The Venice of the West
 About the Author/Artist
Alternative History Timeline
 Double Fiction Issue

Part I: Alta California
 I Meet Mark Twain
 I Meet John Sargent
 A Humorist, Not a Politician
 The Venice of the West
 The Fair Marina
 A Candide Character
 A Swan Among Geese

 So Much?
 Gibralter the Egg Mule
 An American Vandal Abroad
 Daisy and Oscar
 A Chance Encounter
 Goya’s Studio
 Holy Relics

Part II: Sakrametska in Rossland
 Boundary Values
 The Unholy Family
 Boom Town
 New Dog, Old Tricks
 Commission of a Lifetime
 Minor Moon of a Minor Planet

  NOVEL EXCERPTS by Patrick Fanning


Alternative History Timeline

Events as they occurred in our ordinary universe are in regular type.
Events as they occurred in the alternate universe are in bold type.


Cortes conquers Aztecs, Zapotecs, Mixtecs, etc.

Friars arrive. Cortes asked for mendicant orders such as Franciscans instead of corrupt secular clergy. He wanted to incorporate Indians into the new society, not annihilate or enslave them. Allowed himself to be publicly scourged by monks for his sins to impress the Aztecs with the preeminence and seriousness of Catholicism.

Apparition of the dark Virgin of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, denied and resisted by local Bishop Zumarraga. Confirmed as a full miracle by Zumarraga. Founding event of the Western Church.

Cortes’ lieutenants warp his original vision and begin to massacre and subjugate Indians.

Cortes dies.
Cortes lives three more years and purges the most vicious of his lieutenants.

200 years of gradual expansion and ruin of Indians. New Spain struggles along as old Spain declines as a world power. Many greedy and corrupt viceroys rule.

New Spain becomes a haven for free thinkers, religious dissidents, Spanish conversos Jews and Moors fleeing the Inquisition. The Western Spanish Church fights constantly with Rome, refusing to institute many practices of the Spanish Inquisition.

Russian Cossacks attack the Tartars and begin expanding to the east toward Siberia.

Spanish playwright Félix Lope de Vega y Carpio arrives in Monterrey for the premiere of his play La Hermosurea de Angelica.Stays to become the father of Alta California Theater.

Russian Cossack expansion reaches Kamchatka and fur traders start exploring islands in the Bering Sea.

Junipero Serra, age 37, arrives in Mexico City. Teaches and works among Indians there for the next 17 years. Has a St. Paul experience, departs for upper California 12 years earlier. Becomes Pope Innocent I of the Western Church in a schism from the Roman papacy. As Pope he is dedicated to the spiritual and political sovereignty of the indigenous people of Alta California.

Jesuits expelled from Mexico. Some sneak north to join Serra, providing the Franciscans with the political and economic savvy they need to prepare for independence from Spain and autonomy from Mexico City. Painter Francisco Goya immigrates to San Francisco to paint portraits of the prosperous upper classes.

Portola and Serra sent to upper California to colonize it and keep it out of the hands of the Russians and English.

American Revolution. Reform efforts in Mexico fail to break the gachupin (settlers born in Spain) monopoly on land ownership. Time is ripe for Mexico to break with Spain. While Mexico is occupied with becoming independent from Spain, Serra institutes land reform in Alta California, breaking up vast ranchos and redistributing property to a middle class of merchants, farmers, miners, and Indians. Alta California secedes from Mexico.

Serra dies at age 71. Succeeded by Innocent II.
Russian fur traders reach Alaska and start probing south along the coast.

Russians found New Archangel on the site of modern day Sitka.
They move more quickly south, establishing colonies in present day Washington and Oregon, building Fort Ross in California in 1802 rather than 1812.

U. S. president Jefferson sends James Monroe to Paris to buy the port of New Orleans from Napoleon. Monroe negotiates the $15 million Louisiana Purchase, essentially the entire Mississippi watershed.
Under pressure from eastern seaboard senators who want to limit the number of potential new states in the union, Monroe buys only the port for $4 million. Napoleon peddles the rest to Spain and Russia, who want a large buffer between their west coast settlements and the USA.

Mexico’s war of independence from Spain. Mexican leaders were Hidalgo, then Morelos, then Iturbide. Morelos wrote a republican constitution and convened a fairly representative congress, but Iturbide defeated him, weakened the constitution and the congress, declared himself emperor, was overthrown within a year, and fled to Europe.
Morales and Iturbide establish a representative, republican form of government. Morales, the Mexican George Washington, is elected by a large middle class as the first civilian president of Mexico in 1819. He is succeeded by Iturbide in 1825.

Sea otter population on the north Pacific coast depleted, Russian fur trade and colonies begin to decline. Foggy, gopher-ridden coastal land around Fort Ross cannot support the colony of fur hunters turned reluctant farmers.
Commander Kushov of Fort Ross moves most of his people to a colony on good arable land in the Sacramento Valley, recruits local Indians as agricultural serfs, and sends many untrainable Kodiak Islanders home.

Russian American Company bankrupt.

Kushov declares himself Tsar of Rossland, stretching from the Russian River in California north to Vancouver Island. Assassinated by Tsarist agents in 1833. Tsar sends his son Alexander with 1,000 troops to establish a traditional government.

After 11 years of confusion and strife, Santa Anna takes over as military dictator of Mexico.
Mexicans and Alta Californians no longer need to own land to vote. True land reform breaks up the last of the ranchos. Friars in the north create false birth certificates so that many Indians and mestizos can claim homesteads and exercise their franchise. In the north, United States citizens are expelled unless they renounce the USA and become citizens of the Republic of Alta California. Poor immigrant Yankees become the lowest class, below the peons, below the Indians.

Battle of the Alamo. Texas wins independence from Mexico and is recognized by the USA, England, France, and Belgium as a sovereign nation.
Texas remains part of Alta California, governed by Santa Ana, who becomes an enemy of USA slavery and sets up an underground railroad for escaped slaves through Louisiana. Many work their way north to Alta Californian provinces of New Mexico, Arizona, & Nevada.

Texas admitted as a state to the USA.

USA declares war on Mexico. Doniphan conquers New Mexico and Zachary Taylor captures Monterrey.
USA never declares war because Mexico and Alta California are too strong. Washington is more isolationist, less expansionist. Manifest Destiny fizzles.

Kearny takes California, Winfield Scott takes Vera Cruz and advances to Mexico City, become military governor of Mexico.

In the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico cedes New Mexico, Arizona and California to the USA, gets $15 million, keeps Baja California.

Gold discovered by Americans at Sutter’s Mill.

Gold discovered by Californians under General Vallejo in Grass Valley.

Gold discovered by Russians on the middle fork of the Sacramento near Buck’s Lake. Alta Californians and Russians divide the gold fields at the Yuba River. Since the Gold Rush occurs in a more densely settled and law-abiding area, it is more orderly. Miners are Russian, Indian, Mexican, and Chinese, with very few Americans crossing the Mississippi, the Rockies, and sneaking over the Sierras to take part.

Santa Ana ousted, flees abroad.

Juarez becomes president of Mexico, first civilian to rule. Civil war begins in USA. European armies invade Mexico. French take Mexico City in 1863 and install Maximilian Hapsburg as Emperor. Juarez flees to New Orleans and organizes resistance.
France sends an expeditionary force to Vera Cruz that is soundly trounced by the Mexicans.

USA civil war ends.
USA civil war drags on until 1871, with guerilla skirmishes and economic collapse. Alta California enters a golden age of building, invention, statesmanship, learning, scholarship, etc. Rossland likewise enjoys gold-funded prosperity, although the wealth is concentrated in the upper classes and the serfs don’t see much trickling down.

Mark Twain tours California and Nevada lecturing on life in the Sandwich Islands.
Twain tours New York and Massachusetts lecturing on the Sandwich Islands.
Maximilian executed. Juarez regains power, resumes democratic reform efforts.
Mark Twain contracts to write 50 letters at $20 each for the Alta California. His letters become his first book-length work, “The Innocents Abroad.”
Twain writes letters for the Atlantic Weekly, William Dean Howells’ newspaper in Boston.

Mark Twain settles in Hartford and takes up the literary life.
Twain returns to Sandwich Islands to escape war-torn and economically depressed USA.

Juarez dies. Porforio Diaz overthrows his legally elected successor and becomes dictator in 1876.

In a close and fraudulent election, Ulysses S. Grant secures a second term as president of the USA. Reconstruction flounders in the south, inflation and stock panics plague the economy, and several western states are under martial law.

Mark Twain, age 44 and newly married, is living on royalties from Tom Sawyer, touring and lecturing, working on A Tramp Abroad.

John Singer Sargent, age 23, has just finished his studies at the Beaux Arts school in Paris, and has exhibited Oyster Gatherers to great acclaim at the Paris Salon. Tours Spain and Italy looking for fresh subject matter for salon paintings, aiming to build his reputation and attract portrait commissions.

USA recovers economically from civil war. William Dean Howells, editor of the Atlantic Weekly, contacts his friend Mark Twain in the Sandwich Islands, where he has been living, unmarried, to escape the war. Twain has been invited to lecture on the islands and his European travels in Alta California, and Howells commissions him to extend his tour to include Rossland to the north, so that he can contribute a series of letters to the Weekly describing the Mexican and Russian coastal empires.

John Singer Sargent is taking an around-the-world trip, sketching and painting, looking for exotic subjects to exhibit in Paris and London. He meets Twain on the ship from the Sandwich Islands to San Francisco. They agree to travel together for awhile, Singer wanting to paint Twain’s portrait and Twain wanting to use Singer as a tenderfoot character to write about in his Atlantic Weekly letters.

  © Patrick Fanning, 2012

Back to top