Thursday, August 21, 2014

Videos for Alternate Historians #4

Got some more videos I think you guys will enjoy (and check out the sweet screen shot I got and edited with MS Paint). First up, did you love It's A Wonderful Life, but always thought it could use more sharks? Well the wait is over as It's Okay To Be Smart brings you "What If There Were No Sharks?":
Next up, Doctor Who returns this weekend with a new Doctor and all new episodes. Check out the trailer for Series 8, Episode 1 "Deep Breath":
We wrap up with friend of The Update Cody Franklin, as he returns with a new video called "What if the Americas Never Existed?":
If you have videos or channels you would like to suggest, 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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Check Out William Weber's Strategic Surprise The British Capture of Washington, DC, 1814

Guest post by William Weber.

This month, 24 August to be exact, marks the 200th anniversary of the British capture of Washington, DC.

Strategic Surprise: The British Capture of Washington, DC, 1814 examines the British invasion and the American response. It highlights how British deception shaped American perceptions leading to the capture of the Nation's capital, noting how events could have unfolded differently. It also presents a fictitious warning memorandum written for President Madison, laying out alternative British objectives and capabilities. Having received this information, what would you have done?  

It compliments previous posts to this blog "Rethinking the War of 1812" and "1814: How Washington Was Saved". A more extended treatment of the this issue appears in Neither Victor Nor Vanquished, "Chapter Six: The Battle of Bladensburg: Could Washington Have Been Saved."

Editor's Note: Weber is a little too modest enough to admit his article was also picked up by io9 where it received over 33.000 views.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Releases 8/19/14

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


The League of Seven by Alan Gratz

The League of Seven is the first book in an action-packed, steampunk series by the acclaimed author of Samurai Shortstop, Alan Gratz.

In an alternate 1875 America electricity is forbidden, Native Americans and Yankees are united, and eldritch evil lurks in the shadows. Young Archie Dent knows there really are monsters in the world. His parents are members of the Septemberist Society, whose job it is to protect humanity from hideous giants called the Mangleborn. Trapped in underground prisons for a thousand years, the giant monsters have been all but forgotten—but now they are rising again as the steam-driven America of 1875 rediscovers electricity, the lifeblood of the Mangleborn. When his parents and the rest of the Septemberists are brainwashed by one of the evil creatures, Archie must assemble a team of seven young heroes to save the world.


The Clockwork Sky, Volume Two by Madeleine Rosca

The conclusion to this exciting all-ages steampunk manga Clockwork Sky!

Madeleine Rosca’s sharp-edged style perfectly matches her sharp-tongued lead character’s personality. Sally Peppers is the highly-curious, ambitious niece of steambot magnate Erasmus Croach, who has supplied Britain's factories with an apparently endless supply of near-perfect robot employees, displacing flesh-and-blood humans. Unemployed people have begun to demonstrate in the streets of London and more than one near-riot has been put down by Croach's latest and greatest invention, the steambot police-boy, Sky.

Sky is troubled by dreams where he, like Pinocchio, has become a “real boy.” Then he meets Sally, who has run away from home, and begins to learn of the poverty and hardships faced by these workers. Together, Sally and Sky venture into the tunnels beneath London in search of a missing child.

Sally has always been a bit of a tinkerer and quickly figures out the terrifying truth about her uncle's magnificent steambot factory. But it might be too late—Erasmus Croach has new steambots ready to deploy—and they are bigger and stronger than the heroic Sky. Can Sally’s wits and Sky’s pure heart save the day?

Coloring With Your Octopus: A Coloring Book For Domesticated Cephalopods by Brian Kesinger

A cinematically proportioned coloring book based on Brian Kesinger's popular picture book "Walking Your Octopus" which showcases the day-to-day adventures of independent girl-about-town Victoria Psismall and her pet land octopus Otto. Forty-eight ready-to-color illustrations humorously chronicle the duo's home life, travels and social adventures. The Victorian era characters and period-influenced design elements provide a visual spectacle that is as fun to look at as it is to color.

The Ripper Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

The enthralling conclusion to the Bannon and Clare trilogy from New York Times bestselling author, Lilith Saintcrow.

Sorcery. Treason. Madness. And, of course, murder most foul...

A shattering accident places Archibald Clare, mentath in the service of Britannia, in the care of Emma Bannon, sorceress Prime. Clare needs a measure of calm to repair his faculties of Logic and Reason. Without them, he is not his best. At all.

Unfortunately, calm and rest will not be found. There is a killer hiding in the sorcerous steam-hells of Londinium, murdering poor women of a certain reputation. A handful of frails murdered on cold autumn nights would make no difference...but the killings echo in the highest circles, and threaten to bring the Empire down in smoking ruins.

Once more Emma Bannon is pressed into service; once more Archibald Clare is determined to aid her. The secrets between these two old friends may give an ambitious sorcerer the means to bring down the Crown. And there is still no way to reliably find a hansom when one needs it most.

The game is afoot...

Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box by George Mann

Summer, 1915. As Zeppelins rain death upon the rooftops of London, eminent members of society begin to behave erratically: a Member of Parliament throws himself naked into the Thames after giving a pro-German speech to the House; a senior military advisor suggests surrender before feeding himself to a tiger at London Zoo; a famed suffragette suddenly renounces the women's liberation movement and throws herself under a train.

In desperation, an aged Mycroft Holmes sends to Sussex for the help of his brother, Sherlock.

Steampunk Fables by Rod Espinosa

Collects Steampunk Snow White, Steampunk Cinderella and Steampunk Red Riding Hood. Presenting a an instant classic from Rod Espinosa, creator of The Courageous Princess and Neotopia and Antarctic Press's own master of the new-age fairy tale. This collection of timeless tales has been galvanized and refueled to charge full steam ahead with a new angle on these familiar favorites!

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 18, 2014

2013 Sidewise Award Winners (Plus Hugo News)

In case you don't follow The Update on social media, yesterday the winners of the 2013 Sidewise Awards were announced. There was a tie in the long-form category, something which hasn't happened since 2002. The winners were the The Windsor Faction by DJ Taylor and Surrounded by Enemies by Bryce Zabel. Vylar Kaftan's "The Weight of the Sunrise" also won in the short-form category.

I admit I am surprised by the outcome of the long-form winners. Although I thought Surrounded by Enemies was a strong contender (read my review at Amazing Stories), I actually didn't enjoy reading The Windsor Faction (you can read my review of that book also at Amazing Stories). Perhaps I wasn't the target audience or else something in my life was distracting me (I was just beginning the difficult process of moving to a new home when I started the book). Either way, perhaps I will give it another shot somewhere down the line and see if my feelings about the book change.

Along with the Sidewise Awards, the 2014 Hugo winners were also announced. Among the many winners was Mary Robinette Kowal's alternate history "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" for best novelette. Its good to see our favorite genre represented in the Hugos.

A bit of house cleaning: no Weekly Update this week because I was camping this weekend and didn't have the time. Go read the winners of the Sidewise and Hugo Awards and if you don't have a copy, remember you can purchase one and put some wind in our sails by clicking through our Amazon banner. I will be back next week with an extra helping of alternate history news.

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

Friday, August 15, 2014

"Rush to the Front" for Hearts of Iron IV and New Expansions for Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV

Paradox Interactive made two major announcements this week. The first is there “Rush to the Front” reward campaign for Hearts of Iron IV, the upcoming sequel to their World War II strategy game series. Players can visit the Hearts of Iron website and join one of three factions: the Axis, the Allies, or the Comintern. The more members each faction recruits, the more rewards will be unlocked for all players, and players who recruit 20 or more soldiers will have the chance gain access to the Hearts of Iron IV beta. Although I may be a tad concerned if the Axis gets the most members.

As part of this announcement, Paradox also released a new gameplay trailer for Hearts of Iron IV, displaying in-engine footage of the game’s new strategic planning system. Check it out below:
The second announcement was that new expansions are being released for Europa Universalis IV and Crusader Kings II. The expansions, entitled “Art of War” and “Charlemagne,” coming respectively to Europa Universalis IV and Crusader Kings II, will add new events, new mechanics, new in-game abilities, and plenty of new ways to alter history. Both expansions will be available for their respective games on Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs in the near future.

"Charlemagne" will introduce Crusader Kings II players to the man who united much of Western Europe for the first time since the fall of Rome and founded the Holy Roman Empire. Now starting in 769 AD, the expansion will include a series of story events that follows his rise to power, and will come with new game options to allow players to chart their own places in history; such as a new in-game “Chronicle” that highlights a dynasty’s conquests, marriages, and labors for the faith. Kingdoms are also more customizable in Charlemagne with the option to create your own with custom names and banners. You can see the trailer below:
In "Art of War", players of Europa Universalis IV will add new possibilities to explore what Clausewitz called the “continuation of politics by other means.” Changes to battle mechanics will allow players to launch sorties from sieges, sell obsolete ships and transfer occupied lands to allies. A revamped Reformation system will let you relive the Thirty Years’ War in a series of in-game events to see how they fare in Europe’s greatest conflict prior to the 20th century. Once the fighting has settled down, rulers will be able to try a new set of diplomatic options inspired by the Napoleonic Era, including the creation of client states to support, or resist, revolutions. Check out the trailer below:
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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, August 14, 2014

Interview: Bryce Zabel

Here is my interview with Bryce Zabel, author of the Sidewise nominated Surrounded by Enemies: What if Kennedy Survived Dallas? (check out my review over at Amazing Stories).

Who is Bryce Zabel?

I've spent all my professional career writing something.  First, it was TV news, local markets up to being a CNN correspondent here in Los Angeles.  Then I went into longform magazine journalism, doing everything from lighter fare to hard core investigative pieces.  Eventually, I ended up in screenwriting.  I've been lucky enough to have created or developed five produced primetime TV series, worked on a dozen staffs, and had multiple feature films and miniseries produced.  Writing books is something that's happened very recently with A.D. After Disclosure: When the Government Finally Reveals the Truth About Alien Contact, followed by my recent novel, Surrounded by Enemies: What if Kennedy Survived Dallas?

What got you interested in alternate history?

My father taught high school history so it's always been something I've been interested in.  I've also loved making up stories, and it's been a natural thing to bring them together.  My first hard-core alternate history was the NBC series I created, Dark Skies, that told the story of the UFO cover-up through the real events and personalities of the 1960s.  That one also included JFK, so I guess I've returned to my roots.

What is Surrounded by Enemies about?

Surrounded by Enemies is my response to all the wishful thinking that always surrounds the alternate history take about JFK living past the assassination attempt in Dallas.  Writers always seem to make it either a time travel fantasy or a political fantasy about how the world would have been so much better if JFK had lived.  My take is that President Kennedy probably was murdered as a result of a conspiracy and that if he'd survived the attempt in Dallas that would hardly have been the end of it.  In my book, both Kennedy and his attorney general brother Robert become the first real conspiracy theorists because they know that the Kennedy administration had many powerful enemies.  Might these powerful dark forces have tried to take JFK out by other means if they'd failed in Dallas?  I think the answer is yes.  I've told that story and found it to be fresh and challenging for both myself and readers.  The publisher put together a terrific website for the book at and I'd like to encourage people to check it out.

Who designed the cover?

The supremely talented graphic artist Lynda Karr designed the book's starkly powerful cover.  We also worked together to create five faux magazine covers from this alternate history that are used between most chapters.  Those were incredibly fun to work on and put together, particularly the one where JFK actually got to meet the Beatles when they came to America to play on the Ed Sullivan Show.  The absolute most pristine way to see these covers is to read the eBook version where they can be seen full screen in their pristine glory.

How did it feel to get nominated for a Sidewise Award?

It's always an honor to be nominated for an award by people who have read the work and put it forward. The Sidewise has been won by people like Philip Roth, Michael Chabon and Harry Turtledove and that's damn fine company.  A few years ago, I won a screenwriting award from the WGA (Writers Guild of America) that was evaluated by working writers who read the screenplays rather than watched the finished films to evaluate the work.  That made it mean so much more, and I put the Sidewise Award in that category.

Speaking of Turtledove, he wrote a foreword to Surrounded by Enemies. How do that come about?

Ironically, Harry and I met back in the 90s when we each had a kid who had a school essay nominated for sci-fi writing and we sat together at the ceremony.  Years after that, I came to him with an alternative history idea about JFK called Winter of Our Discontent that he really liked and we planned to do together.  We fooled around with one particular take on it, wrote a few chapters (and briefly posted them on the Internet), but each got pulled our separate ways.  Later, when the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination was approaching, I decided on a very different approach to the book and wrote that version solo with Harry's blessing.  After it was done, he agreed to write the Foreword, fine gentleman that he is, and it's at the front of the current book.  I've always been impressed by his prolific and high quality writing, and it was my great honor to have him bless Surrounded by Enemies.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

There is no one path to success.  Interview a hundred working writers about how they came to be recognized and they will all have a different story.  And if you ask a hundred writers for advice, most of them will contradict each other.  The right path to sell is the one that works.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blessed are the Peacemaker​s: A Shattered Nation Novella

Guest post Jeffrey Evan Brooks.

Most alternate history stories dealing with the American Civil War focus on specific military events.  We like to focus on the nitty-gritty details of individual battles, imagining what might have happened if John Reynolds had been just a little late on the first day at Gettysburg, if Benjamin Cheatham had blocked the Columbia Pike at Spring Hill, or any number of other counterfactual scenarios.  These questions are a great deal of fun. They also serve to remind us just how easily history could have been very different.

In most Civil War alternate history fiction, the story ends when the fighting ends. Less common are counterfactual tales that explore how the world would have been different in the aftermath of a different outcome to the conflict.  Once the bullets stop flying and the long-term “butterflies” need to be considered, constructing an imaginary alternate history becomes much more difficult.  In these stories, the end of the war marks the beginning, rather than the conclusion, of the real story.  If we envision the Civil War ending differently, usually with an independent Confederacy, we have to stretch our imaginations to cover another century-and-a-half.  We have to ask ourselves what an independent Confederacy would have meant for slavery and long-term race relations, the balance of power on the global stage, and daily life in both North and South.  What would have been the postwar relationship between the Union and the Confederacy?  How would the Confederate and Union economies be different than they were historically?  If one really puts his mind to it, one could even try to imagine how music, art, and literature would be different.

When I wrote Shattered Nation: An Alternate History Novel of the American Civil War, I knew I wanted to take the story beyond the end of the war and explore what an independent Confederacy would have meant for the subsequent history of both America and the wider world.  That exercise in imagination started last month, when I published Blessed are the Peacemakers: A Shattered Nation Novella.

Had the Confederacy succeeded in establishing its independence, it makes sense to assume that the war would have ended in the traditional manner: a peace conference between representatives of the two governments.  Blessed are the Peacemakers brings readers to that conference, which takes place on neutral ground in Canada.  Readers watch events unfold through the eyes of John C. Breckinridge, former Vice President of the United States and successful Southern general, who is now serving as a Confederate delegate to the peace talks.

In my opinion, there were only two realistic possibilities for a Southern victory in the American Civil War. The first was a better showing by the Confederacy in 1861-62, leading to European recognition of the Confederacy.  The other would be outlasting the Union and inflicting such heavy losses upon it that a “peace through exhaustion” occurs in 1864, with Lincoln being ousted from the White House by Northern voters. Shattered Nation explores the latter scenario, the point of divergence being Joseph Johnston remaining in command of the Army of Tennessee and winning a tremendous victory over Sherman at the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

This is a critical point, for a Confederate victory scenario in 1864 is vastly different than a Confederate victory scenario in 1862.  Most important of all is the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863, making the abolition of slavery a Union war aim and beginning the process of freeing huge numbers of slaves.  By mid-1864, hundreds of thousands of slaves had been set free and many thousands had joined the Union army.  Aside from slavery, the two years between 1862 and 1864 saw greater centralization of authority in Richmond at the expense of the Confederate state governments, a greater harshness and brutality introduced into the war on both sides, and a realization that America as it had been could never be restored, no matter who won the war.  Keeping this in mind was crucial in framing the attitudes of the characters who made up the convention delegates.

As I began writing, I asked myself what the most divisive issues at such a peace conference would be. Some were obvious.  How would the armies disengage?  Where would the border between the two nations lie? Since, in the Shattered Nation timeline, the Confederate victory takes place after the Emancipation Proclamation has been enacted, how would the delegates approach the subject of the thousands upon thousands of slaves freed by it?

As I wrote, issues that would have seemed minor and technical from the perspective of history, but which would have been vitally important to the participants at the time, kept popping into my head.  Some occurred to me while following news of the Scottish independence referendum campaign in the United Kingdom, which can be viewed as a test case for two countries splitting apart.  Others popped into my head simply by doing thought experiments.  If I was a Union or Confederate peace delegate sitting at that table, what would I have demanded and expected to get?  I also bounced ideas off of my fellow posters in the discussion forum at, getting lots of very useful feedback.

As part of my research, I began pouring over the text of treaties from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The idea then occurred to me to write out an actual treaty, which could be included at the end of the novella as an appendix to the story.  It was a fun experience, though I imagine most people would find it boring. Such is the quirky life of the history-obsessed.

I was excited to write John C. Breckinridge as a character.  I deliberately left him out of Shattered Nation (aside from a very brief cameo near the end), because I wanted to use him as a major character in later writings.  I have always felt that he is one of the least appreciated figures of American Civil War.  He played a crucial role in the political events before 1861 and he became one of the outstanding generals on either side who had had no prewar military training.  As a Kentuckian, he had a unique ability to see the war from the perspective of each side.  Few men encapsulate the American Civil War, in all its tragedy and drama, as well as John C. Breckinridge.  We’ll be seeing more of him in future Shattered Nation books.

Blessed are the Peacemakers is intended to serve as a bridge between Shattered Nation and its sequel, House of the Proud, which is about a third of the way to completion and which I hope to publish in 2015. I’m excited about the future course the Shattered Nation series will be taking.  I am doing preliminary research and outlining for future novels that will take the alternate timeline up to the 1960s, as well as some that take place during the Civil War in regions other than Georgia.  There will also be more novellas like Blessed are the Peacemakers, including one that explores the postwar life of Abraham Lincoln.

I’m quite proud of Blessed are the Peacemakers and hope that the alternate history community enjoys it. Now, on to the next book!

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Jeffrey Evan Brooks is the author of Shattered Nation: An Alternate History Novel of the American Civil War.