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'Tales from Alternate Earths III' review


The sunlit uplands are just around the corner
Published by SLP
Matthew Kresal came out swinging with his story Hitchcock’s Titanic, about a world where Alfred Hitchcock succeeds in collaborating with David O. Selznick in making a film about the famed maritime disaster in the 1930s. This is one of the few works of cultural alternate history that I have read in published form, and it is a sterling example of how to do such a story well.
Indeed, I wish there were more of those. One of the reasons I enjoyed Jodorowsky's Dune was because it looked so much like AH.
This sounds interesting, especially the Alexander the Great in Italy scenario. Alexander's mother Olympias' brother King Alexander of Epirus, married off to A's sister Cleopatra, was killed fighting for the Greek colonies in southern Italy against local tribes in 330 so A would have had a logical reason to get involved there, probably after attacking Carthage to safeguard the Greeks in Sicily; my own timelines have suggested this for the early-mid 310s BC. The historian Arnold Toynbee wrote an article on Alexander surviving, defeating Carthage and then taking on the Samnites (the most aggressive inland tribe in central-southern Italy who had defeated Rome heavily near Naples in OTL 321 BC) and sending Ptolemy to Rome as his ambassador to 'suggest' forcefully that Rome assist him as his ally or face invasion by his huge Greco-Asiatic army. Alexander gets his way, then resettles the Romans in the Po valley as his bulwark against the local Celtic tribes there and sets up a Greek garrison in Rome itself.

This scenario is in AT's 1969 book , Some Problems of Greek History, pub 1969 - very early for any Alt Hist writing - which also features what might have happened had Philip II not been assas in 336 and instead invaded Persia on schedule, taking the Levant as far as the later Roman/ Sassanian border around Edessa (modern E Syria/ Turkish border) as Darius III proposed unsuccessfully to Alexander as their abortive peace-deal in 331. Philip's former general Parmenion advised Alexander to accept it but he refused - P reputedly said 'I would accept it if I was Alexander' and Alexander replied 'So would I if I was Parmenion'. Parmenion, the voice of moderation and caution at A's high command, is taken by Toynbee as representing what Philip , his close friend and patron, would have done - and he soon ended up liquidated at Ecbatana (modern Hamadan, W Iran) by A's 'hit-men' after a 'murder plot' linked to his son Philotas which he was supposed to have known about - which some historians regard as an excuse to get rid of him as unco-operative.

I read Toynbee's book as a student at King's, where he had been a Professor - this was my first intro to any historian taking the subject seriously, and I was fascinated at how close his Alexander ideas were to mine though I had no idea of his version when I drew mine up as a teenager at State school in Sussex based on books and children's magazine articles. He also had Alexander's empire surviving into the C3rd and C2nd BC under his dynasty and taking up Buddhism due to links with India. Chandragupta Maurya was made one of his local recruits on his projected 'completion of the planned Ganges campaign abandoned in 325' expedition in the 310s and was sent off to the Nile, and Alexander ended up even tackling the Jin military regime in north-west China in his later years via a Silk Road campaign. Provocative stuff, if a bit unlikely run of unbroken success given A's reliance on heavy drinking and miscalculations in OTL 325-3 that suggest that he was declining in his mental and physical stability and taking too many risks and something would have been likely to go wrong at some point.

This Toynbee scenario of 'maximum gambles and maximum conquests' for Alexander for decades after 323 gave me ideas for my preferred general tone of 'take it slowly and don't run too many risks at once' for the decision-makers in my Roman alt hist game-plan which can be seen in the blog articles which I did for Sealion in 2020 and my various books - broadly, the 'Octavian/ Augustus' approach to stable and careful policy decisions not the 'Alexander /Julius Caesar/ Napoleon' approach.