Friday, April 24, 2015

Teaser Trailer for BBC's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Magic returns this summer according to BBC. The trailer for their adaptation of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was released a few days ago. Check it out below:
Although it is a very short video, it looks pretty damn good. I am actually excited about this show. If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend you pick up a copy and I hope you join me in catching the first episode this summer (unless UKIP shuts it down).

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Interview: Lynn Davis

Doing Map Mondays for more than a year now, I have to admire those alternate historians (who I usually refer to as "alternate cartographers") who have the patience and skill to create those wonderful and informative maps we find in timelines across the Internet. Wanting to learn more about this subset of our community, I decided to interview one of my favorite map makers: Lynn Davis. Check out our conversation below:

Who is Lynn Davis?

My name is Lynn Zelda Davis, a 21 year-old Texan college student currently working on their bachelor's degree in English Education. That's right, folks, history and cartography are just a side hobby for my real, crazy passion: teaching! Other than that, I love to write, to read, and just about everything involving Christmas. My favorite things in life are my partner Chris, my maps, and sleep. Most people around the web know me as ToixStory (formerly known as PlatoonSgt).

What got you interested in alternate history?

Sometime around 2010 I started to wonder about the usual history scenarios, about what would have happened if the Nazis had won, if Texas was still independent, etc., and found AlternateHistory.com that same year, which only fueled my passion. At the same time, I was becoming more and more interested in history itself, devouring every book I could find on any part of history, which only fueled my desire for alternate history. This past year has seen it really ramp up in terms of research and study, but the passion has been there for a while now.

When did you start creating alternate history maps?

Technically, I got started around 2011, using simple Wikipedia basemaps and the world-a basemaps you see on AlternateHistory.com Map Threads. However, I was never really satisfied with them, because they always seemed so...stale. Lifeless. After a while, I gave up on them. Then, last year, I picked up the hobby again, not with maps made in Microsoft Paint but in Inkscape, using more detailed techniques to create the beautiful maps I had seen posted on deviantart and AH.com before. I wanted to have maps that told a story, that showed a whole world instead of just a plate imitation of it.

In a world where geography is at the bottom of the list for someone's favorite subject, why do you think people make maps of alternate worlds?

I would say because, on some level, all people wonder how things would have gone had the circumstances been different. Alternate history is simply quantifying those thoughts and putting them into a study of how you think things could have gone, and maps are simply an extension of that. Not to mention, maps are something just about everyone has been exposed to at one time or another, from atlases to Google Maps, so I think anyone interested in alternate history has thought, at one time or another, of what the maps for different worlds would look like.

What programs do you use to create your maps?

I started out with, and still primarily use, Inkscape. It's a very sleek, free vector-based program that allows you to use all sorts of tools and tricks to get a map looking just right. It's easily manipulable and fairly easy to learn. Lately, I've experiment with using GIMP to make a base for the map before doing the details in Inkscape. There are definitely some advantages of GIMP, though I'm probably going to start going back to Inkscape more and more.

Where can people go if they wanted you to commission a map from you?

My deviantart is definitely the best place. I have a journal of all commission prices and info here or you can e-mail me at lzeldadavis at gmail dot com and we can talk prices and such.

Any other map makers you would like to recommend?

Oh, wow, there's almost too many to list. 1Blomma is definitely one of my favorites and is a master at the craft. There's also a ton more, off the top of my head: martin23230, Fenn-O-Manic, Kurarun, Undevicesimus, Pischinovski, ImDeadPanda, Kuusinen, Sapiento, ReagentAH, RvBOMally, nanwe01, and iselander. All of them are on deviantart, and definitely worth checking out.

Any other projects that you are working on now?

For alternate history? Well, something like 6 maps that are in some stage of completion, a tutorial, and a whole map series—world map, regional maps, flags, etc.--and that's just the tip of the iceberg. I may go a little overboard. As far as other things, I've got a couple novel ideas in the mix that I might sit down and write one day (alternate history, naturally), but mostly I just like my maps. Definitely my favorite and most soothing hobby.

What books are you reading?

Just like with my maps, I move between books very rapidly, so I'm never reading just one. At the moment, I'm reading In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India, An Empire of Wealth, Leviathan Wakes and A Canticle for Leibowitz. Like I said, my mind wanders a bit.

Any advice for aspiring alternate cartographers?

The biggest piece of advice I can give is: be patient. Cartography, whether it's digital or physical, takes time to get right. It can feel like a pain to meticulously trace coastlines, rivers, borders, and the like, but it definitely pays off in the end and makes your map look much nicer. More than half my maps took more than 50 work hours to make, with a couple taking over 100 hours of work time. It can be tedious, but find a rhythm and stick with it and you'll be a master of the craft before you know it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New Releases 4/21/15

You can support The Update by clicking the banner to your right or the links below if you are purchasing through Amazon!

Hardcovers

Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media edited by David S. Roh, Betsy Huang and Greta A. Niu

What will the future look like? To judge from many speculative fiction films and books, from Blade Runner to Cloud Atlas, the future will be full of cities that resemble Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, and it will be populated mainly by cold, unfeeling citizens who act like robots. Techno-Orientalism investigates the phenomenon of imagining Asia and Asians in hypo- or hyper-technological terms in literary, cinematic, and new media representations, while critically examining the stereotype of Asians as both technologically advanced and intellectually primitive, in dire need of Western consciousness-raising.

The collection’s fourteen original essays trace the discourse of techno-orientalism across a wide array of media, from radio serials to cyberpunk novels, from Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu to Firefly.  Applying a variety of theoretical, historical, and interpretive approaches, the contributors consider techno-orientalism a truly global phenomenon. In part, they tackle the key question of how these stereotypes serve to both express and assuage Western anxieties about Asia’s growing cultural influence and economic dominance. Yet the book also examines artists who have appropriated techno-orientalist tropes in order to critique racist and imperialist attitudes.

Techno-Orientalism is the first collection to define and critically analyze a phenomenon that pervades both science fiction and real-world news coverage of Asia. With essays on subjects ranging from wartime rhetoric of race and technology to science fiction by contemporary Asian American writers to the cultural implications of Korean gamers, this volume offers innovative perspectives and broadens conventional discussions in Asian American Cultural studies.

Paperbacks

Top 10 by Alan Moore

The massive, multilayered city of Neopolis, built shortly after World War II, was designed as a home for the expanding population of science-heroes, heroines and villains that had ballooned into existance in the previous decade. Bringing these powered beings together solved some problems but created others - turning Neopolis into a pressure cooker that normal policing methods could never contain.

Join rookie cop Robyn Singer, alter ego "Toybox," as she hits the streets for the first time along with a colorful crew of fellow officers, each having the required training to deal with science-villains and super-crimes. You'll never look at powers, or police work, the same way again!

Written by Alan Moore (WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA) and drawn by the team of Gene Ha and Zander Cannon, TOP 10 combines superheroics and cop drama like no series before or after it. Collects issues #1-12.

E-books

1882: Custer in Chains by Robert Conroy

Following his unlikely but decisive (and immensely popular) 1876 victory over Sitting Bull and the Sioux at the Little Big Horn, George Armstrong Custer is propelled into the White House in 1880.

Two years later, he finds himself bored and seeks new worlds to conquer. He and his wife Libbie fixate on Spain’s decaying empire as his source for immortality. What President Custer doesn’t quite comprehend is that the U.S. military isn’t up to such a venture. When a group of Americans on a ship headed for Cuba is massacred, war becomes inevitable—and unless calmer, patriotic citizens and soldiers can find a way to avoid debacle, this war may be America's last stand!

A Long Time Until Now by Michael Z. Williamson

Book 1 in a new series from the creator of the best-selling Freehold Universe series. A military unit is thrust back into Paleolithic times with only their guns and portable hardware.

Ten soldiers on convoy in Afghanistan suddenly find themselves lost in time. Somehow, they arrived in Earth's Paleolithic Asia. With no idea how they arrived or how to get back, the shock of the event is severe. They discover groups of the similarly displaced: Imperial Romans, Neolithic Europeans, and a small cadre of East Indian peasants. Despite their technological advantage, the soldiers only have ten people, and know no way home. Then two more time travelers arrive from a future far beyond the present. These time travelers may have the means to get back, but they aren't giving it up. In fact, they may have a treacherous agenda of their own, one that may very well lead to the death of the displaced in a harsh and dangerous era.

The Whitechapel Fiend by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

Jack the Ripper stalks through London, and only the Shadowhunters can stop him. One of ten adventures in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy.

Simon learns the truth behind the Jack the Ripper murders—“Jack” was stopped by Will Herondale and his institute of Victorian Shadowhunters.

This standalone e-only short story follows the adventures of Simon Lewis, star of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Mortal Instruments, as he trains to become a Shadowhunter. Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy features characters from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments, Infernal Devices, and the upcoming Dark Artifices and Last Hours series. The Whitechapel Fiend is written by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson.

To readers, authors and publishers...

Is your story going to be published in time for the next New Releases? Contact us at ahwupdate at gmail dot com.  We are looking for works of alternate history, counterfactual history, steampunk, historical fantasy, time travel or anything that warps history beyond our understanding.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Map Monday: Annotated Map of Sobel's "For Want of a Nail" by Tsar of New Zealand

Perhaps one of the more influential works of the alternate history genre is Sobel's 1973 novel, For Want of a Nail. This faux textbook, complete with footnotes, describes the history of the world after the Americans lost the Battle of Saratoga. After the American Revolution is crushed, Britain organized the colonies into the Confederation of North America, while the defeated rebels settled in Texas and conquered Mexico, recreating it into the United States of Mexico. Not only did this book inspire a a large collaborative fan fiction project, but its style is still duplicated today on online alternate history forums.

Fans have, of course, made maps of the timeline. The North America maps are the most famous, but a few have taken a shot at creating a believable world map. For example, Bruce Munro has made not one, but two versions of a For Want of a Nail world map. The problem is Sobel was never that clear on locations so fan made maps are always rather speculative. Case in point, is Victoria located in the Middle East or Kenya? Well Tsar of New Zealand is one of the more recent alternate cartographers to take a shot at For Want of a Nail with his annotated map:
The map is in the Munroist style, with its numerous annotations, but Tsar differs from Bruce in certain aspects, such as not including Siberia as part of Japan. He even gave a brief description of this world, filling in his own details to what Sobel left out. All and all, a really well-done map of a famous work of alternate history.

Honorable mentions this week goes out to Bruce's "Different Cold War" map (description here) and False Dmitri's "Captaincy-General of East Florida". Furthermore, don't forget to submit your map to the Alternate History Hub's fictional map contest. If you want to submit a map for the next Map Monday, email me at ahwupdate at gmail dot com with your map attached and a brief description in the body of the email.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Weekly Update #187

Editor's Note

I had these grandiose plans Thursday and Friday night to record a new video for the channel, do some writing for the blog or maybe even start the long process of cutting 40% of my Sideways in Time paper to meet their recently announced word count. Instead, on both days, I collapsed on the couch and drifted in and out of consciousness before moving to the bed and succumbing to sleep. Its tough having a full time job while trying to be a writer. Even the weekends are no longer the havens of free time because all the things I put off doing during the week that now need to be done before it is too late.

I realize complaining about how tough my life is causing a symphony of tiny violins to be played, but its really frustrating sometimes. The sick part is no one is making do the projects I mentioned above...well, no one except me. I want to do that work and I am putting the pressure on myself to get it done. Not sure how I feel about it exactly, its just a very weird experience. Thankfully I was able to get a few things done on Saturday. I hope you enjoy what I managed to produce.

And now the news...

Videos for Alternate Historians

Actually, except for Liberland, there really isn't much to report from last week. So let's go straight to last week in videos. First up, everyone's favorite YouTuber (for now...*evil laughter*) Cody Franklin shows us what he think a world where the South won the American Civil War would like on the Alternate History Hub:
Speaking of America, lets take a look at all the different iterations of the first Avenger himself, Captain America, with Lindsay Ellis:
Let's be honest, beating Nazis is what America does best!

Links to the Multiverse

Books & Short Fiction


29th Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist Announced at Geek Syndicate.
Coming Soon: GESTAPO MARS by Victor Gischler at SF Signal.
Coming Soon: GHOSTS OF KARNAK by George Mann at SF Signal.
A few of my book synopses by Greg van Eekhout at Writingandsnack.com.
Free Extract of Battalion 202: Set Britain Ablaze by Jonathan Doering at Alt Hist.
Gideon Smith – the Graphic Audio productions at Postcards from the Hinterland.
Inspirations for the Steampunk World of The Diamond Conspiracy at B&N.
The Parallel Worlds of Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos at Black Gate.
Review: We Install and Other Stories, by Harry Turtledove at Seattle Book Mama.
Review: William Shakespeare’s Phantom Of Menace by Ian Doescher at Bookish Antics.
Some comments on the Hugos and other SF awards by Eric Flint.

Counterfactuals, History & News

5 Creepy Crimes From History No One Can Explain at Cracked.
The Checklist Of What Had To Go Wrong For Apollo 13 To Fail Is Insane at io9.
The Dark Truth Behind California's Strangest Tax Exemption at io9.
The forgotten man who almost became president after Lincoln at Yahoo!
How the Ottomans Ruined the 20th Century by James A. Warren at The Daily Beast.
How the Walter Scott Shooting Would Have Been Reported if the Video Didn't Exist at NBC.
Men Are More Likely to Go Back in Time and Kill Hitler Than Women Are, Says Study at Vice.
MicroCon 2015: Dictators of the world unite at world summit of micronations at The Independent.
What If Lincoln Had Lived? by Eric Niiler at Discovery.
What is Spaceflight History? at DSFP's Spaceflight History Blog.

Film & Television

5 Reasons Conspiracy Shows Don't Work Today by C. Coville at Cracked.
The 10 Best alternate-reality episodes from non-sci-fi TV shows at io9.
Jonathan Strange Team on How the Project Ended up on TV at The Hollywood Reporter.
Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’ Opens Fire With Teaser Trailer at CBR.
Review: Outlander 1.10: A Glimmer of Paradox at Paul Levinson's Infinite Regress.

Graphic Novels & Comics

DC Comics Will Revive TV's Revolution For One Final Story at io9.
Why Do Big Comic Crossovers Always Have To Be About Alternate Universes? at io9.

Interview

Jonathan Barnes at My Bookish Ways.
Steven H Silver at The Qwillery.

Podcasts

Ratchet Retrocast Episode 49 – To Live Long and Prosper at The ESO Network.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Meet the World's Newest Nation: Liberland

Alternate historians are no strangers to creating new countries. Sometimes they are based on countries or proposals that existed in the past, while other times we create them out of whole cloth. Turns out you can do the same thing in real life.

Last Monday, Czech libertarian Vít Jedlička declared the Free Republic of Liberland. The country is located on an unclaimed piece of land (called Siga) between the disputed border of Croatia and Serbia...yeah great place to put a country. I would love to live between two people who traditionally despise each other and have committed war crimes in the recent past, but I guess if you can make it in the Balkans, you can make it anywhere.

If Liberland is successful it would be the world’s third-smallest country, after the Vatican City and Monaco, Much like its founder and president, Liberland will have a very limited government and will be open to everyone "regardless of their race, ethnicity, orientation, or religion", but prospective Liberlanders can't have been "punished for past criminal offences" or have a "communist, nazi or other extremist past".

Although Jedlička has reported a lot of positive reactions to his declaration of independence, it remains to be seen how serious he is or how successful Liberland will be in creating a Libertarian paradise. Currently the most successful micro-nation remains the Principality of Sealand. As I write this article, Liberland is not recognized by any other nation.

Still I would like to see Liberland be something more than just a publicity stunt by a fringe politician. If Jedlička and his supporters can actually create a working Libertarian state, who knows how that will effect international or local politics in the years to come. Even if it is a failed experiment, it will still be fascinating to watch it unfold. If you are interested in joining Liberland, go check out their website (where it appears most Liberlanders are attractive models) and Facebook page. Kudos to the hero who created Liberlandball.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Killing the Past: Can Assassins Change the Course of History?

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth and died the next day. Roughly 150 years later, Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Olken published an opinion piece in The New York Times asking whether assassins really can change the course of history. The two academics looked at data from both successful and failed assassination attempts from 1875 to 2004 and discovered that while assassinations do have a better chance of causing significant change in autocracies, robust democracies on the other hand are better able to survive the death of their leader. If this is true, suddenly The Interview is a much smarter movie than anyone realized.

Although the article was not alternate history, plenty of alternate and counterfactual historians jumped on the findings. And why not? As Evelyn Leeper pointed out in 2001, alternate histories focusing the assassination of JFK remain one of the most popular topics in alternate history. Both Stuart Schneiderman and Gavriel Rosenfeld commented on the article and while they both approached it from different directions, they generally reaffirmed the power of human agency while criticizing the study for not considering the changes caused if someone survives their assassination (like Lincoln or JFK).

What do I think about the power of assassins to change history? I am going to give a very lawyer answer and say: it depends. For alternate history, it certainly matters. The untimely death of powerful men and women (whether by assassins or other causes) is one of primary means of creating a point of divergence and without it we wouldn't have some of our most influential works (i.e. The Man in the High Castle and "For All Time"). Human agency, however, matters in alternate history because the story needs it to matter. Alternate history has always leaned toward the "rule of cool" thus we often stretch the limits of plausibility so we can tell the story we want to tell.

For counterfactual history, however, things get a little more complicated. Changing the actors on the stage doesn't necessarily change the outcome of the story. For example, assassinating Lincoln in 1861 when the American Civil War was just beginning won't provide the Confederacy with the strategic thinkers, industry, railroads or manpower it would have needed to defeat the Union. Thus the Confederacy still loses the war, but Lincoln's successors (Hannibal Hamlin and whoever comes next) could make enough different decisions during and after the war that in the long-term we may see a vastly different present from the one we inhabit now.

Honestly whether you believe assassins can change the course of history is really a matter of opinion. If you believe in the power of human agency, then yes killing a world leader would create a vastly different history from the one where he or she is still alive. If you believe in the ultimate power of the intangible forces governing history, than no, killing a world leader only changes the names we write in the history books, but not the actual outcome of history. The weakness to both sides, however, is that we will never know for sure. Until someone invents a time machine that allows us the spin off new timelines for study, we are stuck with the history we know, along with the same hypothetical questions on who would you kill/save if you could travel through time.

Which brings me to my final point, I generally find arguing whether killing/saving someone of importance in the past will make a "better" world, is pointless. There are just so many variables it is nearly impossible to predict what may happen and, if Jones and Olken are to be believed, the chance that nothing will happen if your target is the leader of a democracy is rather good.

To sum up: its fun to speculate whether an assassin can change history, but whether they actually do is still up for debate.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.