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Ryan's reviews: Back in the USSA by Eugene Byrne and Kim Newman

SenatorChickpea

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Newman's an interesting one. I remember when I was a teenager- Anno Dracula was a book that genuinely delighted me, especially because I'd been reading disposable Turtledoves. Newman's work can get far too arch- as in some of the later Dracula novels- but that first book has a real joy to the way it drops characters into scenes in quite inventive ways, in a manner that really shows up the plodding 'Look! This Austrian corporal isn't nice, is he?' technique of too much alternate history.
 

Thande

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Good review Ryan - I've not read this collection but I've read a lot about it, and it did strike me as a good exemplar for how to do analogous history parallelism with a decent balance between cleverness and silliness.
 

Techdread

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A very good and well-detailed review. Back in the USSA is actually the book that got me into alternate history, so I have a lot of time for it but you're quite right in that it's an example of 'copy-and-paste' AH; more than anything, I've always found it to be a fun read, especially some of the more wider-focused stories like Teddy Bear's Picnic which is understandable given it's the longest of the stories in the anthology. My copy of it is probably my most prized possession, if only because it's one of the first books I bought with a real passion for as a young adult.
 

RyanF

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Good review Ryan - I've not read this collection but I've read a lot about it, and it did strike me as a good exemplar for how to do analogous history parallelism with a decent balance between cleverness and silliness.
Thanks!

Part of the reason it works so well is how much of it is tongue in cheek, I always thought of it as a mid to late 90s work but finding out that the first two stories ("In the Air" and "Ten Days That Shook the World") were both published in Interzone before the Berlin Wall came down was a real surprise for me.

I'm surprised (and annoyed) it's still out of print when Titan's reprinting every non-Games Workshop Newman book
It is odd, perhaps because it's co-authored with Byrne? I do know they were touting a similar anthology of stories set in a Nazi victory TL, but this never materialised aside from a couple of vignettes published on its Geocities page.

Yes, on its Geocities page.

A very good and well-detailed review. Back in the USSA is actually the book that got me into alternate history, so I have a lot of time for it but you're quite right in that it's an example of 'copy-and-paste' AH; more than anything, I've always found it to be a fun read, especially some of the more wider-focused stories like Teddy Bear's Picnic which is understandable given it's the longest of the stories in the anthology. My copy of it is probably my most prized possession, if only because it's one of the first books I bought with a real passion for as a young adult.
Thanks! Very similar to myself in most respects there, I've a lovely hardback copy that must have been one of its last print runs.
 

Skinny87

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Bloody hell, I can't even find any copies on eBay. Just how rare is this book?
 
I have read most of Kim Newman's books, but I haven't read this one, though I am familiar with it. I think I have read some of the stories in isolation.
 

MAC161

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Re-read this collection a little while ago, and a thought occurs, given the description of Newman's horror work:

The first Sheriff in the "Citizen Ed" story is named Harry S. Truman. At first, that just looks like another famous name (in this case a U.S. President) being dropped into the story, though it felt a little odd having a Missourian as a Wisconsin sheriff. Having become more familiar with Twin Peaks recently, however, and its sheriff of the same name, I can't help but wonder if Newman was making another horror-related reference there, blending it with the larger Chikatilo retelling. The story was published in 1996, and Twin Peaks ended in '91, so it feels possible, but I might also be reading too much into it. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
 

RyanF

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Re-read this collection a little while ago, and a thought occurs, given the description of Newman's horror work:

The first Sheriff in the "Citizen Ed" story is named Harry S. Truman. At first, that just looks like another famous name (in this case a U.S. President) being dropped into the story, though it felt a little odd having a Missourian as a Wisconsin sheriff. Having become more familiar with Twin Peaks recently, however, and its sheriff of the same name, I can't help but wonder if Newman was making another horror-related reference there, blending it with the larger Chikatilo retelling. The story was published in 1996, and Twin Peaks ended in '91, so it feels possible, but I might also be reading too much into it. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
I don't think you're reading too much into it since it's exactly the sort of thing that Newman would do. This is the man who, along with Eugene Byrne, gave us Leon Trotsky as Charlie Chaplin and JR Ewing as Boris Yeltsin.

Look at "Teddy Bear's Picnic" from the same collection where the British equivalent of the vicious drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket is Sergeant Grimshaw from Carry On Sergeant as played by William Hartnell. Now, within the context of the story a film is made featuring a fictionalised version of the character who winds up being played by... William Hartnell. And the POV character, Bob from The Likely Lads, is aghast they've cast Doctor Who as the cruel bully. He mentions that the casting in a separate film featuring another fictionalised version of the character is much better, played by Patrick Troughton. Even more confusing is that during the story Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart features as a really character. It's difficult to explain without a whiteboard...

I've always been in two minds about Sheriff Truman in "Citizen Ed". On the one hand as you say Missouri is a bit away from Wisconsin, on the other hand it's a bit early for the Sheriff Truman of Twin Peaks fame.

Heck for all we know the character in "Citizen Ed" is the Harry R. Truman of Mount St Helens infamy whose and semi-presidential handle is what inspired the naming of the Twin Peaks sheriff in the first place. Much like Dale Bartholomew Cooper got his name from the mysterious Pacific Northwest air pirate D. B. Cooper.

Wouldn't be the first time Newman has used characters in an out of time setting, since Carl Kolchak shows up in Anno Dracula around 90 years removed from his native 1970s. Not the only time Kolchak has appeared out of time given he also appeared in Scarlet Traces: The Great Game.
 

Charles EP M.

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Wouldn't be the first time Newman has used characters in an out of time setting, since Carl Kolchak shows up in Anno Dracula around 90 years removed from his native 1970s. Not the only time Kolchak has appeared out of time given he also appeared in Scarlet Traces: The Great Game.
In the Titan reprint backmatter, Newman laments Kojack appearing then - he didn't know he'd be doing sequels in other decades and would've kept him back until then.

Or so he says he would, since the 1999-set Daikaiju has Derek from Bad Taste which is not 1999 at all
 

Von Callay

Kept After Class by Mrs. MacBrayne
Bloody hell, I can't even find any copies on eBay. Just how rare is this book?
I found a copy in a used book store ages ago that someone had covered whole paragraphs of in yellow highlighter in no pattern I could discern, and I let it get away from me at some point in moving and downsizing my library, clearly that was a mistake.
 

RyanF

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I found a copy in a used book store ages ago that someone had covered whole paragraphs of in yellow highlighter in no pattern I could discern, and I let it get away from me at some point in moving and downsizing my library, clearly that was a mistake.
Incidentally, I've recently discovered my own copy is a first edition and is in great condition.
 
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