Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Out On Break (But Planning My Triumphant Return)

Just in case the wildings attack while I am in the North.
Well this Friday I leave for Britain to go to the Sideways in Time Conference in Liverpool. I'll be able to look around London for a day, then its a train ride north on Sunday for the pre-conference social event at Waterstones Liverpool One before the conference officially begins on Monday. I, however, am not giving my presentation until Tuesday.

From now until April 5th, I will not be doing any blogging here or at Amazing Stories (although you can still check out the awesome interview I did with the master himself, Harry Turtledove). So that means no Weekly Update, Map Monday, New Releases, guest posts or other articles, reviews or interviews for the foreseeable future.

Don't you fret. I will be back on the 6th with an extra long Weekly Update to celebrate my return to blogging. I am also returning to my weekly Amazing Stories schedule with a run down of what happened at the conference and I have an interview lined up with one of my favorite map makers, Lynn Davis. If anyone has any guest posts they would like to submit for that week, please let me know at ahwupdate at gmail dot com. If you need an example of what I am looking for in a guest post, go check out Mark from Atomic Skies's excellent Alternate Nuclear Wars article.

For those interested in reading my paper, "Warping History: An Overview of Fans and Creators of Alternate History in the Internet Age", there was talk of the conference papers being published in an anthology, but if that falls through I will probably publish it myself either on Amazon or here on the blog. I may even record my presentation, either the one at the conference or an edited one I will do later, and post it on my channel.

Speaking of the channel, my trailer currently has 500+ views. I hope to throw myself into making new content for it once I return and as I mentioned before my script on Deseret is finished, so all I need to do is record. After that I will probably have a video review to post on The Years of Rice and Salt.

To be completely honest: holy crap, you guys are freaking awesome! This last month has been wild with all of these opportunities I have had and it is all because of you. Thank you so much for following Alternate History Weekly Update and I really think you guys are going to enjoy what is coming up in the months to come.

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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.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Releases 3/24/15

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

Hardcovers

The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons

In 1893, Sherlock Holmes and Henry James come to America together to solve the mystery of the 1885 death of Clover Adams, wife of the esteemed historian Henry Adams--member of the Adams family that has given the United States two Presidents. Clover's suicide appears to be more than it at first seemed; the suspected foul play may involve matters of national importance.

Holmes is currently on his Great Hiatus--his three-year absence after Reichenbach Falls during which time the people of London believe him to be deceased. Holmes has faked his own death because, through his powers of ratiocination, the great detective has come to the conclusion that he is a fictional character.

This leads to serious complications for James--for if his esteemed fellow investigator is merely a work of fiction, what does that make him? And what can the master storyteller do to fight against the sinister power -- possibly named Moriarty -- that may or may not be controlling them from the shadows?

Paperbacks

1920: America's Great War by Robert Conroy

NATIONAL BEST SELLER IN HARDCOVER By the author of breakout WW II era alternate history Himmler’s War and Rising Sun, a compelling alternate history thriller. After winning WW I, Germany invades America in 1920, marching through California and Texas as a desperate nation resists.

Consider another 1920: Imperial Germany has become the most powerful nation in the world. In 1914, she had crushed England, France, and Russia in a war that was short but entirely devastating.

By 1920, Kaiser Wilhelm II is looking for new lands to devour. The United States is fast becoming an economic super-power and the only nation that can conceivably threaten Germany. The U.S. is militarily inept, however, and is led by a sick and delusional president who wanted to avoid war at any price. Thus, Germany is able to ship a huge army to Mexico to support a puppet government.

Her real goal: the invasion and permanent conquest of California and Texas.

America desperately resists as the mightiest and most brutal army in the world in a battle fought on land, at sea, and in the air as enemy armies savagely marched up on California, and move north towards a second Battle of the Alamo. Only the indomitable spirit of freedom can answer the Kaiser's challenge.

Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins

Investigator Lom returns to Mirgorod and finds the city in the throes of a crisis. The war against the Archipelago is not going well. Enemy divisions are massing outside the city, air raids are a daily occurrence and the citizens are being conscripted into the desperate defense of the city.

But Lom has other concerns. The police are after him, the mystery of the otherworldly Pollandore remains and the vast Angel is moving, turning all of nature against the city.

But will the horrors of war overtake all their plans?

To fans, 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, March 23, 2015

Alternate Nuclear Wars

Guest post by Mark Appleton.
The Cold War going hot is one of the classic alternate histories, behind only the Nazis winning World War II and the CSA winning the Civil War.  Piles and piles of books were written between 1945 and 1992, back when it was future history instead of alternate history, and the influx hasn't ended with the fall of the Soviet Union.  Most of these books follow a common formula, at least for the war itself: a thirty-minute mutual suicide.

Now, I'm not saying that that is an inaccurate depiction of a nuclear war (though most of these books get a lot of the details wrong, especially about how radiation works), but it's not necessarily accurate, either. If you dig through the old strategic literature of the Cold War, you can find a remarkable panorama of ideas about how to fight, survive, and even win a nuclear conflict.

I've compiled a list of some of the more interesting beliefs about what a nuclear war would look like.   These have all been seriously proposed at various times, by well-informed, intelligent people. That doesn't mean I personally believe they're plausible, but these concepts were put forth by strategists who devoted far more of their lives to thinking about this problem than either you or I have. They might be right and they're certainly interesting.

The Nuclear Blitz

This one is already fairly well-known within the alternate history community, although it's still obscure in the wider culture. This was the US Strategic Air Command's war plan through the 1950s: an overwhelming nuclear attack on all aspects of Soviet society, to both destroy both their economy and their ability to retaliate.

For most of the 1950s, the Soviets had very few aircraft able to carry atomic bombs across intercontinental distances. A US surprise attack would have a good chance of wiping out most or all of these aircraft. This is part of why Curtis LeMay and other American generals were so bellicose during the Cuban Missile Crisis – they believed a war with the Soviet Union was inevitable, and wanted to fight it while the US could still win it. A nuclear blitz, if it worked, would be a genuine victory for the United States. The US would likely not get off completely scot-free, especially later in the 1950s, but probably only a few cities and military bases would be lost – “only” a few million American citizens killed. It would be a genuine, if costly, American victory.

The world afterwards would resemble the world after World War II, only on a far greater, more terrible scale, and without the Soviet Union as a threat to unify the Western nations. It's difficult to imagine NATO occupying more than a token patch of the Soviet Union and China. At the same time, they could not allow any government to emerge there that might pose a future threat to the West, and with the nuclear taboo permanently broken, I expect that Strategic Air Command would be kept busy after the war “policing” the shattered remains of the Communist bloc. While the US would win the war, it's hard to see how they could win the peace.

Disarming First Strike

Over time, the nuclear blitz evolved into the disarming first strike. The idea is simple: the only rational goal in a nuclear war is to minimize the number of nuclear weapons that fall on your own people. Murdering your enemy's civilians does not benefit you in any way; but destroying his bomber bases, missile silos, and submarines keeps him from using them against your civilians.   In fact, surviving enemy civilians are an asset: you will probably not succeed in destroying all of your enemy's nuclear weapons, but you can hold his surviving people hostage to demand a surrender, promising to spare them if he refrains from firing his remaining weapons. Although the most notorious proponent of the concept was Herman Kahn, the disarming first strike is a concept found in the works of many nuclear strategists.

After the mid-1960s, the Soviet nuclear arsenal was big enough that an American disarming strike would be unlikely to succeed – but that's not quite the same thing as impossible. Supposedly, in the late 1970s the US discovered a critical vulnerability in the Soviet strategic communications network, which would allow the US to disable their communications long enough to execute a first strike. The possibility was studied in the 1980s by a small group under the Joint Chiefs of Staff, under the code name CANOPY WING. A copy of the study found its way to the Soviets via East Germany, and the flaw was fixed. I said this “supposedly” happened because our only source of information on CANOPY WING is documents from East German intelligence, leaked after the fall of the Berlin Wall via memoirs of East German intelligence officers trying to justify their careers, so it's possible the story is a hoax – but it does seem to be taken seriously by historians.

Skipping over the problems with any attempt to keep a nuclear war “limited”, let's assume that Russia or the US launches a successful disarming first strike against the other. What does the world look like afterwards? While fallout would kill many people – the usual estimates are in the millions – the number of dead would be comparable to World War II in the Soviet Union. After a few years the radiation would die down enough that the contaminated farmland could be used again. So the world would have gotten away with relatively little damage, compared to what could have happened.

Perhaps that would inspire a great revulsion against nuclear weapons and a determination to rid the world of the menace – but I doubt it. The losing side in the nuclear war would have suffered enormous casualties and lost tremendous power and prestige – but in a limited nuclear war, “surrender” would mean giving up on the issue at hand and making concessions. The loser would still have too many weapons left for the winner to demand unconditional capitulation. Instead they would have to be left alone to nurse their wounded pride, and dream of revenge. The Cold War would resume the day after World War III ended, and with it the arms race – but, this time, one party would no longer be content with detente or peaceful coexistence. A disarming first strike would most likely set up a World War IV a few decades down the road, just as World War I set up World War II.

Protracted Nuclear War

The protracted nuclear war is an extension of the logic of the disarming first strike. By the 1970s, both sides had arsenals big enough that, even after absorbing a first strike, the victim would still have enough weapons left to destroy the attacker. But, the logic continues: the victim gains nothing from retaliating against the attacker's civilians. Would it not be more rational for him to launch a disarming strike of his own?  This back-and-forth might continue for a long time – months, perhaps even years – as each side slowly used up its arsenal. Eventually, one party would run out of weapons, and concede. That's the idea, anyway. Protracted nuclear wars have actually been portrayed in fiction a few times – it's the premise of David Mace's Fire Lance, and is part of the background of John Varley's Gaea trilogy.

I have a hard time believing that any prohibition on hitting cities would last. Actually, I think it offers one of the few visions of Armageddon that is worse than a thirty-minute mutual suicide: a nuclear war that does not end. Nuclear strategy is premised on the rationality of the decision-makers, but after years of apocalypse, would the goal still be negotiating a favorable peace – or would it be to finally destroy whatever is left of the enemy? There might never be a formal end to the war, an official ceasefire – instead it would slowly stutter to a halt as the stockpiles are exhausted, the shattered survivors never knowing if that was really the last weapon or if tomorrow destruction will visit them once again.

Tit-for-Tat War

The tit-for-tat war is a different version of a lengthy nuclear war. In the protracted nuclear war, the goal is to destroy the enemy's weapons. In the tit-for-tat war, the goal is to destroy their resolve, by the careful, precise destruction of cities, one at a time.

Conceivably, the war might be relatively bloodless. There's no reason to not give fair warning before the strike, to give the enemy time to evacuate: killing people would only harden his determination.   So issue an ultimatum, allow a week to clear the city, then nuke it. Repeat until someone concedes.

It's hard to imagine anyone being happy with the conclusion of a tit-for-tat war. The losers would have lost both cities and the war. The winners might have won the war, but I doubt they would view Berlin, or whatever else was at stake, as worth the loss of New York, Los Angeles and Dallas – or Moscow, Leningrad and Minsk. Both governments would probably end up overthrown, either by the military or the populace.

Catalytic Nuclear War

As I've said before, the only rational goal in a nuclear war is to keep your enemy's nuclear warheads from landing on your soil. The best way to do that is to get your enemy to shoot them at someone else. A catalytic nuclear war is a war between two powers started by a nominally neutral third power, who has launched an attack on one or both of the belligerents designed to appear as if it came from the other. The first two powers then destroy each other, leaving the third power to inherit the Earth. The concept has been portrayed in a number of works of fiction, including Tom Clancy's Sum of All Fears and Peter George's Commander-1. Kenneth Sewell, in Red Star Rogue, claimed this actually almost happened with the Soviet submarine K-129, with rogue KGB operatives trying to trigger a US-China nuclear exchange, though that book could charitably be described as implausible.

This is trickier to pull off than novels sometimes make it seem. You can't just nuke Moscow and Washington and assume they'll launch on each other, but aside from that, a state that is both powerful enough and antagonistic enough to try to do something like this is probably going to be hit in the exchange as well and even if they aren't, congratulations: you get to rule over a bombed-out, glowing ruin of a world. Have fun with that.

Preemptive Surrender

You're in a nuclear war. As a good nuclear strategist, your goal is to minimize the number of nuclear strikes on your country. Whatever weapons your enemy has already launched cannot be recalled.   There's nothing that can be done about them now; your concern is how to keep his remaining weapons on the ground. The best way to do that is to surrender.

This is about the only way I can imagine something like the classic “USSR occupies the US” situation happening – an American president deciding to surrender rather than fight a nuclear war. Any such occupation would be little more than a token in practical terms, given the size of the US, and I doubt it would end any better for the occupier than it does in the many books on the subject.

Conclusion

I actually have quite a few more than this – Mutually Really Assured Destruction, Defensive Advantage, the Nuclear Coup – but I think this is long enough. The permutations of nuclear strategy are virtually endless, especially if you expand your vision to encompass conflicts between state and non-state actors, or between elements of a single state.

What I'm hoping you'll take away from this isn't that a tit-for-tat war or a preemptive surrender is likely. They aren't. In particular, most of these concepts rely heavily on the twin assumptions that political leaders will continue to be rational and able to effectively command their military forces even in the midst of a nuclear holocaust, which, bluntly, they probably wouldn't.

My point, rather, is that we don't know what would happen in a nuclear war. The fact that so many very intelligent people could propose such wildly different visions for how a nuclear war would unfold is evidence for that. I don't really know that presidents and premiers wouldn't think with ice-cold logic even as their people are cut down by the millions. No one in the history of the world has ever been in that position, so we can't truly know how they would respond.

Nevertheless, that is one of the least of the uncertainties. We don't know how reliable or accurate the missiles really are. We don't know how military officers controlling nuclear weapons would react if they were cut off from higher orders. We don't know how the civilian population would react. We don't know what the real targeting plans are. We don't know how bad nuclear winter would be. We don't know how bad the EMP effects would be. We don't know how bad the damage to the ozone layer would be. We don't know if there would be enough industrial base left to piece together a working economy afterwards.

There are so many things we don't know about this vitally important subject, so many things we can't know. All we can really say for sure is that a nuclear war would be the greatest disaster in the history of the human race, a step into an abyss whose true depth we cannot now fathom. Some would argue that it doesn't really matter as long as it doesn't happen, and, well, they have a point, but as long as these weapons continue to exist – and they show no signs of evaporating – there will remain a risk that they will be used. If we are to think rationally about nuclear weapons and nuclear war, we need to realize the gaps in our knowledge.

Also, on a lighter note, these ideas are interesting in and of themselves, and I hope they'll spark some entertaining thoughts among the readers. A tit-for-tat war or a preemptive surrender is possible even if it's unlikely, and they're fertile material for fiction.

Finally, if you want to see my personal hunch for what a nuclear war would look like, read "Protect & Survive". Not only is it magnificently well-written, but it is as realistic as any story of an event that never happened can be, which is all we can really ask for.

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Mark J. Appleton blogs on atompunk history at Atomic Skies.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Preview: Relativism, Alternate History, and the Forgetful Reader: Reading Science Fiction and Historiography by Derek Thiess

Man do I got a lot of reading to do in the next few weeks. I just got another review copy, this time from Derek J. Thiess (who goes by "The Academic Ronin" on Twitter). He has a new book out called Relativism, Alternate History, and the Forgetful Reader: Reading Science Fiction and Historiography. Here is the description from Amazon:

The writer of alternate history asks “what if?” What if one historical event were different, what would the world look like today? In a similar way, the postmodern philosopher of history suggests that history is literature, or that if we read certain historical details differently we would get a distinctly different interpretation of past events. While the science fiction alternate history means to illuminate the past, to increase our understanding of past events, however, the postmodern approach to history typically suggests that such understanding is impossible. To the postmodern philosopher, history is like literature in that it does not offer the reader access to the past, but only an interesting story. Building on criticism that suggests personal psychological reasons for this obscuring the past, and using a literary theory of readership, this book challenges the postmodern approach to history. It channels the speculative power of science fiction to read the works of postmodern philosophy of history as alternate histories themselves, and to map the limits and pathology of their forgetful reading of the past.

Some heavy stuff in that summary, hopefully I will be able to understand it all when I crack this book open.

Do you have an alternate history novel, short story, graphic novel, comic, etc. that you want reviewed on Alternate History Weekly Update? Let us know at ahwupdate at gmail dot com.

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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, March 19, 2015

June 15, 1986: Nintendo Files For Bankruptcy

Guest post by Vinny Jace.

A company founded during the Qing dynasty, Nintendo started as a playing card manufacturer before getting into computer electronics with the Nintendo Famicon, which sold well in Japan. After the video game crash in 1983, Nintendo saw North America as an untapped market and looked to capitalize on the their past success.

Home consoles had taken a serious downturn since the fall of Atari. The biggest video game developer cluttered its most famous system, the Atari 2600, with rushed, unpolished, unsatisfactory games like Pac-Man, E.T The Extra Terrestrial and suffered a beyond repair reputation hit after the releases of Beat'Em & Eat'Em and General Custer's Revenge.

After a failed deal with Atari, Nintendo marched into the 1985 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with the Famicon, marketing it as an Advanced Video System. No one, however, was interested. Unable to change people's belief that video games were a passing fad, Nintendo sold few home consoles.

Undaunted, Nintendo came back to the next CES convention in Chicago, later that year and rebranded their Famicon as the Nintendo Entertainment System, marketing it as a toy complete with "R.O.B.", a robotic operating helper, and a light gun, which functioned much like an arcade shooter. Despite all the rebranding, Nintendo once again failed and with the emergence of the more powerful Sega Master System, Nintendo lost the home gaming market in Japan as well as in North America, if they ever had it.

Less than a year later Nintendo filed bankruptcy after failed attempts to produce a successor to the Famicon in Japan, leaving Sega as the only successful gaming company still active. Home computers, however, carried the gaming torch, while innovation in game consoles stagnated. Short-lived rivals to the Master System, included the TurboGrafx-16, which sold only 2.5 million consoles and the return of Atari with the Jaguar, which was an even bigger failure selling less than 250,000 consoles, putting the first big video gaming company out of business for good.

Without a serious competitor, Sega was allowed to own the home console market, despite disgruntled third-party companies like Konami, Square and Capcom, who did not like working for Sega's outdated hardware and the company's inability to abandon the Master System and make a new updated console that could support the technological advancement since the system's launch in 1985.

Eventually, gaming fully shifted towards the computer as many expected. PCs were capable of much better sound and graphics than any home console. Third-party developers flew towards companies like Microsoft and Apple. Classics like Final Fantasy VI, Mega-Man 6 and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood all made their debuts in 1993 on PCs. The companies that left Sega, were credited as the ones who took gaming out of it's stagnant state, allowing for people to see that gaming had changed from the old Atari days of the early 80's.

Sega would ultimately drop out of the home console business, not seeing a sizable market to make an updated version of their Master System and the PC being a better hub for video game development. In 1995, Sega announced their first home computer, called The Genesis, to compete with Microsoft and Apple. The Genesis did well enough in the market to win over some interest in third-party developer's again, but Sega never fully committed to returning to gaming and looked at computers as a safer and easier way to make money.

Today games are looked at as a hobby or as an incentive to buy a computer. Companies like Squaresoft, Konami, Bandai and Capcom dominate the market and are known as the "resurrecting fathers" of modern day gaming.

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In reality: Nintendo was a success in their rebranding efforts. In partnership with Worlds of Wonder, Nintendo was able to garner a following and have a tight grip on the new era of gaming that would last for a decade. Nintendo is credited with saving the gaming industry and people often wonder what if they had indeed failed like their skeptics predicted.

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Vinny Jace blogs at The Unoriginal, where he writes about a whole variety of things from sports, movies, video games, etc.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Interview: Blaine Pardoe

After reading Never Wars, I was intrigued enough by the alternate history found in this counterfactual book that I wanted to talk to the author, Blaine Pardoe. I learned some interesting things about this alternate historian, including his upcoming alternate history trilogy. Check it out below:

Who is Blaine Pardoe?

That’s a harder question than I thought it would be to answer. In my daytime job I work in Information Technology as an Associate Director for Ernst & Young LLP. My off-hours I’m a writer. I got my start doing role playing game supplements and sourcebooks, then I started writing novels for BattleTech and MechWarrior. I’d like to tell you that it is like having a super-hero secret identity, but it’s not quite that cool (but is close at times).

I like telling people that my second career is the neat one. I've have won honors (the Harriett Quimby Award from the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame, the State History Award from the Historical Society of Michigan, and others) and have had some of my books hit the New York Times bestseller list (The Murder of Maggie Hume – which I co-authored with my daughter).  I’ve been on Bill O’Reilly’s show, have spoken at the US Naval Academy, the US National Archives, and the Smithsonian.  I get to meet a lot of neat people as a result of my writing career.

If you are going to write good military sci-fi, you have to know history so I decided to branch out into writing non-fiction military history books (along with true crime).  A lot of my work focuses on the early 20th century military history and aviation. I find the research almost as much fun as writing the books themselves.

A lot of writers stick to one genre to build up a fan base and become big there.  I violate that thinking by writing in a lot of genres.  Why?  I write what I like to read – it’s that simple.

What got you interested in counterfactual history?

Like a lot of people I started with Philip K. Dick’s The Man in a High Castle.  Harry Turtledove really made alternate history more mainstream and palatable for the masses. Turtledove’s works were seductive in the way he wove in famous characters as part of an ensemble of characters.  Most recently I've enjoyed Robert Conroy’s books.  His voice will be missed in the genre.

I became enthralled with the concept of a single moment in history changing and how that might have rippling impacts on events.

What is Never Wars about?

Never Wars is a summation of the colored War Plans of the United States between 1904 and 1943. The US was in its infancy when it came to war planning during this era.  Plans were drafted against a number of different potential enemies. These plans give you insight into US political and military thinking.

More importantly, for alternate history buffs, these are the wars that US planned to wage but didn't. Some are minor in nature – like War Plan Tan – US intervention in Cuba.  Others like War Plan Red – the 1935 war planned against Great Britain, are stunning in nature and present a world view few of us have contemplated.

What inspired you to write the book?

I wrote The Fires of October which was about the US’s planned (but never used) invasion of Cuba at the peak of the missile crisis.  Getting that material unclassified and out in digestible form was a huge task. For me it was a great “what-if” that almost happened. When I read Conroy’s Castro’s Bomb, I meshed it up against my research and found huge gaps. I came to realize that a lot of alternate history authors (and readers) could benefit from access to these kinds of unpublished war plans.

While working on that book, one of the archivists said, “Have you ever looked into the colored war plans?” I had heard of them but had never looked at them. So between pulls (getting requests fulfilled at the Archives II in Maryland) I hit the microfilm and started to look at the plans. I was stunned. We were planning to wage war against Mexico and Canada – and China too?  The “alternate historian” in me thought, “wow, there are a lot of AH fans out there that would love to see this material.

The work proved daunting. There were a lot of versions and variants of the plans, and many of those were incomplete. The Joint Planning Board had ordered most of them destroyed at the start of WWII (probably to avoid embarrassment if would-be allies found out the US had planned to invade them) but I was lucky that some survived – buried in various records repositories at the Archives. Piecing these together was a challenge but rewarding.

Which of the color-coded war plans did you find most intriguing?

Two stand out for me:

War Plan Red – the 1935 plan to go to war with Great Britain was probably the most interesting.  If you think of the historical context, this was the period when Hitler was coming to power but the US focus was against the nation that would become her staunchest ally. Almost buried in the war plan was the US plans to use chemical weapons against Canada at the start of hostilities. Not only was this a violation of treaty, it was a stunning revelation.

War Plan Black – the 1915 plan to go to war with Germany. The Joint Planning Board presumed that Germany would win WWI in Europe in a matter of weeks/months. When they tried to seize the French colonies in the Caribbean, it would violate the Monroe Doctrine and put the US at war with Germany. The US Army was a pittance of men, and the assumption was that Germany would crush our east coast Navy and land forces in the US before we could muster an army that could repel them. The analysis of the landing sites was neat to come across but the best was the plans for the siege of Washington DC. I live outside of DC and finding the map with the trench and communications lines and the thought of Germany laying siege to Washington was, well, awesome.

Any one of these chapters could (and should) be a game or an alternate history novel.

Who designed the cover?

My publisher, Fonthill Media, did the cover. We were torn on images. They wanted a lot of photos for the book, but how do you use a lot of photos for wars that never happened?  It led to some curious email exchanges. They were great to work with and I’m pleased with the cover they chose.

Do you have any other counterfactual/alternate history projects you are currently working on?

I have done a lot of writing for Catalyst Games Labs' Leviathans miniatures/board game, which postulates flying battleships at the turn of the 20th century. I hope to be doing more work on that project. For now, I’m taking a break from military history to work on a sci-fi military trilogy. I've finished book two and I can’t wait for us to release the entire series. It is good to be back working on some fiction.

I am about one-quarter of the way through an alternate history book – the first in a trilogy – tentatively titled Confederacy of the Damned.  The first book is set in the Civil War, the second will be in the Spanish American War, and the final will be in WWI. It is a very neat book. I put it on hold to work on the military sci-fi stuff, but I hope to get back to it sometime later this year.  

Other than that – my next book to hit bookstores is Sawney Bean: Dissecting the Legend of the Scottish Cannibal.  Going to Scotland to research this book was a lot of fun and took me to some unexpected places and directions.

What is Confederacy of the Damned about?

Confederacy of the Damned is an alternate history steampunk novel.  I can almost hear the moans from the purists – “Steampunk is not alternate history.”  I get that, but I think the two coincide. I have always wanted to do a good steampunk novel. The issue I have had with most Steampunk novels is that they toss you into a story well after the divergence in the timeline. As a reader you are expected to simply accept the change in history as something that happened in the past. You are thrust into a novel with technology that doesn't fit the era and you are simply expected to cope with it. With Confederacy I wanted to change that dynamic. I wanted to take the readers along through the divergence in the timeline from the start, and through the eyes and perspectives of a number of different characters. The first book is before the traditional Victorian era Steampunk so you are there are the birth of the new timeline/universe.

I’m a big Civil War history buff (I used to do private tours on the Manassas battlefield and I still go out with a metal detector on private property to dig up bullets and buttons from the war.)  If you look at the Confederacy’s problems in 1863-1864 a central one was a dwindling supply of manpower. Losses simply could not be replenished. What if Great Britain provided the Confederacy with a Bokor from Haiti, a witch doctor that could raise the dead?  Equipped with zombie troops, the Confederacy might stand to turn the tide of battle. So, you get the British helping the South, but not with troops. (Technically I just heard another moan from the alternate history gang at the word, “zombie.”  I’d apologize, but I think it sounds interesting.)

The US Government is far from idle against this new form of enemy troop. President Lincoln, a man prone to overextending his powers and bending the law, essentially breaks into the patent offices to cope with the new threat while the Army struggles to hold the South at bay. Gatling guns, crude airships (compliments of Thaddeus Lowe) and even steam powered tanks (land monitors courtesy of John Ericsson) are fielded against the new Confederate threat that closes in on Washington. I actually found supporting patents from the period for caterpillar tracks and some of the other technologies.

With the book I get to explore how deeply religious Southern officers cope with the use of dark magic in order for their cause to survive. Having some change sides is both fun and entertaining.

It is an ensemble cast of characters which pit the darker forces of the Confederacy against the technological innovation of the Federal Army. Wars are not won on battlefields alone though, and this conflict goes far from the battlefields of Virginia.

I will concede, this book is a bit of a mental romp, meshing and merging two genres is bound to not appeal to elements of both. At the same time I wanted to really have some fun with it…to take history out and drive it around like a mad-man.  Confederacy of the Damned allows me to do that. While pundits may take shots at the concept, I didn't want to go down that well-worn path of, “The South wins the Civil War, blah, blah, blah.” I wanted to go where others had not gone before and to lay the foundation for the next two books that would follow.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

First and foremost, get a day job. Writing is neat and fun and you meet awesome people. If you look to make a living off of it, it becomes something else. It is one of the few professions you can do while having another job that ensures you have economic stability. Get a degree, get a good day job that allows you to be a writer at your leisure.

Talk to other writers. I've learned a great deal from people that are smarter than me who had already done a lot with their writing careers.

Finally – write. It doesn't matter what you write, but write. One of my first jobs was writing an editorial column in college for the Central Michigan Life.  I still do that today for the Culpeper Times newspaper. I've done computer games tips books and books on any number of subjects and genres. Just write and write a little each and every day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Releases 3/17/15

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Hardcovers

Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale

Perfect for fans of action-adventure and historical fiction—including novels by such authors as Bernard Cornwell, Steve Berry, Naomi Novik, and Harry Turtledove—this stunning work of alternate history imagines a world in which the Roman Empire has not fallen and the North American continent has just been discovered. In the year 1218 AD, transported by Norse longboats, a Roman legion crosses the great ocean, enters an endless wilderness, and faces a cataclysmic clash of worlds, cultures, and warriors.

Ever hungry for land and gold, the Emperor has sent Praetor Gaius Marcellinus and the 33rd Roman Legion into the newly discovered lands of North America. Marcellinus and his men expect easy victory over the native inhabitants, but on the shores of a vast river the Legion clashes with a unique civilization armed with weapons and strategies no Roman has ever imagined.

Forced to watch his vaunted force massacred by a surprisingly tenacious enemy, Marcellinus is spared by his captors and kept alive for his military knowledge. As he recovers and learns more about these proud people, he can’t help but be drawn into their society, forming an uneasy friendship with the denizens of the city-state of Cahokia. But threats—both Roman and Native—promise to assail his newfound kin, and Marcellinus will struggle to keep the peace while the rest of the continent surges toward certain conflict.

Past Futures: Science Fiction, Space Travel, and Postwar Art of the Americas by Sarah J. Montross

From the 1940s to the 1970s, visionary artists from across the Americas reimagined themes from science fiction and space travel. They mapped extraterrestrial terrain, created dystopian scenarios amid fears of nuclear annihilation, and ingeniously deployed scientific and technological subjects and motifs. This book offers a sumptuously illustrated exploration of how artists from the United States and Latin America visualized the future. Inspired variously by the "golden age" of science fiction, the Cold War, the space race, and the counterculture, these artists expressed both optimism and pessimism about humanity's prospects.

Past Futures showcases work by more than a dozen artists, including the biomorphic cosmic spaces and hybrid alien-totemic figures painted by the Chilean artist Roberto Matta (1911--2002); the utopian Hydrospatial City envisioned by Argentine Gyula Kosice (1924--); and Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, in which Robert Smithson (1938--1973) layered tropes of time travel atop Mayan ruins. The artists respond to science fiction in film and literature and the media coverage of the space race; link myths of Europeans' first encounters with the New World to contemporary space exploration; and project futures both idealized and dystopian.

The book, which accompanies an exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, also includes an essay by the editor and curator mapping central themes; an exploration of how Latin American artists have depicted astronomic phenomena, utopian projects, and the modern machine; an essay on space-age art in Argentina during the 1960s; and a study of Smithson and science fiction.

Essays Sarah Montross, Rodrigo Alonso, Rory O'Dea, Miguel Ángel Fernández Delgado

Artists includeRudy Ayoroa, Luis Benedit, Marcelo Bonevardi, Enrique Careaga, Enrique Castro-Cid, Vija Celmins, Carlos Colombino, Juan Downey, Fred Eversley, Mario Gallardo, Dan Graham, Nancy Graves, Raquel Forner, Peter Hutchinson, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Gyula Kosice, Roberto Matta, Emilio Renart, Robert Smithson, Michelle Stuart, Rufino Tamayo, Horacio Zabala

Prudence by Gail Carriger 

Introducing the Custard Protocol series, in which Alexia Maccon's daughter Prudence travels to India on behalf of Queen, country...and the perfect pot of tea.

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama ("Rue" to her friends) is bequeathed an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female under similar circumstances would do -- she christens it the Spotted Custard and floats off to India.

Soon, she stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis (and an embarrassing lack of bloomers), Rue must rely on her good breeding -- and her metanatural abilities -- to get to the bottom of it all...

Paperbacks

Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham

Lady Marguerite lives a life most 17th century French girls can only dream of: Money, designer dresses, suitors and a secure future. Except, she suspects her heart may be falling for her best friend Claude, a common smithie in the family's steam forge. When Claude leaves for New France in search of a better life, Marguerite decides to follow him and test her suspicions of love. Only the trip proves to be more harrowing than she anticipated. Love, adventure and restitution await her, if she can survive the voyage.

E-Books

Metal Emissary by Chris Paton
Struggling to regain the Queen’s favour, the British Royal Navy despatch Lieutenant Jamie Hanover on a mission to uncover the rumour of a French secret weapon located in the mountains of Afghanistan.

As the Great Game takes shape in Central Asia, Jamie is helped by the strange mystic, Hari Singh, as he tracks a metal monster leaving a trail of destruction and chaos in its wake. The two men join forces to fulfil their respective missions. Ambushed in the mountains, they fight side by side as they travel through the infamous Khyber Pass.

Following in the destructive footsteps of the metal emissary, Jamie and Hari’s journey takes them from Peshawar to Adina Pur where the uncovering of secrets and the culmination of their mission demands a heavy price.

Metal Emissary is a Steampunk Adventure set in Central Asia in the 1850s full of weird machines, exotic characters, dust, snow and blood.

To fans, 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.