When we think of the late 19th century San Francisco, we often picture a thriving city abuzz with activity, a city evolving amidst the Gold Rush. This vibrant image, however, is a sugar-coated version of reality during that era. In my alternate history, a parallel universe I call the Creedverse, I have stripped away the sweet veneer to present a more genuine, gritty image of 19th century San Francisco.
This is a steampunk western world that includes elements like robots (called automatons at the time) and zombies. On the spectrum of Noblebright to Grimdark worlds, the Creedverse moves about between Graybright and Grimdark. There is optimism, love, and hope alongside tragedy.
San Francisco in the Creedverse is a City of Contrasts
The first novel in my series, The Adventures of Bodacious Creed is Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, and it takes place in an alternate version of Santa Cruz, California. For the sequels, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, and Bodacious Creed and the San Francisco Syndicate, I wanted to move the story to San Francisco, and so my research began. I discovered a fascinating place riddled with crime, a perfect setting for the continuing story of James Creed.
The Creedverse’s San Francisco is a city of stark contrasts. Within its boundaries, we see bustling commercial areas teeming with gamblers, prostitutes, and crimpers. We also find opulent mansions that represent the pinnacle of wealth and success, but we also witness the grim realities of life in the city’s impoverished districts, like the Barbary Coast and Chinatown.
My goal, in part, was to offer a portrait of the city that celebrates its vibrant life while not shying away from its darker aspects. Many made and lost fortunes in early San Francisco, sometimes because of catastrophes, like the many fires that plagued the city by the bay. For some, survival was a constant struggle.
The Pulse of the City
San Francisco in the Creedverse is home to a diverse cast of characters who each add a unique shade to San Francisco’s colorful palette. Amid the clatter of horse-drawn carriages, the streetlamps that didn’t yet exist in our world, but do there, and the music heard at night in the Barbary Coast district, personal stories unfold. There’s the indomitable James “Bodacious” Creed, a lawman-turned-bounty hunter, Emperor Norton, a fascinating and real historical figure, and Creed’s found family, the Brotherhood of the Golden Cog. The newspapers feature commentary by Ambrose Bierce, Creed meets Mary Ellen Pleasant, and just under the surface is the ugly reality of human trafficking.
A Breeding Ground for Innovation
The Creedverse’s San Francisco isn’t just a city of riches and poverty, hope and despair. It is also a city of innovation, where science and technology are reshaping the world. Steampunk contraptions dot the cityscape, some legal, some black market. It’s like a giant laboratory for inventions that push the boundaries of what’s possible, supplied by Morgan’s Automatons and others.
Social Dynamics in a Changing City
San Francisco in the Creedverse is a city undergoing rapid transformation. The societal norms of the Victorian era clash with the evolving attitudes towards gender roles and class divisions. Here, social dynamics are a complex tapestry woven with threads of ambition, greed, desire, and resilience.
Women like Anna Boyd and Selena Moreno challenge the gender norms. Organizations like the E. Clampus Vitus play a crucial role in protecting the disadvantaged.
In the Creedverse, San Francisco isn’t merely a backdrop to the story. It is a character in its own right, with its own ambitions, its own struggles, and its own triumphs. Its gritty portrayal offers a deep dive into the complexities of city life in the 19th century, its technological advancements, and the stark realities of its social structure. It is a San Francisco that thrives amidst chaos, a city as captivating as the characters who call it home.
If you’re interested in reading The Adventures of Bodacious Creed, you can purchase them all together or one at a time on Amazon, Audible, or other online retailers. Whether you go on to read them or not, I hope you found this post enlightening and enjoyable!
And, if you’d like to learn more about the Creedverse, click over to my World Anvil site! That’s where I keep my series bible. Yes, most of the information my private reference for writing my novels and short stories. However, there’s a description of the Creedverse on the main page, an Appendix section with a lot of information, and my favorite area for the curious, a For Readers section. Check it out, and read up on James “Bodacious” Creed and other prominent characters!
“There is no logic to San Francisco generally, a city built with putty and pipe cleaners, rubber cement and colored construction paper. Its the work of fairies, elves, happy children with new crayons.” ~ Dave Eggers