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Review: The Big One Series

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Published by SLP
Location
Nu Yawk
Pronouns
He/Him
I loved getting to review a series that was one of the first big "off the beaten [ie, Turtledove/Conroy-style] path" alternate histories that I read. It was especially fascinating to see how time and seeing how the genre developed changed my views on it.
 

Tovarich

a sinking dumpling. He/Him.
Biggest flaw I found with the book was editing. As a reader, I already knew the book began as a series of online posts, so eg, when out of nowhere it has a Goodyear Corsair pilot especially enjoying demolishing Notre Dame cathedral with 20mm cannon, I knew that was Slade tipping his hat to an online hardcore atheist mate. A casual reader will have wondered wtf was going on and had they turned two pages by mistake, missing some character backstory. Ditto the inserted USN CPO who continually demands of ratings* "What are you, some kind of Democrat?!"

However, I found the actual aerial combat scenes mostly as good as anything in, for example, the 633 Squadron books I devoured as a teenager. And I very much liked the anthropomorphised aircraft "talking" with their crew, the humans wondering "Eh? Did I really hear that?"
It wasn't overblown and was a very nice unique touch.


*(Does the USN say "ratings" for enlisted crew? I've no idea.)
 

M_Kresal

I am nerd, hear me bore.
Published by SLP
Location
North Alabama
I have to admit that, as terrible as it sounds, the review has raised a slightly morbid curiosity in wanting to seek the series out. Or did until I got to the TV Tropes listing for it which makes it sound even more bonkers.
 

TimothyC

Member
A bit of background first:
  1. I internet-knew Stuart from about 2005.
  2. My first (and only) in-person meet with the guy was in 2008.
  3. He and I would semi-regularly converse on the phone over the last five years or so.
  4. I ran tech support for his community for the better part of a decade until the end of 2020Q3 (the community took a series of hard right turns in 2008-2014, followed by a hard turn stupid/trumpist in 2015-16; there was some reversion over '17-'19, but not enough, and the fact that Stuart wasn't checking his email meant that people couldn't get in contact with him to join, which meant that the outright plagerism by the member upon whom the crazy navy NCO was based going unpunished was the last straw for me; I gave notice and ejected right before the system crashed).
  5. I've got some of the TBO books in storage.

Stuart was a mixed bag. He could be exceedingly affable in person, while at the same time going off in weird directions. His general inability to separate his insert characters from himself was always problematic.

As for the poor quality of editing on the initial book - well, that's all on Slade. He sent the wrong copy to the publisher/printer, and thus the first copy (and I honestly don't know if it was ever fixed) didn't have the corrections that were made. That doesn't excuse the plot issues, the pacing issues, or anything other than the lack of copy-editing, which was often seen as poor copy-editing.

The first book (TBO) was originally quite tongue-in-cheek, and had it stayed as internet-AH, it would have been fine. It is hard to describe the issues with the series without getting into the issues with the man, and oh boy, do those exist.

I think fundamentally, TBO, and to a lesser or greater degree TSW should be perceived not so much as AH works, but as 'Period techno-thrillers without the thrill as told by the last son of a British aristocratic house through the lens of early 21st century atheistic conservatism.'
 
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Tovarich

a sinking dumpling. He/Him.
I ran tech support for his community for the better part of a decade until the end of 2020Q3 (the community took a series of hard right turns in 2008-2014, followed by a hard turn stupid/trumpist in 2015-16; there was some reversion over '17-'19, but not enough, and the fact that Stuart wasn't checking his email meant that people couldn't get in contact with him to join,
Ah, I wondered why I couldn't get a TBO membership (so I could continue following JN1's excellent The Last War* story) when the fiction went behind-closed-doors.

Embarrassing to admit, but up until just now I thought that Slade had me on a personal ban-list for being left-wing on AH.com. I now know it was everyone being ignored, and my ego is rightfully deflated, D'OH!


*(Which I still cross my fingers he may bring over here one day.)
 

TimothyC

Member
Ah, I wondered why I couldn't get a TBO membership (so I could continue following JN1's excellent The Last War* story) when the fiction went behind-closed-doors.
Yeah. I didn't find this out until after he died. I really should have known better, but I just expected that he would check it for some reason...

I may ask JN1 about posting it someplace (I even did a pair of factfiles for him), because I ejected from the remnant of Slade's place on the evening of January 6th...
 

Alex Richards

A crack Papal-Venetian-Dutch Negotiating Team
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
Yeah. I didn't find this out until after he died. I really should have known better, but I just expected that he would check it for some reason...

I may ask JN1 about posting it someplace (I even did a pair of factfiles for him), because I ejected from the remnant of Slade's place on the evening of January 6th...
Hang on, you mean he has, actually, in RL actually just died?

Because that's... well tragic and also makes this a really bizarre coincidence that we've just posted a review of his work.
 

Hendryk

Nothing ever ends
Published by SLP
Location
France
It sounds exactly as trashy, jingoistic and contrived as I had come to expect from lurking on Slade's forum some years ago, back when the political stuff was visible to non-members.
 
I enjoyed aspects of some of the stories in the setting. I just didn't get others - the immortals, the talking planes, etc.

I think that board was the first place I posted a piece of fiction to, but the politics of the place drove me away long before Trump came along.
 

Nick Sumner

Recovering RAW - TIFF snob
Published by SLP
Location
Halifax, Canada
'Period techno-thrillers without the thrill as told by the last son of a British aristocratic house through the lens of early 21st century atheistic conservatism.'
Wow. Now that's a summation!

TimothyC, may I ask what your user name was on HPCA?

I have to say TBO was one of my incentives to stop tinkering about with alt-hist scenarios and actually write Drake's Drum, though I too was amazed that anyone could look at the history of the United States in the 20th Century and think; 'Well, the US could have done better.'

The immortal daemons and talking aeroplanes didn't sit well with me either. I decided to give the idea time in case I reversed my initial impression but in retrospect, I think they detracted somewhat from the story. I stopped reading after the third book; but that said, I learned a lot from Stuart Slade. He was extraordinarily knowledgeable and had an ability to express complex ideas clearly.

I also found the 'hard right turn' the HPCA board took around 2016 difficult to come to terms with. At around the same time there seemed to be many fewer posts that I found instructive which is why I only rarely lurk or post there any more.
 

TimothyC

Member
Wow. Now that's a summation!

TimothyC, may I ask what your user name was on HPCA?
I started out as TimothyC, and then changed it to Commandant Ours Polaire.

I learned a lot from Stuart Slade. He was extraordinarily knowledgeable and had an ability to express complex ideas clearly.
I'd say the second is what he was better at, but looking back, he tended to over-reach on some of his knowledge, and there was a fair bit of embellishment going on.

I also found the 'hard right turn' the HPCA board took around 2016 difficult to come to terms with. At around the same time there seemed to be many fewer posts that I found instructive which is why I only rarely lurk or post there any more.
Personally, I think the 2005-16 turn wasn't so much hard right, as it was hard-stupid (lack of new members, and a driving away of the old ones by certain members who were allowed to be brash to the point of insulting made what was already an echo-chamber prone community an outright echo chamber). There was a lot of very pro-Trump sentiment from people who should have known better. I flat out ejected (left, and asked for my posts and account to be deleted) when support for the insurrection at the Capitol was being voiced.

I should have ejected years ago, but I fell into a sunk-cost trap.
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Published by SLP
Location
Nu Yawk
Pronouns
He/Him
The immortal daemons and talking aeroplanes didn't sit well with me either. I decided to give the idea time in case I reversed my initial impression but in retrospect, I think they detracted somewhat from the story.
I can see why you'd think that way, but I personally found that the immortals being there made it well, stand out more. At least it was a concept that a better author could have done a lot more with.
 

Nick Sumner

Recovering RAW - TIFF snob
Published by SLP
Location
Halifax, Canada
Jeez, I never even saw support for the Capitol insurrection, but to be honest, there are plenty of members there whose posts I don't bother to read and I rarely ventured on to the current politics board.
 
I can only recall the broad strokes of the storyline, but think it's interesting that despite the presence of immortal demon advisor types, the world in that timeline is quite dystopic in comparison to our (presumably immortal-free) own timeline.
 

JN1

Member
(so I could continue following JN1's excellent The Last War* story)
I feel my ears burning! I do also post the story on NavWeaps if anyone is looking for it.

Jeez, I never even saw support for the Capitol insurrection, but to be honest, there are plenty of members there whose posts I don't bother to read and I rarely ventured on to the current politics board.
I never saw explicit support for invading the Capitol, but I did see a lot of support for the idea that the election had been 'stolen'. I think there was a hell of a lot of cognitive dissonance. Even some the more 'reasonable' were victim blaming the other side for the attempted insurrection.
I did actually seriously consider bailing from the site too.

On Stuart Slade, whatever his politics, which I generally disagreed with, he was always very nice and a total gentleman when I dealt with him personally. I will always be thankful to him for giving TLW its first proper home. Whatever issues I've ever had with TBO, I've always enjoyed reading it. I think being a member of HPCA made me a better writer. I did also get two name checks in two of Slade's TBO stories. 😄 I did also appreciate that some of my ideas for the UK in the TBOverse did become cannon.
 
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