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Panel Discussion: All the Myriad Ways - Part 2

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Alternate history horror…actually yeah that is one combination you don’t see very often
That does stand out, doesn't it? (SLP did an anthology of it so it can be done!) I wonder if the reason is that doing horror in an alternative history would mean, or is taken to mean, that the horror should have something to do with the alternative history and vice versa because of how specific that setting would be. A slasher story set in the 1990s is a period piece and likely a homage to 90s slashers. A slasher story set in an alt-90s where Ross Perot is President or the Cold War didn't end, you'd expect to have a reason why.

Midway through writing that, I thought: "I guess you could do an alt-90s where slasher horror villains are real and hundreds die every year since the 70s due to outlandish masked creeps, and what does the US look like in that world."
 

ChrisNuttall

Well-known member
That does stand out, doesn't it? (SLP did an anthology of it so it can be done!) I wonder if the reason is that doing horror in an alternative history would mean, or is taken to mean, that the horror should have something to do with the alternative history and vice versa because of how specific that setting would be. A slasher story set in the 1990s is a period piece and likely a homage to 90s slashers. A slasher story set in an alt-90s where Ross Perot is President or the Cold War didn't end, you'd expect to have a reason why.

Midway through writing that, I thought: "I guess you could do an alt-90s where slasher horror villains are real and hundreds die every year since the 70s due to outlandish masked creeps, and what does the US look like in that world."
Imagine a story set in a CSA wins timeline - not a war of liberation, or an insurgency, but just a constant brutal grind of what living under the CSA or Nazis or Islamic State or history's other losers really means.

Chris
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
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I wonder if the reason is that doing horror in an alternative history would mean, or is taken to mean, that the horror should have something to do with the alternative history and vice versa because of how specific that setting would be.
Granted, this is because of my recent nuclear kick, but the "AH horror" that popped into my mind would be Allied troops stumbling on the melted down ruins of Heisenberg's turned-on reactor.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Imagine a story set in a CSA wins timeline - not a war of liberation, or an insurgency, but just a constant brutal grind of what living under the CSA or Nazis or Islamic State or history's other losers really means.
There are stories like that, but usually not done as a horror genre - which might be why you don't see it, it's hard to do a horror story in the main AH settings because the reality is nastier than ghosts, psychos, and monsters. Unless the horror is something vengeful coming for people in charge but that doesn't necessarily need a AH setting, it could come for aging Nazis who escaped justice
 

M_Kresal

I am nerd, hear me bore.
Published by SLP
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North Alabama
There are stories like that, but usually not done as a horror genre - which might be why you don't see it, it's hard to do a horror story in the main AH settings because the reality is nastier than ghosts, psychos, and monsters. Unless the horror is something vengeful coming for people in charge but that doesn't necessarily need a AH setting, it could come for aging Nazis who escaped justice
Having written a "haunted aging Nazi who escaped justice story" as my first-ever published fiction, I can concur that you don't need it to be AH to do it. The danger, as I see it, of doing that sort of story in any setting is being on the fine line of exploiting genuine human tragedies/genocides to tell a horror story. I desperately wanted to keep things vague in my story for that reason, only for the editor to want things to be made implicitly clear. I think we found something of a compromise, but it's something that bugs me about that story to this day.

That said, I do think there's potential in the idea if you can figure out how to do it. Golem vs Nazis, anyone? But, again, how do you keep it from descending into schlockfest Asylum territory is the question.

Granted, this is because of my recent nuclear kick, but the "AH horror" that popped into my mind would be Allied troops stumbling on the melted down ruins of Heisenberg's turned-on reactor.
This I would read!
 

napoleon IV

I. Drink. Your. Ape. Slurp. Juice. I Drink It Up!
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That does stand out, doesn't it? (SLP did an anthology of it so it can be done!) I wonder if the reason is that doing horror in an alternative history would mean, or is taken to mean, that the horror should have something to do with the alternative history and vice versa because of how specific that setting would be. A slasher story set in the 1990s is a period piece and likely a homage to 90s slashers. A slasher story set in an alt-90s where Ross Perot is President or the Cold War didn't end, you'd expect to have a reason why.

Midway through writing that, I thought: "I guess you could do an alt-90s where slasher horror villains are real and hundreds die every year since the 70s due to outlandish masked creeps, and what does the US look like in that world."
The Cold War doesn't end, but the Soviets realize they can't afford to compete with the US military. So instead they decide to undermine the US from within by giving invincibility pills to a family of inbred redneck cannibals. Suddenly no one in Kentucky is safe from The Hillbilly Slashers.
 

David Flin

A home of love and laughter.
Imagine a story set in a CSA wins timeline - not a war of liberation, or an insurgency, but just a constant brutal grind of what living under the CSA or Nazis or Islamic State or history's other losers really means.

There are stories like that, but usually not done as a horror genre - which might be why you don't see it
The author of Gone With the Wind from the SLP Horror Anthology wants a word.
 

Gary Oswald

It was Vampire Unions that got us Vampire Weekend
Sea Lion Press staff
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Oh, they're out there. Often in disguise. GRR Martin's Fevre Dream springs to mind.
Stories which use horror elements to talk about human historical horrors are quite common. Fevre Dream is a great example of that with the hero being a white southerner who becomes an abolitionist and fights for the union after encountering vampires who view him as less than human and only to be used.

But like its not AH.

I think with most speculative fiction, you get one twist. Its WW2 but vampires exist is one twist. Its WW2 but the germans won is one twist. Its WW2 but the germans won and vampires are real is overloading your story with high concept and thats harder to do
 

ChrisNuttall

Well-known member
Stories which use horror elements to talk about human historical horrors are quite common. Fevre Dream is a great example of that with the hero being a white southerner who becomes an abolitionist and fights for the union after encountering vampires who view him as less than human and only to be used.

But like its not AH.

I think with most speculative fiction, you get one twist. Its WW2 but vampires exist is one twist. Its WW2 but the germans won is one twist. Its WW2 but the germans won and vampires are real is overloading your story with high concept and thats harder to do
That's true, unless you want to get into ASB territory like Uber.

Chris
 

Thande

1 Timothy 5:18
Published by SLP
I think with most speculative fiction, you get one twist. Its WW2 but vampires exist is one twist. Its WW2 but the germans won is one twist. Its WW2 but the germans won and vampires are real is overloading your story with high concept and thats harder to do
This is why I was never attracted to those "AH" stories which are like "England won the Hundred Years' War and there's an Angevin Empire AND ALSO MAGIC WORKS", although I've been told that specific case is more of an unhelpful Uchronia summary than a fair description of the Lord Darcy stories.
 

Coiler

Connoisseur of the Miscellaneous
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This is why I was never attracted to those "AH" stories which are like "England won the Hundred Years' War and there's an Angevin Empire AND ALSO MAGIC WORKS", although I've been told that specific case is more of an unhelpful Uchronia summary than a fair description of the Lord Darcy stories.
Interestingly, I think a lot of that kind of stuff falls into the "it could be easily considered AH but isn't really marketed or formally categorized as it" category.
 

IanBertram

Active member
Location
UK
This is why I was never attracted to those "AH" stories which are like "England won the Hundred Years' War and there's an Angevin Empire AND ALSO MAGIC WORKS", although I've been told that specific case is more of an unhelpful Uchronia summary than a fair description of the Lord Darcy stories.
It's been a while since I read the Lord Darcy stories, so I can't remember the POD, but I suppose you could use the magic as the trigger that creates the AH. I have a few posts here based on the premise that in 1956 people acquire, overnight, the ability to understand others emotions much more deeply than now, in extreme cases changing those emotions. The POD is the event, but a very different history emerges.
 

ChrisNuttall

Well-known member
This is why I was never attracted to those "AH" stories which are like "England won the Hundred Years' War and there's an Angevin Empire AND ALSO MAGIC WORKS", although I've been told that specific case is more of an unhelpful Uchronia summary than a fair description of the Lord Darcy stories.
It's very unhelpful <grin>. Basically, if you like fantasy detective fiction, you'll like them.

Chris
 

OwenM

The patronising flippancy of youth
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It's been a while since I read the Lord Darcy stories, so I can't remember the POD, but I suppose you could use the magic as the trigger that creates the AH. I have a few posts here based on the premise that in 1956 people acquire, overnight, the ability to understand others emotions much more deeply than now, in extreme cases changing those emotions. The POD is the event, but a very different history emerges.
Lord Darcy is confusing because it would absolutely make sense if Richard the Lionheart surviving his OTL death was due to magic working, but IIRC it's explicitly in the reign of Good King Arthur afterwards that they get magic to work (although of course this is not actually magic, it's Highly Advanced Science they stumble on and describe as magic, because John W Campbell would not have printed stories involving magic in his science fiction magazine).
 
One little-known but to my mind worthwhile (within its limits), British mix-up of what can be categorised as an Alternative Hist scenario for our own times and 'magic' was written by the children's author Peter Dickinson back in the 1970s, the 'Changes Trilogy' - 'The Devil's Children', 'Heartsease' and 'The Weathermonger' , in chronological order - though confusingly it was written in reverse order, the third book in the time-line first and the first in the time-line last. This even appeared on British TV (either BBC or ITV, they were the only two channels then) in a Childrens TV Dept drama adaptation, albeit a rather flawed and budget-cuts-hit one. I wonder if anyone else here has come across this? It's largely forgotten now , but it was at one time fashionable in a 'cut price Dr Who' sort of way with its mixture of familiar 1960s-70s British suburbia and rural villages with magic, wizards, witch-hunts, and a potentially chilling reminder that a 'back to pre-Industrial Revolution' world would not be all a Green utopia but would bring back medieval superstition and racism too - and would mix up the good of 'simple living' with the bad. It was also set in real UK places so you could imagine the scenes - eg 'The Weathermonger' started with a mob trying to drown Our Hero on Weymouth's holiday beach in Dorset and 'Heartsease' featured 'Jilly Cooper Country' around Stroud in Gloucs.


The premise was to suddenly thrust Britain, cut off by a 'magic' fog, back into the medieval period and have almost everyone shun technology and behave as if it was around 1400 , smashing up cars, TVs etc, fearing all machines, and returning to live as medieval villagers - those who couldn't cope were somehow able to flee abroad. The medieval mindset returned too, and village headmen and 'religious experts' started hunting for 'undesirable foreigners' who could 'bring down God's wrath' and for witches - and the populace mostly joined in or were too scared to stop this. Book One had the 'Devil's Children', so-called by the villagers, ie a band of stranded Sikhs who were unaffected by the madness, trying to travel to the coast and escape, accompanied by a girl who had not been fully affected by the fear of machines and whose family had fled as suburban London society collapsed. Book Two had another largely unaffected teenage girl rescue an investigating American secret agent who had been hunted down and stoned as a witch by a mob (set in the Cotswolds) and get him away via a barge down a canal to a seagoing yacht; and Book Three had a professional weather-altering wizard trying to find out what had gone wrong after he was targeted too for being a 'satanic' suspect and, able to use a car as he was not affected, following clues into Wales to find the source of the magic power. This turned out to be the wizard Merlin, drugged by a manipulative medieval obsessive who had found his hideaway into bringing back the Arthurian age with his spells.

I loved the book series , with Book 2 being serialised in the children's magazine 'Look and Learn' around 1970 which was where I first came across it, though the TV series was a bit of a flop. Perhaps the books missed out their full potential as they were too short, a lot of ideas were introduced and then hastily put aside, and some plot elements were either a bit simplistic or not gone into in detail - the books were more plot than description . The ending was also too quick and simplistic. But it mixed up a lot of thought-provoking points and issues , a lot of which became fashionable some years later - and highlighted racism, witch-hunting , political manipulation of the 'mob' into blaming foreigners etc. There were even hints of the Taliban in the way that the 'Changes' involved local 'godly' leaders banning women from wearing trousers as 'blasphemous'.

Despite the shortcomings of the books I found it all really thought-provoking and a mix of muddled-up altered history and magic intruding into our world with some chilling results - a bit like an earlier version of the world of Harry Potter in a minor way. There was also an element of the sort of 'Back to The Land ' nostalgia that would produce the TV series 'The Good Life' later on being subverted with reminders of medieval horrors, though both then and since reading it all I felt that the bonuses of pre-industrial society and no pollution or technological wars were not covered fairly - it was almost all the minuses. A sort of anti-Tolkien?

So this sort of Alt Hist and magic realism did pop up, even in children's fiction, as far back as c. 1970 , if in an imperfect way, and it was quite popular and featured on TV, though the fad for it soon passed and possibly the ideas were better than the writing - it was not as immersive as J K Rowling. It had a considerable influence on my own thinking, in an era of considerable catastrophism about declining Britain with endless strikes, inflation and worries about Russia on the TV (sounds familiar).
 
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