Grantville Gets Transported Back To 1632July 31, 2020
If you thought 2020 was bad, imagine being transported back in time to the height of the thirty years war! That is exactly what happens in author Eric Flint’s bestselling novel 1632. In this alternative history series, the town of Grantville is thrust back in time from the year 2000 to 1632. Based on Europe’s Central Holy Roman Empire, the cast of characters is faced with space-time dislocation, the surrounding raging war, language barriers, and numerous social and political issues, including class conflict, witchcraft, feminism, the reformation, and the counter-reformation, among many other factors. The book has made national headlines and landed Flint on several bestselling lists including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Locus Magazine; however, a lesser-known headline is that Grantville is actually modeled after Marion County West Virginia!
In an exclusive interview with author Eric Flint, I had the pleasure of learning about his time in Marion County and the influences it had on writing his book.
“I lived in the area for a year and a half back in the late 70s. I originally intended to model Grantville on Grant Town, because that’s where the power plant is located. But when I returned to the area in March of 1999 to do research, I discovered that a lot had changed in the intervening 20 years. The development of big shopping malls along I-79 — which hadn’t been there when I lived in the area — had [changed life in downtown Grant Town and turned it into a] bedroom community. That wasn’t what I needed for my purposes. So I started exploring westward along Route 250. I discovered the same thing had happened to Barrackville and Farmington. It was only when I got to Mannington that I found a town that was far enough from the malls to have retained a downtown retail area. The high school was also located there. So I used Mannington as the model for Grantville. The only major change I made was moving the power plant.”
Flint said he wanted a working-class societal structure to model his fictional town on, and Marion County and the surrounding areas provided that small-town feel. In fact, Mannington and the immediate surrounding areas are the most prevalent throughout the book series with several allusions to Fairmont and occasionally Morgantown.
“Just about everything is based on Marion County. I have two rules for all writers in the series, including myself. The first is, “if you can’t find it in Mannington, then it’s not in Grantville.” (The one exception is the power plant.) The second rule is that any American character has to be taken from one of the people listed on what I call “the grid.” The grid was created by a friend and co-author of mine, Virginia DeMarce, who is an expert on genealogy. She had a program that enabled her to create an entire town of about 3,500 characters. The data she fed into it was the actual demographic data of the residents of Marion County in the year 2000, which is when the time travel event happened. The grid lists names, family relationships, sex, age, occupation, level of education, military service if any, and religious affiliation. The only exception is the founding novel 1632 and the immediate sequel 1633, which I wrote before Virginia developed the grid. The American characters in those two books were invented by me out of whole cloth, but they were based on my experience living in the area.”
Flint elaborated and remarked that several readers recognize Marion County while reading the book and some even have visited Mannington solely because of the series. The area has so many unique attributes and characteristics that it makes for the perfect setting of any story, no matter the time or place.
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