The Lost Generation
Name Droppers Guide to the Pulp Era
The Name Dropper’s Guide to the Pulp Era
(this is taken from the handbook, so remember we’re a few years past the “now” it’s using)
Mankind has just fought its first World War (“The Great War”), the seeds
of a greater evil are just taking their earliest root in the ruins of Germany,
the Bolsheviks are still settling things out from their October Revolution,
and the mark of New Imperialism is still felt upon the world. The League of
Nations is an optimistic step towards a global government and Prohibition
has gotten rolling in the U.S.
Science is making sweeping changes on the face of the world, but there are
still wild stretches waiting to be explored. Thomas Edison is still alive into
the early 1930’s, Einstein’s theory of relativity is at most a decade old, and
the phonograph is a popular recording medium. Aviation is starting to
come into its own.
The world of 1922 is in the last stages of colonialism. The fall of the
Ottoman Empire has destabilized much of the Middle East, and the
Weimar Republic holds authority in the tattered remains of Germany. The
world stage is still seen as having a handful of great powers rather than the
superpowers which would emerge in the wake of World War II. The traditional
powers are the United States, The United Kingdom, France, Italy
and Japan. Russia, who would normally deserve a place on this list, is currently
in the throes of a revolution which will, at the end of the year, lead
to the formation of the USSR.
The world is held together by shipping, telegraph and radio. Aviation is
still a novelty, and the first long range aircraft are still to be developed, and
while the 1912 Titanic disaster is still on the memories of the world, overseas
travel is still mostly by ship, though the fantastic advances in Airship
technology are starting to raise interest in Zeppelins as an alternative.
As slow as travel is, communication can be much faster. Radio and telephone
greatly speed national communication, but over oceanic distances,
the telegraph remains the sole option. While a transatlantic phone cable is
often discussed, it won’t become a reality until the 1950s.
The Great War
The Great War, referred to by some cynics as the first World War, still casts a
shadow over the world. Improvements in technology had allowed warfare
to become brutal beyond all past expectations. Its impact on those who
fought in it was profound enough that they’re referred to as the “lost generation.”
The peace treaty for this war to end all wars was notably responsible
for the creation of the Weimar Republic as the ruling power of Germany
and shackling that republic with the responsibility for war reparation. The
horror of the war also inspired the formation of the League of Nations in a
hope that the world would never see a war like this again.
League of Nations
Formed as part of the peace treaties that followed the end of the Great
War, the League of Nations was the result of an optimistic vision of a unified
world governing organization which would actively seek to maintain
the balance of power and redress humanitarian issues. The great irony of
its founding was that the greatest champion of it, President Woodrow
Wilson of America, received a slap in the face as the U.S. Senate refused to
sign on. The absence of the United States and Russia (which was having
its own internal problems at the time) was a great blow against the fledging
organization, but the backing of the other great powers was still a cause for
optimism, and the League had some successes over its history, but World
War II would ultimately be its great failure. For the moment, however, the
League is a fairly new organization, with an optimistic charter and hope
for the future.
America currently has 48 states, and Warren G. Harding, a Republican,
is President, though his administration is rife with corruption. In June of
1923 he’ll die and be succeeded by Calvin Coolidge.
The Civil War has not yet faded from memory, and the scars of the war and
the reconstruction that followed are still evident in America. The South is
still rebuilding, and the Ku Klux Klan rides openly in some areas. In Los
Angeles, Hollywoodland studios like MGM and Universal are cranking
out movies as fast as the public eats them up. Prohibition is transforming
Chicago into gangland, while New York City is beginning to bristle with
Skyscrapers and is staking a claim on being one of the greatest cities in the
While Washington DC itself is a relatively small city at this time, it is still
a world capital, and is notably the home of the Bureau of Investigation (the
predecessor to the FBI).
In 1920 the United States passed a constitutional amendment that banned
alcohol. This had a number of consequences, both colorful and serious. It
led to the creation of “speakeasies”, places where people could consume the
forbidden alcohol. It also created a huge market for illegal liquor, which
led to private stills creating moonshine, bootleggers evading the authorities
and gangsters ultimately controlling the industry.
Following World War I, the German Monarchy was abolished and the
Weimar Republic governed Germany. The treaties at the end of the war
put very strong restrictions on Germany, as well as demanding severe reparations.
Combined with a generation scarred by the war, this was a formula
for political turmoil and economic collapse. It was in this atmosphere that
the National Socialist (Nazi) party was founded in 1919 and would rise to
power in under the leadership of Adolph Hitler in 1933.
Japan was an ally in World War I, and benefits in the treaties that followed.
It is currently an empire, having succeeded in conflicts with both China
and Russia to establish its position. It currently controls Korea, Taiwan
and part of Sakhalin, an island it contests with Russia. Japan had a strongly
isolationist history which was forcibly broken by the actions American
Admiral Perry. The period which followed (The Meiji period) saw the
emperor’s rise to preeminence and the adoption of many western ideas,
including more modern systems of government. In 1912, with the death of
the Meiji emperor, the Taisho emperor took the throne, and began the current
period, optimistically called the “Taisho Democracy.” The Japanese
democracy will stumble along for a time but not truly take root, but will
begin moving towards a more militaristic system in 1926, with the ascendance
of Emperor Hirohito.
The Lost Generation was a term coined by Gertrude Stein to describe the
expatriate American authors and artists living in Paris in the period between
the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II, though it
also has come to more generally mean that generation which were born in
the end of the 19th century and who fought in or were otherwise affected
by World War I. Artistically, the Lost Generation was a rejection of the
Victorian period, and saw the flowering of jazz.
In 1917 a revolution overthrew the Czar of Russia to replace him with a
democratic government. That provisional government faced a subsequent
revolution where the Bolshevik party seized control. The civil war that
followed lasted until 1922 with the Bolsheviks, a communist party led by
Vladimir Lenin. This lead to the foundation of the United Soviet Socialist
Republic (USSR). While “Bolshevik” actually refers to the specific communist
party that seized control of Russia, the term is used interchangeably
with “Communist”, especially when talking about the threat of communism.
Other Places of Interest
Africa is almost entirely under colonial rule, only excepting Ethiopia and
Liberia. Even those colonies granted independence, like Egypt, are still bound
to Europe by treaties. Despite these bold claims on maps, the ruling infrastructure
is generally limited to those commodities the colonizing powers are interested in,
and much of Africa is still a mystery to Europe and America.
The Republic of Brazil is currently the powerhouse of South America. It
is a democracy, coming to the end of its life, and will fall under the sway of
a series of dictatorships starting in 1930. For all this, it has seen almost 5
million European and Japanese immigrants in recent decades.
The British Empire currently includes India, South Africa, Sudan, Palestine,
New Guinea and Iraq. Egypt has just gained its independence. The Empire
is in the process of transforming into a Commonwealth, where Colonies
are recognized as Dominions and accepted into the Commonwealth as
more independent entities, as Canada and Australia are. This process will
not always go smoothly.
London is currently the greatest city in the world. Paris may challenge
it for culture, and New York City may be nipping at its heels, but for the
moment, London is capitol of the civilized world.
China declared itself a republic in 1912 and that has subsequently not
gone very well. The country is currently in chaos.
The Panama Canal opened in 1914, and is under American control.
The Ottoman Empire, the “sick man of Europe”, will formally dissolve in
November of 1922 and the Republic of Turkey will emerge in the coming
India is still the crown jewel of the British Empire, though its hold grows
tenuous. In March, the British will imprison Mahatma Gandhi after the
success of his non-cooperation movement. His absence for the next two
years will result in the fragmentation of the movement for independence,
but by 1930, it will be back on track.
Ireland was divided into north and south by treaty in 1921. The south
is an independent dominion within the commonwealth while the north
remains part of the UK.