30 March 2007

Alternate History

I got to thinking about topics for my blog day and this popped up. Alternate History. What if Napoleon had won and remained Emperor of France instead of being exiled? What if the South had won the civil war? What if is the beginning of nearly every story, kind of "let's pretend" for grown ups. So what do you think? Can alternative history works be considered Historicals? There's a lot of historical research involved, you have to know the era you're altering pretty well.


Christine Koehler said...

Harry Turtledove does several series on Alternate History, one with the South winning the Civil War and I think 2 with different WWII endings. Might be one, not sure, I haven't read those. I've read Guns of the South, and it was meticulously researched. I know my library has him in the Science Fiction section, but yes – he could be in the regular fiction section. I believe the reasoning is that at the time he began this, there wasn’t really an Alternate History genre. Such the pioneer.

I know there’s a book (can’t remember the title) with China colonizing the Americas first, and that’s in regular fiction. If I can find the name of it, I'd love to read it!

I’m going to have to say that any book that takes place in history, whether it goes with the known timeline or not, is going to be Historical. You’re still going to have to do the same research, and possibly more just to see how far reaching the effects of your changes are.

Personally I love Alternate History stories, mostly because of that ‘what if’ factor. But then I usually think in those terms.

PennyAsh1 said...

Sorry I've been so quite today but I've been dealing with some medical emergencies and the Menu pet food thing with my dog. It's crazy here right now.

I'd love to read the China book myself, it sounds like it would be interesting.

I'm working on an Alternate History book now myself, set in the late 1800's.

Morag McKendrick Pippin said...

Thanks Christine for the name of an author who writes alternative history. I find that fascinating!

Penny, I hope your dog is going to be ok! I fed my kitties some of that food the first two weeks in Feb. So far they seem to be ok, so I'm thinking what I fed them wasn't included in the dates Dec - Mar.

Michelle Styles said...

Robert Harris with his Fatherland etc also writes alternative history.

The Historical Novelist Society does recognise it as part and parcel of thehistorical novel continum.

Jan Zimlich said...

I've always been a great fan of alternate history books, beginning I think with a Len Deighton novel from the '70's titled "SS/GB," which is still on my keeper shelves somewhere. And I *loved* Turtledove's "Guns of the South."(what can I say, I like big books--literally. It must have weighed 3-4 pounds in hardback and was well over a 1,000 pages.)

Turtledove himself has a Ph.D in history, so I've always felt that the historical research in his books is probably far more detailed than that of many writers. If I remember correctly, he's always considered himself an SF/Fantasy writer, and alternate history has been an accepted sub-genre of SF for a long time. At least it was back in the 80's and early 90's, when SF was virtually all I ever read.

It's been a long while since I read a good alternate history novel so if you remember the title of the China book, I'd like to know it, too. I really, really like post-holocaust SF as well so if anyone knows of a recent good one in that sub-genre, I'd love to know the author and title.

Christine Koehler said...

I've always wanted to read Fatherland, but never got around to it. This thread has re-peaked my interest (and my memory), and I'm going to search for it now.

I haven't found the title of the China-settling-America story, but will look more at work on Monday. However, during my search, I did find a great site at Answer.com. It's a great and very detailed page on Alternate History.

This has books/stories dating back to Livy's History of Rome from Its Foundation - what if Alexander had conquered west instead of east? To H.G. Wells and Robert A. Heinlein and Quantum Physics and theories on parallel dimensions.

Talk about adding to your TBR list.

Tess said...

I think so - Katy Cooper wrote two fantastic novels set in an alternate version of Tudor England, in which Prince Arthur lived to succeed his father Henry VII on the throne. I still considered it historical - kinda a cross between history and fantasy, but more grounded in history.