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Alternate History General Discussion

I observed in the least favourite thread that,

I was thinking the exact opposite of surgical, a very general thread for discussion of alternate history. This thread is kind of like a negative, critical expression of a need for that sort of space. It's also a very popular and enduring thread because there's no general AH discussion thread on this forum.
So I'm following my own advice.

I'm not sure I made myself clear on this point originally, as I've had multiple people say 'ah yes, we do need a writers' treehouse thread'.

This is not that thread. This thread is about pure discussion of AH, published and non-published (though let's keep inter-site drama low) writing, reading, experiencing it, what you enjoy and dislike. Upcoming works or that Alexander counterfactual Pliny did. (Was it Pliny? I forget.) You don't have to be a writer, you can be a writer.

I think that's about it. Let's see how this goes.
 

Coiler

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I think I finally feel comfortable talking about the old WW3 TLs that I'd obsessed and raged over (not my finest hour), now that the dust has settled. I've read a lot more, I can see how small it is, and how for every book where a conventional WW3 happens there are probably dozens if not hundreds where it's treated as inevitably nuclear.

In full hindsight, most of them were just tinny Hackett/RSR/technothriller knockoffs, effective fanfiction with all the trends, bandwagon following, varying quality and Sturgeonism that would happen there. Because of that, their flaws, where present, were a lot more understandable and arguably forgivable. If I had to list a commercialized work to compare most of them to after reading so much more later and having such a better view of the whole subgenre, it wouldn't be something bottom-of-the-barrel like Dragon's Fury or the Martin Archer books, it'd be something middling and self-published like Operation Zhukov or maybe the "Effect" books at best and the outlines of those at worst.

Then there were the Red Dawn ones, and these were the ones at the time that angered me the most (there's a reason why the Iceland Scale put "The Soviets invade the continental US" so high). However, I think looking back at it that they really aren't worse than say, Draka fixfics in terms of messing with the tone of the original, and trying to run a soft setting as if it was hard.
 

Time Enough

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I’m surprised there aren’t more 80s timelines etc. Which aren’t one of these three ‘Pop Culture’, ‘Fuldapoclyse’ or ‘And Then Benn wins!’

Like late 80s political times don’t seem to be much of a presence. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough.
 
I’m surprised there aren’t more 80s timelines etc. Which aren’t one of these three ‘Pop Culture’, ‘Fuldapoclyse’ or ‘And Then Benn wins!’

Like late 80s political times don’t seem to be much of a presence. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough.
I started writing a late eighties TL about six years ago, but then my dad died and I never got back into the rhythm. I still work on details of it from time to time but I've not worked on the major parts much.
 

Gary Oswald

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Equally unsurprisingly I think there's a place for non narrative AH. I think it's easier to be bad when there's no characters/story but if you look at something like 'King Theodore's Corsica' which I would consider a gold standard of the faux historical timeline, it's fascinating in the way history books themselves are fascinating. I find history interesting and I find 100 pages of a guy talking about Corsican history interesting when its otl history and so equally so when its atl history.

I'm a little wary that it's continuing after Theodore's Death. I always worry about overextension on projects like this but it's something that I think works. And as such is a good example as to what a working non narrative timeline in the 'for want of a nail' tradition looks like.

Reasons why I think it works.

1) The research has been done. When there's a story and characters you can get away with some handwaving and inaccuracies. When its faux historical, you can't. There has to be new knowledge that your readers do not know for it to be interesting. King Theodore's Corsica has taught me a lot and I think that level of research is required for a timeline like that to work.

2) The divergence is in itself an interesting one. I think 'is this plausible' is much less vital a question 'than does this lead to an interesting alt timeline'. An independent corsica ran by a con man german who wants to fully emancipate the jews is interesting and that interesting destination means getting there isn't dull.

3) There is still narrative tension even without a narrative. It's not told as a narrative, it's told as a history book but you still want plot twists and losses and victories and the ebbs and flows of fortune. You still need vivid characters. A faux history book by nature is dry in tone but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try and make the events described interesting.

4) It knows the story it is telling. History books tend to have a theme, or an event they are covering. Keeping that focus on the topic is part fo what makes them readable and a faux history book needs the same.
 

Time Enough

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I started writing a late eighties TL about six years ago, but then my dad died and I never got back into the rhythm. I still work on details of it from time to time but I've not worked on the major parts much.
Would it be okay if I asked what it was about, or is it not to be told?
 

Gary Oswald

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One of these days I'm going to reread Male Rising and make a massive post on it.

I think it manages to be both my favourite and least favourite timelines of all time. It's where I am with pretty much everything Jonathan Edelstein has written, beautifully poetic prose and genuinely imaginative ideas but a view of history I fundamentally disagree with.
 

Coiler

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One of these days I'm going to reread Male Rising and make a massive post on it.

I think it manages to be both my favourite and least favourite timelines of all time. It's where I am with pretty much everything Jonathan Edelstein has written, beautifully poetic prose and genuinely imaginative ideas but a view of history I fundamentally disagree with.
As a reviewer/blogger, works that bring about those kinds of feelings I've found are the best and most satisfying to write reviews about. More so then ones that you unambiguously liked/loathed, and far far more so than those that are just middingly dull.
 

Charles EP M.

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The 80s at least gets those same few plotlines, there's not any 90s timelines that I'm aware of (rather like Nostalgia seems to have skipped over the bulk of the 90s, it's basically 16-bit games and "ha ha comics had big guns" and that's it). I vaguely want to rectify that with a AH based around "Blobbygate", the Noel's House Party theme parks that all went tits up, all I need is an actual plot, characters, theme...

Let's talk about the Trent Affair, boys.
It was the correct move to have Daria move past her crush on him
 

Time Enough

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The 80s at least gets those same few plotlines, there's not any 90s timelines that I'm aware of (rather like Nostalgia seems to have skipped over the bulk of the 90s, it's basically 16-bit games and "ha ha comics had big guns" and that's it). I vaguely want to rectify that with a AH based around "Blobbygate", the Noel's House Party theme parks that all went tits up, all I need is an actual plot, characters, theme...
Hmm, my Gould timeline may scratch that itch when we reach the eventual 90s. That or if I ever bother writing my Green Left timeline.

But yes, I don’t care about another ‘and then Hubert Humphrey goes Ah Jeez, as Nixon beats up Protestors’ or ‘Gaitskell does his thing’ timelines. I just want that Late 20th century chaos...
 

Coiler

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Stuart Slade, the guy who wrote The Big One and The Salvation War, in addition to making his own forum (tboverse.us), has died today.
Slade's AH work was actually some of the first "niche AH" (as opposed to stuff like Turtledove) that I read. Granted, I learned it existed from critiques, but still. I think its legacy for me has been extremely mixed because while on one hand it started me on a "look at this terrible thing and sneer at it" trend I now regret, it also got me interested in weirder and more out there works of fiction, including AH. Leaving the internet controversy aside for now...

I'll say the original TBO has had its plot done better in RM Meluch's Vati (Germans get the wunderwaffe and do better, but it doesn't save them from being nuked). Even the postwar parts are mostly just worse (and sometimes not even that if you read the bottom of the barrel like I have) executed versions of other AH/technothriller tropes. For instance, erratic viewpoint jumping and clunky infodumps on military equipment are par for the course, which I wasn't really that familiar with when I first read TBO. Likewise for tossing in giant and er, "dubious" space filling empires.

Postwar TBO does still have a few legitimate standout spots. One is its one-sidedness, even by later technothriller standards. Even later Clancy would make a tiny attempt at nominal threat, while this just went right to the stomps. Another is how the worldbuilding works so hard to aid this one-sidedness.
 

Coiler

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Sometimes I wonder if I hold alternate history to a higher standard. I've often criticized many AH works for their lack of "audacity", while for works in other genres I'm fine with standard setups as long as the execution is good.

Maybe it's because I expect more from something where divergence is supposed to be the point?
 
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