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Least favorite alt-history story?

Skaven

Yes I'm a Blairite, I'm also a anarcho-syndicalist
Wasn't she around in at least the first book?
Now that I think about it the Chinese rebellion is in Colonisation, not Worldwar. As one of the few good bits, it ended unsatisfactorily and none of the characters rate a mention in Homeward Bound, which is where I can remember the irritation coming from.
 
Harrison's Stars and Stripes trilogy is definitely one of my least favorites, mainly because it took a great idea (the Trent Affair leading to a USA-GB war) and made it so implausible and filled with hammy dialogue, extremely one-dimensional characters all around, and ridiculous steampunk-like tech that I only read to the end of the series because I hate leaving even bad books unfinished. I haven't always been able to keep this rule; anything by Robert Conroy is automatically suspect to me, after trying and failing to finish 1901 (US and Wilhelmine Germany go to war over territorial claims in the Caribbean and the Pacific, for some reason). I no longer have the latter, but kept the former as a warning of how bad AH writing can turn out. Daniel Easterman's K is for Killing bombed, too, due to several glaring historical errors (Lindbergh too young to be president in 1932, to name the biggest) and a really soapy, poorly-thought-out plot in general (a shame, since I've found few good AH stories based on the President Lindbergh premise).

Apacheria had another interesting idea (an independent Native American nation lasting into the 20th century), but ultimately crashed and burned for me as well, and likewise holds a spot in the "warning" pantheon. Robert Skimin's Custer's Luck started from a similarly intriguing premise (Custer survives Little Bighorn, launching a meteoric military and political career), yet the dialogue, editing, and character personality problems nagged at me enough that I'm not sure whether to keep it, and I'm shying away from his Gray Victory.
 
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At the risk of drawing fire, I will say that Turtledove's works (his earlier material, at any rate) are some of the better AH I've read. Some of this is likely nostalgia (I was first introduced to him around 13, when I found the Worldwar series while browsing for new Star Trek, Star Wars, and other scifi :), and was also reading everything WWII-related I could find), but a fair amount is respect for his (admittedly sometimes muddled) multi-perspective narratives, that don't always require the background of war or some other conflict to flesh them out, as is the case with a lot of AH, even my own. This is especially true in his Southern Victory works; I've been a Civil War fan for most of my life (even going for a history doctorate centered on the period!), and I enjoy(ed) this series quite a bit thanks to that passion, warts, errors and all. For simplicity's sake, I'll list the ones I've read/own as I see them according to Good, Decent, and Poor categories:

Good
Ruled Britannia
The Daimon
(Short Story)
Joe Steele (the Short Story; NOT the novel, which felt like a seriously unnecessary expansion)
Agent of Byzantium
The Guns of the South


Decent
The Two Georges (despite Harry Harrison's involvement, which Turtledove notes in the acknowledgements :))
In The Presence of Mine Enemies
Days of Infamy
duology
Southern Victory series (some scenes and dialogue do get annoyingly repetitive, but the overall story makes up for this)
Worldwar/ Colonization series (on an individual book basis; some were okay, while others--especially Homeward Bound--just slouched along)
A World of Difference (Felt more scifi than AH, so I was willing to overlook or forgive some issues)
Crosstime Traffic (Seemed better when I read it as a teenager, though I couldn't make it through and thus don't own Valley-Westside War)

Poor
The Man With the Iron Heart (good POD, REALLY hammy plot and characters, with too many unsubtle links to the Iraq War)
The War That Came Early series (Barely made it through the first book, and didn't have the patience to get past the first few chapters of the 2nd)

In short, IMO, Turtledove's written good and crappy AH, mostly the latter in recent years. Everyone's got their own tastes, so I understand if people don't like his material; just please don't trash me for liking some of it.
 

moth

Mothleton
Location
Portsmoth
I wouldn't worry too much, Josh - certainly to me it's oddly fascinating to find someone in an AH forum who didn't grow up reading Worldwar, and I think this is another valuable addition you make to the forum. Turtledove's contributions to the genre are so epoch-making and yuge that it's completely disorientating for me to see someone younger go 'Oh, yeah, saw a video on it' when I could have literally built a smaller bedroom within my bedroom in the early 2000s with all of my Turtledove books.

I think it says something about how dominant Turtledove was in the genre in the 90s and early 2000s but has now rather been superseded as other authors have come into the genre
To be fair to Josh, I don't think she'll ever actually see a physical copy of it here, and indeed I've never read it physically.

I mean it's selling on Kindle now (which is where I've read it), but it is very much a "stumble on the third book in the used bookshop" series now.
 

napoleon IV

The Spectre of Communism Is A Planet-Sized Ghost
Yeah, but there were so many of them

To the point where they all sort of blended together unless they had a really unique USP, like Custer being bug-fuck crazy
All I remember is that Sam Carson got sunburned really easily. It's been a decade since I read those books, but since Turtledove mentioned it 50 billion times it stuck with me.
 

The Red

Well-known member
Published by SLP
or when Churchill has the whole country liberally dosed with mustard gas after warning The Race about it.
I liked that the Big Five suddenly went, "Oh yeah, we can use gas!" collectively after that happened. It reminded me of the scene in Mars Attacks where the President has to be reminded that the US has nukes.

Wasn't she around in at least the first book?
She has a brief cameo in Anielewicz's PoV but that's about it, Jager barely gets a mention. To be honest the romance between the two of them always felt a bit forced, I realise that mututal attraction can transcend ideology and experience but if you're going to have that sort of bizarre match then it should really be explored in a bit more depth. Not that I didn't enjoy their respective PoVs, Jager's was particularly awkward when the Nazis start to lay into the Lizards and you can't help but wonder who you actually want to win.
 

lerk

Well-known member
I don't know where else to ask this, but perhaps this place might be appropriate, but just a question: How far away can a TL's POD should be from the present, to the point where the most plausible option is to have fictional characters play a center stage?
 

napoleon IV

The Spectre of Communism Is A Planet-Sized Ghost
There's so much that could be said about Worldwar and Worldwar: Colonisation that honestly I don't know where to start. Despite its obvious flaws, it was the series that got me into alternate history along with The Guns of the South and the Southern Victory huge-ology.

Something to ruminate on, but one thing that always stuck out to me was the distinct lack of sea-based scenes in Worldwar especially as it seemed like every other scene in Southern Victory was on an aircraft carrier. I know we had the whole 'The Race comes from a desert planet without bodies of water' and 'it takes centuries for them to consider something heretical like using a different kind of screw' but IIRC there are constantly scenes, especially in the latter books when the push towards Chicago takes place, where ships can just transfer supplies over the water because it confuses The Race or something. That always stood out to me - I mean, they weren't stupid, and after a few weeks of 'what's this wet stuff' you'd think they'd be bombing anything that floats.
The Race being unable to learn and develop new technologies got old really quickly. I get that having a human vs. alien conflict where the aliens aren't 10 million years ahead of us technologically requires some justification like that. However, after a certain point it just became The Race grasping the idiot ball for dear life, and I started to feel like that was the only reason they were unable to crush the humans.

The Race becoming ginger-addicts was also really weird, and I was never sure if Turtledove intended for us to take that seriously or if it was supposed to be a comedic part of the series. I hope it was the latter, because an intelligent lizard becoming a hooker in exchange for ginger is impossible to take seriously.
 

moth

Mothleton
Location
Portsmoth
I don't know where else to ask this, but perhaps this place might be appropriate, but just a question: How far away can a TL's POD should be from the present, to the point where the most plausible option is to have fictional characters play a center stage?
Depending on the PoD, 25 years to 50. I know that's broad, but really it's TL to TL.

Really just the rule of thumb is that once you're three generations deep you're going to be writing with purely fictional characters.
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Location
Nu Yawk
Losing the Peace is a prime example of TLs whose author just thinks "hm, how can I make the world be worse?" and not much else put into it.
There's a lot of structural bias towards dystopian TLs.

  • Sudden SHOCK VALUE antics can attract attention more often than small, subtle changes.
  • The fandom is, for whatever reason, more willing to slam utopian changes than dystopian ones, even if they're not as plausible. Perhaps this is because...
  • Dystopias make for very good bludgeons used to strike a political side you don't like.
 
I had a writer friend who wanted to do a story about the Challenger mission if the space shuttle had not exploded. I don't know if she finished it before she died, but I could never figure out what the story would be. I mean, shuttle goes up, missions get performed, shuttle returns, everyone's happy. Where's the story?
 

Jared

Voldemort Junior
Location
Over the rainbow
I had a writer friend who wanted to do a story about the Challenger mission if the space shuttle had not exploded. I don't know if she finished it before she died, but I could never figure out what the story would be. I mean, shuttle goes up, missions get performed, shuttle returns, everyone's happy. Where's the story?
If it was on AH.com, the teacher astronaut who died would go on to have a political career and defeat Hilary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary and then go on to defeat Trump in the general because she campaigned in Wisconsin.

Told in Wikiboxes.