Gunpowder God

By H. Beam Piper
Ace Books 1965/Sphere Books 1978
ISBN 0 7221 6877 2

H. Beam Piper writes great stories and ‘Gunpowder God’ (also published in the United States as ‘Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen’) is one of them.

'Gunpowder God' is a rollicking ‘what-if’ story – what if a Twentieth Century man, who understood the principles of engineering, chemistry, and military and political science, was transported into a Fourteenth/Fifteenth Century world, dominated by a conservative, power-loving religious order, and realised that that he had the skills and knowledge to make a difference?

‘Gunpowder God’ is set within Piper’s wider ‘Paratime’ series, available online from Project Gutenberg. It follows the adventures of Corporal Calvin Morrison, late of the Pennsylvania State police, who is accidentally moved from our world to a parallel time where the great Aryan migrations of three thousand years ago had turned east instead of west.

Calvin arrives at a crucial time in the history of the East Coast kingdoms. The power of Styphon’s House, a religious order, is growing through their control of ‘fire seed’. Those states that seek to resist the spread of Styphon’s House are systematically destroyed, as Styphon’s House arms selected petty kingdoms to bring the recalcitrant back into line.

Through Calvin’s knowledge of small unit tactics (picked up as a rifleman in the Korean War), military history, and basic chemistry, he enables Prince Ptosphes of Hostigos to defeat the invaders of his principality. Victory follows victory and as the power of Hostigos grows, the might of Styphon’s House moves against it – secretly at first, and then in a winner-take-all struggle.

‘Gunpowder God’ reads, at times, like the campaigns of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and, in fact, provided the background for at least one boardgame/wargame, ‘Down Syphon!’ – which is still available, at least through Amazon.

There is an article on Wikipedia which links to an article on the Paratime series.

Other books by H. Beam Piper: Space Viking


Thanks to Berka at The Zhodani Base for the background nebula on this page.