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Honorary Alternate History

Ncw8

Citizen of Nowhere
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Baselland
#21
In 1989, Channel 4 produced a short-lived sitcom called Snakes and Ladders. It was set ten years in the future in 1999. Britain is a police state with a real north/south divide, with security guards at border posts and papers required to let enslaved northerners travel to the idyllic south. Margaret Thatcher is revered and television is known as Murdochvision. Political prisoners are kept in psychiatric hospitals.

There’s even a cameo by board-favorite Ken:

 
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RyanF

Abbot of Unreason
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Falkirk
#22
This is something I've been thinking about more and more, to the extent that I now start to wonder if alternate history is the end point of almost all "future" science fiction.

Is Blade Runner alternate history? Suppose we'll really find out next year but without Atari, the Soviet Union, and off world colonies in the mix it might very well be. This is more apparent with Blade Runner 2049, where instead of updating some of the mis-en-scene to reflect the march of history various logos for defunct companies, organisations and countries can still be seen - a conscious choice to add something to the future that was already dated years before the film even started production.

This extends to many, many works. The Forever War, published in 1974, posits that the first expedition by Earth forces in an interstellar war as happening in 1997 - a war that started following an attack on an Earth interstellar colony ship, presumably launched long before 1997. Cities in Flight imagined in 1956 that in 2018 the Cold War would still be raging and the West would be on the loosing side forced to adopt more and more McCarthyist hysteria and ironically Soviet-esque state control in response, meanwhile research is conducted into a new form of propulsion in a research base... on the planet Jupiter. Stand on Zanzibar correctly predicted that human population would be approaching 7 billion by the year 2010, written in 1968. Author John Brunner was correct in this, but every other aspect of this world is wholly alien to our own - and I'd say without any elements that in alternate history we would call ASB.

I've been thinking about this a lot because I think there is a wealth of untapped story-telling in marrying alternate history with this sort of science fiction of futures now passed. The Forever War gives us an ASB intervention, but where Joe Haldeman imagined this as happening in the future we might look at how this would have happened had it occurred in our past. There is already a series which exemplifies an idea such as this - Harry Turtledove's Tosev timeline. Ian Edginton & D'Israeli's Scarlet Traces is another, looking at the consequences of fictional events from a published work as alternate history - The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells - coming 105 years after the publication of the original but looking at the consequences little over a decade after the fictional events. Another idea along this line might be how would the European colonial powers react to the discovery of another world on the inner surface of our own planet; or how might the world have reacted if nuclear weapons had caused the awakening of an ancient dinosaur, empowering it with some further superpowers, that then proceeded to attack Japan?

Cities in Flight is an example of a background that has broad changes and leads to a different priorities in research and development and attitudes. Ministry of Space is perhaps an example of this, where the obsession of one high-ranking RAF officer with seeing the stars leads to the UK having its own Operation Paperclip and taking the British Empire to the stars. The whole steampunk genre can also be considered a variation on this. To take another example if there was a limited nuclear war sometime from the 1940s to 1960s how might the long-term aftermath and environmental consequences have effected the development of space travel with regard to human colonisation outside our own world?

A third strand could be considered one which science fiction has plenty of examples of but doing it backwards. In addition to the aforementioned John Brunner, authors as wide apart as George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Alan Moore have done their own spin on how they think the future will look based on the trends of the present day in Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1985, and V for Vendetta, respectively. To do an alternate history spin on this, how might I have imagined the world of 2018 would look if I had been born some twenty or thirty years earlier? How would someone born into equivalent circumstances I was have thought the future would look when they thought about it in 1978 or 1998 or whenever?

I think there's a lot of mileage to be gained in marrying alternate history with science fiction now rendered anachronistic by the march of history; it opens itself up to a wealth of potential stories and alternate history settings to be explored.
 

Markus Meecham

Marxism-Ambedkarism-Anikulapo Thought
#23
Idk if that's honorary but the History of the siege of lisbon, by José Saramago is the story of an editor that spurred by a typo on a history book about, well, the conquest of lisbon by Alfonso Henriques decides to write a TL: what if part of the crusaders that stopped by the army of king alfonso decided to stay back and help his army invade the city? From then he writes both the world of the editor writing the TL and the TL itself, and lets be honest here, he knocks it out of the park.
The sex scenes are actually good, suck it turtledove!
 

Artaxerxes

Feeding the vegetables
#24
Most of the Clive Cussler novels that came out in the 80's and 90's are laughingly ridiculous in hindsight:

Night Probe (written in 1981 but taking place in 1989) has, in no particular order, an America in economic freefall, oil supplies at critical low levels, a newly independent Quebec, Canada the sole supplier of electricity for 15 US states, and the discovery (in Quebec waters, natch) of a massive oil field. Fortunately for the Americans, a secret treaty is discovered that indicated that the United Kingdom sold Canada to the US back in 1914, so this means that Canada is technically a US state and has been for 75 years (errr...yeah, just yeah). So AMERICA UBER-ALLES...except that there's only two copies of the treaty and both are, naturally, located in inaccessible underwater wrecks. So cue the Americans, British and Canadians all running around to be the first to get their hands in the treaty. Oh, and the Canadian Prime Minister's wife is having an affair with the traitorous Quebec separatist leader.

Cyclops (written in 1986, takes place in early-90's) has a covert group of U.S. industrialists putting a colony on the moon, which gets the Soviets threatening a nuclear war.

Dragon (written 1991, takes place 1993) starts off in 1945, where a B-29 bomber carrying (the secret) third nuclear bomb to Japan is shot down over the sea off the coast of Japan. In 1993, terrorists want to restore Japan's former glory by taking out the United States economy by planting nuclear bombs.
God I grew up reading copies of dads Dirk Pitt books.

Takes me back.
 

Time Enough

Howdy there, just ride in through
#27
I'm surprised no one mentioned Strange Days (1995) by Kathyrn Bigelow, set in a on New Years Eve 1999 where the LA Riots never seemed to have ended, the police are militarised, the world seems to be in the brink of recession, America seems to flailing around on the world scene, music seems to have stayed in some weird Grunge/Techno/World Music culture of the early/mid 90s, Gaddafi wins a nobel peace prize and people experiment with a device called SQUID which allows them to playback memories and the sensations that go with them. Essentially the film is a weird techno-noir, cyberpunk film set in a world where the early 90s never seemed to have ended. I wish some would develop this world it's so odd.


A taste of the music from that world:
 

Thande

Zordrak, Lord of Nightmares
Published by SLP
#28
I'm surprised no one mentioned Strange Days (1995) by Kathyrn Bigelow, set in a on New Years Eve 1999 where the LA Riots never seemed to have ended, the police are militarised, the world seems to be in the brink of recession, America seems to flailing around on the world scene, music seems to have stayed in some weird Grunge/Techno/World Music culture of the early/mid 90s, Gaddafi wins a nobel peace prize and people experiment with a device called SQUID which allows them to playback memories and the sensations that go with them. Essentially the film is a weird techno-noir, cyberpunk film set in a world where the early 90s never seemed to have ended. I wish some would develop this world it's so odd.


A taste of the music from that world:
It feels as though a lot of near-future movies made in the 90s are based on the conceit that 'the LA Riots are the new normal and it's just going to increase and be like that in every city all the time'. Which to an extent is building on an existing trope from the 80s.
 

RyanF

Abbot of Unreason
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Falkirk
#30
It feels as though a lot of near-future movies made in the 90s are based on the conceit that 'the LA Riots are the new normal and it's just going to increase and be like that in every city all the time'. Which to an extent is building on an existing trope from the 80s.
Or arguably a pre-existing one about New York from the 70s. Think I've mentioned before when 90s LA Hell vision of the future has come up, but I love how all the grim future versions of New York in film were set several decades after the present, where as the grim versions of LA were all less than a decade away.

The Northridge earthquake is another event from the same era that got tied up with the riots as the new normal.

EDIT: Partially Ninja'd by @OwenM
 

Thande

Zordrak, Lord of Nightmares
Published by SLP
#31
Or arguably a pre-existing one about New York from the 70s. Think I've mentioned before when 90s LA Hell vision of the future has come up, but I love how all the grim future versions of New York in film were set several decades after the present, where as the grim versions of LA were all less than a decade away.

The Northridge earthquake is another event from the same era that got tied up with the riots as the new normal.
Yes, good point. Could it be said that the LA riots are what transposed the existing New York trope there, or does it predate them?

(As noted before I feel a personal connection to the LA riots because I was there for the aftermath, though didn't really understand what was happening due to being seven).
 

RyanF

Abbot of Unreason
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Falkirk
#32
Yes, good point. Could it be said that the LA riots are what transposed the existing New York trope there, or does it predate them?

(As noted before I feel a personal connection to the LA riots because I was there for the aftermath, though didn't really understand what was happening due to being seven).
Without doing some further digging I think it was the catalyst, though New York had been doing better for most of the 80s so it might have been inevitable as the sheen wore off LA compared with NYC gradually.

For an equivalent phenomenon in the UK, look at how the common setting for a gritty crime programme in the 60s and 70s was London. Starting from the early 80s they began to be set in the post-apocalyptic wastelands of the North and Scotland.
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Location
Nu Yawk
#33
Or indeed ones based on New York in the 60s?
The entire first-wave "Men's Adventure"/action-adventure Mack Bolan Executioner book genre is fueled by essentially that kind of zeitgeist, much like how the combination of the heating Cold War and start of the digital revolution drove the technothriller in the 80s.
 

Bruno

Weird Writer
Published by SLP
Location
Ottawa
#34
I'm surprised no one mentioned Strange Days (1995) by Kathyrn Bigelow, set in a on New Years Eve 1999 where the LA Riots never seemed to have ended, the police are militarised, the world seems to be in the brink of recession, America seems to flailing around on the world scene, music seems to have stayed in some weird Grunge/Techno/World Music culture of the early/mid 90s, Gaddafi wins a nobel peace prize and people experiment with a device called SQUID which allows them to playback memories and the sensations that go with them. Essentially the film is a weird techno-noir, cyberpunk film set in a world where the early 90s never seemed to have ended. I wish some would develop this world it's so odd.


A taste of the music from that world:
Man, how could I have forgotten about that one - I was at the Montreal premier of that film. Still have the t-shirt somewhere, I think. It was doubly hilarious for me because the friend I went to see it with was actually working on a (very primitive) prototype of that SQUID.
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Location
Nu Yawk
#35
For an example of this in very bad fiction, William W. Johnstone's Ashes series was first written in 1983 and starts in-universe in 1984, with the " nuclear apocalypse" (quotes intended, Johnstone applies it in a ridiculously half-hearted manner) occuring several years later.
 

Archibald

Well-known member
Patreon supporter
#37
I think there's a lot of mileage to be gained in marrying alternate history with science fiction now rendered anachronistic by the march of history; it opens itself up to a wealth of potential stories and alternate history settings to be explored.
I like this. In the 50's my mom got a wonderful book I still have. Paul Berna actually wrote two books - Treshold to the stars and Continent in the Sky.

The pitch: France gets his own Apollo / Elon Musk mix and proceeds to the Moon in the year 197X (note the X) thanks to a giant technological breakthrough - nuclear powered, thundering flying spheres (not flying saucers, oh please).
Quite astoninshingly, the space base (called Suzan base) is located in a real world, remote village (Ousse-Suzan, hence the name !) only 20 miles away from where my Mom lived in south-west France. It is quite, remote area with sand dunes and pine trees, sparcely populated, hence the why they placed the space base there, particularly nuclear rocketry.

The story is classic child adventure, Tintin style, the kid is the narrator whose father is working at the space base and the kid, of course, enjoys it hugely. He ends as a stowaway to the Moon in book 2 - Continent in the sky.

Note that Paul Berna wrote the story in 1954, and placed it in the year "197X" - the X was deliberate.

By 1955 both NERVA nuclear thermal rocket (heat the hydrogen with the reactor) and the Orion nuclear pulse ship (blast a steel plate with small nuclear explosions) were being started, and as Tintin show, everybody's and his dog thought the space race would entail NUCLEAR rockets, one way or another.

And then Sputnik and Laika and Gagarin and Apollo come from out of nowhere, with big chemical rockets (the horror, the horror) and by 1969, just like this, boom, MAN ON THE MOON. And then nothing happened until the 2020's and Elon Musk. THE END.

WTF ?
 

RyanF

Abbot of Unreason
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Falkirk
#40
Should have been more precise.

In the eye of public opinion, nothing INTERESTING happened (sorry, but Shuttle, ISS, Mir, Soyuz = boring. No Mars !)
It was more the idea that Musk will actually deliver what he promises. Since his hyperloop has turned out to be a car tunnel I wouldn't be surprised if his Mars colony turns out to be a gated McMansion community outside of Phoenix, Arizona.