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Alternate History General Discussion

Coiler

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A lot of Axis victory settings have the Germans and Japanese falling out, with their alliance being one of convenience that gives way to rivalry postwar. It's one of those things where you can see varying sensible reasons. Genuine plausibility (at the very least you can easily see it happening), the opportunity for more storyline drama, and paralleling the Soviet-western split that started the Cold War.
 

Skinny87

You Say Feudal/I Say Futile
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I remember @Skinny87 reviewing a book where Nazi/Japan split is the backdrop to z "travel in time to change WW2" story (so the protagonists are themselves nasty bastards)
oh god that was a rough one - no good guys to root for at all, and unrelentingly grim. Well-written, but not something to read lightly
 

Christian

Well-known member
Has anyone ever heard of the timeline An Age of Miracles? It’s practically one of the gold standard stories about a resurgent Byzantine Empire. I really like it, but I feel somewhat uncomfortable in that it seems kind of pro-imperialist and the reader base seems to cheer on them conquering large swathes of land.
 

Gary Oswald

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Has anyone ever heard of the timeline An Age of Miracles? It’s practically one of the gold standard stories about a resurgent Byzantine Empire. I really like it, but I feel somewhat uncomfortable in that it seems kind of pro-imperialist and the reader base seems to cheer on them conquering large swathes of land.
One of the first timelines I read.

It's basically mary sue fanfiction with byzantine being the prettiest coolest girl to ever live and getting to dunk on all the canon empires.

But you know that's what people reading a story about a resurgent Byzantine Empire want. It knows its audience.
 

Christian

Well-known member
One of the first timelines I read.

It's basically mary sue fanfiction with byzantine being the prettiest coolest girl to ever live and getting to dunk on all the canon empires.

But you know that's what people reading a story about a resurgent Byzantine Empire want. It knows its audience.
I do feel that there is kind of a double standard sometimes, but it doesn't seem to shy away from depicting the atrocities of empires. I mean, the author himself has stated many times about his absolute hatred of the British Empire after reading so much about them, depicting the Triune Kingdom, which is a combination of Ireland, Northern France and England into one nation, as the bad guys, so I guess it doesn't mindlessly glorify empires.
 

Gary Oswald

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I do feel that there is kind of a double standard sometimes, but it doesn't seem to shy away from depicting the atrocities of empires. I mean, the author himself has stated many times about his absolute hatred of the British Empire after reading so much about them, depicting the Triune Kingdom, which is a combination of Ireland, Northern France and England into one nation, as the bad guys, so I guess it doesn't mindlessly glorify empires.
It is perhaps worth noting at this point that apologists of the British Empire often tend to point to Belgian atrocities as a way of making British rule look good in comparison.

It's a classic way of justifying imperialism, where you make colonial atrocities down to having bad people with bad intentions in charge, rather than being backed into the basis injustice of conquering other people's homes.

But, on the other hand imperialism is a fact of life. You can't really write an historical story that doesn't show imperialism, its the nature of history. And demanding the author adds a sad face every time so we know he doesn't approve, is unlikely to make a story better.

I very much did not think the timeline was any good but its been years since I read it and I stopped halfway through, so I'm not the best judge of this individual case.
 

MAC161

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I've been wondering about this book for a while (more so after I heard about the movie adaptation) and was curious if anyone had recommendations for or against.
 

SpanishSpy

Well-known member
Has anyone ever heard of the timeline An Age of Miracles? It’s practically one of the gold standard stories about a resurgent Byzantine Empire. I really like it, but I feel somewhat uncomfortable in that it seems kind of pro-imperialist and the reader base seems to cheer on them conquering large swathes of land.
It is perhaps worth noting at this point that apologists of the British Empire often tend to point to Belgian atrocities as a way of making British rule look good in comparison.

It's a classic way of justifying imperialism, where you make colonial atrocities down to having bad people with bad intentions in charge, rather than being backed into the basis injustice of conquering other people's homes.

But, on the other hand imperialism is a fact of life. You can't really write an historical story that doesn't show imperialism, its the nature of history. And demanding the author adds a sad face every time so we know he doesn't approve, is unlikely to make a story better.

I very much did not think the timeline was any good but its been years since I read it and I stopped halfway through, so I'm not the best judge of this individual case.
Byzantophiles unironcially believe it was the civilisational gold standard of its era and are not interested in any kind of objectivity on it vis a vis the cultures around it. So yes they will cheer on Byzantium World Tour all day. They really are the Good Guys to them, it's that simple.

However one thing that concerns me is that when we do see timelines from these underrepresented parts of the world, they still focus on empire: imperialism does not become benign when it is done by Al-Andalus, the Ming, the Ottomans or the Mughals. These are fascinating societies- we need more fiction about them. But their prominence speaks to a more fundamental issue, which is that too much of the community is still interested in alternate history as a way to paint as much of the map as possible in the colour of their preferred society.
- @SenatorChickpea in his interview on the SLP blog.
 

Elektronaut

Opinions from the Student Union
Fanboyism is one of the major problems in AH but as I think was alluded to by Gary, history is problematic because human civilisation is problematic.

I don't have a problem with a TL which is foundationally about a longer lasting polity, but I want it to be both balanced/rooted and have an awareness and treatment of how society, religion, technology, trade etc are impacted.
 

SenatorChickpea

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It is perhaps worth noting at this point that apologists of the British Empire often tend to point to Belgian atrocities as a way of making British rule look good in comparison.

It's a classic way of justifying imperialism, where you make colonial atrocities down to having bad people with bad intentions in charge, rather than being backed into the basis injustice of conquering other people's homes.
“Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn't trust the evidence of one's eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest mission civilizatrice.”

Edward Said, Orientalism

Fanboyism is one of the major problems in AH but as I think was alluded to by Gary, history is problematic because human civilisation is problematic.

I don't have a problem with a TL which is foundationally about a longer lasting polity, but I want it to be both balanced/rooted and have an awareness and treatment of how society, religion, technology, trade etc are impacted.
Quite. My objection is not to alternate history about empires: they are an extremely common method of organising complex societies. It is about alternate history that ignores the fact that injustice is a fundamental part of empire; the tyranny is baked in.

This does not mean that we should engage in the kind of moral relativism that says that the USA is the same as the USSR is the same as the Third Riech is the same as the VOC. But we have to acknowledge that the points of distinction will be lost on the victims, and there are always victims.

Reagan's America may have been more benevolent than Brezhnev's USSR, but that's not the natural viewpoint of someone being thrown out of an Argentinian helicopter.

Moreover, the focus on empire too often just stays at the level of the people running it. Empires mixed things up- how about alternate history that focuses on the border lands between empires? You could do a fantastic alternate history story based entirely around a set of 'regional recipes,' each one showing how a different governing regime has led to changes in the way people lived their lives, the food they ate, the people they fell in love with...


That's actually a major problem with the field, I think. For all we mock Turtledove's sex scenes, he at least understands that history is tactile. I enjoy writing in the Lists of Head of State thread as much as the next poster, but history wasn't just a story of governance- it's about people eating, dancing, laughing, singing, fighting, fucking. @SpanishSpy's swing dance article was so good for that reason: the very way people move is culturally constructed.

Actually, you know what? This post has made me want to see three things:

1. An alternate history told through a set of fashion ads. I have no idea who would be gifted enough to do that, but think of the possibilities...
2. The recipe book idea.
3. Here's one that could be a collaborative project- alternate history told through the program of an arts festival! Everyone writes an abstract, no more than two hundred words describing the dancers or actors or artists and their background, and thus the world is described...
 
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kratostatic

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The recipe book idea
Alternate Tastes of London - Andrew Brooks and Ekaterina Odnostorntseva

Here's one that could be a collaborative project- alternate history told through the program of an arts program! Everyone writes an abstract, no more than two hundred words describing the dancers or actors or artists and their background, and thus the world is described...
Might be worth resurrecting the collaborative lists thread for that one; I'd need to think of some ideas there but I'd like to chuck something in.
 
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