Friday, December 30, 2011

Op-Ed: Sibling Rivalry

Recently, the leader of North Korea, who had followed in his father's footsteps in 1994, died of a heart attack. Kim Jong-Il had a half-brother that was serving as Chinese Ambassador to Finland in 1994, having been kept out of the country to assure the ascendency of his older brother to succeed his father. Kim Pyong-Il seems happy with this arrangement, having chosen not to return to North Korea to attend his brother's funeral. As of now, he is still in Poland, his last unofficial post.

What would have become of the world's most isolated government if Pyong-Il instead of Jong-Il had become the leader in 1994? An alternative historian would have to reach back into North Korean history to "make this happen," of course, but it does present a good example of sibling rivalry and what a difference a decision on a parent's part can make concerning not just a person's life but perhaps a whole country's development.

How much difference can a single person make in history anyway? Would the choice of Esau over Jacob have made a difference in the history of Abraham's linage? These twins were dramatically difference, and Isaac had actually preferred Esau, but according to the Bible, God had a different idea! A much more robust people came out of Esau (Edom) that would one day even rule over the people as puppets of Rome. Romulus and Remus were equals - twins said to be the founders of Rome, but Remus is lost to history. Would "Reem" have been much different?

Similar histories produce similar results. It is doubtful that one brother will depart to far from his roots. However, in the case of another prominent death in recent days, as in the case of Jacob in the Bible, God's choice can make a big difference. I speak, of course, of the passing of noted atheist Christopher Hitchens. His brother, Peter Hitchens, by all accounts is as intelligent, but chose to believe in God. But as the Bible indicates this choice works two ways, God chose Peter to be a follower. Both brothers have written books, but the world remembers Christopher because he was more controversial.

And so, it seems, siblings can be different to extremes, even having grown up in the same environment. It is something beyond that environment - and beyond genetics - that guides the course of history. In that, we alternate historians must be ultimately humbled, for history has happened in just the way it has for a reason -- even if we would have it to be different.

DD Date 1983.12.30

December 30, 2011

Well, this ends three months of weekly diary entries to try to make some sense out of life after the "unthinkable" has happened. It is a wonder that civilization here in the USA has not collapsed. Of course, it may have outside of our immediate area. As far as I know there have been no expeditions beyond short ones across the state lines to Georgia and North Carolina, and no one has received any messages from further away.

So, while I still have some notebook paper, I guess I will write what I remember of the "last year of the United States of America." I don't follow world events too much, so this will be somewhat short.

Back in January, President Reagan surprised many when he nominated a woman from North Carolina, Elizabeth Dole, to oversee the Department of Transportation. She is the second wife of Senator Bob Dole of Kansas. We got a preview of "hard times" to come when the Independent Truckers Association went on strike in response to the federal tax on fuel going up. Some stuff got scarce for about two weeks. The trucks stopped running three months ago and we are learning that the shelves don't restock themselves!

February saw the first of a bunch of Democrats after Reagan's job in 1984. In all I think seven -- including Fritz Hollings! -- had declared their intent by the end of September. Personally, I think American hero, now Senator, John Glenn is the best among them all. We can assume president Reagan was waiting to announce his intentions sometime this winter. I don't think there is any question that he will be the candidate -- if there is an election next year and he is even alive. It's hard not knowing what's happening around the world! Bringing a 'light note' to a bad situation (the Korean War), the television show M*A*S*H ended a series that lasted three times as long as the war it portrayed. -- I missed that show but caught it on the summer reruns!

Spring time saw more conservatives in high places -- Germany elected Kohl and in England Margaret Thatcher got re-elected. It was looking good for us conservatives. Reagan has been talking tough against the remaining Communists out there and I think we may have been winning that ideological battle before what I guess is World War III -- still no draft or anything -- began. I think the "new enemy" we were facing was a religious one in Israel and surrounding countries. The Muslim fighters don't hesitate to kill others by killing themselves. They showed the world that the US was their enemy by blowing up the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon!

In America, though, the Supreme Court made what could be a "liberal" decision concerning what would seem to be a freedom of assembly issue -- against Bob Jones University! Back when I was there I let it be known that I thought some of their policies didn't go along with my interpretation of the Bible. One of the things I disagreed with was their stand on 'inter-racial' dating. Heck, I had a great 'preacher boy' in a group that I ministered with that was from the Caribbean that was of 'mixed race' heritage. Anyway, the school would not change this on threat of 'losing' its tax exempt status. Well, its seems that the IRS can trump the constitution! The school lost its exemption. From now on, any contributions to the school cannot be counted as deductions.

The Summer saw more terrorism - hijackings and bombings - around the world. From the Mideast, to South Africa, to the Pacific, things started going bad. I don't understand how people can be so deranged as to kill themselves to make a political point. Assassinations at least make sense - going back to ancient Rome and beyond - but suicide bombs are insane! There was a major assassination, in fact, in the Phillipines -- Aquino, I think, sometimes this past summer. Anyway, the summer ended with the mess between the US and Russia - first the downing of that Korean jet with Americans on it -- a congressman from Georgia being one of them -- on September first. I'm sure that probably had something to do with the beginning of the war that perhaps has destroyed this country. And then, three weeks later we get the world as we NOW know it!

The fall months were a time of getting used to the weirdness of life without the pleasantries of the twentieth century - at home anyway. I am sure that the emergency generators in use won't last much longer either. According to the authorities - as posted on bulletin boards and spoken in town meetings - the nuclear power plant is a long way from being fixed. Other power alternatives - such as the coal powered facility in Pelzer, are closer to being on line, but the EMPs that wiped out electronics all over the place mean that re-wiring and re-engineering will take quite some time.

And so, there it is, what I remember about this year. I'm sure it won't be part of any history archives anyway, but it helps me put things in perspective as I look forward to a new year coming up this weekend. I will be working, of course, and probably won't actually 'celebrate' 1984 -- the year of "Big Brother"! getting here. Ironically, I suppose, the computers that were predicted to usher in that socialist era have been largely silenced. Wow. I wonder if that means we win after all.

Previous entry: DD Date 1983.12.21
Next entry: DD Date 1984.01.04

Best of 2011

I know I said I would not post anything until 2012, but I thought I should take a moment and list some of the best of 2011.  Now there is nothing scientific about the selection criteria (I do not even limit winners to those works published in 2011) and I probably never will have any official rules if I do this again next year.  The one constant is that AH Weekly Update discussed them at some point.  This is still my opinion, so feel free to disagree (in fact I encourage it). 

Anyway here are the winners of the best alternate history for 2011:

Best Novel: I am going to have to go with When Angels Wept by Eric G. Swedin (certainly this is a greater honor then winning the Sidewise Award).  War Blogger, however, might disagree with me and go with East Wind Returns by William Peter Grasso.  They are both good books and I highly recommend that you read them if you get the chance. 

Best Anthology: While there were only two anthologies reviewed this year, I have to give the nod to Robert Cowley's What if? series.  It is still an excellent series of counterfactuals and a must read for any legitimate alternate historian.

Best Short Story: "Coil Gun" by Matthew Quinn gets the nod, but by default since we did not review any short stories separately this year.  Next year I will try and bring you more reviews of short stories.

Best Showcase: This is a difficult category to rate, especially since an online timeline does not get a showcase unless the reviewer already believes this is an excellent piece of alternate history.  So to make things simpler I am going to give it to the most viewed showcase, which is Dominion of Southern America by Glen from Alternatehistory.com.  Congrats!

Best Comic: Titan by Michael Tymczyszyn and Andy Stanleigh also gets the nod for best comic by default, but let me stress the fact that getting the nod this way does not mean it is a bad book.  It just means that we need to review more comics.

Best Television Show: I was not sure whether I should have changed the title of this category to "Worst" instead of "Best", but I decided to go with "Best" for sake of conformity.  I have to admit this year was a bad year when it came to watching alternate history on television, so as much as I hate to do this, I have to given the nod to Spike TV's Alternate History.  Sure it was overly dependent on bad special facts and loaded with implausible gibberish, it still managed to maintain a shred of dignity by not forcing me to stare at underage crotches!

Best Interview: Well this is a very difficult category to choose from.  I did some great interviews over this year and certainly Matthew Quinn would win if I just did it by the number of page views (by the way everyone should read the end of this interview where Matt gives some good advice about how to deal with arguments on the Internet).  Yet I think I will call it a tie and also give a nod to Dale Cozort, the long time alternate history fan who I just had a great time talking with.

Best Contributor: I cannot make this decision by myself, but if you look to your right you will see a poll where you can help select the best contributor of 2011.  I will announce the winner in two weeks time.

Well everyone I had a great time this year and I am very happy with how far this blog has come.  I look forward to making 2012 an even more remarkable year for Alternate History Weekly Update!

*   *   *

Mitro is founder, editor and contributor of Alternate History Weekly Update. When he is not busy writing about his passion for alternate history, he spends his time working as a licensed attorney in the state of Illinois and dreams of being a published author himself one day.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: "Japanese Military Strategy in the Pacific War: Was Defeat Inevitable" by James B. Wood

Grade: B-/C+

I believe this is a first for the AH Weekly Update insofar as this is the first review of a non-fiction alternate history book. Now, you may think: aren't those terms mutually exclusive by sheer definition? Yes, they usually are. However, Wood's book combines both traits as he first briefly analyzes various fields that influenced and guided Japanese strategy and plans during WWII, only to summarize counterfactual approaches which could have helped the Imperial Japanese forces in his final chapter.

It is of import to notice that all the counterfactual possibilities presented by Wood share one commonality, which is that they were choices that were actually recognized and advocated by ranking members of the Japanese military. They are, as such, not products of the author's mind and 20/20 hindsight.

Going chapter by chapter, Wood takes a look at Japan's preparations, at the reasons commonly attributed to the nation losing the war and what could have been changed, going from the preventable losses inflicted on its merchant marine, the mishandling of its potent submarine force, the naval leadership's fetish with wishing for a decisive battle and avoiding it at the same time (the Japanese plan for the Battle of Midway is such an example), the shortcomings of its air force and the mishandling of the war by the Japanese army.

Now, each of the factors Wood addresses are significant enough to warrant at least one book of their own. The internal fractures not only between the Army and Navy High Command, but between leading figures within each branch of the armed forces, already on their own deserve a thorough "What if?" treatment.

For example, did you know that Admiral Yamamoto actually threatened that he and the whole Navy staff would resign if his plan to attack Pearl Harbor was not adopted? Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, his superior, had favored an attack against the Malaya and Indonesia that would potentially have kept the USA out of the war a bit longer. Most other professional militaries would have called the bluff and sacked such an insubordinate subordinate. But Japan's command structure was so fractured, mired in political infighting, and fragile that this type of behavior became endemic.

Wood's book is not without problems, of which many can be directly connected to the book's short length. Each chapter is, at best, 15 pages long.

I will cite from a very good review on Amazon to specify them:
His critique of Japan's war effort fails to distinguish between strategic mistakes and defeat in battle. When the Japanese lose while pressing their initiative, they are guilty of systematic over-extension; when they lose on the defensive, they are guilty of conceding the fight to the enemy's terms. They are criticized simultaneously for failing to stick to their game plan and for failing to adapt to new situations. Apparently the Japanese can neither have their cake nor eat it.
Likewise, readers must go without a precise definition of the defeat in war that Japan is trying to avoid. Is any negotiated settlement that prevents occupation of the home islands better than a "defeat"? Wood seems content to see Japan lose all its conquests and all its continental holdings, avoid invasion, and call it a draw.
This brings me to the two decisive questions: is the book worth your while, and is it worth your money?

On the former point, the answer is a clear and endorsing "Yes". Yes, it is. It provides ample sources for its points and covers lots of ground, albeit in rather brief episodes. If there was nothing else, it would still serve as a good introductory read for all those interested in the problems (and chances!) of the Japanese military in the Pacific Campaign 1941-45.

The latter, sadly, is a "No". "Japanese Military Strategy in the Pacific War: Was Defeat Inevitable", discounting the chapter and final bibliographies, covers barely 115 pages worth of text and sells for more than $25 on Amazon at the moment. That is not a favorable ratio for the content that is provided, especially since Wood could easily have made his chapters twice as long. He certainly had enough material to work with for that.

As such, I can recommend "Japanese Military Strategy in the Pacific War: Was Defeat Inevitable" as a book you ought to get from your local library, or if you find it massively discounted from an online retailer. Spend the full price only if you're desperate.
* * *

War Blogger is the Internet handle of Sebastian P. Breit, author of the alternate history novel Wolf Hunt. You can find news, reviews, and commentary on all matters regarding WW2 on his blog, The War Blog, and follow his writing progress on his personal website.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Weekly Update #34

Editor's Note

As promised here is the late edition of Weekly Update.  Sorry guys, but with the holidays and all, I have been very busy.  Some of the other contributors may be publishing something this week, but I am not making any promises.  The good news is we got our first readers from Kuwait and Réunion.  Welcome!

And now the news...

Coming Soon: Infinity Ring

Scholastic Books announced a new alternate history/time travel 7-book series called Infinity Ring  for 7-12 year olds. Like the 39 Clues series, Infinity Ring will combine books and an online game that allows kids to go back in time and try to “fix” historical events that have gone wrong. Six different authors will write the series.  James Dashner will write the first book, A Mutiny In Time (to be published in September 2012), and a yet untitled final book.  Other authors include Carrie Ryan, Lisa McMann, Matt de la Peña, Matthew J. Kirby and Jennifer A. Nielsen.  The final book will be published in March 2014.

For information about the plot, here is the press release from Scholastic:
History is broken, and a long-feared Cataclysm seems imminent. The capital of the United States is Boston. Lincoln’s face is nowhere to be seen on Mount Rushmore. Everyone’s buzzing about the French royal wedding. And an international group of men and women known as the SQ is more powerful than kings, richer than nations, and more fearsome than armies. When best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste stumble upon the key to time travel – a hand-held device known as the Infinity Ring – they’re swept up in a centuries-long secret war for the fate of mankind. Recruited by the Hystorians, a secret society that dates back to Aristotle, the kids learn that history has gone completely, and disastrously, off-course. Now it’s up to Dak, Sera, and teenage Hystorian-in-training Riq to travel back in time to fix the “Great Breaks”… and to save Dak’s missing parents while they’re at it. First stop: Spain, 1492, where a sailor named Christopher Columbus is about to be thrown overboard in a deadly mutiny!
The online gaming experience, however, is key to this new series.  Each book in the series will be packaged with a unique "Hystorian's Guide," a collectible map that includes a special code to unlock exclusive content on the online game. Readers can go to http://www.infinityring.com/ (site currently under construction) and play as the main characters from the books as they attempt to fix history. The online game, which will be available through most platforms, features a virtual world, where players can interact with other characters, and explore key events in history alongside historical figures.

There are few alternate history books for children currently.  Even Harry Turtledove's Crosstime Traffic series is geared more to young adults.  Whether this new series will be a success, however, remains to be seen.  Still it is good we are starting the kids young on this particular unhealthy obsession!

Update: Newt Gingrich


Alternate history author and politician Newt Gingrich continues with his campaign to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States, but things are not going well.  His policy for the courts has been likened to that of fictional President Jake Featherston of the Confederate States of America.  You heard that right, Gingrich has been compared to a Harry Turtledove character that is an analog to Adolf Hitler.  Meanwhile another reviewer has attacked Gingrich's works for being both historically inaccurate and overly pro-Confederate.  Ouch!

Links to the Multiverse

Articles

Alternate Hollywood History: Nick Nolte, Al Pacino and Burt Freakin' Reynolds Almost Played Deckart in Blade Runner by Alex Pappademas at Grantland.

Imagining a world without Hanukkah by Lawrence M. Pinsker at Winnipeg Free Press.

The Implications of Less Devastated Empires by Silver Goggles at Steampunk News.

Stimulus Counterfactuals by Matthew Yglesias at Slate.

Thoughts on Animating "Coil Gun." by Matthew Quinn at The World According to Quinn.

Interview

Arlan Andrews with Mark Lord at Alt Hist.

Online Alternate History

Ad Astra Per Aspera Wiki page.

The Use of Dragons In Warfare - Part One by Luka Novak at AH Fiction.

Wal-Mart Tests Online Music Site at Express After Deadline.

A Wasteland Yuletide: A 1983 Doomsday Special Tale by mdc1957.

Books

New Cover for the German Market by Sebastian P. Breit (a.k.a. War Blogger).

Review of the Emberverse series by S. M. Stirling done by Fabulous Realms.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Holiday Message from AH Weekly Update

Merry Christmas...

Happy Hanukkah...

Joyous Kwanzaa...

Happy Holidays...

Happy Festivus...

Cthulhu fhtagn...

Winter is coming...

Etc., etc., etc...

Well guys with the holiday season upon us I want to announce that I am going to be taking a break over the next week.  What does that mean?  Well Weekly Update #34 will be published on 12/27/11 and Weekly Update #35 will be published on 1/3/12.  I do not plan to write anything else from now until 1/3/12, except for any Breaking News stories that may arise.  My contributors are more then welcome to post anything if they wish, but they are under no pressure.  Enjoy the holidays you guys, you deserve it.

In the meantime, why not show your appreciation to Alternate History Weekly Update by giving the gift of social media recognition!  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@ahwupate) or Google.  We also would appreciate anyone who would go and check out our new Amazon page.  Not only can you now read AH Weekly Update from your Kindle or Kindle app, you can also like the page or write a review!

So I will see you all again next year in 2012!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas without Santa

I am going out on a limb here, and producing a 'bonus' column for Christmas. Here in the United States it has become fashionable in public places to downplay the very word "Christmas" for it's obvious religious meaning. On the other hand, some of the very people that bemoan the criticism of Christmas contribute to the cheapening of the holiday by the almost religious devotion to the fictional character known as "Santa Claus" to much of the world.

Oddly enough, if the religious founders of the American colonies would have had their way, the celebrations we know in this country, including Santa Claus, would never had been attached to the remembrance of Christmas day. On Christmas Day, 1776, George Washington crossed the Delaware River to surprise German mercenaries celebrating on the holiday. Such celebrations - with joyous frivolity and 'good will,' were not a part of the majority of American colonists in those days. The Dutch "Sinterklass" was lampooned in the newspapers of the day. The British had their "Father Christmas" but he had little in common with the legend that was by then at least four hundred years old.

And so, what if the popularization of Santa Claus had not made the character part and parcel of the holiday we know today? Consider the possibilities of a holy day that comes once a year, observed briefly by the pious faithful, but not trumpeted to the world as a time to buy presents for child and adult alike. No 'black Friday' when the retail stores seek to make a profit by practically giving away loss leaders. No "cyber Monday" upon which geeks jam the bandwidths looking for just the right gifts to be shipped in time for the big day less than four weeks away!

Without Santa Claus the mention of the holiday might not be seen for a full eight out of fifty-two weeks of the year! That is, until merchants began taking "Christ" out of Christmas, the name of Christ was at least acknowledged almost one sixth of the year! But when people think Christmas, they say "krismus" and it does not even sound like the reason for the season. Of course the original model for the myth - Saint Nicolas - is hardly noticeable in the name used today either. Certainly "Santa" is Spanish for "Saint" and "Claus" is a clipped form of Nicolas, and most people know "old St. Nick" to be the same "person," but "Santa" could be any saint! To the uneducated, the mention of "Krismus" and "Santa" brings no knowledge of Jesus the Messiah nor the saints who are his followers.

Without Santa, the solemness of the holy day would cause the world to pause and think something like: "Why are you celebrating the birth of a baby that lived so long ago?" The unbeliever might wonder why such a scene as a baby in a feeding trough means so much to so many. The lights might not be gaudy but might shine on the manger like the stars that did so that night at the turning point of human history -- the point where the calendars divide from minus to plus.

If gifts were given, perhaps they would not be as 'rewards' but as 'gifts.' They might even be given back to the one whose birthday is being celebrated - consecrated to his service. Dear Saint Nicolas, dead some sixteen hundred years, might be remembered as a diligent servant of God who defended the faith in the face of rising opposition. A man who helped the Church define what it means to believe in God as seen in Jesus, the Word made flesh.

The world without the modern legend of Santa Claus might be a little less colorful, but I doubt if it would be the least bit less joyful. May all who read this have a blessed Christmas as we remember the one for whom the holy day was named.

Op Ed: Depression

Well, it's a few days before Christmas and we're talking alternate history. That can mean only one thing -- the annual viewing of It's A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Yes, the original, preferably not colorized. And contrary to rumors, the movie is not 'retiring' on its 65th birthday (this week, on Dec. 19)! But I digress.

This movie is a classic using the alternate history genre to teach a lesson. In this time of year, when joy and peace is supposed to be the norm, there is an increase in depression and even suicides among seemingly normal folk. Such was the case with the fictional character of George Bailey, president and CEO of his family run "Savings and Loan." The Savings and Loan was a service much like the "Credit Unions" of today, but dependent on banks to handle most of their money. When a large deposit is lost at the greedy Mr. Potter's bank, Potter takes the opportunity to ruin his 'competition' and George Bailey take it hard, even to the point of seeking to jump off a bridge to kill himself.

Unknown to him, his family is worried about him and prays for his safety. Clarence, an angel with no wings, is sent to save George from himself. When George jumps in the water to save Clarence instead of to kill himself, he confides with the wet angel that he wished he had never lived! Apart from Clarence having just been saved by the man, he figured in a moment of despair, he was not worth much! How often does this thought come to us in times of trouble? We begin to consider that things would be so much better for those around us if we weren't around. We might not consider suicide - since we value life itself - but we are willing to consider "non-existence."

But, ah! What a mistake that is! Any reader of alternate history - and especially writers of alternate history - knows that a little thing like the absence of an "important" person can change the course of history for perhaps the whole world! But what of the normal guy trying to make ends meet? How could his absence make a difference. George Bailey is given a chance to see that world that he "wished" for. And it wasn't pretty. Of course, his reason for staying around and running the Savings and Loan was so that people would not be controlled by Potter. And alas, that is what happens as Bailey enters the alternate present. However, it was not just the present that he is shown. Clarence gives him a glance at his past - or the past as it would have been if he had not been born. The seemingly little things he did - from saving his brother when he fail through the ice to courting his wife - made a big difference.

Each person is on this earth for a purpose, and contemplating what is might have been is a way that we can see what that purpose is. It forces us to consider the reason we did what we did, and the consequences (good or bad) of those actions. Little kindnesses turn the despondent stranger from a course of destruction, perhaps; or meeting our spouse turns that person from a life that would have been a disaster with someone else! It makes us appreciate our relationships with family and acquaintances alike. George Bailey finds out that even though he had lost a small fortune of other people's money, those same people - people that he had helped with a loan at just the right time - came through for him when Potter had the police converging on him. He had friends that he did not even know!

Our lives might not touch as many people as Bailey's did, but the very fact that we interact with others means that we do make a difference. Let us learn from this classic piece of alternate history. When we tend to feel sorry for ourselves, let us instead think of others. Let this be as season of giving rather than getting. It may not be "about us," but it would not be the same without us.

DD Date 1983.12.21

December 21, 1983

Wow, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Really. I would have thought with all the doom and gloom about the end of the world as we know it we would be "canceling Christmas" this year. I guess being a preacher-in-training I should have known that the meaning of the season isn't wrapped up in fancy paper under an artificial tree in the living room. Anyway, with Debbie and I both working full time - and that in health care (I can't think of a more secure field right now!) - our employers have been able to pay us well in credits good at K-Mart, Bi-Lo, and even Wal-Mart. I read about Wal-Mart a few years back when the first stores came to Greenville. Some guy in Arkansas of all places started out in the dime store business thirty years ago. He took the first part of his name - "Walton" - to come up with a competitor to K-Mart. The article said he likes to deal in American goods when he can. Well, I guess that will be the "new way" around here, huh? A guy named "Walton" from the Ozarks, kind of like "John-boy" and the rest on family on Walton's mountain.

Funny, but that show began at Christmas time back when I was in high school! And then lasted up through last year's three TV movies. Sort of like us today, but with a mountain, I guess. They were in the Great Depression, a time when a lot of people didn't have running water and electricity -- but they made it through some how! Sad, in a way, also, because that was all about a family all living close together -- not separated by hundreds of miles like we are now. And there's not going to be a family reunion like there has always been in the past either. Yeah, Chuck will be coming over from BJ for the weekend -- Christmas on Sunday -- happens about every five or six years, but still seems a bit strange.

Well, I'm wrapping some simple stuff tonight after the children are in bed. I set up the car headlight in the kitchen so we could use the table after dark -- going to be a long night tonight, this being the first day of winter. Strangely, though, it's not too cold. We don't open the doors to the front of the house very often, and that includes the kitchen. Keeps the heat in the bedrooms. However, we're thinking of getting a wood-burning stove to put on the back porch (where it would be safer). I don't think the rental agency would like us putting it in the kitchen -- we'd have put in special tile and figure a way to get a chimney (maybe out the window?). It would be nice to have some kind of oven -- the only bread we have is made in a frying pan!

Speaking of cooking -- the rations this week included hot cocoa mix! No milk needed. I'm betting that stuff is rare enough these days! We even have the kind with tiny dried marshmallows in it. No eggnog, though. But hot apple cider, with a little cinnamon while it lasts, will be available (the local apples had a good season this year). If things are as bad as they say they are this may be the last Christmas that has these luxuries. I'm going to enjoy the memories of Christmases past and not worry too much about Christmas to come. And I am going make this a Christmas to remember - in spite of everything!

Previous entry: DD Date 1983.12.14
Next entry: DD Date 1983.12.30

Airship Update #5

Look up in the sky...

The US Navy's new blimp lands in Edgewater for the Army-Navy game, which the Navy won!

The Farmers Insurance-sponsored airship was seen hovering over the Town of Los Gatos the afternoon of Wednesday, Dec. 14.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Warning about Politics and Alternate History

[Editor's Note: Updated 10/23/12]

The only time I ever had to act like a moderator with my alternate history Facebook group (Alternate History Online) was whenever it was an election year in the United States of America.  Discussions would always degenerate into ideological brawls and as soon as the elections were over, someone would always ask what if the outcome was reversed, as if we had enough information the day after the elections to plausibly speculate on the future.  As someone who witnessed what politics could do to an online community, I felt no remorse when I told people to cut it out and told them that if they wanted to talk politics there were plenty of places where they would be welcome, but it was not here.

While there is no denying that a good portion of alternate history involves politics, whether it is directly or indirectly related to the point of divergence.  I should clarify, however, that when I discuss government changes I usually means democratic elections and since the largest community of alternate historians tends to come from the English speaking world, the elections usually important to alternate history are the presidential elections in the United States.

Alternate history scenarios involving the President of the United States are very popular.  Next to American Civil War alternate histories, however, these alternate histories are probably the easiest type to ruin. In those timelines the author's political bias is blatantly obvious. Generally these timelines fall into one of two categories:

1) This is how better the world would be if my candidate won.

OR

2) This is how worse the world would be if my candidate lost.

Now there are always exceptions to the general rule. If done right, an alternate US presidential election timeline can become a plausible alternate history. The Alternate History Wiki promoted such a timeline to featured status and even I gave Then Everything Changed a good review. Nevertheless, these timelines tend not to be very convincing and often lead to heated arguments between rival political factions existing in online alternate history communities.

Another issue with political alternate histories is the belief of the "lost opportunity".  I already touched on this a little with my opinion piece on American Civil War alternate histories when I discussed the common POD of having Abraham Lincoln survive his assassination.  Another assassination that gets a lot of attention among alternate historians (and speculative fiction writers in general) is John F. Kennedy's assassination.  An excessive amount of AH has been written about this event (see all the listings for 1963 on Uchronia) and just recently even horror author Stephen King came out with his own alternate history tale of the event.  The event was a powerful turning point in American history and the reason why was best summed up by author Greg Ahlgren:
I am 59 years old. To my generation the JFK assassination is what the Pearl Harbor attack was to my parents, and what the 9/11 terrorist attacks were to my daughter. It is a reference point that benchmarks history. Prior to November 22, 1963 the U.S. was a different place - peaceful, confident, and smug. Assassinations were things that only happened in far away South American juntas, not in OUR obviously superior democracy.

Dallas changed all that. It may have been coincidental that racial unrest, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the student protests, and the decade's social and gender upheaval, all happened after Dallas - but one from my generation will always be tempted to succumb to the nagging suspicion that November 22 was somehow causal - the proverbial watershed in American history - just like WWII and its social aftermath was for our parents.
With all of these emotions tied with the assassination, a writer must tread carefully.  There are people out there who will zealously defend JFK in their alternate history and there are those who will do the exact opposite.  Things become even worse when a strong emotional bias is entangled with a strong political bias.

So be warned. All alternate historians should approach politics with caution. Do your research and do not let your political beliefs override your common sense.  Alternate historians should always strive for plausibility in their works, so unless the POD is earlier enough in a person's life, they are unlikely to make decisions that do not go along with their personality and experiences.  Avoid succumbing to the biased arguments that are likely to arise when you produce your work.  Just stick to the facts and everything will turn out OK...hopefully.

* * *

Matt Mitrovich is a long-time fan of alternate history, founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a volunteer editor for Alt Hist magazine. His fiction can be found at Echelon PressJake's Monthly and The Masquerade Crew. 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, December 19, 2011

Weekly Update #33

Editor's Note

Got some good stuff coming up this week.  With the 2012 US Presidential Election getting closer and with an alternate historian running for the Republican nomination (see below) I thought it was time to share my opinion on politics and alternate history.  Plus I should have a new Airship Update, Korsgaard may be posting his review of Roswell, Texas this week and we can always expect Henry Martin to publish something interesting.

Currently I am reading The Phoenix Gambit by Douglas McDonough, an alternate history involving a plan by the Confederate States to relocate to Mexico following their defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg.  Will it hold considering my position on American Civil War alternate histories?  We can only wait and see, so keep your eyes open for a review and perhaps even an interview.

Meanwhile we got our first reader from Panama.  Bienvenida!

And now the news...

New Short Story Writing Contest with $1,000 Prize by David Farland and East India Press

There is a new writing contest open to all participants that is being sponsored by East India Press and David Farland, author of over fifty published novels and anthologies.  Now as far as I know, Farland has not written any alternate history works himself, but he was responsible for discovery Eric Flint, author of the 1632 series.  So alternate historians should take notice.

Stories can take place in any time period, and can take place anywhere, even on on another world. You also have the option of placing your story in the world of Farland's new story, Nightingale (sample chapters and a description of the magic system should be available soon).  Farland will personally read your story, along with many other judges,  including Kevin J. Anderson and Tracy Hickman.  Farland will also edit the winning story to help ready it for publication.

Remember, you can choose not to use the Nightingale setting, though there are good reasons to do so obviously. East India Press may also ask the winner and other finalists in the contest to submit manuscripts for review.  Deadline for submissions is March 1, 2012.  More guidelines can be found here and those interested in attending a writing workshop taught by Farland can find more information here.

Update: Newt Gingrich

With the Iowa Republican primary just weeks away, alternate historian and politician Newt Gingrich is one of the top contenders.  As expected, more mainstream news outlets are discussing Gingrich's alternate history works, but not always in a positive manner.

George Mason's University's History News Network published a short comic last week imagining an alternate history where Gingrich is a History Department Chair (spoiler alert: he is not very good).  Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker also used Gingrich's alternate history works as an intro into his rant about Gingrich and the positions he stands for (ouch).

Still some good has come out of Gingrich's rise to the top.  Amy Davidson of The New Yorker wrote "Nine Stories from a Year That Might Have Been", which if taken together, paints a very grimdark version of the year 2011.  This alternate historian is very happy to know that no matter how bad things were in 2011, they could have been a lot worse!

Links to the Multiverse

Article

China and the shadow of German history by Francesco Sisci at Asia Times Online.

A Healthy Alternative to Fascism (or: Putting Your Dieselpunk Look on the Right Side of Alternate History) by Miriam at Steampunk Emma Goldman.

List of published AH.com authors

Rethinking History by Richard Ridley at CreateSpace.

Interviews

Charles Stross by Locus.

Harry Turtledove by SF Signal.

Books

Forbes Library Alternate History selection

Review of Enigma: A New Life of Charles Stewart Parnell by Paul Bew Gill done by Alan Titley at Irish Times.

Review of The Hidden Nature of Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene done by A. Jurek at Seattle pi.

Review of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro done by Emily at Em and Emm Expound on Exposition.

Review of Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove done by Emily at Em and Emm Expound on Exposition.

Update on Clash of Eagles by Sebastian P. Breit a.k.a War Blogger.

Online Alternate History

The British Raj by Sebastian P. Breit (a.k.a. War Blogger).

Upper Peninsula War by various authors.

Video Games

'BioShock' creator talks history, writing and 'nerdity' by Larry Frum at CNN Tech.

Theater

2011 year in review: Best in theater  by Charles McNulty at the Los Angeles Times (see "Peace in Our Time").

Friday, December 16, 2011

Showcase: Into This Abyss - The Eurasian War (1915-1919)

Sarantapechaina's Into This Abyss - The Eurasian War (1915-1919) timeline is an incredibly detailed and well-researched example of what I'd like to call a "limited window" approach, i.e. one that doesn't go forth and develop a different timeline spanning centuries. Rather, the author concentrates on his POD and, from there on, develops with a high degree of plausibility and attention to historic detail, a different outcome of events within a limited frame.

Into the Abyss' POD is the Russo-Japanese War. Tsarist Russia decisively wins the Battle of Sandepu, forcing the Japanese back into Korea and confining them to Port Arthur, a development that would ultimately not only change the future of China, but the world.

In China, crumbling under the onslaught of the "Foreign Devils", a civil war between the Qing and Jiang factions erupts; a war which, over the coming years, will draw the attention and eventually interventions of most major powers, shaping the international alliance system anew.

Sarantapechaina spends a lot of time on very different "fronts" all around the globe, be it the Ottoman Empire, France, Russia, or Germany. The amount of intimate political and historical knowledge is staggering, and even better, well-presented. I'd be giving too many spoilers if I said more here and now. However, I'm confident that the scenario the author has developed is no less plausible than the Great War we know from history. Do yourselves a favor and check it out.
* * *

War Blogger is the internet handle of Sebastian P. Breit, author of the alternate history novel Wolf Hunt. You can find news, reviews, and commentary on all matters regarding WW2 on his blog, The War Blog, and follow his writing progress on his personal website.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Op Ed: Priorities

A Mother's Wish

A hundred years ago this week, Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. However, he had been to the continent earlier (1899), being trapped in the ice over the winter. But this was the beginning of a life of adventure that would lead to his death half-way around the world in Arctic waters several years later. We can ponder what would have happened if he had kept his promise to his mother after she died. She had kept him from life on the sea and insisted that he become a doctor. He promised to go to school towards that goal but left school soon after she died.

If he had honored the promise, he may well have been a doctor in Norway rather than an explorer setting records. He may have saved lives instead of losing his own. But what if his lack of leadership had caused an international failure to dare to reach the poles when they did? Would the British have pursued the task a few years later? And without lessons learned earlier, would they have succeeded anyway?

The Butterfly Effect is a hard one to figure, of course. And the decisions of a pioneer are not always as far reaching as one might think. But the fact that a man chose to defy what many would consider a "sacred" trust in the search for fame, fortune or just curiosity, is one that shows that priorities are sometimes skewed. Someone else would have taken up the challenge, most likely, and history would not have changed much at all. But the lives of hundreds back home may have turned the tide of European history a generation (or two) later.

Again, this is the opinion of just one writer, but when we consider the many lives lost climbing mountains "just because they are there," and going "where no man has been before" for dubious benefits from the efforts, we should step back and consider our priorities. Is the urge for discovery the unknown always worth it?

Such 'second guessing' in alternate history helps us to explore with the imagination without risk of life. We go where no one can go - a reality that is possible and even probable, but never happened. The way things are have come about for reasons we cannot fully understand. On the other hand, when we venture with our informed imaginations, we can learn lessons more easily applied to decisions we make every day. In that way, we can make a difference where we are for the time we are in the present. We can leave the future of this world in the hands of others when we "control" the world of our imagination!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DD Date 1983.12.14

December 14, 1983

We were greatly surprised today when the mid-week edition of the Greenville News carried reports from outside of Greenville County. It seems that the News has been sending volunteers as far as Athens and Asheville to find out what is going on. Asheville seems to have fared okay, but the story from Athens is like one from the twilight zone! The reporters apparently did not get into town, but the reports from those they met along I-85 was horrible. With what the eye-witnesses said, the University of Georgia had become the center of a new government of sorts, but things went bad fast. Apparently riots had begun over food and supplies and no one was safe. The reporters also heard that refugees were heading up to the mountain town of Taccoa, but they returned to Greenville knowing that they probably would not be chancing any more fact-finding trips.

Meanwhile, at home things seem peaceful. The police and highway patrol maintain a vigilant presence along the roads, preventing most vandalism and keeping unrest to a minimum. Occasionally we hear rumors of police overstepping their boundaries, but the mayor's office assures us that things are professionally managed. As for me and my family, we haven't experienced or seen any violence ourselves. I hope things stay that way, because I remember Athens as a nice town overall, though that was a decade ago. If my fellow Georgians turn on each other that way, I'm pretty sure South Carolinians could as well.

I can't imagine what things might be like in Albany - well known for racial strife! I hope dad and mom are okay. I mean, they go to church in Albany - dad works there - working with blacks every day in fact. Could they be like what they say Athens is like less than three months after Atlanta is bombed? Wow -- not a pretty thought as we head into Christmas season.

Debbie did some Christmas shopping at the K-Mart near the hospital. The hospital has worked out a credit system with both K-Mart and Bi-Lo allowing employees to write personal checks against their Hospital account. It's like the old "company store" -- hopefully we won't 'owe our soul to the comp'ny store' as Tennessee Ernie Ford used to sing! She has also begun picking up the rations at that store (though it took a lot of paperwork and several weeks to approve it).

We had put the tree up -- an artificial Debbie inherited from a college roommate before we were married -- on Monday, my Dad's birthday. We'll probably take it down on my birthday in January like we usually do. The one difference this year is that there is no way we'll be with the rest of the family this year -- neither there no here. That makes us all sad. All we can do is pray that everyone is okay.

We made it to Second Pres this week! Prayer meeting went well and there was a great "Christmas feast" prepared for the community. The cooks had called in some favors around town and had "all the fixings" for dinner for over 200 folks (over half visitors from the community). They did say that the supply of natural gas was about to run out and they may have to start using charcoal grills if they can find any. Otherwise, I suppose they'll have to quit serving food. That will be a shame.

This is getting depressing. Perhaps that is because I waited to do this by the headlight lamp -- the car battery is holding out! I suppose I'd better get to bed.

Previous entry: DD Date 1983.12.07
Next entry: DD Date 1983.12.21

The Future for Alternate History Weekly Update

Let me start by saying I could not be happier with how this blog has grown.  I started Alternate History Weekly Update with the intent to help alternate history fans be better informed about what was going on in the genre. Since my first post in June, I can honestly say that this has been a success.  What began as just an experiment in writing has evolved into a group blog whose fame has grown across the alternate history community.

I am not about to give up yet, but I have to realistically consider the limits of myself and the other contributors of Alternate History Weekly Update.  As much as I wish to ignore it, I have a real life, with a real career and a real family that is counting on me.  It is hard to rationalize spending time on a blog when I could be doing things to further my career.  My contributors also have real lives and, more importantly, are volunteers who are doing me a favor by writing for this blog.  I have no way to reward them, nor encourage new contributors from joining our ranks.

That is why I have begun looking for ways to finance this blog.  I realize that I am unlikely to make a fortune through blogging, especially with a blog dedicated to the subject of alternate history.  All the money I raise will go back into the blog, either through promotion or as financial incentives to contributors.  This project still remains a labor of love for me, not a potential cash cow.

That is why I recently polled you, the readers, about your opinion on ads on this blog.  Generally you were all supportive of ads on this blog, but a significant number of you stated that your support would depend on nature of the ads themselves.  You have spoken, and I have listened.  I believe I have come up with a solution that will please everyone.

First, I am going to allow ads on this site, but I will maintain control on what ads are allowed.  That is why I added a Sponsors page.  Those interested in becoming a personal or corporate sponsor of Alternate History Weekly Update can email me at ahwupdate@gmail.com.  Sponsors will receive ad space on the Sponsors page and the main blog space, plus a post announcing their sponsorship along with additional posts when they offer special deals to the fans of the blog.  While I welcome all offers, I reserve the right to pick and choose sponsors.  I promise not to advertise anything that may be offensive to our readers or has nothing to do with alternate history (though I will make exceptions for anything that is relevant to speculative fiction in general).

Second, if you look to your left, you will now see a Donate button.  Using your PayPal account, you can make donations to Alternate History Weekly Update.  This is completely voluntary, no one is required to do it.  While I encourage you to do so, as the money can be used to promote the blog and reward contributors, I will not be disappointed if you choose not to donate nor hound you with demands for donations.  It is also up to you on how much you wish to give.  Whether it is $.01 or $100, I do not care.

Finally, you can now purchase a subscription to Alternate History Weekly Update for your Kindle or Kindle app for only $.99.  While it is free to read the blog using any device with Internet capabilities, I know from experience that it can be difficult to read this blog using a Kinlde, Smart phone or other device.  For only a small fee, Amazon will present the blog in a user friendly format so you can keep track on updates wherever you are.  Considering 5% of our readers use Androids, iPhones, iPads, iPods and Blackberries to read Alternate History Weekly Update, this is a great service for making your reading experience more enjoyable.

Once again, thank you  for all of your support and I hope you will continue to remain fans of Alternate History Weekly Update as we continue to experiment and evolve.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Breaking News: Point of Divergence #68

Dale Cozort has announced on AH.com that the next Point of Divergence, number 68, is almost ready to go out.

For those who do not know, POD is an amateur press association founded over 12 years ago by long-time Chicago alternate historian Jim Rittenhouse.  Contributors include David Johnson, Dale Cozort and Christopher Nuttal.  Part magazine and part writers' workshop, POD averages around five issues a year that are usually over 100 pages per issue, though the last one was 132 pages.

Those interested in participating should contact Dale.

Breaking News: Korsgaard's Commentary is now on Kindle

You guys know Korsgaard, right?  He is one of our fine contributors and writes most of the showcases on the original online works of alternate history.

Well you probably did not know that he has his own blog, Korsgaard's Commentary, where he provides commentary on a wide arrange of topics.  Well Alternate History Weekly Update would like to congratulate Korsgaard for getting his blog published through Kindle!

For the low price of $0.99, Kindle owners and anyone with a Kindle app can read Korsgaard's Commentary anywhere they go. Now I know you are saying that you can already read his blog on your computer, but lets face it, using a device besides a computer to read a website that is not formatted for smaller screens can be rather difficult.  With Kindle's blog publishing, however, that problem is mitigated at the price of a small pittance that goes to support an excellent writer.

So purchase your subscription now and congrats again to Korsgaard for taking his blog to the next level.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Weekly Update #32

Editor's Note

So what did you guys think of Henry Martin's new Op Ed column?  Please tell us your thoughts in the new poll to right.

Got some good things coming up for you.  War Blogger's got something coming down the pipeline and Korsgaard will be doing a review of Roswell, Texas.  In the meantime, check out his showcase on An Age of Miracles, the Revival of Rhomanion.

Surpassed 15,000 page views last Friday.  It was great accomplishment for Alternate History Weekly Update, however I decided to leave the announcement until this Weekly Update instead of making a new post.  It happen to soon after our 10,000 page view that I decided to wait until every 10,000th page view to make an announcement.  Still I want to thank our fans for sticking it out with this blog and remember that if you do like us then show it by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter (@ahwupdate) or following us with your Google account.

And now the news...

More Reviews on Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

The AH world is still blowing up about Cherie Priest's Hugo Award nominated novel Boneshaker.  Functional Nerds ran two reviews of the novel, one by Paul Weimer and Catherine Russell.  Weimer said of the novel "[i]t’s not hard to see why it was nominated and why Boneshaker is considered one of the seminal works of the subgenre of SF known as Steampunk."  Russell had good things to say as well: "The characters stand out, the setting is fantastic, and the situation dire. What better way to start a horror story?"

I really need to get my hands on this novel.

Update: S. M. Stirling



New updates on S. M. Stirling.  First he announced that he will be at the World Fantasy Convention in 2013, which will be in the UK that year.  Plus, for those fans of his Emberverse series, you can check out the second chapter of Lord of Mountains, which has been posted on Stirling's official website.  Stirling also announced on his Facebook fan page:


The whole Emberverse series (plus the Nantucket books) has been optioned for possible development as a TV miniseries. And no, THE GIVEN SACRIFICE probably won't be the last.
Not exactly anything we have not heard before, but it is good to know that the Nantucket books may be a TV series.  In the meantime, why not stop by Genre Web Shop and get your own We are the Wolves T-Shirt.

Links to the Multiverse

Articles

Nazi Fiction by Portable Homeland.

Playing with the Past: Alternate History and Historical Fiction in Science Fiction and Fantasy by Louise Marley at SF Signal.

Interview

Interview with Seamus Sweeney, author of "Dublin Can Be Heaven" at Alt Hist Fiction.

Online Alternate History

Into This Abyss: The Eurasian War (1915-1919) by Sarantapechaina at AH.com

Protect and Survive: A Timeline by Macragge1 at AH.com.

Books

Alternate History at Curated Science Fiction

Get your signed paperback edition of Wolf Hunt! by War Blogger at The Burning Ages.

The Literary Horizon: The Man in the High Castle, Conquistador by The Literary Omnivore.

Lois Tilton reviews Short Fiction, early December at Locus Online (Alt Hist #3 is reviewed).

Review of 11/22/63 by Stephen King done by Gopal Sathe at livemint.com.

Films

Alternate-history Spielberg: Who ALMOST starred in his most famous movies? by Anthony Breznican at Entertainment Weekly.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Showcase: An Age of Miracles, the Revival of Rhomanion

Few historical nations have as much affection and goodwill as the Byzantine Empire. While the reasons behind this is a topic for another day, there is little doubt that the heirs of Rome have earned a near-universal soft spot among members of the alternate history community, as the utter volume of content about it on the bookshelves and forums of our genre can testify, and a great deal of that dedicated to the Byzantines turning back from the brink, saving themselves from the dustbin of history.

However, there is one point that is almost universally acknowledged as the point of no return for the Byzantines: The capture of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade of 1204, which saw the Latin forces ransack the World City and fragment the Empire. Though recaptured by the Nicaean successor state in 1261, leading to a muted restoration of the Byzantine Empire, it was a shadow of it's former glory, and 1204 is recognized nearly universally as the date when the final decline of the Byzantine empire began, making it's fall in 1453 not a matter of if, but when.
It is this long held historical fact that Age of Miracles seeks to challenge that belief, following a scenario where the Byzantine Empire recovers, thrives and even expands following the dreaded date of 1204.

The POD, as so many good ones tend to be, is a small one: Theodoros II Laskaris, the future Emperor of Nicaea, is born free of epilepsy, which OTL crippled his life, and led to his early death. Living longer than he did OTL, rather than rush to retake Constantinople, as his heirs did, he chooses to gradually reunify the various splinter states and solidify his control over them, pass several reforms to the military and the bureaucracy, and crushes a rebellion led by the aristocracy and defeats a few incursions by the Seljuks, before retaking Constantiople and the Latin Empire a decade later than OTL. After securing his hold on the Empire against various wars against Venice, France and such, he Emperor Theodoros II Laskaria dies, and passes the throne peacefully to his son, who will under his reign, begin the reconquest of Anatolia.

Under the following Laskarid Dynasty, the Byzantines manage to, in spite of a few bumps in the road, bring the empire to it's widest extent and most prosperous state in centuries. This is achieved by the successful installation of a meritocracy, a degree tolerance to the various ethnic and religious groups within the Empire, and resettling various groups within the Empire, and playing the nation's rivals against each other, especially Genoa and Venice. Not surprisingly, this has an effect on the world outside of the Empire, with several interesting butterflies. Osman and the Turks under his command choosing to form the Ottoman Empire in Mesopotamia, finding Iraq easier to subdue than Anatolia. In Western Europe, England has just come up victorious against France in the Ninety-Years War, and the Marinids have solidified their control over North Africa and are leading an Islamic offensive into Iberia, and a string of crusades to push them out. The shape of Eastern Europe is also largely different, as a united Novogorodian-Lithuanian Kingdom has formed to fight off both Poland and the Teutonic Knights. The timeline currently stands at the beginning of the 1400s, with a five-way Roman Civil War after the Timurids kill the Emperor in battle - and only now does it show signs of stopping as Timur re-invades, with a Byzantine force making a valiant stand against the Lord of Asia at Manzikert.
Written by relative AH.com newcomer Basileus444, I have to praise his writing style of the timeline. He provides a good narrative, some great battle scenes, and captures fully all the mechanisations that go on between nations and the Byzantines, and maintains full plausibility the whole time. Plus, he really has a gift for ending each update with a cliff-hanger, always good for maing people look for new updates.

Age of Miracles: The Revival of Rhomanion challenges the long-held belief that following the Fourth Crusade, the fall of Byzantium was inevitable, and that the Empire can not only recover, but survive and thrive. In addition, the writing style is superb, and is plausible while remaining fun to read. As for the fate of the Romans against Timur? You'll have to read this magnificent timeline for yourself, something I recommend highly, standing as proof that no historical orthodoxy is cast in stone, and providing a good read in doing so.

Soldier, scholar, writer and web-voyeur, Sean CW Korsgaard has been active in the alternate history community since 2006, and was recently elected to succeed Mitro as President of the Alternate History Online Facebook group. In addition to his contributions at the Alternate History Weekly Update, he writes for several websites, including his own, which can be found here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Airship Update #4

More from the wide world of airships...

Airship Ventures flight attendant Anthony Dizon enjoys the breeze by sticking his head out the rear window of the Eureka, a commercial zeppelin run that gives tours to paying passengers.

The airship used by Lei Xiang on December 4 to fly 577 meters above the ground to beat the world record set by the BX-2.

The Germany Society for Air and Space Travel held an airship workshop in Aachen, Germany last month.  To coincide with the event, a group of European airship modelers held an "Airship Regatta" at the same time.  Thanks to Up Ship! for informing me us about this event.

Airships, like the one above, may be responsible for carrying cargo in the Arctic as climate change makes ice roads no longer viable.
Send your airship news to ahwupdate@gmail.com.