Definition[ edit ] The Collins English Dictionary defines alternative history as "a genre of fiction in which the author speculates on how the course of history might have been altered if a particular historical event had had a different outcome. Science fiction set in what was the future but is now the past, like Arthur C. A Space Odyssey or George Orwell 's Nineteen Eighty-Fouris not alternate history because the author did not make the choice to change the past at the time of writing. This term is used by some professional historians to describe the practice of using thoroughly researched and carefully reasoned speculations on "what might have happened if
In many respects, these books are similar to those that use a fulcrum divergence: However, they differ significantly in that typically the protagonist the time traveler is aware of the divergence or its possibility. Here, the events of the book are modeled on actual events in our history, but they are depicted in a completely secondary world.
This task is particularly challenging in alternate histories, where the reader knows they are reading something inimical to their pre-existing knowledge of the world.
This is doubly-so if the book is written in first-person, but even when written in third the speech patterns, word choices, and value systems that our narrator employs contribute to the milieu of the era we are depicting.
Recently, I read two alternate histories that execute on this aspect perfectly: In both books, the narrative voice and the dialog employed by the characters rings at least to my ear true to the period when the books are set. The words key characters employ, the value systems inherent in their views, the differences in how different characters speak, in both books the quality of voice and dialog help to lock the reader into the alternate history.
As a result, I am able to believe that while there may be magic, I am still reading a story set in the 18th century I am familiar with. The same applies to Dreadnoughtwhich follows a southern Confederate nurse across the frontier.
And solid research on word use and etymology can help make sure that the dialog is period-appropriate as Mary Robinette Kowal pointed out recentlypeople swore differently even one hundred years ago.
Research and extensive reading are the keys to nailing this aspect of an alternate history. But there is a flip side to this coin: When we write alternate histories or even historical fantasies there is an understandable temptation to shoe-horn massive amounts of research into the text.
After all, not everyone is as familiar with the time period as the author. But this natural tendency has to be handled very delicately because people who enjoy alternate histories are likely those who enjoy history.
As a result, they are likely to already have substantial knowledge about history, and thus overloading them with historical information may weaken their engagement with the story. Kent clearly knows the history of 19th century Russia, however in many places he assumes that his readers do not.
For some readers, this is likely not a problem. But for those of us who are familiar with that time period, the extensive expository background that Kent provides detracts from the rising action of the story. Striking a balance between that need for background and the forward motion of the story is key to writing any story based in history.
If we have to pick between momentum and background, I say always go for momentum.
Imagining a Different Today If futuristic science fiction is about imagining a possible tomorrow, then alternate histories are about imagining a possible present. This at once constrains our world-building to a greater or lesser degree, we have to conform to known history while providing the opportunity for very focused imagination.
When I read excellent alternate histories, I often think that it is much harder to paint a maserpiece by coloring within the lines.
But the best authors of alternate history manage to do exactly that. I strongly recommend you pick up a copy, from your local bookstore or your library and enjoy:Techniques in Writing Alternate History by Chris Gerwel on February 22, For the past several months, I’ve been having a lot of fun reading recent alternate histories and historical fantasies (I’ve reviewed a couple in earlier posts).
Grammarly's free writing app makes sure everything you type is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free. You read the real history of what you want to write and then do the parallel two step by altering the plot and characters.
One of my biggest examples is what I am working on now. It’s an. With Brooks Rexroat we wrap up the interviews of authors from Alt Hist Issue 3. Brooks’ ‘To the Stars’ is set during the Cold War space race and is a very human story of the effect on one family in particular.
Would it have been possible to write ‘To the Stars’ before ? Books shelved as alternate-history: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K.
Dick, His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Jon. Daniel Genis wrote an alternate history novel called Narcotica while incarcerated for 10 years for his own drug-related crimes.
The “polite robber” is now a sober author. Daniel Genis wrote an alternate history novel called Narcotica while incarcerated for 10 years for his own drug-related crimes. A list of Alternate History novels. – Well, the first line of the synopsis of the book says it all.
“Radiance is a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in Hollywood—and solar system, very different from our own”.
Got it? When I started writing my YA adventure series, I .