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Alternate History General Discussion

0.42@632

Active member
Also an authoritarian country which strongly pushed for space colonization/Moon colonization as the escape hatch for nuclear war instead of bunkers and somehow managed to sustain a survivable population in sublunar tunnels or a "donut city" or something after It Went Up would be interesting to see, like Ad Astra Per Aspera minus the FTL, coupled with Undersea and Underground cities.
 
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Coiler

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Also an authoritarian country which strongly pushed for space colonization/Moon colonization as the escape hatch for nuclear war instead of bunkers and somehow managed to sustain a survivable population in sublunar tunnels or a "donut city" or something after It Went Up would be interesting to see
That's actually the plot of the Survivalist series by Jerry Ahern. The US launches a suspended animation group of "settlers" scheduled to return hundreds of years later on a giant orbit, and the end of the first arc/beginning of the second is centered around ensuring it's safe return.

(It also would have been a better stopping point for the whole series than Ahern just retconning in one superbunker after another before doing ANOTHER time skip that wipes away any trace of scarcity and turns the final few books into pure sci fi. Although those books did give us Hitler's dead body in an upstate New York bunker, so they weren't all bad)
 

varyar

sub-creator
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That's actually the plot of the Survivalist series by Jerry Ahern. The US launches a suspended animation group of "settlers" scheduled to return hundreds of years later on a giant orbit, and the end of the first arc/beginning of the second is centered around ensuring it's safe return.

(It also would have been a better stopping point for the whole series than Ahern just retconning in one superbunker after another before doing ANOTHER time skip that wipes away any trace of scarcity and turns the final few books into pure sci fi. Although those books did give us Hitler's dead body in an upstate New York bunker, so they weren't all bad)
... I disclaim all knowledge of the location of the Führerleiche.
 

Gary Oswald

Old and Foolish now
Sea Lion Press staff
Published by SLP
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So Malê Rising by Jonathan Edelstein. Started in January 2012, ended in December 2015 after the best part of 400 updates. Since then there's been various post narrative updates, guest posts and spinoffs. And it's probably the most influential work of amateur AH of that time period. It's what first sold me on ah.com, it's massively imitated and hugely popular. It was a thunderbolt in the community.

It also kind of does a lot of the things this thread complains amateur AH never does, it cares about ground voice views, it has vivid characters, it's utopian, its more interested in culture than war etc..

The first impression is the sheer ambition of the story. It covers the world from 1840 to 2015, which is a titanic undertaking just by itself. But MR covers the entire world, it cares deeply about the Solomon Islands and Paraguay and Nigeria and Hungary alike. It's the first timeline of its type that was focused so much on the third world, Africa in particular.

But it's not just that either, it's also ambitious in that it aimed to create an utterly unrecognisable world. In this timelines 21st century, the very concept of the state doesn't really exist. Countries are a matter of citizenship, rather than borders, with different laws for different ethnic groupings and republics and monarchies existing in the same territory but having different populations.

The highest ambition of any work of AH is to create something genuinely alien and MR tries so hard to do that. It isn't just 'what if Germany as France' but 'what if Germany as something no country in otl ever was'.

So in many way's given how high the aims are, it would be as triumph if it just stumbled over the finish line.

But it does more than just that. This is a story that cares about people as people rather than just as pawns to shuffle about. They fuck, and dance and eat and write and love and live and its the humanity on all sides that shines through. Some stories in a mixed narrative-faux essay style, such as Axis on Andes, often feel insecure about the narrative and retreat to the essays again and again even when the narrative is the better bit. MR doesn't do that, it use the faux history books to join dots but the writer relishes his characters and his story. And he is showy in his prose. There's a swagger to this that AH rarely has.

One of the things that separated this story at the time and still does is the 'literary updates' excerpts from books written in this timeline, from dozens of different authors from tens of different cultures. It's an astonishingly confident thing for one man to try and mimic german adventure stories and malian oral tales and make each feel like they're from different voices but equally beautiful. But he pulls it off.

He pulls it off to such an extent, that he actually fleshed out one of the excerpts (an afro futuristic sci-fi story) into an actual book and got it published in american sci-fi magazines.

It's also in a genre often fond of dystopias, a liberal utopia, which depicts a world far more multi polar with much less inequality, a larger range of globally influential cultures, and a much greater spread of wealth, where European minorities unions are stronger and the people are more politically capable of standing up to oppression.

But to an extent this runs into the same problem that all utopias do.

Which is it's very much post history. This is the system that works and so it just keeps working and there's no challenges to it, no new crisis. Just good times still rolling. So the last 50 years of the timeline don't really have a climax, its just the same point (everything is good now) being repeated again and again. It's often beautifully told, but its repetitive and feels extraneous.

And well, you have to buy into a liberal consensus to believe in this utopia. I remember a marxist-leninist on here becoming disenchanted with the timeline because it believes that if you pass the right laws and make the right protests, you can solve what he viewed as the innate problems with capitalism and globalism. And if you don't, it falls flat.

And that idea, that power structures designed to enrich the powerful and disenfranchise the powerless can be entirely redeemed if only they are reformed to give the powerless more of a say with in them, perpetuates this timeline, not just in terms of the global economic system or multiculturalism but in terms of monarchys and colonial empires. Ultimately the happy ending Edelstein offers includes huge parts of Africa remaining in colonial empires. There's this belief that any structure can be an uplifting one with good actors involved that I'm unsure about.

It's particularly uncomfortable with say the Herero, who in this timeline become 'good germans' and join the german empire as equals, remaining a part of it. And sure, that's the promise colonialism was often sold on but in real life the Herero were lined up and shot and used as slave labour and sent to concentration camps.

By trying to find the best possible result for Africa you end up portraying various states as their best possible side. When you have on one side a German official declaring that every single man, woman and child of the Herero was to be exterminated and on the other a German official saying the Herero are Germans and should have the full rights of that. Well the latter is a much better outcome for the Herero but the former is what happened. And if you paint every colonial relationship as being the latter not the former, in order to get that richer post colonial Africa, than you're saying things about colonialism that you maybe don't mean to.

Which is the other point, I don't really buy a lot of the characterisation of societies and people, I don't recognise this German Empire and there's just this whitewashing of various figures so we get that happy ending. @SpanishSpy coined the term 'trinketization' for knowledge that is broad but not deep and there's a lot of that here. Honestly I think MR is very lucky to be primarily about Africa and not Europe because if these character's were better known, he'd get ripped to hell on accuracy.

Like he does a thing on the Sudan and introduce the man who would be the Mahdi, because hey he's someone I've heard of, but the Mahdi is a village leader who organises strikes to force reform of the Egyptian system. And, like no, that's not remotely who he was. It's the name but nothing else and there's no real insight into the actual Sudanese situation. The writer just doesn't want the Mahdist War to happen so suddenly it's very different.

It's the flipside of the ambition, it's that he tries to cover every society in the world and nobody can ever know them all that well so you get Zanzibar doing this and the Zulus doing this and Msiri doing this and if you know nothing about this part of the world, you're like cool but if you do, you know he's using the name but nothing else really. Msiri is working for a white governor in the congo, which he refused in otl, ok then. Zanzibar is enforcing the slave trade ban, which they thought to the death in otl, ok then. Tippu Tip is a humanist concerned about the fate of his people, really? The Zulus are happy to accept British overlordship without fighting, sure. The Kru just want to be Liberian citizens and its all ok if the franchise is extended to them, nevermind the actual argument was all about trade visas (ok I also used this one, but both of us are stretching massively).

The politics at a grand scale just feels like pieces being moved around to get certain results with no real attempt to deal with the personalities or even agendas that existed.

But whenever you get frustrated, you get to a scene Edelstein actually wants to write, where say a Nigerian soldier falls in love with a Rwandan prophet and it's charming and sincere in trying to depict existing cultures adapt to new times and you get why this was so powerful as a story.

It's a fairytale, it's a version of history and politics that I simply don't buy, but it's a beautiful fairytale. It sells a vision of the world and makes me want to believe in it.

It's still the benchmark of what I would like to achieve in my own writing.
 

0.42@632

Active member
So Malê Rising by Jonathan Edelstein. Started in January 2012, ended in December 2015 after the best part of 400 updates. Since then there's been various post narrative updates, guest posts and spinoffs. And it's probably the most influential work of amateur AH of that time period. It's what first sold me on ah.com, it's massively imitated and hugely popular. It was a thunderbolt in the community.

It also kind of does a lot of the things this thread complains amateur AH never does, it cares about ground voice views, it has vivid characters, it's utopian, its more interested in culture than war etc..

The first impression is the sheer ambition of the story. It covers the world from 1840 to 2015, which is a titanic undertaking just by itself. But MR covers the entire world, it cares deeply about the Solomon Islands and Paraguay and Nigeria and Hungary alike. It's the first timeline of its type that was focused so much on the third world, Africa in particular.

But it's not just that either, it's also ambitious in that it aimed to create an utterly unrecognisable world. In this timelines 21st century, the very concept of the state doesn't really exist. Countries are a matter of citizenship, rather than borders, with different laws for different ethnic groupings and republics and monarchies existing in the same territory but having different populations.

The highest ambition of any work of AH is to create something genuinely alien and MR tries so hard to do that. It isn't just 'what if Germany as France' but 'what if Germany as something no country in otl ever was'.

So in many way's given how high the aims are, it would be as triumph if it just stumbled over the finish line.

But it does more than just that. This is a story that cares about people as people rather than just as pawns to shuffle about. They fuck, and dance and eat and write and love and live and its the humanity on all sides that shines through. Some stories in a mixed narrative-faux essay style, such as Axis on Andes, often feel insecure about the narrative and retreat to the essays again and again even when the narrative is the better bit. MR doesn't do that, it use the faux history books to join dots but the writer relishes his characters and his story. And he is showy in his prose. There's a swagger to this that AH rarely has.

One of the things that separated this story at the time and still does is the 'literary updates' excerpts from books written in this timeline, from dozens of different authors from tens of different cultures. It's an astonishingly confident thing for one man to try and mimic german adventure stories and malian oral tales and make each feel like they're from different voices but equally beautiful. But he pulls it off.

He pulls it off to such an extent, that he actually fleshed out one of the excerpts (an afro futuristic sci-fi story) into an actual book and got it published in american sci-fi magazines.

It's also in a genre often fond of dystopias, a liberal utopia, which depicts a world far more multi polar with much less inequality, a larger range of globally influential cultures, and a much greater spread of wealth, where European minorities unions are stronger and the people are more politically capable of standing up to oppression.

But to an extent this runs into the same problem that all utopias do.

Which is it's very much post history. This is the system that works and so it just keeps working and there's no challenges to it, no new crisis. Just good times still rolling. So the last 50 years of the timeline don't really have a climax, its just the same point (everything is good now) being repeated again and again. It's often beautifully told, but its repetitive and feels extraneous.

And well, you have to buy into a liberal consensus to believe in this utopia. I remember a marxist-leninist on here becoming disenchanted with the timeline because it believes that if you pass the right laws and make the right protests, you can solve what he viewed as the innate problems with capitalism and globalism. And if you don't, it falls flat.

And that idea, that power structures designed to enrich the powerful and disenfranchise the powerless can be entirely redeemed if only they are reformed to give the powerless more of a say with in them, perpetuates this timeline, not just in terms of the global economic system or multiculturalism but in terms of monarchys and colonial empires. Ultimately the happy ending Edelstein offers includes huge parts of Africa remaining in colonial empires. There's this belief that any structure can be an uplifting one with good actors involved that I'm unsure about.

It's particularly uncomfortable with say the Herero, who in this timeline become 'good germans' and join the german empire as equals, remaining a part of it. And sure, that's the promise colonialism was often sold on but in real life the Herero were lined up and shot and used as slave labour and sent to concentration camps.

By trying to find the best possible result for Africa you end up portraying various states as their best possible side. When you have on one side a German official declaring that every single man, woman and child of the Herero was to be exterminated and on the other a German official saying the Herero are Germans and should have the full rights of that. Well the latter is a much better outcome for the Herero but the former is what happened. And if you paint every colonial relationship as being the latter not the former, in order to get that richer post colonial Africa, than you're saying things about colonialism that you maybe don't mean to.

Which is the other point, I don't really buy a lot of the characterisation of societies and people, I don't recognise this German Empire and there's just this whitewashing of various figures so we get that happy ending. @SpanishSpy coined the term 'trinketization' for knowledge that is broad but not deep and there's a lot of that here. Honestly I think MR is very lucky to be primarily about Africa and not Europe because if these character's were better known, he'd get ripped to hell on accuracy.

Like he does a thing on the Sudan and introduce the man who would be the Mahdi, because hey he's someone I've heard of, but the Mahdi is a village leader who organises strikes to force reform of the Egyptian system. And, like no, that's not remotely who he was. It's the name but nothing else and there's no real insight into the actual Sudanese situation. The writer just doesn't want the Mahdist War to happen so suddenly it's very different.

It's the flipside of the ambition, it's that he tries to cover every society in the world and nobody can ever know them all that well so you get Zanzibar doing this and the Zulus doing this and Msiri doing this and if you know nothing about this part of the world, you're like cool but if you do, you know he's using the name but nothing else really. Msiri is working for a white governor in the congo, which he refused in otl, ok then. Zanzibar is enforcing the slave trade ban, which they thought to the death in otl, ok then. Tippu Tip is a humanist concerned about the fate of his people, really? The Zulus are happy to accept British overlordship without fighting, sure. The Kru just want to be Liberian citizens and its all ok if the franchise is extended to them, nevermind the actual argument was all about trade visas (ok I also used this one, but both of us are stretching massively).

The politics at a grand scale just feels like pieces being moved around to get certain results with no real attempt to deal with the personalities or even agendas that existed.

But whenever you get frustrated, you get to a scene Edelstein actually wants to write, where say a Nigerian soldier falls in love with a Rwandan prophet and it's charming and sincere in trying to depict existing cultures adapt to new times and you get why this was so powerful as a story.

It's a fairytale, it's a version of history and politics that I simply don't buy, but it's a beautiful fairytale. It sells a vision of the world and makes me want to believe in it.

It's still the benchmark of what I would like to achieve in my own writing.
His reformism shows up in the funniest of places (the picture for the Portuguese Fools' War is of a mixed-race FRELIMO Unit). And I get the desire to preserve (1) traditional cultures and (2) cultural ties between nations (a Europe-in-Africa and Asia-in-Africa to complement Africa- and Asia- in Europe) but it ends up whitewashing the fact that the European settlers live on stolen land, that reaction to that is inevitable - and some degree of idealized nativism is inevitable

Also the irritating inability to treat secular philosophies as anything besides irrelevant, and the absence of a ferocious religious reaction (to various Liberation Theologies) that makes OTL fundamentalism look like the Unitarians.
I mean the original fundamentalism of the Protestants arose in reaction to the "Social Gospel" (a common criticism by evangelicals of mainline churches being their focus on purely this-worldly justice and action) and modernist focus on demythologizing the Bible, promoting (to a small degree - correct me if i'm wrong) gender and racial liberalism.

This is the system that works and so it just keeps working and there's no challenges to it, no new crisis. Just good times still rolling
To be fair, many of his countries still have issues to work out (e.g Colombia's socially conservative welfare state has issues with women's rights, India is still a 3rd world country etc.) just no real inter-state conflict anymore. And his extension of the timeline into 2100 (as a flash-forward) still shows climate change as a real issue etc.
And the absence of a vicious cultural Chauvinist movement (that has less focus on race) is weirdly grating - prejudices can shift from easily-defeatable racism to more subtle "The Western Cultures are the spark of creativity - even the Mal@ carried it through their veneration of the Rights of Man - and without Modernity- which originated and was sustained by western cultural ideals like the Enlightenment - none of the nonWestern world would be free from internal or external colonialism and y'all need to appreciate this by assimilating" rhetoric.

In comparison, EBR's Separated at Birth has countries which at best are morally gray (the weirdness of Situationist China aside) and do horrible things out of necessity but when Earth "falls" to the Drakians you can at least feel for the Selenites and their vision of (liberal, capitalist) democracy.

Hell, my own vision of an "ideal world" centers more on a secular focus on scientific progress and a need for ,yes more global representation, but also the clean, often bloody break from the past - Space Creoles and Artificial Fusion Cuisine and Rational Underground Cities all watched over by the Loving Grace - utopia is in the eye of the beholder
 
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M_Kresal

I am nerd, hear me bore.
Published by SLP
Location
North Alabama
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)
Newman also, speaking of both AH and @Time Enough's post, also used the Ripper as a central plot point in Anno Dracula. IIRC, based on the reading I did on the Ripper case and a recent viewing of Lucy Worsley's A Very British Murder series on BritBox, the Ripper murders were already being turned into songs and entertainment as they were happening. It took a decade roughly for the first JFK assassination works of fiction to start appearing (I'm thinking Tears of Autumn and Richard Condon's Winter Kills), though speculation being rife about it prior to that point paved the way for them. Matt Ruff's The Mirage appeared a decade after 9/11, too, for that matter, as a work of AH.
 

lerk

A Cruel Incel's Thesis

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Published by SLP
Location
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Pronouns
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I've done a Fuldapocalypse review of specifically the postwar AANW. Especially because it was deliberately not included in the SLP published version, I consider it a separate work worthy of its own separate review.

Anyway, I still have a lot of hesitance towards reviewing online TLs, but felt I could go ahead with this one because A: It's high-profile, B: It's long since finished, and C: I felt I could use the review to say something meaningful about internet alternate history.
 

Skinny87

You Say Feudal/I Say Futile
Patreon supporter
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Also an authoritarian country which strongly pushed for space colonization/Moon colonization as the escape hatch for nuclear war instead of bunkers and somehow managed to sustain a survivable population in sublunar tunnels or a "donut city" or something after It Went Up would be interesting to see, like Ad Astra Per Aspera minus the FTL, coupled with Undersea and Underground cities.
@MAC161 has a book based on that exact premise!
 

Gary Oswald

Old and Foolish now
Sea Lion Press staff
Published by SLP
Pronouns
he/him
I've done a Fuldapocalypse review of specifically the postwar AANW. Especially because it was deliberately not included in the SLP published version, I consider it a separate work worthy of its own separate review.

Anyway, I still have a lot of hesitance towards reviewing online TLs, but felt I could go ahead with this one because A: It's high-profile, B: It's long since finished, and C: I felt I could use the review to say something meaningful about internet alternate history.
Enjoyed that Colin. Like you say there is something genuinely unique and bizarre about the format of that kind of AH timeline. It's the background notes to a story without the story attached.

I tend to be more positive than you are on that sort of thing, because as I keep saying, I think there's value in things that aren't publishable just as thought exercises and I think in my head I view that sort of thing as like practicing football vollies by playing a game of one touch, it's not a sport but judging it by a sport's standards is unfair because that's not what it's meant to be. It's just a bit of fun that helps you hone some skills.

But well, that requires that you also play the sport. It's a weird culture where it's all 'one touch' training games and no actual football which is what ah forums often are.

I don't know if I'm more selective about what I read or the culture has changed, but it does feel like that's not the case so much now as it was 6 years ago. There's much more actual narratives and much more faux history books, which attempt to do a full academic description rather than just the year:event style.
 

Christian

Well-known member
I’ve been thinking of writing a timeline, yet something that stops me is the thought of “Wait, wouldn’t this stop that?” “Why would he act or respond like that?” You know, questions of just how darn plausible it is, but having looked through here, it seems most people here think concerns of plausibility shouldn’t be a big deal so long as it makes just enough sense in the story and trying to make it extremely plausible would just turn it into a snore-fest.
 

Gary Oswald

Old and Foolish now
Sea Lion Press staff
Published by SLP
Pronouns
he/him
I’ve been thinking of writing a timeline, yet something that stops me is the thought of “Wait, wouldn’t this stop that?” “Why would he act or respond like that?” You know, questions of just how darn plausible it is, but having looked through here, it seems most people here think concerns of plausibility shouldn’t be a big deal so long as it makes just enough sense in the story and trying to make it extremely plausible would just turn it into a snore-fest.
Yes.

But part of that is picking a format that doesn't foreground the implausibilties. So a faux history book demands more historic rigor than a romance with the political change as background.

To go back to MR, its much easier to forgive the historical liberties when we're getting a first person story from a senegalese mechanic in tokyo then when we go big picture and get a dry essay ln egyptian ambitions in the great lakes.

This is a writers community and we tend to gravitate to stories. And yeah 100%, suspension of disbelief is the way to go on those. A cool interesting but impossible setting is way better than a dull plausible one.

But that requires characters and prose and narrative.

If you don't have that, I think its often bad advice to go 'oh, well write a story' in the same way its bad advice to tell someone making a salad to 'add steak and potatoes'.

If all you have is a historical scenario you want to talk about, I don't think its bad to express that as a faux history book. I like talking about history and there is a place for that.

But if you're doing that, plausibility is more important because its all you have.

But like write it anyway. The worst thing written is better than the best thing not. Half of what I've written is awful but its practice and helps you hone your skills. Nobody writes a masterpiece on the first go.
 

Time Enough

"Enthusiastic Cis Male Partner"
Pronouns
He/Him
I’ve been thinking of writing a timeline, yet something that stops me is the thought of “Wait, wouldn’t this stop that?” “Why would he act or respond like that?” You know, questions of just how darn plausible it is, but having looked through here, it seems most people here think concerns of plausibility shouldn’t be a big deal so long as it makes just enough sense in the story and trying to make it extremely plausible would just turn it into a snore-fest.
That's what First Drafts are for at the end of the day, get your ideas down, get it all plotted out and just get it written. Then care about if it's plausible, or has spelling mistakes or has characters talking in a void etc.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
I've done a Fuldapocalypse review of specifically the postwar AANW. Especially because it was deliberately not included in the SLP published version, I consider it a separate work worthy of its own separate review.

Anyway, I still have a lot of hesitance towards reviewing online TLs, but felt I could go ahead with this one because A: It's high-profile, B: It's long since finished, and C: I felt I could use the review to say something meaningful about internet alternate history.
I'm not entirely clear on the point of the postwar stuff fof AANW. The original is basically "WW2 goes as nasty as possible", "it could be far worse", Western front as grinding miserable Eastern front slog. "Postwar as dystopia where Beat People Up is the lesson" is a good premise but if it's just notes, no narrative or faux-history, it's not really that. It'd be promise of story that never happens
 

Indicus

<insert title here>
Location
Trawno
Pronouns
he/him
So Malê Rising by Jonathan Edelstein. Started in January 2012, ended in December 2015 after the best part of 400 updates. Since then there's been various post narrative updates, guest posts and spinoffs. And it's probably the most influential work of amateur AH of that time period. It's what first sold me on ah.com, it's massively imitated and hugely popular. It was a thunderbolt in the community.

It also kind of does a lot of the things this thread complains amateur AH never does, it cares about ground voice views, it has vivid characters, it's utopian, its more interested in culture than war etc..

The first impression is the sheer ambition of the story. It covers the world from 1840 to 2015, which is a titanic undertaking just by itself. But MR covers the entire world, it cares deeply about the Solomon Islands and Paraguay and Nigeria and Hungary alike. It's the first timeline of its type that was focused so much on the third world, Africa in particular.

But it's not just that either, it's also ambitious in that it aimed to create an utterly unrecognisable world. In this timelines 21st century, the very concept of the state doesn't really exist. Countries are a matter of citizenship, rather than borders, with different laws for different ethnic groupings and republics and monarchies existing in the same territory but having different populations.

The highest ambition of any work of AH is to create something genuinely alien and MR tries so hard to do that. It isn't just 'what if Germany as France' but 'what if Germany as something no country in otl ever was'.

So in many way's given how high the aims are, it would be as triumph if it just stumbled over the finish line.

But it does more than just that. This is a story that cares about people as people rather than just as pawns to shuffle about. They fuck, and dance and eat and write and love and live and its the humanity on all sides that shines through. Some stories in a mixed narrative-faux essay style, such as Axis on Andes, often feel insecure about the narrative and retreat to the essays again and again even when the narrative is the better bit. MR doesn't do that, it use the faux history books to join dots but the writer relishes his characters and his story. And he is showy in his prose. There's a swagger to this that AH rarely has.

One of the things that separated this story at the time and still does is the 'literary updates' excerpts from books written in this timeline, from dozens of different authors from tens of different cultures. It's an astonishingly confident thing for one man to try and mimic german adventure stories and malian oral tales and make each feel like they're from different voices but equally beautiful. But he pulls it off.

He pulls it off to such an extent, that he actually fleshed out one of the excerpts (an afro futuristic sci-fi story) into an actual book and got it published in american sci-fi magazines.

It's also in a genre often fond of dystopias, a liberal utopia, which depicts a world far more multi polar with much less inequality, a larger range of globally influential cultures, and a much greater spread of wealth, where European minorities unions are stronger and the people are more politically capable of standing up to oppression.

But to an extent this runs into the same problem that all utopias do.

Which is it's very much post history. This is the system that works and so it just keeps working and there's no challenges to it, no new crisis. Just good times still rolling. So the last 50 years of the timeline don't really have a climax, its just the same point (everything is good now) being repeated again and again. It's often beautifully told, but its repetitive and feels extraneous.

And well, you have to buy into a liberal consensus to believe in this utopia. I remember a marxist-leninist on here becoming disenchanted with the timeline because it believes that if you pass the right laws and make the right protests, you can solve what he viewed as the innate problems with capitalism and globalism. And if you don't, it falls flat.

And that idea, that power structures designed to enrich the powerful and disenfranchise the powerless can be entirely redeemed if only they are reformed to give the powerless more of a say with in them, perpetuates this timeline, not just in terms of the global economic system or multiculturalism but in terms of monarchys and colonial empires. Ultimately the happy ending Edelstein offers includes huge parts of Africa remaining in colonial empires. There's this belief that any structure can be an uplifting one with good actors involved that I'm unsure about.

It's particularly uncomfortable with say the Herero, who in this timeline become 'good germans' and join the german empire as equals, remaining a part of it. And sure, that's the promise colonialism was often sold on but in real life the Herero were lined up and shot and used as slave labour and sent to concentration camps.

By trying to find the best possible result for Africa you end up portraying various states as their best possible side. When you have on one side a German official declaring that every single man, woman and child of the Herero was to be exterminated and on the other a German official saying the Herero are Germans and should have the full rights of that. Well the latter is a much better outcome for the Herero but the former is what happened. And if you paint every colonial relationship as being the latter not the former, in order to get that richer post colonial Africa, than you're saying things about colonialism that you maybe don't mean to.

Which is the other point, I don't really buy a lot of the characterisation of societies and people, I don't recognise this German Empire and there's just this whitewashing of various figures so we get that happy ending. @SpanishSpy coined the term 'trinketization' for knowledge that is broad but not deep and there's a lot of that here. Honestly I think MR is very lucky to be primarily about Africa and not Europe because if these character's were better known, he'd get ripped to hell on accuracy.

Like he does a thing on the Sudan and introduce the man who would be the Mahdi, because hey he's someone I've heard of, but the Mahdi is a village leader who organises strikes to force reform of the Egyptian system. And, like no, that's not remotely who he was. It's the name but nothing else and there's no real insight into the actual Sudanese situation. The writer just doesn't want the Mahdist War to happen so suddenly it's very different.

It's the flipside of the ambition, it's that he tries to cover every society in the world and nobody can ever know them all that well so you get Zanzibar doing this and the Zulus doing this and Msiri doing this and if you know nothing about this part of the world, you're like cool but if you do, you know he's using the name but nothing else really. Msiri is working for a white governor in the congo, which he refused in otl, ok then. Zanzibar is enforcing the slave trade ban, which they thought to the death in otl, ok then. Tippu Tip is a humanist concerned about the fate of his people, really? The Zulus are happy to accept British overlordship without fighting, sure. The Kru just want to be Liberian citizens and its all ok if the franchise is extended to them, nevermind the actual argument was all about trade visas (ok I also used this one, but both of us are stretching massively).

The politics at a grand scale just feels like pieces being moved around to get certain results with no real attempt to deal with the personalities or even agendas that existed.

But whenever you get frustrated, you get to a scene Edelstein actually wants to write, where say a Nigerian soldier falls in love with a Rwandan prophet and it's charming and sincere in trying to depict existing cultures adapt to new times and you get why this was so powerful as a story.

It's a fairytale, it's a version of history and politics that I simply don't buy, but it's a beautiful fairytale. It sells a vision of the world and makes me want to believe in it.

It's still the benchmark of what I would like to achieve in my own writing.
A very insightful analysis of Male Rising.

Your point about the timeline wrongly thinking the exploitation inherent in colonialism can be avoided is a good one. To add to that, the timeline has a long plotline about the "Imperial Party" taking over the UK, sparking atrocities, and causing an imperial crisis which ends with the empire collapsing. What strikes me the most is that the atrocities it commits are the very same atrocities the British Empire did in our timeline, except here they are the exception rather than the rule. I think it would have been not only more accurate, but also braver, if Edelstein had made the people committing the atrocities simply regular politicians with standard imperial goals. It would have shown the exploitation inherent in colonialism well, and it would have made the plotline more impactful.
 

0.42@632

Active member
Also the unwillingness of the Imperial Party to avoid using poison gas, biological warfare and brutal repression of the self-governing nonwhite regions (the Mal@, the princely states - as in Sokoto would be occupied and the Mal@ destroyed root and branch) seems ... weird when the British were busy dropping poison gas on Iraq in the 20s IOTL.

Also Wells (who becomes prime minister TTL as part of the 'Empire of Dominions' administration) favored establishing a authoritarian World State which enforced Modernity by abolishing local languages etc. and favored gas chambers as an euthanasia mechanism.

His general willingness to make 'Lite' versions of whatever problems OTL countries faced, such as having the *Argentinas become mostly repressive landowner dictatorships-in-reaction-to-leftism in the 1980s that don't receive US funding and are toppled through Consistory diktat minimizes the realworld 'Heavy' versions of those problems
 
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