The Belgian Refugees of WW1

One of the contributors to my anthology, Children of A Different Sky, tells how she came to write her moving short story.

They came by the thousands

By Jacey Bedford

When Alma asked if I’d be interested in writing a story for her upcoming refugees anthology, Children of A Different Sky, I jumped at the chance. There are so many refugee crises in the world right now that a writer is almost spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a setting for a story, and all of them are worth writing about, but I wanted to step back from 2017. I chose a little-remembered refugee crisis, something that happened way back in 1914 at the beginning of the First World War.

Thomas Bennett in uniformWe’re in the middle of a strange time period, wondering whether to commemorate or celebrate the centenary of the First World War. Instead of celebrating something so tragic we do well to remember it, and try not to repeat it, while paying our respects to those who fought and died as well as to those who were displaced. My own grandfather, Tommy Bennett, fought in that conflict. He was a British infantry soldier who took part in one of those famous football matches on Christmas Eve in 1914. He survived Ypres and the Somme, and was invalided out at Passchendaele in 1917 with half his calf shot away. I mention this only because I learned about the First World War directly from someone who’d been in it.

Dorothy Una Ratcliffe photoI only knew about the Belgian refugees, however, because a few years ago I did some biographical research on a minor Yorkshire poet called Dorothy Una Ratcliffe. Dorothy was a member of Yorkshire society.

She married into the Ratcliffe/Brotherton family. Her husband, Charles Ratcliffe, was the nephew of, and heir to, Edward Allan Brotherton, self-made chemical magnate and—in 1913-14—Lord Mayor of Leeds. (Later MP for Wakefield and made a peer of the realm as Lord Brotherton of Wakefield.)

Being a widower and having no closer female relative, Brotherton asked Dorothy to be his Lady Mayoress and so, at the outbreak of World War One, Dorothy, age twenty-six, was firmly in the hot seat.

On 1st August 1914 the German Army invaded Belgium, seeking an easy passage to France. The Belgians didn’t oblige them. They fought back, but they didn’t withstand the might of Germany. The Germans shelled and sacked cities, and slaughtered civilians. For those who could reach the coast, Britain offered safety. The Belgians came in their thousands. In all as many as 250,000 escaped to Britain. On October 14 1914 alone, sixteen thousand Belgians arrived at Folkestone, Kent.

And we took them in without question.

Let me say that again…

We took them in.

It was the largest influx of refugees that Britain has ever seen. The War Refugees Committee appealed for accommodation and over 100,000 offers flooded in. Some to the South West, others to South Wales. Refugees were sent north by train, and that’s where Dorothy Una Ratcliffe comes back into the story.

Because she was a fluent French speaker (having been to finishing school in Paris before the war), Dorothy headed a committee of ladies welcoming the Belgian refugees arriving in Leeds by train.

And that’s the opening scene for my story. Dorothy even appears in it herself, but I’ve told everything through the eyes of her secretary. Did she have a secretary? Almost certainly she did. (I met one of her secretaries many years later.)

My story starts wide and focuses down to what’s left of one small, shattered Flemish family. A barely grown young man and his deeply disturbed sister are helped by a young Yorkshire woman. It’s a story that must have been repeated time and time again as the Belgians came and settled.

Yet they were not to stay. After the war they vanished almost without trace.
In early 1919, after the close of hostilities, the British government in its infinite wisdom decided that enough was enough. British soldiers were being demobbed and needed homes and jobs. The Belgians were offered free passage home, with a strict time limit. Basically the government said: Go home now or pay your own fare. The Belgians were quick to take a hint. Within a few months of the end of the First World War ninety percent of Belgians had gone back home to rebuild, and within a very short space of time their presence here faded from memory.

Writing this story for Children of a Different Sky led me to do more research on the Belgians, and from there to the First World War, in particular the Leeds Pals, a volunteer regiment raised in Leeds and equipped by Edward Allen Brotherton with the aid of Dorothy Una Ratcliffe, the only female on the committee. That led to another short story, Make Me Immortal with a Kiss, soon to appear in Second Round – Tales from the Ur-Bar, edited by Joshua Palmatier, and I feel a third First World War story coming on because three is a nice round number. Alma Alexander, you’ve really started something.

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Jacey Bedford photoJacey Bedford is a British writer whose short stories have been published in an odd assortment of languages including Estonian, Galician and Polish. Her latest book is NIMBUS, the third in a trilogy in which a bunch of renegade Psi-Techs (humans implanted with telepath technology) come up against the might of the Megacorporations.

You can keep up with Jacey in several different ways:
· Facebook
· Twitter: @jaceybedford
· Pinterest
· Or via her writing website which includes a link to her mailing list.

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Wired asked writers to create 6-word SF stories.

It cost too much, staying human.” ~ Bruce Sterling

More from Wired HERE

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The Big Idea

We have a guest today.

My friend Joshua Palmatier has a new book out – more than that, it’s the culminating book of a series, and one which completes a fascinating story based on a shiny, shiny idea.

I invited him to tell you about it here – so, over to him:


 Reaping The Aurora

                Alma Alexander suggested that—since REAPING THE AURORA is the third and final volume in this series—I write about the big idea behind the series, what drove me to sit down and create this series, so that’s what I intend to do.

                The basic idea behind the series came from two sources actually.  The first comes from the 80s.  Yes, IT CAME FROM THE 80s!  Back then, almost every fantasy novel I read mentioned the ley lines—the mystical forces that connected stone monuments like Stonehenge and whatnot.  However, none of those books really USED the ley lines at all.  It was really just part of the setting, something that everyone would identify as fantasy.  It was annoying.  I vowed I would never write anything involving ley lines.

                Except that, years later, I began to wonder—how could you use the ley lines in a fantasy novel?  I mean, really USE them?

                As my subconscious began mulling this question over, I began to notice something coming up at conventions a lot:  the idea that there should be more variety in fantasy settings.  Why were they all medieval in tone?  Why couldn’t there be fantasies set in other time periods?  Most people began messing around with fantasies set in other cultures—Africa, Asia … basically non-European—but I began thinking, why couldn’t we have a “modern” fantasy?  What if that medieval setting that used magic continued its existence untouched?  What would the society look like in fifty years? a hundred?

                And that’s when the two ideas combined and the “Ley” series was born.  What if the culture in my world tapped into the natural ley line network and used that power in the same way we use electricity—to light the streets, to heat homes, to cook?  What would that initial medieval society look like fifty years later? a hundred?  In what other ways would such a society use the power they’d tapped into, this natural resource?  And most importantly, in what ways would they abuse it?

                When I sat down to write the first book, SHATTERING THE LEY, I knew I wanted a society that had been using the ley to make life easier for decades.  They’d become dependent upon it, the same way we’re dependent on oil.  And not just dependent, the society wanted to continue using the ley, to push it to its extremes, to build ever larger buildings and new and improved innovations, all while ignoring the signs that perhaps they system they’d tapped into was becoming strained.  That first book explored how such a system could be used in a fantasy setting and the consequences of its abuse.  There are “bad guys” and political infighting and even the threat of terrorism, but in the end the real “bad guy” in the novel is the society itself.

                The misuse of the ley leads to the catastrophic failure of the ley system, and the second and third novels in the series—THREADING THE NEEDLE and REAPING THE AURORA—both deal with how the survivors of the apocalypse deal with the consequences of that failure.  Essentially, the ley system is broken and those who created it and understood it the most are all dead.  It’s up to the remaining Wielders—those who can manipulate the ley—to figure out how to repair the damage that’s been done.  Of course, it isn’t easy, especially when you must also deal with the basic necessity of survival in a world where society has literally collapsed.

                So in essence, the Big Idea for this series was to actually explore an apocalyptic storyline, but in a fantasy setting.  Instead of having the “catastrophic event” happen sometime in the far past—which seems to be the back story in many fantasy settings—I wanted to explore that catastrophic event in person.  What brought it about?  What caused it?  And what happened immediately after? 

                That was the basic thought behind this series.  The fact that I could also introduce some subtle commentary on our own society—our misuse of our own natural resources—was simply a bonus.  Isn’t that what science fiction and fantasy are for?  A way to comment on our own society by reflecting some of our own issues onto a science fiction or fantasy setting?  Not that these novels are heavily literary at all.  I don’t browbeat the issue.  It’s simply there, if you care to pay attention.

                Of course, no series will ever be interesting or involving if it’s only based off of a concept or idea.  There’s far more to “story” than that.  The series would never have taken off if I hadn’t discovered the characters Kara and Allen.  Kara is the heart of the story, a Wielder who is just discovering her powers in SHATTERING THE LEY and who, because of her talent, feels personally responsible for repairing the ley.  Allan starts off as one of the vicious Dogs, controlled by the Baron, who in turn controls the ley system itself.  Without their personal story arcs stretching across all three books, the series and the world would never have come to life.

                So, if you’d like to try a fantasy that’s a little different, that has a more “modern” feel to it, that could perhaps be a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, then check the “Ley” series out.  With the release of REAPING THE AURORA on August 1st, the series is complete, so you can read it all at once.  Join Kara and Allan—and all of those they care about—as they traverse this fantasy world based on the ley lines and follow them as they survive the Shattering of the Ley … and fight to repair it.

The final book in the thrilling epic fantasy Ley trilogy, set in a sprawling city of light and magic fueled by a ley line network.

In a world torn apart by the shattering of the magical ley lines that formerly powered all the cities and towns of the Baronies, there are few havens left for the survivors. The uncontrolled distortions released by the shattering have claimed the main cities of the Baronial Plains. And many of the Wielders who controlled the ley died in the apocalyptic cataclysm their manipulation of the ley created.
 
Wielder Kara Tremain and former Dog Allan Garrett, survivors of the city of Erenthrall’s destruction, have seized control of the new Nexus created at the distant temple known as the Needle, the stronghold of the White Cloaks and their leader, Father Dalton.  With Father Dalton a prisoner, Kara intends to use the Needle’s Nexus to heal the major distortions that threaten to shake their entire world apart. 

But while she and the remaining Wielders managed to stabilize Erenthrall, they have not been able to stop the auroral storms or the devastating earthquakes sweeping across the lands. Now they are hoping to find a means to heal the distortion at the city of  Tumbor, releasing the nodes captured inside.  If they succeed, the ley network should be able to stabilize itself.

But the distortion over Tumbor is huge, ten times the size of the one over Erenthrall.  Kara will need the help of all of the Wielders at the Needle in order to generate enough power, including the rebel White Cloaks.  But can Kara trust them to help her, or will the White Cloaks betray her in order to free Father Dalton and regain control of the Needle, possibly destroying any chance of healing the ley network in the process?
 
Meanwhile, Allan journeys back to Erenthrall, hoping to form alliances with some of the survivors, only to discover that Erenthrall itself has sunk a thousand feet into the ground.  The vicious groups that plagued them on their last visit have banded together under a new leader—Devin, formerly Baron Aurek’s second-in-command.  While discussing an alliance with the Temerite enclave, Devin’s men attack, forcing Allan and the Temerites to flee back to the Needle, leaving Erenthrall in Devin’s hands.
 
But the Needle is no safe haven.  Father Dalton’s followers have begun to rebel, starting riots and creating unrest, all of it targeted at Kara and the Wielders.  The tensions escalate beyond control when Father Dalton declares he’s had a vision—a vision in which the Needle is attacked from the north by dogs and from the south by snakes; a vision that ends with the quickening of the distortions called the Three Sisters to the north . . . and the annihilation of reality itself!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A professor of mathematics at SUNY College at Oneonta, Joshua Palmatier has published nine novels to date—the “Throne of Amenkor” series (The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, The Vacant Throne), the “Well of Sorrows” series (Well of Sorrows, Leaves of Flame, Breath of Heaven), and the “Ley” series (Shattering the Ley, Threading the Needle, Reaping the Aurora).  He is currently hard at work on the start of a new series, as yet untitled.  He has also published numerous short stories and has edited numerous anthologies.  He is the founder/owner of a new small press called Zombies Need Brains LLC, which focuses on producing SF&F themed anthologies, the most recent being Alien Artifacts and Were-.  Find out more at .joshuapalmatier dot com .  You can also find him on Facebook under Joshua B. Palmatier and Zombies Need Brains, and on Twitter at @bentateauthor and @ZNBLLC.

 

The LEY of the land

I first crossed paths with Joshua Palmatier, who would also go on to write under the name Benjamin Tate, at a con – where else does one make friends who are also writers like oneself, after all?  In the years that have passed since that first meeting, he’s written a number of fabulous books – and he also graciously consented to be part of a project that was very dear to my own heart, the anthology, “River”, which I edited and to which he contributed a story rooted in one of his own fantastical worlds.

He has a new book out. Let him tell you a bit about that, and about himself.

(Bowing out with a gesture introducing my guest blogger for the day, Joshua Palmatier)


The LEY Series

First of all, thanks, Alma, for sharing your blog with me today! I really appreciate it.

Alma asked me to talk about the inspiration, reasoning, and process of writing the LEY series, so blame her.  *grin*

Well the inspiration is easy. I was reading fantasy rather heavily back in the *coughcough* 80s and back then nearly every fantasy novel had ley lines in them. They were mentioned, but never used, basically just part of the background of the world. Maybe someone used a stone monument like Stonehenge or something like that, with ley lines connected to it, but the lines themselves … not much. It was such a cliché that I vowed … VOWED … I would never use ley lines in any of MY books.

Ha ha!  Fast forward 20 years. After long thought, I realized that what bothered me about the mentions of the ley in all of those books back in the 80s was that the authors never really USED the ley.  It was there, but it wasn’t significant, really.

So I started asking myself, how could the ley be used more effectively in a book?  Instead of it being just background, what if it was the focus? What if the people in the fantasy world started to actively use it in their daily lives, tapping into it for things like light and heat and all of the things that we use electricity for? How would this change the society?

And then this idea combined with a few others, most notably the idea that fantasy doesn’t have to be set in a medieval setting. So, if we tapped into the ley, what kind of city could be built with it? And thus the city of Erenthrall was born, where everything is powered by the ley (for those that can afford it) and the ley is, of course, controlled by the Baron, his Wielders, and his Dogs. Because of course it can’t be a utopia.

After that, it just came down to sitting down and writing.  I’m a very organic writer, meaning I don’t plot things out much ahead of time.  I just write and see where everything takes me. For the first book in the ley series, SHATTERING THE LEY, it took me in the direction of how we abuse our natural resources and what the consequences of that might be. In the new book, THREADING THE NEEDLE, my characters are dealing with some of those rather nasty consequences.

That’s generally the process for how all of the ideas for my books are generated.  I have something I think is cool (the ley) and it melds with some other idea (a fantasy with cities like New York) and then the book happens. There’s usually a third idea in there somewhere as well, but if I told you what it was for the LEY series, it would be spoilery. So you’ll just have to check the books out for yourself!  *grin*

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Threading the Needle CoverThreading the Needle

The Nexus—the hub created by the Prime Wielders to harness the magical power of the ley lines for the city of Erenthrall, the Baronial Plains, and the world beyond—has Shattered, the resultant pulse cascading through the system and leaving Erenthrall decimated, partially encased in a massive distortion.
The world has fared no better: auroral storms plague the land, transforming people into creatures beyond nightmare; silver-white lights hover over all of the major cities, the harbinger of distortions that could quicken at any moment; and quakes brought on by the unstable ley network threaten to tear the earth apart. The survivors of this apocalypse have banded together in desperate groups, both in the remains of Erenthall and without, scrounging for food and resources in an ever more dangerous world.

Having survived the initial Shattering, Wielder Kara Tremain and ex-Dog Allan Garrett have led their small group of refugees to the Hollow, a safe haven in the hills on the edge of the plains.  But the ley system is not healing itself. Their only option is to repair the distortion that engulfs Erenthrall and to fix the damaged ley lines themselves. To do that, they’ll have to enter a city controlled by vicious bands of humans and non-humans alike, intent on keeping what little they’ve managed to scavenge together.

But as soon as they enter the streets of Erenthrall, they find themselves caught up in the maelstrom of violence, deception, and betrayal that the city has descended into—including the emergence of a mysterious and powerful cult calling themselves the White Cloaks, whose leader is called Father . . .The same man who once led the terrorist group called the Kormanley and brought about the Shattering that destroyed the world.

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Author Bio:

Joshua Palmatier photoJoshua Palmatier is an epic fantasy writer with a PhD in mathematics. He has had eight novels published by DAW Books, including “The Throne of Amenkor” trilogy, Shattering the Ley, and Threading the Needle. He is currently hard at work on the third novel in the “Ley” series, Reaping the Aurora. In addition, he’s published numerous short stories in various anthologies and has edited four SF&F themed anthologies with co-editor Patricia Bray. He is also the founder of the small press Zombies Need Brains LLC.  Find out more about him at www.joshuapalmatier.com or on Facebook or Twitter (@bentateauthor).

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Additional Information:

Webpage:  www.joshuapalmatier.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/joshua.b.palmatier

Twitter:  @bentateauthor

ZNB Webpage:  www.zombiesneedbrains.com

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Quote of the Day

'Nuf said photo of stone engraving‘Nuf said.

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