Tuesday, July 12, 2011

AHWU #8

Editor's Note

So I have started posting on AH.com again. I say again because I have been an on-and-off poster at that place for a long time. Some of my first posts date back to 2001. And no, I will not tell you what my handle was back then. After going back and reviewing some of my old posts, I have decided that no one needs to know what I said back in the day when I was an immature, know-it-all teenager. So do not ask, because I will not tell. For now on I am just "Mitro".

In other news, I got my first reader(s) from Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is cool for me since my family was from there. Welcome!

Finally, please like me on Facebook or follow me with your Google account. I am not ashamed to admit that I am doing this for the attention, so if you want to keep me going then sign up to be fan/follower.

S. M. Stirling's Emberverse is Alternate History

I talk a lot about what is not alternate history, but now I am going to change things up and talk about a book series that is alternate history...but not everyone agrees with me.

If you go the Nantucket Trilogy entry on Uchronia you will see this sentence:

A related trilogy (or hexology, as three further volumes have been contracted) called Change World began in 2004 with Dies the Fire, but that work is either not allohistorical or is "border line".


That related series is more commonly known as the Emberverse series. It is post-apocalyptic series of novels written by S. M. Stirling. The novels depict the events following "The Change", an event on March 17, 1998 which caused electricity, guns, explosives, internal combustion engines, and steam power to stop working. Most of the action in the series takes place in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in the United States, as the characters try to survive the loss of 600 years of technological progress. The original trilogy, concerns the conflicts between a Portland-based neo-feudal dictatorship and the free communities of the Willamette Valley, primarily the Wiccan Clan Mackenzie and the Bearkillers. The books following the original trilogy focuses on the now-adult children of the original characters.

Now why this is not considered alternate history by Uchronia is beyond me. The series meets all the elements of an alternate history. There is an established point of divergence (POD) with the loss of high technology happening in 1998, six years before the first novel is written. This POD, meanwhile, alters history as we know it or else I would not be talking about this on a blog. Finally, the series examines the ramifications of that change, in exhaustive detail only Stirling can give you. Spoiler Alert, currently King William V the Great rules a resurgent British Empire; Theodore Kaczynski founded a mad, expansionist cult in Montana; and Iowa is the richest nation in North America. Yes there is some suggestions of magic and gods, but even Uchronia does not exclude novels for being fantasy.

So why is it not listed in Uchronia as alternate history? Probably because it is complete ASB! Stirling uses alien space bats as a plot device to create an alternate history, just like dozens of editors do everyday at AH.com. In fact, Stirling is known for his use of the alien space bat plot device (see the Nantucket Trilogy, The Lords of Creation and The Peshawar Lancers). Believe it or not, the term alien space bats is not just an insult for poor alternate history, it is actually used to create alternate history...which goes on to list in the top 15 on The New York Times Best Seller List.

So Uchronia, do the right thing. List the Emberverse series as alternate history.

Is MacMaster and Joatsimeon the same person?

In my first issue, I talked about Amina Abdallah Arraf al Omari, the fictional, alternate history loving persona of American peace activist and graduate student Tom MacMaster. In my last issue, I talked about how a Wikipedia editor using the handle of "Joatsimeon" was making controversial edits to the article on Amina. What made that relevant to AHWU was the fact that the Joatsimeon handle is known to be used exclusively by alternate history author S. M. Stirling.

Thankfully, it turns out the man behind Joatsimeon on Wikipedia was not Stirling. Stirling actually uses the account "Steve Stirling" (probably because the handle he usually uses was taken by a well-meaning, but misguided, fan). What makes this whole affair even stranger is that there is an investigation going on at Wikipedia whether MacMaster is actually Joatsimeon and Amina (who is MacMaster) was banned from the Stirling discussion group on Yahoo because of her/his politics.

This is the last time I will be commenting on the Amina drama. What was once an interesting story has now become a sad tale of a man and his supporters who are incapable of realizing the damage they have done, and continue to do. I will no longer give them the attention they crave.

Coming Soon

I want to take a break from my Stirling themed issue to discuss some upcoming works of alternate history.

On July 19th, Harry Turtledove's The Big Switch will be released. It is the third book in his The War That Came Early series, set in a timeline where Germany attacks Czechoslovakia in 1938, which starts World War II a year early. For those interested in a similar POD, check out Fall GrĂ¼n on the Alternate History Wiki. It is an epic timeline, which I know you will enjoy.

Meanwhile, IFC News did a review of BioShock Infinite demo. The story is set before the events of the first two games, and follows the flying American city of Columbia. Unlike the first two games, Infinite is a true alternate history (at one point Columbia intervenes in the Boxer Rebellion) and may even involve other alternate universes (apparently one of the characters can create "tears" in space and time). I had a chance to play the first BioShock game this weekend and it was very good, as long as you ignore the "hacking" sequences that waste so much game time. Still if Infinite is anything like its predecessors, than I will be eagerly awaiting its release sometime in 2012.

Links to the Multiverse

If Barack Obama's Parents Put Him Up for Adoption: An Alternate History by Dan Amira

Review of Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory - an alternate history set in the late-20th century where intelligent zombies try to find their place in the world.

2 comments:

  1. How does the POD in "Peshawar Lancers" count as an ASB plot device? Given the Tunguska blast in 1909 and Shoemaker-Levy hitting Jupiter in 2000, it's a hell of a lot more plausible than most....

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  2. Certainly meteor strikes are a natural phenomenon, but there use in alternate history has always been seen as ASB. IMO, it probably has to do with how difficult it is to get them to change course or just put Earth in danger when they weren’t a danger in the past. It makes more sense to believe that an arbitrarily advanced alien space bat got bored one day and decided to drop a chunk of rock on some planet inhabited by intelligent, yet primitive, monkeys.

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