Today, I get to announce the release of my story, “Jeanne d’Architonnere,” in the anthology Chicks In Tank Tops from Baen books. This is an especially fun story to announce. If you are a regular follower of mine, it will come as no surprise to you that my day job is being a history teacher at a local high school. Despite this (or perhaps because of this) I rarely delve into the arcana of writing alternate history. However, when I was invited to participate in this anthology by my editor, Jason Cordova, I very much wanted to bring one of my favorite daydreams to life.
Most people know that Leonardo da Vinci drew up blueprints during his lifetime (okay, sketches really) for a war cart ringed with cannon that would later become popularized as history’s first idea for the modern tank. Of course, da Vinci’s version had no engine beyond the feet of the soldiers who would presumably man it, and it was conceived of as a purely anti-personnel unit.
What fewer people know, is that da Vinci also conceived of a breech-loading, steam-powered cannon. This weapon, which he called the architonnere, worked by superheating the barrel and breech of the gun. After each round was introduced into the breech, and the breech sealed, a bell would allow water to enter just behind the breech, where it would instantly flash into steam and thus fire the round.
I will hasten to add that as a historian I do not consider it terribly realistic to speculate that the real Leonardo da Vinci would, in any conceivable set of circumstances, actually be able to marry all of these ideas together along with a flywheel drive to create the tank, or (since that word was the result of a code name given by the real armored fighting vehicles’ British inventors) the tortoise, as it is described in the story, but that’s where fiction comes in. I hope you will all enjoy the story of Jeanne d’Architonnere and those of my fellow authors.