Thursday, March 15, 2012

Showcase: William Dellinger's For All The Marbles

My dear readers, you are in for a treat today. Of all the showcases I have done for all of you, it is no small thing when I say that what you're reading today may very well be for the next big story of the entire Alternate History. those are not words I use lightly, believe me, and I know everybody and their little brother who have ever penned a work in the genre tend to blanket their work in that claim. For All The Marbles has earned every word of that oft tossed about phrase.

Because For All The Marbles is unlike any other work of alternate history you or I have ever read or seen.

Don't take my word for it though! Please, enjoy the trailer I have prepared for you prior to the main showcase:

INT to a view of paintings, statues and such of various historical figures. Nelson's Column, The Bayeux Tapestry, Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Throughout human history, only a lucky few, through reputation or great deeds, have earned for themselves a name and legacy to withstand the test of time.

You now see brief glimpses of the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Queen Elizabeth I, Julius Caesar and a few other historical figures.

Only the best and brightest of the manifold millions of men escape mortality to live forever as legend. Question is, of these lucky few...

You now see those same faces again, as the camera reveals them all to be standing alongside each other, a hundred fold or more all filled with some of the most recognizable figures in history.

Can they do it twice?

You see before them stands a figure who somewhat resembles Mark Harmon, though shinning with an otherworldly glint in his eyes, who then says 'You may call me Marvin, and let me tell you about the Myox..."

AH.com and William Dellinger present histories greatest figures, together again at last.

Our most refined statesmen

A brief glimpse of what is clearly a cabinet meeting with several figures gathered around a table. We get to see Thomas Jefferson reading off a list of proposals at one end of the table, as the camera pans over we see members include the likes of Otto von Bismark, Winston Churchill, Henry Clay, Adam Smith, Marcus Cicero and a number of others. Rubbing his chin at the head of the table is Charlemagne, along with his wife, Elizabeth Tudor.

Our most cunning strategists

We are given a glimpse into what looks like a general staff meeting, with Dwight Eisenhower pouring over maps with the likes of Julius Caesar, Robert E Lee, Hannibal Barca, and a number of others. In the corner we see a chess match between Niccolo Machiavelli and Sun Tzu, as a figure immediately recognizable as Cardinal Richelieu approaches Machiavelli and whispers something in his ear. A faint smile creeps on his face as the camera pans away.

Our most brilliant minds

We now see a room with a massive chalkboard with Steven Hawking walking up and down correcting various figures before turning to face his colleagues, which for the moment, includes Issac Newton, Robert Goddard, Wilbur Wright, Archimedes, Werner von Braun and Albert Einstein, the latter of whom smiles and says 'Faster than light travel... wondurbar...'

Our most cultured artists

We see a few books on a table, with unrecognizable titles, but authored by Hemingway, Milton, and a few by Shakespeare, as the camera pans up to see Leonardo de Vinci moving a brush across a wide canvas as Michelangelo looks onward as a vaguely familiar classical tune comes out of a radio. Michelangelo asks 'I can't tell, is that, Mozart or Beethoven?'. Leonardo stops painting long enough to look back and say 'Both'.

Our most courageous soldiers

We see George Patton on Horseback alongside Colin Powell as he unfolds a telegram handed to him by a messenger. We see it reads 'First one to flank the enemy buys the drinks tonight - Erwin Rommel'. A mixture of a smile and a scowl breaks out on his face as he says 'Looks like the drinks are on you tonight, you magnificent bastard', then riding off to rally his troops.

Against our most brutal foes

We get a glimpse from behind of a figure speaking from a balcony in a very fascistic manner, and though we never see his face, we see the seemingly endless formation of black uniformed soldiers before him as they all let loose a deafening war cry as the man thrusts his arm out in an all too familiar salute.

FOR ALL THE MARBLES

Humanity's greatest leaders against humanity's greatest foes.

If you haven't guessed by now, the concept is one both elegant in its simplicity and brilliant in its execution. A cosmic figure (some might call him an alien space bat) known as Marvin is part of an interstellar game with fellow members of his ilk, known as Myox. This game consists of the player taking a number of figures to use as pieces to form an entire civilization from scratch, and then proceed to wage war until control of the planet belongs to one side, with all other players eliminated. While we have yet to see what pieces the other sides had picked, Marvin alone picked out a list of figures that would make almost any history buff drool.

Here, lies one of the biggest draws and strengths of the story. One of the big charms of alternate history has been to allow a writer to write a fictional story from the eyes and perspective of various historical figures, and for the reader to have a familiar window to gaze at an unfamiliar world. It goes without saying that a story like For All The Marbles, which provides us with a story that revolves around the Dream Team of human history would be all the more enticing, let along when written with such skill and passion as it is here. Little details of the figures here and there provide a great deal of both drama and humor in the story - Alexander the Great as he struggles to embrace humility, Steven Hawking's joy to being able to use his legs again, Benedict Arnold tearfully begging forgiveness from George Washington for his treason, Mozart's disgusted reaction to bubblegum pop - all are as wonderful as the tensions and struggles of the group as they establish control over their portion of the planet, and ready for a war that will see them make a play for the rest.

Plus, in addition to the many historical viewpoints, the original characters are just as great, and it is interspersed with references to alternate history culture, AH.com and cameos for various figures and members - Marvin's ship is named the Thande, the various other Myox players are named after the site's Mods, and among the thirty or so cameos, your humble narrator has a role as Shakespeare's apprentice, and I'm very proud of the spot on portrayal of my personality.

While the story itself has advanced only to a little after planet fall, rest assured, you are getting plenty of value. Every update pulls you in fully into the story, and leaves you wanting more with every update. This is a testament to both Dellinger's writing and narrative style, which are both superb and seem to get even better with every posted update. The later updates are each well over 10,000 words, so there's plenty to read, which is one reason for the recent reboot, to beef up the earlier updates.

Overall, it's like I said during my coverage of the Turtledoves - this was the best work of fiction I read last year. Not posts on alternatehistory.com, not alternate history, but fiction period - and given what I read, I hope that says something. It's concept is one of the most brilliant I've come across, and Dellinger's writing abilities are more than enough to handle the story. There is a reason this story has taken AH.com by storm and won at the Turtledove's in landslides. This is the rare kind of TL on AH.com I would pay to read, and in the event this story gets finished and traditionally published, I fully plan on buying a copy. Until then, I will be following devotedly on AH.com has he updates it, and if you haven't read it yet, you need to. The rebooted version is here, but the original is well worth a read too, and not just to tide you over until the next updates.

You heard it hear first folks: For All The Marbles is a masterpiece in the making. Read it now to see for yourself.

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. He is also apprenticed to William Shakespeare, and is playing Macbeth in the latest performance of the play.

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