Friday, May 29, 2015

Interview: Rvbomally

For the next installment in my my interview series featuring my favorite alternate cartagraphers, I got a chance to talk with Rvbomally of AlternateHistory.com. He is the author of "Ad Astra Per Aspera", but I wanted to talk to him primarily for his map work. Check out what he had to say below:

Who is Rvbomally?

Just some random guy on the Internet.

What got you interested in alternate history?

I was first introduced to the concept by the Dawn of Victory mod. At that point, I was far more interested in conventional science fiction, so the WWII powers in space was a new concept that really got me interested in the genre. I then found out about Timeline-191, which I then picked up and fell in love with. And the rest, they say, is history.

What inspired you to write "Ad Astra Per Aspera"?

No one thing inspired me to write AAPA, although Fallout, 1984, and Warhammer 40K are clear influences. AAPA is, in a way, the final evolution of my science fiction musings dating back to at least 2006. The setting back then was far different, involving space Texans attacking robots on Mars, of all things. It gradually evolved into a more conventional space opera, where the primary civilization was the Holy Dominion of Christendom, a galaxy-spanning theocratic empire that enslaves any aliens it encounters, at war with a communist insurgency.

When I found out about Warhammer 40K, I decided to do something different, so I decided to make a space Cold War story, while retaining some elements of the original "Dominionverse" story. The Dominion became the Coalition of Western Republics, which was pitted against a Sino-Soviet Collective that later became the Conseil. The Technocracies were added later as a neutral kingmaker. You could see some of this evolution in early draft maps I have since posted to my deviantArt account, and I plan on revisiting the first two incarnations of AAPA in a remake.

When did you start creating alternate history maps?

A long time ago! I'd say about 2008, possibly even earlier. Those initial maps were utter garbage; nonsensical recolors of the Wikipedia basemap. Of course, I got better.

What do you think people like about alternate history maps?

For me, it shows a radically different world at a glance. When I see different borders, and different alliances on a key, I start thinking about how different that world's history, culture, and politics must be from our own. It's a very efficient and very effective form of telling a worldbuilding-heavy story.

What software do you use to create maps?

For my oneshots, a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Paint. Photoshop isn't strictly necessary for the process, it just makes things like adding lots of text, choosing colors and outlining countries easier. All of my oneshots can be replicated on Paint alone. When I decide to get fancy, I use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

What is your favorite map that you ever created?

That's a tough one. I tend to adopt a favorite and then drop it. For example, right now I'm a big fan of my cover of Transparent Blue's "Last Living Souls". But my all time favorite would have to be my Union of American Federal Republics map. I love how it turned out!

[Editor's Note: And it was featured on Map Monday.]

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

Nowhere, unfortunately. I'm typically a busy guy, with only enough time to make maps for myself. I'm trying to get through a large list of maps I'd like to make at the moment. I'm still making maps for ideas I had back in 2013. If you like what you see, however, feel to give me a tip on patreon.

Any other map makers you would like to recommend?

Yes! B_Munro/QuantumBranching, ToixStory, RoyalPsycho, vongreif, zalesky, 1Blomma, and Silas-Coldwine are some of my favorites. Check them out!

Any other projects that you are working on now?

Aside from my Oneshot Scenarios, I'm working on "Space Cadet", another science fiction setting which is my attempt to take just about every genre of science fiction at once and stick it in a blender.

What books are you reading?

These days, nothing but boring textbooks and legal codes, unfortunately.

Any advice for aspiring alternate cartographers?

The best way to learn is by trying to imitate maps you like. Most of my progress has been made trying to replicate an aesthetic I see on a map thread, or even on a map in real life. I find that I never replicate the aesthetic perfectly, but I learn a lot in the process, and it helps me develop my own style. Oh, and tutorials are helpful.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Videos for Alternate Historians #16

I think I like the idea of themed Videos for Alternate Historians. With that in mind, here is a slate of videos featuring Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, the stand-alone prequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order. First up, Achievement Hunter shows us six Easter eggs you can find in the game:
Our next video is also from Achievement Hunter. Lets watch Ryan and Michael try to finish the first hidden nightmare level:
But is the game good? Well...lets see what Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation thinks:
Got any videos or YouTube channels that you want to recommend? Let us know in the comments or 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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

RIP: Tanith Lee (1947-2015)

Yesterday it was announced that British SF&F author Tanith Lee passed away. According to Wikipedia, she was the author of over 90 novels and 300 short stories, a children's picture book (Animal Castle) and many poems. She also wrote two episodes of the BBC science fiction series Blake's 7. The fact that she managed to write all of that and overcome dyslexia is doubly impressive. She was also the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award best novel award for her book Death's Master.

Tanith contributed to the alternate history genre as well. According to Uchronia she is the author of Piratica: Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl's Adventure Upon the High Seas and Piratica II: Return to Parrot Island. Set in an alternate 1800s in a world where Great Britain is a republic and France is a monarchy, the alternate history content is minimal, but having not read either book I can't really comment anymore on the series. If you have read one or both of the books, please let us know what you thought of them in the comments.

That being said, it is always a sad day when we lose another alternate historian. If the reactions across the Internet are telling, Tanith was obviously an important woman to many people whose work took people on amazing journeys. Tanith, you will be missed.

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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, May 26, 2015

New Releases 5/26/15

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

Paperbacks

1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies by Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon

New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling alternate history series. Book #18 in the Ring of Fire series created by Eric Flint.

Eddie Cantrell, now married to the king of Denmark’s daughter, is sent by Admiral Simpson to the Caribbean to secure access to the most valuable commodity on that continent—not the gold and silver which the Spanish treasure, but the oil which up-time machines and industry need. The admiral has also provided Eddie’s small task force with the new steam-powered frigates that have just come out of the navy’s shipyards.

Even with the frigates, a giant obstacle stands in his way: the Gulf-girdling Spanish presence in the New World. So a diversion is needed, carried out by an up-time car mechanic and a down-time mercenary colonel who also happens to be the last earl of Ireland. Their mission: grab the oil fields on Trinidad, and so distract the attention of Spain’s New World governors.

While the Spanish galleons and troops head for Trinidad, Commander Cantrell’s smallest and fastest steam sloop will make a run to the Louisiana coast. There, her crew will wind their way up the bayous to the real New World prize: the Jennings Oil Field.

But Cantrell’s plans could be wrecked in a multitude of ways. He faces often-hostile natives, rambunctious Dutch ship captains, allied colonies on the brink of starvation, and vicious social infighting that can barely be contained by his capable and passionate new wife. When the galleons finally come out in force to engage his small flotilla, Eddie will discover that the Spanish aren’t the only enemies who will be coming against him in a fateful Caribbean show-down.

The Virgin's Daughter: A Tudor Legacy Novel by Laura Andersen

Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, The Virgin’s Daughter is the first book in a captivating new saga about the next generation of Tudor royals, which poses the thrilling question: What if Elizabeth I, the celebrated Virgin Queen, gave birth to a legitimate heir?

Since the death of her brother, William, Elizabeth I has ruled England. She’s made the necessary alliances, married Philip of Spain, and produced a successor: her only daughter, Anne Isabella, Princess of Wales. Elizabeth knows that her beloved Anabel will be a political pawn across Europe unless she can convince Philip to grant her a divorce, freeing him to remarry and give Spain its own heir. But the enemies of England have even greater plans for the princess, a plot that will put Anabel’s very life and the security of the nation in peril. Only those closest to Elizabeth—her longtime confidante Minuette, her advisor and friend Dominic, and the couple’s grown children—can be trusted to carry forth a most delicate and dangerous mission. Yet, all of the queen’s maneuverings may ultimately prove her undoing.

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, May 25, 2015

Map Monday: League of the Defiant by Zalezsky

I like finding new alternate cartographers and featuring their work on Map Monday. Case in point, Zalezsky and his map of the "League of Defiant":
There really isn't a lot of background about this scenario given to us by Zalezsky. Essentially several Native American tribes unite to stop European encroachment on their lands and with the help of Genoese traders gets the guns to actually stop them. Through success and setbacks, everything eventually comes to a climax at the Battle of Watala...or Waterloo. If you haven't figured it out from the map itself, that name alone should really give you hint of what era of history this scenario is paralleling. It is very subtle and I love it. The story is told from the art itself and the detail is great (go here to see a map you can zoom in on).

Honorable mentions this week go out to Rvbomally's "Empire of the Sun" and Bruce Munro's "World of the Yiddish Policeman's Union" (see a longer description here). Don't forget to check out the map of the most popular book set in each state. 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 #192

Editor's Note

I have no idea what my schedule is going to be like in the foreseeable future. My department at the firm lost some people and it happened at the start of the summer, which is historically the busy season for us. So we are all feeling the pinch as we figure out how to handle all this extra work with a smaller staff. Although I did get a tiny raise and title change, which helps, but it also means all of my other side projects are going to suffer.

I still haven't started revising "Warping History", I have no idea when I will record a new episode for my channel and I probably going to miss posting again for several more days. Please bear with me as I try to find a new equilibrium. Look on the bright side, at least I am posting on Memorial Day.

Due to the epic amount of news regarding BBC's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and my desire to avoid spoilers, I once again created a special section in Links to the Multiverse for all of your magical news. I hope you guys enjoy it.

And now the news...

T.R. Knight Joins 11/22/63 On Hulu and Causes a Rant from Yours Truly
The title really says it all. T.R. Knight (Grey's Anatomy) will be playing Johnny Clayton in the alternate history mini-series based on Stephen King's 11/22/63. Johnny, a salesman in 1960s Texas, won't agree to divorce his estranged wife Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon), even as she begins a relationship with time travelling Jake (James Franco), sparking a confrontation between the three characters.

For a book about saving JFK, Sadie's relationship with her disturbed and controlling husband highlights one of the important theme of 11/22/63: domestic abuse. Whether the show will treat the character and his relationship with Sadie the same remains to be seen. Its actually quite bizarre how certain news outlets are portraying the character. SPOILER ALERT: he is a crazy, abusive and sadistic asshole and if you read the book you would know that. Sadie describes to Jake how Johnny would make them sleep with a broom in between the bed and the only time they ever had any sexual intimacy was when Johnny would force her to give him a hand job. O yeah, when Johnny finds out Sadie is seeing Jake after she fled from him, he stalks her and then slashes her face with a knife.

And yet certain websites are describing Johnny's relationship with Sadie as just "complicated" and even going as far as describing him as a "romantic rival" to Jake. I don't usually swear on this blog, but what the holy fuck?!?! I am hoping that the writers of these articles just haven't read the book and thus in their ignorance have poorly interpreted the press release, but this eerily mimics certain characters in 11/22/63 who not only sympathized with Johnny's actions, but even went as far as to blame Sadie for the outcome because she was unable to control her man.

Again, I'm assuming the authors of the previously mentioned articles had the best intentions when they wrote about Knight joining the cast as Johnny, but I am starting to get a little worried about this show. I really hope that 11/22/63's producers don't water down the character to the point that the meaning behind him is completely lost.

Links to the Multiverse

BBC's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

6 Scenes from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell We Can’t Wait to See Onscreen at B&N.
1864 and Jonathan Strange both suffer for being modern at New Statesman.
Bertie Carvel’s TV CV at RadioTimes.
A bit silly: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell reviewed at The Spectator.
Bloomsbury boosted by new Harry Potter editions and Jonathan Strange at The Guardian.
Get to Know Mr Norrell: An Inside Look at Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell at Dread Central.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, BBC One at The Arts Desk.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: episode one recap – The Friends of English Magic at The Guardian.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Fairytale Education at Vintage.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: “The Friends of English Magic” at Tor.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell preview: "could be something truly magical" at RadioTimes.
Peter Harness Interview: Adapting Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell at Den of Geek.
Plaudits for BBC drama Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell at The Press.
REVIEW: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell at North Devon Journal.
TV Review (non spoiler): Jonathon Strange & Mr Norrell at Geek Syndicate.
Viewers are going mad for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but what’s with the sound? at Metro.

Books & Short Fiction

Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Badass Ladies of Historical Fiction at Book Riot.
Open Road Announces Turtledove and Ford Titles at Amazing Stories.
Review: Gunpowder Empire by Harry Turtledove at Knowledge, Adventure and Wonder.
Review: Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes at Afro Futurism.
Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez - So what now? Leaving the series behind at The Qwillery.

Counterfactuals, History & News

After Jade Helm, Other Military-Takeover Operations Uncovered at The New Yorker.
Confirmed: Bin Laden was into conspiracy theories, including 9/11 conspiracy theories at Hot Air.
Dreaming a Different Apollo: Part Two at DSFP's Spaceflight History Blog.
Russian expansion: 'I went to bed in Georgia – and woke up in South Ossetia' at The Guardian.
Secret files reveal police feared that Trekkies could turn on society at The Telegraph.
So you think you can travel back in time and  kill Hitler at National Post.
This could be the official flag of Earth that we'll plant on Mars at Science Alert.

Film & Television

Is this a missing piece to Jodorowsky's Dune? at Boing Boing.
Mini About Lawman Bass Reeves In Works At HBO With Morgan Freeman Producing at Deadline.
‘Mr. Holmes’ Lawsuit: Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Sues Bill Condon & Distributors at Deadline.

Interview

Michael J. Martinez at SFFWorld.

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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, May 21, 2015

Book Review: Proxima by Stephen Baxter

Before the Sideways in Time Conference began, there was a pre-conference social event where Stephen Baxter and Adam Roberts were going to talk about their new books at a local Liverpool book store. Wanting to get an autograph from Baxter, but not having brought any books I owned due to the desire to pack light on an international trip, I decided to buy a book there and the one I picked up was Proxima, the first book in the series of the same name.

Set in the 22nd Century, Proxima tells the story of humanity's first interstellar colony. In this future mankind is split primarily between the Chinese led "Framework" and a federalized United Nations. Most of the inner Solar System is colonized and the outer system is well on its way to being developed as well. There are references to the "Jolts", a period of intense climate change that almost destroyed humanity, but that was prevented by the actions of the "Heroic Generation". As noble as that generation's name sounds, their "ends justify the means" attitude meant that by the time the story takes place the leaders of that generation are reviled and even their descendants can suffer legal consequences for the actions of their ancestors. Baxter never goes into too much details about what the Heroic Generation actually did, but you get the sense that they cared little for how much organic and artificial intelligence suffered at the hands of their own projects to save the planet.

The story is told from multiple points of views (including a sentient interstellar probe made up of nano-bots), but the primary protagonists are Yuri Eden and Stef Kalinski. Yuri is actually a member of the Heroic Generation who was cryogenically frozen on Earth and later thawed out on Mars far into the future. Never fitting in the new society he found himself in, Yuri is made an involuntary member of the UN backed plan to colonize a new planet that the colonists will call "Per Ardua", an extrasolar planet near Earth. He, and many other undesirables that are dumped on the alien planet, are told to start reproducing quickly if they have any hope of surviving. Stef, meanwhile, is a scientist and only child who studies "kernels". These are strange materials found under the crust of Mercury that make interstellar travel possible. No one really understands how they work and, frankly, many suspect they may not be natural at all. This is confirmed when the "Hatch" is discovered on Mercury. After Stef goes in alone to investigate it, she comes out with a twin sister that everyone assures her has been around since they were born.

I found myself absorbed into the story of Proxima almost immediately. It is an intense space opera with a lot of historical references, such as how Per Ardua is originally colonized by convicts, much like how Australia and Georgia were colonized in our history. On top of that the book does have a subtle sense of humor with references to SF works like Doctor Who, Futurama, Dune, the works of Lovecraft and others works I probably missed. That all being said, the book can be depressing in a The Martian Chronicles-esque kind of way. There were a couple times I had to take a break from the book because it made me pessimistic about the future. I still recommend this book, however, because not every space opera needs to be like Guardians of the Galaxy to be good.

Of course, the big question is: why the hell am I talking about a space opera on an alternate history blog? Well that is because Proxima is actually an alternate history. Besides to mysterious edit to Stef's personal history, there is a moment of pure alternate history at the very end of the book, which I won't spoil since then I would have to give away the ending. The presence of an alternate history is much more evident so I hear in the sequel, Ultima, but since I haven't read it yet I can't really comment. Nevertheless, I do plan to pick up a copy soon and I hope you will join me as well.

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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.