Friday, August 29, 2014

Flag Friday: British Korea

Guest post by Sam McDonald, with help from Laqueesha.
This is the flag of British Korea. It's from a world where it was Britain, rather than America, which convinced Japan to come out of isolation. The British had intended to add Japan to their empire, but it soon became clear this wouldn't be feasible. The British, however, had been poking around Korea, which presented a much easier target, and thus British Korea was born. Side effects of this included a Spanish-Japanese war in which Japan took the Philippines, Guam and the Marianas Islands; as well as Japanese participation in the Scramble for Africa.

British Korea was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, but the British regained it after the war. The Soviets demanded control of Northern Korea, but the British wished it to stay unified. As a compromise, British Korea remained unified while Japan was split into a Communist North and a Democratic South. Korea officially gained independence from the British in the 1970s.

Also, since I know someone will say it, British Korea is Best Korea.

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Sam McDonald is a college student from Shreveport, LA.  When not involved with his studies he can be found making and posting maps across the web and working on short stories that he hopes to have published in magazines such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and the Escape Artists Podcasts. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Canada and Russia Spar Over Geography

What an amazing world we live in when trolling over social media is reported by major news outlets. With the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine raising tensions between the great powers, Canada has this great response to Russia's claims that paratroopers captured in Ukraine weren't helping insurgents, they just got lost. To help Russian soldiers in the future, Canada posted this map on Twitter:
Seems pretty clear cut, don't you think? Not to be outdone, Russia responded with a map of their own:
This one colors in the Crimea as Russian territory and Abkhazia/South Ossetia as disputed territories, something not recognized on most Western maps. I have to admit Russia produces better quality maps than Canada.

All in all its weird to see countries snipe at each other (figuratively speaking) over social media. What if we had Twitter during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Would that have made matters better or worse?

God forbid if World War III finally happens because of an Internet troll.

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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.

Book Review: One King's Way by Harry Harrison

Although this may be a retro review, I have been meaning to finish the Hammer and the Cross trilogy ever since Harry Harrison passed away. So I spent some of my birthday money on an old paperback copy of One King's Way, the second book in the trilogy about the English slave who became a king and put the world on a new path of enlightenment, and checked to see whether it met the high expectations I got from its predecessor The Hammer and the Cross.

I hope you don't mind if I use more spoilers than usual in this review. This book was published in 1994, exactly twenty years ago, so its really your own fault if you haven't read it yet and still want to read this review.

As mentioned before, the hero of our story is a former English slave and son of a Viking raider (or Viking god depending on what you believe) named Shef. In the first book Shef had risen through the ranks of the Great Heathen Army of 865, discovered new inventions to help the English later defeat the Viking invaders and overthrow the harsh rule of the Catholic Church. Now co-King of a religiously tolerant England with Alfred of Wessex and the believed "chosen one" of the "Way of Asgard" an inquisitive and less-sacrificial version of the Norse religion, Shef is nonetheless unhappy. His former lover (and step-sister) has married Alfred, so Shef is taking the English fleet, armed with the new catapult armed "battleships", and is going on campaign to defeat the remaining Ragnarssons before they can attack England again.

On the way across the North Sea, Shef's fleet runs into the Ragnarssons' ships and battle ensues. The English and their Norse allies are victorious, but Shef's ship is beached and he is almost killed when the Ragnarsson flagship attacks. Cut off from his men and lost in the Ditmarsh, Shef needs to find a way home but inevitably ends up adventuring through much of Scandanavia. On the way he is almost sold into slavery, is tested by the Way, gets seduced by a Norwegian Queen, gets chased by Finns and has stop the brutal sacrifices at Uppsala. Meanwhile the Christians are reeling from their defeat in England and seek to prevent the spread of Shef's heresy by refounding the Holy Roman Empire under a new leader. To do this they seek the Spear of Destiny, which they believe is somewhere in Scandinavia. To secure this symbol of the Church, they send the newly formed Knights of the Lance under the leadership of the charismatic German noble Bruno, who could either be Shef's new ally or his greatest enemy.

Generally I liked the book. The whole series reminds me a lot of Turtledove's Agent of Byzantiumespecially the parts where Shef and his friends try to find new technologies to give them an edge against the brute strength of their enemies (such as an ironclad Viking warship). I was absorbed in the "medieval-punk" setting and cared about Shef's ultimate fate. Its the fantasy elements in the story that made me pause and reconsider whether this was a "good" book.

In the first book there was ambiguity about whether or not magic exists in this alternate history. Shef has visions and as mentioned before may or may not be the son of the Norse god Rig. Nevertheless this ambiguity was handled well as the reader could believe the Norse gods were real and influencing events on Earth, or this was all just superstition of ignorant people who would eventually be shown the light by the advancements created under Shef's new society. In One King's Way things get a little out of hand. The ambiguity of the first book is replaced with brief scenes where the gods debate about what to do about Shef and Killer Whales are apparently sent by the imprisoned Loki to kill Shef.

On top of that is the discovery of the "Hidden Folk", who gave inspiration to the trolls and other monsters of Norse mythology. In reality they are a near-human species who although physically stronger than humans had to go into hiding after humans learned to fight with metal weapons. They still can breed with humans (and they still do so), but generally avoid humans altogether and they are expert sneakers. The story tried to imply that the Hidden Folk are Yetis or Bigfoots, but that just made them even more silly in my opinion and made it hard to take seriously. This especially became annoying when they were turned into a deus ex machina to help Shef out of binds, like talking to Killer Whales to attack enemy ships and silently kill a Finn's reindeer to get him to believe Shef had magical powers.

I don't know whether to blame Harrison or John Holm (the pseudonym for the Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey) for the overuse of fantasy in the story. I did think it was a nice touch when they implied that the Christians are right as well. The Spear actually does bring victory to the holder and Shef is granted a vision of Jesus dying on the cross where he sees the face of the their god in the Sun. Does this mean all religions are right? Are there other gods running around the world and influencing events? How did they come to be? Is it simply by the belief and sacrifice of their followers (i.e. Gaiman's American Gods) or is it something else? Irregardless, I think Stirling handles the magic vs. real world balance better in his Emberverse books.

To end a very long review, despite my beef with the fantasy elements in the story, I found One King's Way to be an engaging alternate history of the medieval world. I probably will pick up the next book, King and Emperor, although it will probably be a while since my review pile is getting precariously high again. If you can stand the many fluttering of alien space bats, I highly recommend this classic work of the genre.

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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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pariah Missouri: I've seen the Promised Land!

Guest post by Andres Salazar.

My name is Andres Salazar. I’m a storyteller. I've been hunkered down working on the second graphic novel in the series, Pariah Missouri. Part Huckleberry Finn part Twin Peaks it’s a mash-up of some of my favorite stories and ideas all set in Antebellum 1857 Missouri. It’s steampunk without the punk, but a good dose of religion, folk magic, bounty-hunters, slaves and demons. It’s the A-team with Hiram Buchanan, an undercover Pinkerton, Nellie, a feisty courtesan, Jean Lafitte, a practitioner of voodoo from New Orleans, and Toro, a Mexican/Comanche bounty-hunter as they ferret out evil.

Book Two introduces two new characters, Elijah Harris and Jasper Whitmer, both preachers on different sides of the Great Awakening. Both there to save souls, or are they?

Book One was a Kickstarter last year. We did very well and I started hitting the convention circuit.  I attended 14 comic book conventions in the last 12 months (That's a whole another post I can write about those experiences).  I sold over 1,000 copies of Book One and it was selected as the Staff Pick for July's Preview in Diamond. Now we are at it again with a Kickstarter for Book Two. The book is already 96.3% done. I am putting some finishing touches on a couple of pages (out of the +100 page story) and re-working a few lines of dialog. It's interesting how I wrote the script back in September of 2013 and now re-reading it as I letter in InDesign, there's some things I want to change and add. The Kickstarter was selected as a Staff Pick by Kickstarter, so that must mean something, right?

I work with an amazing artist/penciler, JL Pescador, and I color every page of Pariah Missouri in watercolors. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since the beginning. I wanted that old-timey feel and keep the color palette down to a minimum. Even made a Deluxe Hardcover complete with writer-commentary throughout the story, on every page as well as extra pages with additional epilogue, behind-the-scenes art, production sketches and reference pictures. It’s the blu-ray of the book. Because of the costs to make the deluxe hardcover, I will not be selling them at stores or through Diamond, it will be strictly a Kickstarter thing (or face to face).

I just finished the rough script for Book Three. It should be ready for print in July 2015. The goal is to finish the story by Book Five, which will be the end for our little town of Pariah, and the beginning of the American Civil War.

I got some new Stretch Goals which will include a radio drama and a card game. It will be an exciting story for the next 30 days to see how we progress through the campaign.  I will be posting videos and updates often so backers really get a sense of the behind the scenes of what it takes to make a comic book.  Please become a part of our team!

To see the Pariah, Missouri Kickstarter campaign to go: www.pariahmissouri.com.

Editor's Note: I am also going to be reviewing Book One so stay tuned for that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Releases 8/26/14

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

Hardcovers

Faces of the Dead by Suzanne Weyn

When Marie-Therese, daughter of Marie Antoinette, slips into the streets of Paris at the height of the French Revolution, she finds a world much darker than what she's ever known.

When Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France learns of the powerful rebellion sweeping her country, the sheltered princess is determined to see the revolution for herself. Switching places with a chambermaid, the princess sneaks out of the safety of the royal palace and into the heart of a city in strife.

Soon the princess is brushing shoulders with revolutionaries and activists. One boy in particular, Henri, befriends her and has her questioning the only life she's known. When the princess returns to the palace one night to find an angry mob storming its walls, she's forced into hiding in Paris. Henri brings her to the workshop of one Mademoiselle Grosholtz, whose wax figures seem to bring the famous back from the dead, and who looks at Marie-Thérèse as if she can see all of her secrets. There, the princess quickly discovers there's much more to the outside world - and to the mysterious woman's wax figures - than meets the eye.

The Star Wars: Based on the Original Rough Draft Screenplay by George Lucas by J. W. Rinzler

Before Star Wars, there was The Star Wars! This is the softcover collection of the official adaptation of George Lucas' rough-draft screenplay for what would become Star Wars, the film that changed motion pictures and the world. You'll see familiar characters and places - but not all is the same in this long-ago and faraway galaxy. Still, strap yourself in for high adventure and lazersword duels, Iedi Knights Princess Leia Han Solo and a battle to.

Paperbacks

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire by Rod Duncan

Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life – as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus.

But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…

Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson

From Robert Charles Wilson, the author of the Hugo-winning Spin, comes Burning Paradise, a new tale of humans coming to grips with a universe of implacable strangeness.

Cassie Klyne, nineteen years old, lives in the United States in the year 2015—but it’s not our United States, and it’s not our 2015.

Cassie’s world has been at peace since the Great Armistice of 1918. There was no World War II, no Great Depression. Poverty is declining, prosperity is increasing everywhere; social instability is rare. But Cassie knows the world isn’t what it seems. Her parents were part of a group who gradually discovered the awful truth: that for decades—back to the dawn of radio communications—human progress has been interfered with, made more peaceful and benign, by an extraterrestrial entity. That by interfering with our communications, this entity has tweaked history in massive and subtle ways. That humanity is, for purposes unknown, being farmed.

Cassie’s parents were killed for this knowledge, along with most of the other members of their group. Since then, the survivors have scattered and gone into hiding. Cassie and her younger brother Thomas now live with her aunt Nerissa, who shares these dangerous secrets. Others live nearby. For eight years they have attempted to lead unexceptional lives in order to escape detection. The tactic has worked.

Until now. Because the killers are back. And they’re not human.

Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Helsing by Patrick Shand

Liesel Van Helsing's life of hunting down vampires is shaken up when a mysterious package shows up at her door. Inside it is an old journal written by her father, the famed vampire hunter, Abraham Van Helsing. Desperate to find out who sent her the book, Liesel discovers a clue which leads her on a voyage to Europe. What she doesn't know is that her journey is being manipulated by her father's greatest nemesis. This 152 page trade paperback collects together Zenescope's hit comic book series, Grimm Fairy Tales Helsing issues 1 through 4.

The Phantom Coach: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Ghost Stories edited by Michael Simms

From the editor of The Dead Witness and Dracula’s Guest, Michael Sims, expert on all things Victorian, presents a collection of stories about humanity’s oldest supernatural obsession: ghosts. The Phantom Coach, gathers memorable ghost tales from the Victorian era by a surprising, often-legendary cast, from Charles Dickens and Edith Wharton to Henry James, Thomas Hardy, and Arthur Conan Doyle. With a skillful introduction to the genre and notes on each story, The Phantom Coach is a spectacular collection of ghostly Victorian thrills.

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, August 25, 2014

Map Monday: Stalin's Zion by RadicalRepublican

Map Monday is back! The craziness of my life kept me from working on this series, but I think things have calmed down enough for me to commit more time to all the great alternate cartographers out there. So we return with a look at "Stalin's Zion (a Jewish Republic in the Far East)" by RadicalRepublican:
In this world Israel is destroyed shortly after independence and millions of refugees move to Stalin's Jewish Autonomous Oblast. This coupled with a not as paranoid Stalin and more anti-Semitic America leads to a majority population that is Jewish that eventually declares independence when the Soviet Union collapses in the 90s. I liked this map because I thought of a similar scenario in my "Alternate Israels: Five Historical Proposals for a Jewish Homeland" article on Amazing Stories. I guess great minds do think alike!

Honorable mentions this week go out to Sam McDonald's Roma Islamica and the If the Roman Empire Reunited I found on Reddit. If you want to submit a map for consideration 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 #158

Editor's Note

Still trying to balance work, home life and writing. Weekly Updates can be especially difficult due to the Links of the Multiverse section. Sadly its probably something I am going to be struggling with my entire life.

And now the news...

What is Outlander?

The speculative fiction community can't shut up about the TV series Outlander, but what is the show about? I haven't watched any episodes yet, but I do have the Internet to answer all of my questions. Outlander is a TV series on Starz based on the books by Diana Gabaldon (there are also graphic novels). The premise is that in 1945, married World War II nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall finds herself transported back to Scotland in 1743, where she finds civil war and the dashing Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser.

The fist episode generated record breaking ratings for the network and they have already renewed it for a second season. The show is notable for its "female gaze" and the critics love the show so far. Sharlene Mousfar at Geek Syndicate gave the first episode a 5 out of 5 and said "I really love the interpretation of this series thus far and I HIGHLY recommend you re-watch the episode."

Well looks I need to check this show out. Hopefully I can have a review in the near future.

More on The League of Seven by Alan Gratz

Some of you may remember that I am currently reading Alan Gratz's The League of Seven, so of course I noticed these articles on Tor promoting the book. The first is a guest article by the author himself discussing the pneumatic postal system New York City used from 1897 to 1953. On that same day Rajan Khanna posted a review of the book calling it a "thrilling and exciting (and sometimes dark) beginning to what I hope is a long series to come. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys middle-grade fiction."

Well that is some good news for Alan. So far I am enjoying the book (it stirs up old memories of Animorphs) so we will see my final verdict in the days to come.

Links to the Multiverse

Books


Boleyn trilogy author argues that 'twisted history' is still historical fiction by Hikari Loftus at Deseret News.
Cover & Synopsis: OF NOBLE FAMILY by Mary Robinette Kowal (Plus: A GLAMOURIST HISTORIES Cover Gallery!) at SF Signal.
Eric Brown on What Steampunk Means To Me at SF Signal.
How Not To Choose Alternate History Scenarios by Kate Paulk at Mad Genius Club.
Read an Excerpt from Chris Wooding’s Steampunk Adventure THE ACE OF SKULLS: A TALE OF THE KETTY JAY at SF Signal.
Read an Excerpt from George Mann’s SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE SPIRIT BOX at SF Signal.
Review: Beyond Apollo by Barry N Malzberg at Thinking about books.
Review: Coming Home by Roy E. Stolworthy at Alt Hist.
Review: Flawed by J.L. Spelbring at The Library Canary.
Review: Last Orders by Harry Turtledove at Bloggin with Badger.
Review: The Madonna and the Starship by James Morrow.
Sneak Preview: "Hi Hitler!" by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld at The Counterfactual History Review.
Time Traveler's Wife sequel from Niffenegger at The Bookseller.

Comics

Review: Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880 #1 at RWG.

Counterfactuals, History and News

10 (More) Gorgeous Colorized Photos That Put History In A New Light by Priscilla Frank The Huffington Post.
The Greatest Fake Religion of All Time by Jesse Walker at io9.
Obama's and Hillary's Competing Syrian Counterfactuals by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld at The Counterfactual History Review.
Plenty of Room at the Top of Ukraine’s Fading Rebellion by Andre E Kramer at The New York Times.
What if Rocky Marciano Fought On? by Fox Doucette at The Boxing Tribune.
Would arming Syria’s rebels have stopped the Islamic State? by Marc Lynch at The Washington Tribune.

Films and Television

Now This Is The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Movie We Deserve by Lauren Davis at io9.
To Boldly Go Where No Comrade Has ... by Eric Hynes at The New York Times.

Games

Bioshock: Complex and Alternate Histories by Ryan Lizardi at Game Studies.
Mod of the Week: After the End, for Crusader Kings II by Christopher Livingston at PC Gamer.

Interviews

Rod Duncan at The Qwillery.

Podcasts

Hard and Soft Alternate Histories: The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich, The Shadow Master by Craig Cormick and Rod Duncan’s The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter at The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

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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.