Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
 
  • Locked thread
ZombieLenin
Sep 6, 2009

All great movements are popular movements. They are the volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotions, stirred into activity by the ruthless Goddess of Distress or by the torch of the spoken word cast into the midst of the people.

-Vladimir Lenin

gently caress trophy 2k14 posted:

Why are you expecting intelligence from white supremacists?


Good question.

Has anybody read the books--I remember neither the author nor the series--about Nantucket getting thrown back through time to 700 B.C.E.?

I recall reading those and enjoying them until the ending--which was kind of lame.

I went on to try to read the guys more famous series where all technology stops working an people hack each other with swords.

But I couldn't do it--there is a theme with me--once I realized that his world requires things like combustion and some pretty basic laws of physics to have just ceases working.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Marshal Radisic
Oct 9, 2012




Those would be the Island In The Sea of Time for the Nantucket-back-in-time series, and the Change World for the world-goes-to-poo poo series. With the latter, I believe it is a plot point that something went seriously wrong with the physical parameters of the universe to cause the premise of the book, but I can't say since I've never read them.

You know, all online discussion of alternate history writers always ends up revolving around Turtledove, Stirling, Flint, and a bunch of Tor guys, so I want to toss out a few other titles I really liked that no one seems to have read.

The Light Ages and The House of Storms by Ian R. MacLeod

The premise of this one is that sometime in the late 17th century an English al/chemist discovered a substance called aether, a substance that can be alloyed with anything to make it responsive to human will. (The exact nature of aether is something that's kept ambiguous throughout both books.) Anyway, the two books are set centuries after the discovery, when aether has become the backbone of every aspect of English life, and has changed England to the point where it is barely recognizable. Both the monarchy and Parliament are gone, and England is ruled by a system of guilds akin to an old Hanseatic state. The world is industrialized, but war, colonialism, and scientific progress have basically ended. Even the Christian calendar and days of the week have been replaced. The overall effect is that MacLeod's England resembles a fantasy world more than a traditional "alternate history." (There's probably also a fair bit of Pavane in there, but since I haven't read Pavane I can't be sure.)

The two books are essentially about the struggle between change and conservatism, as observed by passive main characters who are close to the main action, but never really affect it themselves. They're very much in the scientific-romance mold, and are very English.

Jack Faust by Michael Swanwick

This is a fun one. It's pretty much a materialist sf retelling of the Faust legend; in the early 16th century, the German alchemist Johannes Faust, angered by the inadequacy of the knowledge of his day, burns his library and invokes the dark powers to give him wisdom. Sure enough, Mephistopheles appears, this time around a composite entity operated by a civilization from another universe offering Faust all of the scientific knowledge of his universe. Faust accepts, and what follows is about 500 years of technological advancement crammed into five decades. You've got crazy poo poo like Faust nailing a copy of the periodic table to the door of a cathedral and the fight over the Spanish Armada being reimagined as a duel between Spanish ironclads and English missile cruisers. It ends in tears, but it wouldn't be Faust if it didn't.

The Dog King by Christoph Ransmayr

The broad premise for this one is that after WW2, the United States enacts the Morgenthau Plan on the defeated German states, deindustrializing them and instituting a punitive culture based around guilt and atonement. The story itself concerns a boy growing up in the Austrian Alps who's affected by this environment. Despite what I've written, it's not a nationalist screed; it's more of a meditation on the relationship between victims and victimizers, and on the limits of official cultures of remembrance.

The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski

This is probably pulpier than my other entries. A physician from the present gets thrown back in time, and tries to start changing history, only to end up dying on the Titanic. He does make one change, which results in a snowball effect up to the present day, when the world has become divided into two competing alliance systems centered around the world-empires of Imperial Germany and Japan. The bulk of the book is set in this world, focusing on the efforts of a bunch of characters to get ahold of a time machine and avert their reality, all while trying to avoid the chaos as the great standoff finally breaks down into apocalyptic war. It's not great (it's literally a phone book), but it's one of the few books out there to play with the idea of Germany winning WWI, so I have some affection for it.

Groke
Jul 27, 2007
New Adventures In Mom Strength

I've just recently read two separate "Germany wins WW2 (sort of)" books by authors whose usual genre is not alternate history or science fiction but rather espionage and/or mystery fiction:

SS-GB by Len Deighton, published in 1978. This is set in 1941, only a year after Germany successfully invades and occupies Britain; starts out as a plain old murder mystery starring a Scotland Yard detective, ends up a big-stakes spy thriller. Leaving aside the implausibility of the situation as such, I found it very fine, inducing claustrophobia and paranoia as a good spy thriller should. Concise and effective, Deighton knew how to write and I guess I'll be checking out more of his work.

Dominion by C.J. Sansom, published far more recently in 2012. The scenario here seems more plausible [1]; Germany never invaded but a settlement was reached after Dunkirk and the fall of France, and by 1952 Britain has slid ever further towards proper Fascism and is basically a junior partner to Germany. Germany captured Moscow and killed Stalin in 1941 but the war in the East drags on and on anyway bleeding both sides ever whiter; Hitler is rumoured to be near death from Parkinson's disease and the vultures are circling; everything sucks really hard for everyone. Still have about 20% left of this book but so far I'll recommend it highly. There are more viewpoint characters and Sansom gets into their different heads with more detail.

[1] And actually reminds me a lot of Jo Walton's Farthing and sequels.

Captain Monkey
Aug 23, 2007



Mouro posted:



Axis of Time series by John Birmingham: An American-led fleet from the year 2021 is sent back in time just before the battle of Midway due to an awry scientific experiment. I remember liking this one quite a bit, the culture shock when the people from those different timelines meet was one of the most interesting things in the story.



I'm reading these books and I'm on the third one. The only thing I don't really like is the Prince Harry character, who is sort of needlessly there unless his grandmother getting killed by the Nazi Superman assassin and he takes over England as its newest monarch or something is a future plotpoint.

The writing is mediocre to me, as it has a lot of miltech masutrbation, but that's sort of par for the course in any book about historical wars. I'll also second, heartily, that the 1940's contemporary reaction to the 2021 attitudes towards race, sex, sexuality, freedom, equality, and even stuff like copyright law is actually really interesting to read about and is the best part of the book.

That and Slimjim, that dude owns.

Tomn
Aug 23, 2007

And the angel said unto him
"Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself."
But lo he could not. For the angel was hitting him with his own hands


nucleicmaxid posted:

I'm reading these books and I'm on the third one. The only thing I don't really like is the Prince Harry character, who is sort of needlessly there unless his grandmother getting killed by the Nazi Superman assassin and he takes over England as its newest monarch or something is a future plotpoint.

The writing is mediocre to me, as it has a lot of miltech masutrbation, but that's sort of par for the course in any book about historical wars. I'll also second, heartily, that the 1940's contemporary reaction to the 2021 attitudes towards race, sex, sexuality, freedom, equality, and even stuff like copyright law is actually really interesting to read about and is the best part of the book.

That and Slimjim, that dude owns.

I seem to remember that one thing I found irritating about the series is the tendency to skip over important events between books - like near the end of one book it ends on a cliffhanger and seems like it's setting up for a major battle, and then in the next book "Oh, yeah, we won that battle, we're moving on with the campaign now. Try to keep up, would you?" It was fairly enjoyable otherwise, though.

Blog Free or Die
Apr 30, 2005

FOR THE MOTHERLAND

One of my favorite SF books ever is The High Crusade, by Poul Anderson. Wikipedia describes the setting pretty well:

quote:

It is 1345 AD, and in the English town of Ansby (in northeastern Lincolnshire), Sir Roger, Baron de Tourneville, is recruiting a military force to assist King Edward III in the Hundred Years' War against France. Suddenly, an enormous silver spacecraft lands outside the town.

And then things take a turn for the hilarious. It's presented as a historical document written by a 14th century monk who witnesses the events. There isn't really much alternate history going on, but it's well worth a read.

Agreeing with recommendation for Making History, now I want to reread it.

Would Guy Gavriel Kay's stuff belong in this thread? His books are pretty great.

Sir DonkeyPunch
Mar 23, 2007

I didn't hear no bell


I don't know if this thread is the right place to ask for help, but I just finished The Daedalus Incident by Michael J Martinez and I'm trying to find a book with a similar "what if alchemy was real" theme

It's set in a world where the Greek theories about rarefication and the model of the solar system with the earth at the center and the planets circling of their own accord (their spaceships were carved from moon rock and used rarefied gold to move to higher orbits) were true and usable. But their enemy were the easterners using lei lines/chi to similar ends, populating solar system. I have no idea what the central conflict was, but I know east and west ended up working together.

Can anyone help me?

Edit: found it, it's Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle

Sir DonkeyPunch fucked around with this message at 21:16 on Jul 4, 2014

Panama Red
Jul 30, 2003

Only in America could you find a way to earn a healthy buck and still keep your attitude on self destruct


I've only ever read the Southern Victory/Timeline 191 books and while they aren't classic literature by any stretch, I don't think it's that bad. In fact, if you go in expecting a lot about how glorious the CSA is or even details on what life in the CSA is like, you'll be disappointed. It's almost 100% about the wars and geopolitics that come from USA/Germany versus CSA/France/UK/Canada/Japan alliances. Some of the concepts he introduces, like the Socialists becoming the mainstream left-wing party in the USA or, later, the South's slaves having their own Bolshevik revolution are interesting, but it's pretty clear WWI and WWII take up most of the action. And, like someone else said, since it eventually becomes "our" WWII but with a Nazi CSA instead of Nazi Germany, you kind of know how are things are going to go in the end.

What I did like is neither the USA or CSA comes off as all that great. The USA follows the German Empire so closely it pretty much embraces jingoism and imperialism even more than in actual history, and its treatment of the Native Americans, the Mormons and its own black population pretty much robs the US of any moral high ground. And the CSA is of course terrible unless you're a wealthy white man. If anything, Turtledove succeeds in showing that a world in which the CSA won would not be in any way preferable because it just led to a cycle of war, suffering, revanchism, police states, more war, etc. to the point of nuclear armageddon.

Jazerus
May 24, 2011



Panama Red posted:

I've only ever read the Southern Victory/Timeline 191 books and while they aren't classic literature by any stretch, I don't think it's that bad. In fact, if you go in expecting a lot about how glorious the CSA is or even details on what life in the CSA is like, you'll be disappointed. It's almost 100% about the wars and geopolitics that come from USA/Germany versus CSA/France/UK/Canada/Japan alliances. Some of the concepts he introduces, like the Socialists becoming the mainstream left-wing party in the USA or, later, the South's slaves having their own Bolshevik revolution are interesting, but it's pretty clear WWI and WWII take up most of the action. And, like someone else said, since it eventually becomes "our" WWII but with a Nazi CSA instead of Nazi Germany, you kind of know how are things are going to go in the end.

What I did like is neither the USA or CSA comes off as all that great. The USA follows the German Empire so closely it pretty much embraces jingoism and imperialism even more than in actual history, and its treatment of the Native Americans, the Mormons and its own black population pretty much robs the US of any moral high ground. And the CSA is of course terrible unless you're a wealthy white man. If anything, Turtledove succeeds in showing that a world in which the CSA won would not be in any way preferable because it just led to a cycle of war, suffering, revanchism, police states, more war, etc. to the point of nuclear armageddon.

Once the series was past World War I it kind of collapsed in my opinion. All of the clearly passionate research and thinking about the path that things could have gone on had the CSA really had the chops to be an independent state was thrown aside in favor of yet another Turtledove WW2 book. I think my favorite detail is that Lincoln is the primary founder of the Socialist party.

I agree with your interpretation of the overall message of the series, the Southern Victory timeline is clearly a pretty miserable place to be even if there are also some minor bright spots compared to real history.

Mr.48
May 1, 2007


I would like to recommend The Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Stirling. Its a lot better than his Emberverse trash. The general gist is that at the end of the 19th century a meteor strike causing a catastrophic cooling over most of the northern hemisphere, forcing the major European powers to relocate south to their colonial territories and squabble over the dwindling resources. Its a bit steampunkish (but not obnoxiously so), has a little mysticism sprinkled in for good measure, and is overall a pretty fun adventure story.

Mr.48 fucked around with this message at 21:15 on Jul 17, 2014

Sir DonkeyPunch
Mar 23, 2007

I didn't hear no bell


Mr.48 posted:

I would like to recommend The Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Stirling. Its a lot better than his Emberverse trash. The general gist is that at the end of the 19th century a meteor strike causing a catastrophic cooling over most of the northern hemisphere, forcing the major European powers to relocate south to their colonial territories and squabble over the dwindling resources. Its a bit steampunkish (but not obnoxiously so), has a little mysticism sprinkled in for good measure, and is overall a pretty fun adventure story.

I thought Shikari in Galveston from Worlds That Weren't by Stirling set in the same universe was way better, I felt like Lancers dragged

Hyrax Attack!
Jan 13, 2009

We demand to be taken seriously


Jazerus posted:

Once the series was past World War I it kind of collapsed in my opinion. All of the clearly passionate research and thinking about the path that things could have gone on had the CSA really had the chops to be an independent state was thrown aside in favor of yet another Turtledove WW2 book. I think my favorite detail is that Lincoln is the primary founder of the Socialist party.

I agree with your interpretation of the overall message of the series, the Southern Victory timeline is clearly a pretty miserable place to be even if there are also some minor bright spots compared to real history.

I agree, I absolutely loved How Few Remain (and have it autographed!), One of the reasons it worked was because there was no parallel war that Turtledove was mirroring from for 1881. So we got early trench warfare, wild west fights in Arizona, and Roosevelt on the frontier. I think Turtledove is at his best when he has to make up new battlefields and wars and isn't copy pasting with new names.

Southern Victory was enjoyable up until the start of the WWII parallel. Turtledove just started phoning it in so badly that there weren't any significant surprises and meaningless characters started popping up that had no personalities Armstrong Grimes being the worst, while decent ones got sidelined (Jonathan Moss, who was one of my favorites gets dumped in a POW camp until a tornado saves him?!). I tried to get into The War That Came Early but it is just more of the same.

On a happier note, has anyone read Resurrection Day? I thought it was excellent, with the premise of the United States in a world where the Cuban Missile Crisis blew up but didn't result in a mutant wasteland, just a grimmer world.

Grand Prize Winner
Feb 19, 2007




Mojo Threepwood posted:

I agree, I absolutely loved How Few Remain (and have it autographed!), One of the reasons it worked was because there was no parallel war that Turtledove was mirroring from for 1881. So we got early trench warfare, wild west fights in Arizona, and Roosevelt on the frontier. I think Turtledove is at his best when he has to make up new battlefields and wars and isn't copy pasting with new names.

Not to be a wet blanket or anything but I'm pretty sure the 1881 war was close-ish to the Franco-Prussian War.

Adar
Jul 27, 2001

by R. Guyovich


Pierson posted:

Turtledove and a lot of this genre always struck me as slightly creepy because it seems they really, really loving love to write about the Nazis/Confederacy winning and will go to great lengths to make sure they do, and will then almost always write the following timeline as "hey this isn't so bad HMM REALLY MAKES YOU THINK". Is that about right or am I giving them a bad rap? I like the 'maybe it could have happened this way' pseudo-documentary books rather than the pulp-action ones so I've never really picked him up.

A lot of alt history is written by creeps (Stirling) but Turtledove is Jewish and not one of them. He also has a PhD in Byzantine history, so when he used to write books set in that era a lot of them were surprisingly worth reading for the history - the Videssos cycle and some other early books have a backstory featuring alt-history Catholic vs. Nestorian Christianity, and it's pretty well done/historically accurate from what I can tell.

Then he realized ACW/WWI/WW2 sold better and all of those sets are hot garbage.

Which leads me to my next question: are there other books set off the beaten path, i.e. not 20th century/Romans, that haven't been mentioned? The covers scared me off Flint but I'll give him a try.

Tomn
Aug 23, 2007

And the angel said unto him
"Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself."
But lo he could not. For the angel was hitting him with his own hands


Adar posted:

Which leads me to my next question: are there other books set off the beaten path, i.e. not 20th century/Romans, that haven't been mentioned? The covers scared me off Flint but I'll give him a try.

Well, there's always A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Serious question, though, ARE there any other stories in that vein - one person going back in time and trying to change things solo? A lot of the "altered timelines" stories I've run across usually involve large groups or organizations going back, and I kinda think it'd be more interesting to read about how one person who almost certainly doesn't know much about how his technology works goes about trying to survive or even rule in an older time. Less focus on "yeah, we're using gatling guns to cut down spearmen lol" and more focus on attempting to disseminate ideas and fit into society while changing it to suit the main character's personal vision.

Yeah Man
Oct 9, 2011

And if you had, you know, a huge killer robot at your command, yeah, that would just clutter things up; and a lesser person might want that kind of overwhelming force on their side, but you know - where's the challenge in that?


Tomn posted:

Well, there's always A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Serious question, though, ARE there any other stories in that vein - one person going back in time and trying to change things solo? A lot of the "altered timelines" stories I've run across usually involve large groups or organizations going back, and I kinda think it'd be more interesting to read about how one person who almost certainly doesn't know much about how his technology works goes about trying to survive or even rule in an older time. Less focus on "yeah, we're using gatling guns to cut down spearmen lol" and more focus on attempting to disseminate ideas and fit into society while changing it to suit the main character's personal vision.

Lest Darkness Fall is one, about a professor going back to the time after the fall of the Roman Empire, but I don't know any else.

Earwicker
Jan 6, 2003



Tomn posted:

Serious question, though, ARE there any other stories in that vein - one person going back in time and trying to change things solo?

A Swiftly Tilting Planet be Madeleine L'Engle is basically someone revisiting a number of different periods and trying to change the course of history to avert a nuclear war. It's not really "alt history" in the sense that this thread is discussing though since its more about interpersonal relationships in one family's past rather than anything at all related to politics or any actual historical nations, movements, wars, etc. However it does involve the myth of the Welsh prince who sailed to the New World. Also there is no time travel "technology" it is done by some kind of psychic genetic communication or something.

Earwicker fucked around with this message at 13:43 on Jul 19, 2014

Hyrax Attack!
Jan 13, 2009

We demand to be taken seriously


Grand Prize Winner posted:

Not to be a wet blanket or anything but I'm pretty sure the 1881 war was close-ish to the Franco-Prussian War.

Ah, I know very little about the Franco-Prussian War. I will have to look that up, thanks!

LaughMyselfTo
Nov 15, 2012

by XyloJW


Adar posted:

A lot of alt history is written by creeps (Stirling) but Turtledove is Jewish and not one of them. He also has a PhD in Byzantine history, so when he used to write books set in that era a lot of them were surprisingly worth reading for the history - the Videssos cycle and some other early books have a backstory featuring alt-history Catholic vs. Nestorian Christianity, and it's pretty well done/historically accurate from what I can tell.

Then he realized ACW/WWI/WW2 sold better and all of those sets are hot garbage.

Which leads me to my next question: are there other books set off the beaten path, i.e. not 20th century/Romans, that haven't been mentioned? The covers scared me off Flint but I'll give him a try.

Got to admit I loved the Turtledove books where aliens invaded during World War II, when I was a kid. Didn't get all the sex stuff at the time. Looking back, Turtledove really is a creep - just not a Nazi (or Confederate) creep.

Pimpmust
Oct 1, 2008



Ginger, GINGER, GINGER MISSILES

LaughMyselfTo
Nov 15, 2012

by XyloJW


Pimpmust posted:

Ginger, GINGER, GINGER MISSILES



ALIENS FORCING CAPTURED HUMANS TO HAVE SEX JUST TO CONFIRM THAT HUMANS DO, IN FACT, HAVE SEX
DECADES LATER, A HUMAN TEENAGER MUST HAVE SEX WITH A GIRL RAISED BY ALIENS
IN SPACE

Grand Prize Winner
Feb 19, 2007




Mojo Threepwood posted:

Ah, I know very little about the Franco-Prussian War. I will have to look that up, thanks!

I read through the first couple chapters last night am a lot less sure of that statement. Like probably completely wrong.

Ferrosol
Nov 8, 2010

Notorious J.A.M


Mojo Threepwood posted:


On a happier note, has anyone read Resurrection Day? I thought it was excellent, with the premise of the United States in a world where the Cuban Missile Crisis blew up but didn't result in a mutant wasteland, just a grimmer world.

I've read it and I remember it being decent but if you asked me to name one single plot-point in the entire book i'd struggle to do so. I do remember the utterly fantastic tag line for it though "everyone remembers where they were when John F Kennedy tried to kill them."

Earwicker
Jan 6, 2003



Mojo Threepwood posted:

Ah, I know very little about the Franco-Prussian War. I will have to look that up, thanks!

not alt history, but: If you want to read a good book about the Franco-Prussian War, I recommend La Debacle by Emil Zola. It's fiction but very gritty and real feeling, takes place during the final phases of that war and then during the Paris Commune. It's a pretty heavy book but a great read.

Reveilled
Apr 19, 2007

Take up your rifles


I'm surprised that in all this discussion, nobody has mentioned Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt, which is definitely up there with For Want of a Nail as the best works of Alternative History I've read. I love alternative history, but so much of the published works these days are based on time travel that the works written with more serious tones really stand out for me.

For anyone who hasn't read The Years of Rice and Salt, the premise is simple: the Black Death wipes out Europe. The exact way it works isn't clear (whether it is the same bubonic plague or another much different disease), but it is slow burning enough to infect everyone, and deadly enough to kill all its hosts eventually. When the Mongols show up to invade the western lands beyond the Steppes, they find a land truly and utterly deserted of human habitation. In this world without Europe, history takes a very different turn, influenced by Islam, eastern religions and Chinese Philosophy, bringing new states and new perspectives to the fore, but ultimately a world still recognisable from our own. The book spans about 700 years from the Mongol "Invasion" to the modern day, and follows two main protagonists, B and K, who are part of a cohort of souls, reincarnated and destined to cross paths time and again. With each reincarnation comes a new place and a time skip as the world without Europe gets slowly revealed to us.

It's been a long time since I read it last, but unlike, say, any of Turtledove's works (which I enjoyed at the time but are now firmly "meh" in my memory), I fully intend to do so some time soon.

Freudian
Mar 23, 2011

God Can't Hate Forever



I'm confused. The Mongol invasions were in the 1200s. The Black Death was in the mid-1300s.

Earwicker
Jan 6, 2003



Freudian posted:

I'm confused. The Mongol invasions were in the 1200s. The Black Death was in the mid-1300s.

Well it's alternative history?

Freudian
Mar 23, 2011

God Can't Hate Forever



Earwicker posted:

Well it's alternative history?

But that still needs to obey the basic laws of when things were ordered. If the point of divergence is the Black Death wiping out Europe, that can't affect the Mongols which invaded before it, any more than a successful Operation Sealion could save Harold Godwinson's life at the Battle of Hastings.

EDIT: Unless it's not the actual historical black death but a plague in the mid-1100s or so in which case my bad.

Marshal Radisic
Oct 9, 2012




Freudian posted:

I'm confused. The Mongol invasions were in the 1200s. The Black Death was in the mid-1300s.

The first part of the book opens with Tamerlane's horde making their way through empty Hungary. Given the historical record, ballpark for that is ~1400 AD.

As for YRS, I read it back in high school, but I haven't reread it since. I liked it at the time, but lately I've been puzzling over the fact that the 500 years without Europe doesn't...actually change much? I mean, a lot of events are different, but technological progress seems to tick on at about the same rate, the New World is discovered about a century later, the planet is industrialized in the 19th century, there's a WWI and a Weimar period. There's even a democratic superpower based in the central latitudes of the North American continent. There's even tons of characters that are allegorical to people in Western history. I suppose this ties into the theme of the book, but I haven't figured it out yet.

My big personal disappointment (though it didn't mar the experience of reading the book) is the fact that KSR decided to wipe out the Kievian Rus states with the Black Death. I mean, c'mon, you're writing a book about a world without European modernity, and you leave out the one civilization that has had, by far, the most neurotic relationship with Europe of anyone in the world? What would happen to Russia if there was no European example? Hell, you could write a book on that subject alone.

ClearAirTurbulence
Apr 20, 2010
The earth has music for those who listen.

I read an alternate history story as a teenager in high school, I think it was written by Poul Anderson, that had a very similar premise to The Years of Rice and Salt but I can't remember the name now. The point of divergence was the Black Plague, which according to the story had it's damage limited by an extremely cold winter in our history that killed off a lot of the rats. In this history, the plague went on a few years and 3/4 of the European population was wiped out. Europe is completely dominated by the Ottoman Empire, there is a mention of the plays of Shakespeare being best in the original Turkish. The story followed a teenager who sailed from England to the Aztec Empire, which is more technologically advanced than the Old World - I seem to remember they had steam powered cars. Technology was retarded, the story was set in 1950 or 1960, the Aztecs had technology about like late 19th century in our timeline and the rest of the world seemed to be at least 100 years behind it.

I think I may not have finished it because I can't remember much about where it goes after the main character arrives in Mexico and is shown around. There was something about some visions of an alternate reality in an Aztec temple, too.

Marshal Radisic
Oct 9, 2012




That sounds like Robert Silverberg's Gate of Worlds. There's also a small collection of short stories in that world that was published in '91.

Also, if you want a reference library for alternate history stories, you need to check out uchronia.net. It's not as good as it used to be (its ability to keep on top of the new titles is...questionable), but it's useful if you want a whole bunch of stuff in one place.

Marshal Radisic fucked around with this message at 20:55 on Jul 23, 2014

Tomn
Aug 23, 2007

And the angel said unto him
"Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself."
But lo he could not. For the angel was hitting him with his own hands


Yeah Man posted:

Lest Darkness Fall is one, about a professor going back to the time after the fall of the Roman Empire, but I don't know any else.

I picked this up, and so far I have to say I'm really digging it for one simple reason: It doesn't take itself too seriously. There's no endless exposition about the background and local history, no fine, careful, and incredibly tedious attention to historical detail, no pages-long analysis of various military technological advances and how they're cutting down barbarians by the truckload, no sweeping pronouncements on the virtues of this or that system of government or culture or what-have-you, just a guy trying to get by in an alien world in a book that's entirely aware of the fact that its premise, when you get right down to it, is pretty drat silly.

I hadn't realized how self-important alt-history can be until I started reading this. 'Course, maybe it'll change later on in the book, but for now it's a hell of a breath of fresh air.

Yeah Man
Oct 9, 2011

And if you had, you know, a huge killer robot at your command, yeah, that would just clutter things up; and a lesser person might want that kind of overwhelming force on their side, but you know - where's the challenge in that?


Tomn posted:

I picked this up, and so far I have to say I'm really digging it for one simple reason: It doesn't take itself too seriously. There's no endless exposition about the background and local history, no fine, careful, and incredibly tedious attention to historical detail, no pages-long analysis of various military technological advances and how they're cutting down barbarians by the truckload, no sweeping pronouncements on the virtues of this or that system of government or culture or what-have-you, just a guy trying to get by in an alien world in a book that's entirely aware of the fact that its premise, when you get right down to it, is pretty drat silly.

I hadn't realized how self-important alt-history can be until I started reading this. 'Course, maybe it'll change later on in the book, but for now it's a hell of a breath of fresh air.

I can see what you mean, but the end of the book kinda soured me when it ends with the narrator going "In the end, The Darkness did not fall", basically saying the protagonist single-handedly saved Europe from the horror of the Dark Ages (which isn't even an accurate term).

Jazerus
May 24, 2011



Yeah Man posted:

I can see what you mean, but the end of the book kinda soured me when it ends with the narrator going "In the end, The Darkness did not fall", basically saying the protagonist single-handedly saved Europe from the horror of the Dark Ages (which isn't even an accurate term).

Let's be fair here, averting the collapse of the Roman state into a playground for warlords for several hundred years qualifies as darkness not falling in some sense - perhaps just on the Roman state itself? There are multiple ways to take that sentence, not all of them necessarily a slur against all things medieval. The book is also from 1939, long before any but the most unconventional historians would have viewed the early medieval period as anything but a big blank spot full of murder.

Anyway, Lest Darkness Fall is probably my favorite alt-history book! There certainly is some of almost everything you mentioned later in the book (aside from the endless background exposition - de Camp pretty much expected you to be familiar with the time period before reading, as any educated man would have had that sort of classical knowledge) but it's not used excessively like Turtledove or 1632 might. It's much like Lord of the Rings in hitting a wonderful balance that few of its imitators have ever really captured.

Shbobdb
Dec 16, 2010

by Reene


Pierson posted:

It has been a while since I read this but I remember losing patience with the book when the I-Ching was being manipulated or something by people from our timeline to tell the people in the book that theirs was the incorrect timeline. It went from alt-history to flat-out sci-fi and I was annoyed by that since it was perfectly good before that little revelation. At least that's how I remember it going down.

Like a lot of PKD novels, you have to place it within the reality that PDK himself occupies. PKD really did have beings from an alternate dimension beaming information into his head, either directly as a pink light or indirectly through symbols they placed in the world for him to see. To PKD that isn't science-fiction, it is just normal day-to-day life.

It also touches on the recurring theme of authenticity. Take the fake gun in High Castle. It can and does shoot bullets, so is it really a fake gun? What does realness or fakeness mean? Is our world real, is their world real?

Earwicker
Jan 6, 2003



Shbobdb posted:

Like a lot of PKD novels, you have to place it within the reality that PDK himself occupies. PKD really did have beings from an alternate dimension beaming information into his head, either directly as a pink light or indirectly through symbols they placed in the world for him to see. To PKD that isn't science-fiction, it is just normal day-to-day life.

I thought that stuff didn't happen until late in his life, in the late 70's? The Man In The High Castle is from 1962. I know he was a speed addict for much of his life but I don't think he was having the full blown mystical experiences about Nixon/Nero and all that at that point. I thought the reference to people "from our timeline" was more a reference to Dick himself using the I Ching to come up with some elements of the plot, though it's been a long time since I've read it.

Shbobdb
Dec 16, 2010

by Reene


While he experienced a full-on schizophrenic break in the '70s, schizophrenia isn't an on/off switch where a person's life goes:

normal->normal->normal->schizophrenic break->crazy

it's more:

"strange"->"eccentric"->self-medicating->schizophrenic break->crazy.

As early as college (1950s), dude was talking about how reality isn't real and that there is an insurmountable gulf between what we perceive and reality as it actually is. Likewise, during the '50s he suffered from anxiety attacks that basically prevented him from leading a normal life. Heinlein and several other prominent sci-fi authors would talk about how pants-shittingly crazy PKD was (generally in a fairly respectable way but they still clearly thought he was insane). Hell, even his stint at writing Proletariat Realism (mid-to-late 1950s) feature seemingly normal characters that are secretly Nazis and violent, seemingly incongruent bursts of violence against "the system" by protagonists.

He was pretty crazy well before VALIS starting beaming information directly into his mind.

Tevery Best
Oct 11, 2013

Hewlo Furriend


LEM: O hey, that Dick guy is a pretty good writer!

LEM: Dear Mr Dick, can I get your books published in Poland? PS. I can only pay you in zlotys, and it's the worst currency ever and nobody wants it.

DICK: Yeah sure, I'm just gonna drop into Poland and do some shopping there!

LEM: Unfortunately the secret police won't let you in, and the shops here are empty anyway.

DICK: WHAT THE gently caress IS THIS A SCAM

DICK: Dear Mr. FBI Agent,

There's this guy Lem, who is most defs totally not a person. He is actually a committee of Communist writers dedicated to slander and shame the American SF so that they can control the American public opinion. I know that because he uses several different writing styles! And also sometimes reads foreign languages, and sometimes does not!

Please arrest him them. I DON'T CARE THEY'RE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY JUST DO IT.

FBI: Yeah, sure, uh-huh.

Dick really went crazy by the end of his life, but that's a huge part of the reason why his works are so important to literature in general, and not just science fiction. I think the Man in High Castle is by far the weakest of his books precisely for the reason that it does not feature that crucial motif of being unable to grasp reality, of the distortion between the senses and the mind.

Tevery Best fucked around with this message at 18:34 on Jul 24, 2014

Earwicker
Jan 6, 2003



Dick wrote a lot of books and a good chunk of them are bad, I don't think The Man In the High Castle is even in the bottom quarter.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Shbobdb
Dec 16, 2010

by Reene


I know NYC toyed with the idea of becoming a free city during the Civil War. Has anyone explored that topic?

  • Locked thread