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Alternate History General Discussion

Matt

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I have a dumb idea based around this that is basically “Victory Road 2012 but with Octavian Ticu and Constantin Tutu” in a scenario where Ticu remained a boxer and the April 2009 protests turned hot and Russia invaded and both Ticu and Tutu had to emigrate and uh,idk,remained involved in sports til someone in TNA notices them and,like,signs them up to the company,with their match at Victory Road 12 being a culmination of the storyline where they have a feud surrounding national identity-Ticu as the Romanian Unionist and Tutu as the hardcore Moldovinist/Russophile.
What a dystopia- TNA making a storyline that doesn’t suck or involve Hulk Hogan.
 

Coiler

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Reading the (excellent, btw) Friday Night Fighter, which focuses on Gaspar Ortega, made me think of a sort of corollary to @SenatorChickpea 's now-frequently referenced "peasants not kings" statement. I guess applied literally it would be neither a peasant nor a king, but a minor/mid-level noble or middle administrator.

For sports, Ortega reminded me of the "Hall of Very Good" player. The kind of person who stands out even among others in their sport, and is undeniably excellent, but still falls short (sometimes deservedly, sometimes not so) of being considered an all-time immortal. The hunch I had is that such a person is more relatable and affected by divergences than a "king", but capable of more experiences than a "peasant".

I'm also reminded of 1984 of all things, where Winston is in the Outer Party. Neither a king (Inner Party) nor peasant (prole), a viewpoint that worked very well for that book.
 

Gary Oswald

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So re: this larger discussion.

Axis of the Andes by D.G. Valdron has just come out and I bought and read it, as I really liked that timeline. First of all, it's part 1 of a two part series so it isn't a complete story, something that isn't mentioned anywhere and is worth noting.

But I remain taken by the ambition and imagination of the premise (massive war in latin america breaks out in 1940 when the rest of the world is too distracted to do anything about it).

It very much shows the good side to the amateur AH community. Imaginative premises, genuine historical knowledge about more obscure areas of the world and the audacity to create genuinely new things (anyone who remembers the ending of the timeline will know it's not afraid to really mix things up).

And Valdron can write, he creates vivid characters, has a keen eye for dialogue and has a strong narrative voice. He also knows what he's talking about the research is palpable.

But that's kind of the problem. There is a narrative here but it's like 20% of the book, the other 80% is the writer explaining his workings. It reminds me of the worst kind of old school sci-fi where the writer is desperate to get ahead of criticism by spending 10 pages showing how his engine could work and honestly, I'm just happy to assume it does.

There is something just quite weird about a narrative scene, followed by the writer going 'so you may wonder if this is plausible, but given what happened in otl at this date and this date it is', it comes off as insecure frankly, something written by someone who has been nitpicked to death. And thus shows the bad side of these writing communities.

Like around about 40% of this book is just valdron talking about otl south American history, and he's a witty historian, it's interesting, I like reading history books. But you'd wish that he'd tried to get that background into the narrative instead.

It's a narrative story which has no faith in its narrative and constantly falls back to essay writing instead. And again Valdron's a good essay writer as well as a good writer of dialogue but it's a book that's neither one thing or the other, it's not a story and its not really an essay.

It feels like two very good books awkwardly stitched together into a book that's not quite as good as either a full on pulp mens war story about the Ecuadorian army or a full on faux historical book would be.
The second part of Axis of the Andes has just come out and is vastly superior.

There's still the sense that this could be a better book than it is but it's much less exposition and much more narrative and is just far more interesting (one narrative scene in particular is among the best I've ever seen in an AH book). Might actually review this on the blog now, whereas I worried after part 1 that it'd be too negative a review for that.

(I don't put up negative reviews for books that aren't significant enough to handle it, which this isn't, it's self-published. A negative review from us should never be the number one google result for a book. What negative reviews I have put up have been for significant books that can take it.)

Also, having read the timeline this is based on, which skips over a lot of this bit cos he was rushing to the end. I'm delighted with the way he fleshed out his big twist, it was always the highlight of the timeline but it's so much better with room to breathe.

And there's much less of the sense of fascist apologetica that the timeline sometimes had.

In fact that's part of the genius of the two book split. In that book one is told from the point of view of rich white racist landowners with fascist sympathies. One of the things I got frustrated about in the timeline was the way the audience forgot that and viewed them as unambiguous heroes.

The book doesn't, because suddenly book 2 is told from the point of view of poor indian villagers (povs that we didn't really get in the timeline) and it upends a lot of the assumed nobility of the book 1 povs in a real clever way.

I still think the format weakens the book, but there is something very good here.
 

Time Enough

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I'll admit that I don't mind Great Man-ism in alternate history that much, if only because I feel having sharper divergences from OTL is kind of the point.
I think a combination of the two is a good thing, like Adam Curtis who views history through a mixture of important thinkers and mass movements, both treated as equally relevant.
 

Alex Richards

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I'll admit that I don't mind Great Man-ism in alternate history that much, if only because I feel having sharper divergences from OTL is kind of the point.
I genuinely think it's swung too far against the Theory in the academic consensus. Yes you can make the argument that it's underlying social and material factors that are the reason for concentrating power in the hands of a small number of people, but really that's just the explanation for why who those people are becomes incredibly important.
 

Charles EP M.

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Time Enough

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Whilst the Difference Engine is a classic of the Alternate History and Steampunk genre it is based upon the flimsy hypothesis that Lord Byron would create a Pro-Industrial Radical party which...is an odd one if you know anything about Lord Byron, the man who famously defend Luddites in Parliament (not for class struggle reasons obviously).
 

Time Enough

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What if Byron thought that if he created the party, he could get sex out of it?
“Byron, your the only Radical who could possibly become Prime Minister”
“Cool, cool, cool...can I have a three way whilst John Hobhouse looks on?”
“Sure”
“Then I’m in!”

I do remember thinking of an idea for a ‘Lord Byron as PM’ world and it would have included;
-A large Green Belt zone because Byron wants miles of forest god damn it
-Bicycles becoming popular because of the lack of cars due to slower industrialisation
-Byron dies of Syphillis in the early 1850s but a doctor kills him with an overdose of drugs. He also has many illegitimate off spring around the globe.
...
...
Look I lived in the town he’s buried in for my entire developing youth, I think I’m allowed to go ‘Maybe a Radical Lord who loved sex would have a mixed effect on Britain’s future’ etc.
 

Time Enough

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I do find the logical determinism of historical deaths does pervade Alternate History even when there quite avoidable or dependent on stuff like cancer occurring etc.

Floyd B. Olson or Mark Ashton could be alive if things changed slightly in there body and even a slight change could ensure there survival etc.
 

Time Enough

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I was just thinking, there’s interesting dilemma for Alternate Historians to ponder when using historical figures and characters.

For example, if you had a Late Victorian era Alternate History you could have an appearance from Jack The Ripper etc. but doing so could seem distasteful and perpetuating the allure around the figure instead of remembering the women who were brutally murdered.

Another example is I have considered the possibility of an Alternate History British Conspiracy Thriller with Daniel Morgan as the protagonist but it never got far due to the realisation that it would be kind of tasteless and his family have already suffered enough.

Generally I would be interested to ponder where the line is between interesting Alternate History and exploiting historical figures begins etc.
 

Christian

Well-known member
Something odd about alternate history is that it seems really pro-monarchist. Seriously, I’ve read so many threads on the French Revolution ending in the king’s advantage and so many saying that things like the Bastille not falling or having the deputies or some of them arrested are good things.
 

Indicus

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Something odd about alternate history is that it seems really pro-monarchist. Seriously, I’ve read so many threads on the French Revolution ending in the king’s advantage and so many saying that things like the Bastille not falling or having the deputies or some of them arrested are good things.
It’s not really odd, alternate history always appeals to those who feel they’ve lost in the run of history.
 

Charles EP M.

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Generally I would be interested to ponder where the line is between interesting Alternate History and exploiting historical figures begins etc.
That's a good question - usually "time", but what's your cutoff? In Daniel Morgan's case, he was killed thirty-four years ago and I think that would usually be considered fine (story depending), it's the same distance between the Kennedy assassination and Red Dwarf's episode where Kennedy shoots himself. But in Morgan's case it's an unsolved murder that has kept coming back up due to collapsed trials, tabloid scandals, police corruption etc, it's still going on this year, it's not 'past' yet.

Compare to Ian Rankin's Black and Blue having the serial killer Bible John appear, moving through the book unnoticed by Rebus and escaping at the end - also an unsolved murder from the past (it's suspected another, captured killer was him but that wasn't true in '97), this being used for a contemporary crime novel, but there was no long-running corruption or foul-up, Bible John just got lucky, so it's entirely something from the past and seems to have been considered fair game as a result. Or in AH cases, Kim Newman had Ed Gein running around in Back In The USSA without any complaints, and the online trope-creator of political murderers, I can't remember the name offhand but it had Ted Bundy becoming president, I don't think that had criticisms of appropriateness (the trope it caused did IIRC)
 

Time Enough

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That's a good question - usually "time", but what's your cutoff? In Daniel Morgan's case, he was killed thirty-four years ago and I think that would usually be considered fine (story depending), it's the same distance between the Kennedy assassination and Red Dwarf's episode where Kennedy shoots himself. But in Morgan's case it's an unsolved murder that has kept coming back up due to collapsed trials, tabloid scandals, police corruption etc, it's still going on this year, it's not 'past' yet.
I think another distinction is the ‘fame’ of the victim, like Kennedy was the President of the U.S.A whilst Daniel Morgan was just some guy who happened to be a Private Detective. I’m always remind with the Kennedy assassination about J.G.Ballard pointing out how a frame from the Zaprudner film was used as the background to a fashion show, Kennedy’s Death has been commercialised before Alternate Historians got to it.

Or in AH cases, Kim Newman had Ed Gein running around in Back In The USSA without any complaints, and the online trope-creator of political murderers, I can't remember the name offhand but it had Ted Bundy becoming president, I don't think that had criticisms of appropriateness (the trope it caused did IIRC)
Good point, I think if a killer was caught or vanished without any dodgy stuff involved it feels more apt to use them I guess. I think President Bundy is a bit tasteless but I will mention that I did like the alternate history where he became this National Political Commentator because it was less ‘garish’ to me.
 

0.42@632

Active member
Something odd about alternate history is that it seems really pro-monarchist. Seriously, I’ve read so many threads on the French Revolution ending in the king’s advantage and so many saying that things like the Bastille not falling or having the deputies or some of them arrested are good things.
Also the associated pro-imperialism and the idealized non-racist empires
 
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