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'Dominion' review

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
re mysteries & AH, especially mainstream AH, probably another reason it's so big is it's a great way to get your AH exposition through (especially to a mainstream audience). You have to clearly explain things and have characters say what's going on, in a way that'd be clunkier if it was a romcom.
 

Japhy

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Published by SLP
Location
Albany, NY
Pronouns
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re mysteries & AH, especially mainstream AH, probably another reason it's so big is it's a great way to get your AH exposition through (especially to a mainstream audience). You have to clearly explain things and have characters say what's going on, in a way that'd be clunkier if it was a romcom.
Richard Price once said, and Michael Connolly has cited him for years for saying that "In Every Murder There is the Tale of a City."

It's true. And yeah if you're going to write AH and want to do something more then an Allohistorical Encyclopedia its one of the best ways to get across the world you've built.
 

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
Richard Price once said, and Michael Connolly has cited him for years for saying that "In Every Murder There is the Tale of a City."

It's true. And yeah if you're going to write AH and want to do something more then an Allohistorical Encyclopedia its one of the best ways to get across the world you've built.
I think it's why the 'Fear and Loathing' style concept of the journalist on tour is popular as well- the whole idea of something like that is trying to create a series of snapshots of the situation as it evolves over time and from place to place. Albeit much like the original works there's not as much of a mainstream appeal in that.
 
Great article, made me want to check it out!

in British Indepdence with a tendancy to go against the United States in foregin affairs, a much more trust worthy freind than the Literal Nazis. Given all of that, I dont think hed end up working in Collabaratio but rather, like what he is in the TNO mod, repesent the rightmost edge of the British Resistance (well if Churchill dosent already take the spot, the twos politics besides foregin policy down the line, really dont differ).
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
Published by SLP
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Nu Yawk
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On the subject of "what style is good for AH", I've found that a style that should on paper be used for AH more than it actually is what I call the "pop epic"-the kind of tale that has a lot of times and places in it, and is meant to be both sweeping yet accessible to average readers. (Basically think James Michener on the high end and Sidney Sheldon on the low end). It feels obviously suitable for alternate history, yet I've mostly only seen Turtledove use it.

My thoughts are:
-I'm defining pop epic too narrowly and/or haven't read enough comparable works.
-The decline of pop epics overall (ironically, technothrillers arguably benefitted from their downfall, as they rose as pop epics declined in mainstream popularity".
-The sort of mismatch effect where there's very little incentive to label such a work "alternate history" and very much to label it "historical fiction".
-Needing a reference point for the "accessibility" side of things, where people can understand a fictional person/company/family in World War II but won't feel the same understanding/connection to someone in an alternate world with a massive divergence.
 

Alexander Rooksmoor

Active member
I was so unhappy with Dominion that for 7 years subsequently it drove me away from reading any of Sansom's books. Later I found his Shardlake detective novels set in the reign of Henry VIII proved to be a great deal better. I feel in this article, Wallace has picked out the main flaws with the book. Sansom really uses it to beat down Scottish nationalists and as if that was not enough in the story itself, he has an essay at the end to try to drive this home. Given how Scottish nationalism has manifested as sitting to the left of the Labour Party, portraying nationalist guerillas running around the Highlands more like Tito's partisans would have been a more feasible line. His desire to make a political point for 21st Century Britain distorts the story and the regime change he implies seems to come from nowhere.

As often seems to be the case with successful authors, this book is under-edited. There is too much info dumping; too much has been 'borrowed' from SS-GB. The resolution is incredibly weak in that we do not see what happens to the main characters but find out a lot about minor ones. It seems that he expected to write a sequel, but sensibly this was not permitted. He also makes a number of blunders. The prime one is German access to uranium. He believes they had to somehow get it from the Congo, whereas the moment they took over Bohemia-Moravia, they had a great source of uranium. We also know that in our history, where they did far less well than in this alternative, they had constructed a 'dirty bomb' by 1944, so them building an atomic bomb by 1952 seems highly likely without needing US secrets.

I am very tired of people making the default assumption that Lord Halifax as Prime Minister must have meant a British surrender in 1940/41. People do not read up anything about his attitudes, especially post-March 1939, German invasion of Bohemia-Moravia. I feel that given people now feel content to shoot down any discussion of Operation Sea Lion, we must start doing the same with this view of Halifax. It is very lazy. People seem to have no awareness that someone who has been shown to be a fool in one regard, is very assiduous in not repeating their mistake. Come 1943, Halifax would have been right behind unconditional surrender and probably something like the Morgenthau Plan for post-war Germany.

There are numerous petty errors such as the D.Phil/Ph.D error and for some reason relocating the German Embassy from Prussia House to Senate House, and more obvious ones like people shopping on a Sunday as if it was the 2010s rather than the 1970s, let alone the 1950s. There was no Ministry of Defence in 1940, it would not appear for another 24 years. Developing movie film of someone's parents in 10 minutes to show their son on a projector, also seems ridiculous. These were easy to check things if he had just bothered to look, let alone had talked to people. There are still quite a lot of people around who were adults in 1952. I feel that Sansom was simply arrogant. He wanted an excuse to hammer the SNP by making their forefathers appear as if they would have been Nazi collaborators. He could have done that in so many better ways than via this book which is disappointing because he really wasted an opportunity.

If nothing else Dominion reminds us how we are held to account on every minor error we might write in our counter-factual history stories and novels, but an author from outside the genre, because he is well established is permitted to get away not only with a whole sequence of events, but lazy research and simply poor writing, with impunity.
 

Alexander Rooksmoor

Active member
The other reason why (murder) mysteries are popular in alternate history, as in mainstream stories, is that they permit the protagonist to mix with people from all levels of a society and ask them challenging questions that in any other context would be simply batted off. When someone uses a protagonist with much weaker authority or none at all - and I think very much of the movie Glorious 39 set among British appeasers in 1939 - viewers/readers complain that the protagonist is pathetic and unrealistic.
 
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