science fiction. You’re searching for verisimilitude.You want to get the details right so that when you diverge from them, the reader knows what you’re doing. But there’s another strange thing that’s happened to me as I have been researching for this ‘verisimilitude’. My version of Melbourne is a huge metropolis, boasting ten-storey buildings and mass immigration (because … well, you’ll have to find out). I did consider this to be a pretty serious divergence, but my research has revealed to me that Melbourne from the 1880s actually had many of the world’s largest buildings – sadly destroyed in the 20th century, partly due to fire regulations. Check this out, it’s possibly the world’s tallest building of the time (though likely in the top four tallest):

Tallest building

How sad is it that that building isn’t still standing? It was still around until 1980! Or check out these:

marv4

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