Thursday, May 31, 2012

Weekly Update Needs a New Banner

[Editor's Note: In case you haven't noticed, we have a new banner (see above). Thanks again to everyone who participated, but this post no longer applies.]
Sometime ago I tried to create interest among my more artistically inclined fans by offering a contest to create a new banner for Alternate History Weekly Update.  I wanted something in the style of what Sean and Seb have at the top of their sites.  The only response I received was a shockingly misspelled email from a reader who said he was going to design me a "flag".  After explaining to him, over several emails, I did not want a flag, he responded that he would make me a banner and proceeded to never contact me again.

Despite that setback, I have yet to give up hope.  Alternate History Weekly Update still needs a new banner for both the blog itself and our social networking pages, especially for our Facebook page and group.  So if you have some skills and would like me to showcase your work on the top of this blog, send in your designs to ahwupdate at gmail dot com.

Some guidelines to remember:

  • You must incorporate the name of the blog "Alternate History Weekly Update" into the design.  Script and look is up to you, but the name of the blog must be clearly visible.
  • Colors are up to you, I am actually considering dropping the blue/white scheme so feel free to go nuts.
  • Nothing offensive or copyrighted.
  • There is no deadline, but the sooner you submit your design the better chance it has of being selected.

As for compensation, I do not have much to offer.  Those who wished to be paid should contact me via email (ahwupdate at gmail dot com) to express their terms.  Anyone wishing to donate their time and creation will get a banner ad to their site on the front page of the blog.

Good luck and hopefully I will not receive another horribly written email.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update, a volunteer editor for the Alt Hist magazine and a contributor to Just Below the Law. One of his short stories will be published in the upcoming Echelon Press anthology, Once Upon a Clockwork Tale (2013).  When not writing he works as an attorney in the state of Illinois and enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana.

Review: "Land of Hope and Glory" by Geoffrey Wilson

Grade: A

What I enjoy most about reading is that sometimes you stumble upon a book that really draws you in.  Time becomes meaningless and you put aside the real world just to finish the story.  Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson was one those books for me.

The story is set in 1852 in a timeline where the Indian empire of Rajthana rules England and Wales.  The exact POD is uncertain, but the timeline appears to diverge in the 8th century.  Islam spread further into Europe than in OTL.  One character states that England was the only Christian nation left, but this might be a popular misconception since the Pope resides in Dublin and the religious affiliation of various other European peoples is never mentioned.  Nevertheless, England for 200 years was ruled by a Caliph and many English families in the southeast converted to Islam until the English rebelled and deposed the last Caliph.

A period of civil strife follows, which kept the English from uniting against Rajthana when they expanded into Europe.  Like the spread of Islam in this timeline, the scope of the Rajthana empire is never mapped out.  Muslims from France, Andalusia and Naples serve in their European Army, but Ireland and Scotland remain independent.  Scotland is actually a parallel for Afghanistan in this timeline, being a primitive land full of bandit tribes that raid across the border every so often.  There is mention of colonies across the Atlantic and wars against the Inca and the Slavs of the Balkans (probably those bloody Serbs up to no good...again).

Did I mention there is magic?  Plausibility hounds may already be howling, but I like a good ASB story and the magic system is more original than the usual wave your wand and a deus ex machina appears.  Magic comes from an element called sattva and can only be tapped into by the study of yantras, meditation and yoga.  Once you master a yantra you can use it to control sattva  for whatever purpose the yantra was intended, such as shooting a fireball into an enemy troop formation.  There is a catch though, called the law of karma, which states that once you use a power you can never learn another power.  It is thanks to their mastery of sattva that Rajthana has managed to build a vast empire across the world.  With their magical abilities and steam powered machines, known as avatars, the Rajthanans appear invincible.

Until the jewel of their empire, with its large deposits of sattva, rebels against them, mirroring the 1857 Indian Mutiny.  The English soldiers have mutinied and now seek to free their nation from foreign occupation. Our hero, retired solider Jack Casey, has no intention of joining the rebels feeling that it is foolhardy to challenge the Rajthanans.  Turns out, however, that the Rajthanans don't really care what he thinks.  They want him to use his tracking ability, enhanced by sattva, to track down his friend William who is now an important leader with the rebels.  To motivate him, the Rajthanans offer to pardon his daughter, who is accused of helping the rebels and will soon be executed unless her father helps them.  With no choice, Jack sets off with a sadistic Rajthanan officer to find his old comrade while he wrestles with his growing desire to help the rebels despite the insurmountable odds.

As I said before I could not put down Land of Hope and Glory.  I truly felt for Jack as he raced against time to save his daughter, knowing that it could end with the death of his friend and perhaps England's last chance for freedom.  The story tells a familiar tragedy that is found in our history, a proud people fed up with foreign rule, yet doomed before the first fires of independence are lit.  Western culture has had it pretty easy, rarely experiencing the boot heel of oppression on their face, but ignoring or sanitizing it when they do it to other cultures.  There is a dark side to imperialism, no matter how glorious our own histories try to make it.

I truly recommend Land of Hope and Glory and those wanting to learn more about the author can see this article on The New Zealand Herald or tune into Weekly Update when I post my interview Geoffrey Wilson.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update, a volunteer editor for the Alt Hist magazine and a contributor to Just Below the Law. One of his short stories will be published in the upcoming Echelon Press anthology, Once Upon a Clockwork Tale (2013).  When not writing he works as an attorney in the state of Illinois and enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Musings on an Independent Confederacy

Guest post by Chris Nuttall.

The American Civil War is one of the more popular stamping grounds for alternate history.  Some writers have explored a victorious CSA; others have looked at how that victory might have come about.  But few of them seem to consider the long-term development of the CSA in a manner I consider realistic.  Certain factors – geography, for instance – do not change regardless of who is in the White House, while other factors twist and turn according to the dictates of history.  What would an independent CSA actually look like?

I’m not going to worry too much over how the CSA gains its independence.  A stunning military victory might be enough to break the US’s war effort.  Outside support (such as British intervention after the Trent Affair) would make the CSA much more formidable very quickly.  Lincoln might try to move too quickly, overreach himself and eventually lose all support within the north.  Obviously, certain things will be different depending on the precise details of the war.  A CSA that leaves in peace is different from a CSA that wins the debate by force.  I am merely going to assume that the states that formed the CSA in our timeline separate from the Union and see what happens after that.

Historically, the CSA’s government simply didn't function very well.  Indeed, the level of success they did have (in building up an arsenal, for example) was remarkable.  President Davis was dedicated to the cause, but he found it difficult to convince all the states to move in unison, even in their own defence.  He was an experienced military officer himself, yet he found it hard to delegate responsibility and meddled with the war effort from a distance.  The CSA also didn't have political parties – and while I tend to agree that political parties are a bad thing, they are vital for commanding support from the Senate.  Davis had a position that was more vulnerable than he perhaps realised.

How will this develop in the first twenty years after independence?  One thing that will have been made clear by the fighting (if there is a war in this timeline) is that the CSA will need to keep an army.  Without an ongoing war, it is likely that Davis will find it much harder to convince the states to continue to collaborate in building a force that can stand up to the North.  One possibility is that each state will develop its own army with a small confederate force as a reserve if necessary.  Davis may will lose a great deal of political capital trying to make it work, which given the ramshackle nature of Confederate politics may be personally disastrous for him.  It’s possible that someone like Lee (assuming he is still prominent) will have more success, but the CSA may not see the need for a CSA army.  It might end up being pointed at the CSA states.

I think that it won’t be long before the South develops political parties of its own.  One of them, I suspect, will be a heavily conservative party based around the plantation owners, who were the richest men in the South.  Others are likely to be very different; one may support emancipating the slaves, one may feel that ‘nigger’ labour is taking jobs from white men, one may want political reform.  I have a feeling that the South will see a surprising amount of emigration from younger white men who feel that there is no place for them in the South.

This may seem odd, but it is a fact of history that the US North received an astonishing amount of immigrants even during the four years of civil war.  The south received almost none, at least as far as I am aware.  Looking at the South, it seems natural that the South would develop vast plantations rather than independent farms and freeholds, plantations where slavery would rule supreme – and almost no industry at all.  I suspect that the Confederate government would try hard to encourage industry within the CSA – they performed some remarkable efforts during the war – but the basic tenor of the South told against it.  This means, I believe, that the South will remain economically weak during the first 40 years or so after secession.

However, this may cause major problems for the South in the very near future.  There was a reason the South believed (wrongly) that ‘King Cotton’ could be used to force the British and French into recognising the South – cotton was very important to their economies.  However, in OTL, the British sourced new supplies from both India and Egypt, not least because the CSA couldn't supply them with cotton.  In ATL, there will still be supplies from alternate sources, cutting the price of CSA exports and therefore reducing the revenues it had to draw upon.

These two problems will probably mean that the CSA will not become anything more than a local power.  Building a Navy is expensive and will become more so as the improvements developed by the USN and the Royal Navy become requirements for naval forces (or they will become useless white elephants in the event of a war).  I doubt that the CSA could afford to keep up, which suggests that the USN will still rule the American waters.  Alliance with Britain and France might solve this problem, but that presents other difficulties (see below.)

In the long term, the CSA does have the oil fields of Texas, which may be discovered earlier.  However, this may be of questionable value until the 1914s, assuming that technology continues to develop roughly on schedule.

When dealing with the CSA, there is one element that stands up above all others; slavery.  The CSA was completely composed of slave states – there were relatively few free black men – and they had a reasonably sophisticated set of justifications for slavery.  These are the people who used the word ‘nigger’ even in routine conversation.  Whatever Harry Harrison may suggest, the South is not suddenly going to become a PC state that bans slavery.  In fact, there are strong grounds for suspecting that slavery will continue in the south until at least the 1900s.  As I have noted above, the South’s economy was largely based on slave plantations and the owners of those plantations would be the most politically powerful men in the country.  The concept of monopoly-holders wielding vast power to crush competitors isn't a new one.

This would probably be enhanced if the South believes that it fought to defend slavery.  If the North made the emancipation proclamation in this timeline, the South is very likely to stubbornly resist any steps towards slave emancipation.  Worse, freeing the slaves would be expensive; slave owners (political power, remember?) will demand compensation, while the poorer whites would be fearful of being undercut by black labour or having to pay for freeing the slaves.  Ian Montgomery suggests that in the event of Southern emancipation, the South would probably try to pay for it by taxing the newly-freed blacks.  This might be tricky as the blacks would have little to pay the taxes, at least at first.  They might therefore be forced back onto the plantations as ‘debt slaves,’ rather than more formally being enslaved.

I could see some of the South’s ‘gentlemen’ going for such a solution.  The slaves have to work anyway...and they don’t have to feed the slaves from their own pocket.  Oh, and as the slaves are not technically slaves, they don’t have to worry about slave revolts.

A more reasonably solution might be some form of gradual emancipation, with all black children born after a certain date automatically declared free.  This would make it easier for the South’s economy to adapt, but it would have two disadvantages from the point of view of the South’s elite.  It strikes at the core of their power...and it leaves them without a source of new slaves (the CSA didn't import slaves, IIRC).

In the long term, there will probably be a series of bloody upheavals.  The South simply didn't recognise the black man – ‘niggers,’ remember? – as equals.  If the Slaves become free through almost any process, they are still likely to be at the bottom of the pile and the very lowest class of people.  The civil rights era in OTL might be a storm in a teacup compared to what seethes through the South, assuming that no solution becomes possible.  What if the blacks, taking on more and more of the work as poor whites head north, eventually take over and destroy their masters?

[Some people have commented that the CSA eventually planned to emancipate the slaves.  I have seen nothing that suggests that this was actual Southern policy during the war, and would be very curious to see any evidence that might come to light.  Frankly, I would be astonished if any did.]

Another question mark lies over the Native Americans/Indians.  The CSA tended to strike deals with Indians willing to cooperate with the CSA, but to treat brutally any Indians who refused to be ‘reasonable.’  Governor Baylor of Arizona Territory issued orders for effective genocide to his subordinates, although they were never carried out and Baylor was removed from office by President Davis.  We could conclude that the CSA would be happy to leave the Indians in the desert – the land wasn't so good for farming – or that they would eventually drive the Indians to near-destruction.  Given the CSA’s racial attitudes, it doesn't look good.  But the Indians would make good scouts for the CSA’s army.  Perhaps some kind of compromise could be worked out.

How exactly will the South relate to the rest of the world?  British and French recognition will be important to Richmond and they will probably spend a great deal of time courting London and Paris.  However, the CSA was not in a strong position to seduce either of the two main European powers.  It would be clear to London, at least, that the US would grow stronger much more rapidly than the CSA and allying with the South would be a self-defeating proposition.  What can the CSA offer compared to the US as a trading partner, or the danger of losing Canada in a war with the US?  The South could sell food to the UK – very important, true – and cotton, but what else?  It would be difficult for London to cosy up to the South because of their unrepentant slavery.

What I think is most likely to occur over 1862 to 1910 is that the South will gradually be eclipsed by the North.  The Yankees were in a much better position to provide opportunities for immigrants, including some from the South, than the South itself.  I suspect that there would either be mass emigration from the South or massive civil unrest.  The South will seek short-term gratification instead of long-range safety.  By 1910, the South will be an economic basket-case, with blacks as an underclass contemplating revolution while the rest of the world largely ignores it.  It is quite possible that the South will attempt to compensate by inviting Hispanic immigration from Mexico, but unless they change their racial policies (to the tune of accepting ‘greasers’ if not ‘niggers’) they will merely be storing up trouble for themselves.   I could easily see the blacks and Hispanics becoming Communists.  What do they have to lose, apart from their chains?

There might well be another war between North and South.  If so, what might it look like?  A near-term war between the two might well look like Harry Turtledove’s How Few Remain, at least in general outline.  It is unlikely, however, that Turtledove’s predictions of trench warfare for an alternate Great War will come true.  The terrain between North and South is nowhere near as restrictive as the French countryside fought over by France and Germany in 1914.  It is more likely to reassemble the Eastern Front, with both sides trying to outflank the other.  The North will have a major advantage in motor vehicles and weapons, while the South will probably have to try arming Hispanics (or even blacks; historically, some blacks did fight for the CSA) to make up the numbers.  Long term; this is likely to bite them hard on the ass.

If a version of World War One did occur in this timeline, I think the South would have tried to stay out of the fighting.  Sending food to Britain might be its only contribution to the war effort, while the British court the US, which could offer much more to the war.  But both American states would have little interest in the war directly.  Why should they join?

One AH theme that has popped up from time to time is that of Confederate Nazis.  This argument postulates that the CSA would be a natural ally for Nazi Germany as they shared similar racial views.  At its height, the theme suggests that the South would perpetrate a Holocaust on its black population, just as the Nazis did to the Jews.  It is, I will admit, possible (all things are possible), but the South had differing ideas to the Nazis.  The blacks would also be a vital part of what remains of their economy.

Harry Turtledove, in his Southern Victory series, suggests that the South would turn into something reassembling a Nazi state (complete with Holocaust.)  It does make sense in the series, but I am not sure that the CSA could ever become as powerful as it does in the book (and still inferior to the US).

For those interested in writing an AH book set in (for example) an alternate 1914 with an independent CSA, it is worth considering that the butterfly effect will have made the people of the CSA very different from the people of OTL.  How many famous names will not exist because their parents were on opposite sides of the North/South divide?  Anyone wanting to write a convincing history will have to consider if famous people will still become prominent in ATL.  Example: Theodore Roosevelt gained fame in Cuba, which helped to take him to the White House.  Will he still be famous in an alternate history?  Other people may live longer.  Turtledove comes up with the idea that Custer’s Last Stand will not take place in ATL because the CSA border would have prevented him from charging all the way to Little Big Horn and nemesis.

There are people who still see a certain romance in the South’s ‘Lost Cause.’  It is not an attitude I share.  The South was governed by a thoroughly unpleasant system that kept hundreds of thousands of people in bondage – and convinced hundreds of thousands of people who didn't directly benefit from slavery to fight for it.  There is a good reason why Lincoln is not only the greatest American, but one of the greatest humans in history.  The defeat of a system based on human bondage was a truly worthy deed.  Had the South become independent, the world would be a far darker place.

Apartheid South Africa, only worse.

[As always, I welcome comments and suggestions for additional articles.]

Appendix – RBC (on CF.NET) suggested that the South would end up with at least four political parties.

Democratic Party: The initial ruling party in the Confederate States, it shares its name with a party of the same name in the United States. However, this party likely disappears after a few elections, to be replaced by some new parties, such as the Populists or the Whigs. Ideology: Fluctuating.

Whig Party: The first party to emerge after the formation of the Democratic Party, the Whigs become the political vehicle for much of the planter aristocracy, particularly in the states along the Atlantic coast, and, potentially, Kentucky (if it is part of the confederacy). Ideology: Conservative; represents the interests of the landed classes.

People's (Populist) Party: Initially formed to represent small farmers, the Populist Party becomes the main party of working class (white) protestants financed by a small group of gentry residing in mostly western states, such as Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Curiously, this is also the party preferred by the Indians of the Confederacy. Ideology: Christian populism, temperance; eventually woman's suffrage.

Farmer and Labour Party: Dominated by Catholics (mainly Irish, Italian, and French), this party is strongest in Louisiana and mining towns throughout Dixie. It is this party that pushes successfully for programs in the Confederacy to aid small farmers and improve working conditions for miners and factory workers. Opponents accuse this party of catering to slaves because free blacks are permitted to attend its party meetings. Ideology: Worker's rights, agrarianism.

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Chris Nuttall blogs at The Chrishanger and has a website by the same name. His books can be found on Amazon Kindle.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Releases 5/29/2012

New Paperbacks/E-books

The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Description from Amazon.

Evildoers beware! Retribution is at hand, thanks to Britain's best-kept secret agents!!

Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain's latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance . . . with each case going inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.

The fate of England is once again in the hands of an ingenious archivist paired with a beautiful, fearless lady of adventure. And though their foe be fiendishly clever, so then is Mr. Books . . . and Miss Braun still has a number of useful and unusual devices hidden beneath her petticoats.

New E-books

Broken Souls Volume I by Alex Davidson

Description from Amazon.

Icarus and Kay are Steamworkers. To put it simply, they make sure the city they live in has power by taking care of the steam generators. However, there is another: Donna. She appeared out of nowhere, and nobody knows why. So, for the past three years, Icarus and Kay have been spending their free time figuring out who she is.

Then, on the night of their first breakthrough, she disappears. This launches the two of them into a mystery that they must solve, and which they must not tell anybody about, or it could get them killed.

In the first volume of this serialized novel, the boundaries of steampunk have changed in this world where not even the rich have cars, the Holocaust never happened, and a single dictator rules the world.

Each volume of Broken Souls is about 7,500-8,000 words long, amounting to around 35-40 8x11 pages

Confederate Star Rises by Richard Small

Description from Amazon.

A dark and disturbing vision of the future causes Confederate General A. P. Hill to change a key event of the American Civil War, resulting in a dramatic alteration of General Robert E. Lee’s 1863 Pennsylvania campaign. With Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson still in command following the Battle of Chancellorsville, he leads his Corps to victory at the first Battle of Gettysburg before setting out to gain control of much of central Pennsylvania. Arrayed against him is the Pennsylvania militia of the Department of the Susquehanna commanded by Union General Darius Couch, who is hounded by a frustrated and overbearing President Abraham Lincoln of the United States. General Jackson succeeds in crossing the Susquehanna River at Wrightsville, and then marches north towards the Pennsylvania state capital, setting the stage for the climactic battle of Harrisburg in the small town of Middletown, where the brave but inexperienced Pennsylvania militia confronts the hardened veterans under the great “Stonewall” Jackson.

Duty: A Retelling of Waterloo by Michael Seeley

Description from Amazon.

Wellington is crushed. Napoleon is back. Ireland waits.

A redirected order changes the course of the Waterloo campaign and all of time in this novel of alternate history. Caught in the madness is Captain Aiden Rowe, an Irishman and patriot who fled his homeland after the murder of his parents. Now, with France's enemies retreating, and Napoleon rising again, Rowe will return home.

But he won't be going to Ireland alone. Along with a boon companion, Killian O'Meara, and cutthroat spy James Blackbrook, Rowe will bring the armies of France and the cries of freedom to a fiery island waiting for revolution.

As Napoleon crushes his enemies on the Continent, Ireland starts her own revolt. Through it all, Rowe and O'Meara struggle to keep their humanity in the carnage that arises after Waterloo is won.

DUTY is 85,000 words long and specifically formatted for Kindle with an active table of contents.

The Gilded Cage by Edmund Price

Description from Amazon.

Romania, the former Roman Empire, is a developing nation under one-party rule in a world where where the Japanese language and Asian culture predominates.

Into the autonomous city of Mona steps Mainland policeman Marcus Sabratus. He rescues an expatriate woman from the theft of her money purse and puts both their lives onto a new path. Can he succeed in bringing Monan policing techniques back to the Mainland and can he overcome the cultural and bureaucratic obstacles to be united with his new love?

Set in an alternate universe quite similar to our own, "The Gilded Cage" is a love story set around cross-cultural themes and an examination of what varies and what is truly constant in human affairs. The story of Marcus continues in "Tourists Welcome" and "Rotten to the Core?"

Soldier Boy by Azita Crerar

Description from Amazon.

17-year old Kathleen finds herself whisked 60 years in the past to the scene of a famous battle outside her town of Middleford. She also finds love and romance. Now she must choose between life in the past and life in the present.

New Magazines

Alt Hist 4 edited by Mark Lord

Description from Amazon.

Alt Hist Issue 4: The Magazine of Historical Fiction and Alternate History contains seven top-quality stories from a variety of genres: horror, alternate history and fantasy, as well as straight historical fiction, including four stories set during World War II. If you’re looking for something other than World War II then we also have two stories from the Nineteenth Century and one from the Middle Ages.

The six stories featured in Alt Hist Issue 4 are:

‘Restless’ by Dylan Fox set in the 1860s onboard a fleet of British ironclad warships steaming towards China.

‘Kleine Menschen’ by Eric Jackson is a historical fantasy story set in World War II Germany.

‘Feast of Faith’ by Shane Rhinewald explores the struggles of common soldiers during the First Crusade who don’t have enough to eat.

‘Three Months of Summer’ by Svetlana Kortchik is a love story that happens during the German occupation of Ukraine in 1942.

‘The Stork’ by George Piper is a backwoods horror that will scare and surprise you.

‘Battalion 202: A Blinded Falcon’ and ‘Battalion 202: Into the Darkness’ by Jonathan Doering are two alternate history stories about the resistance to a German invasion of Britain.

To fans, authors and publishers...

Do you want to see your work given a shout out on our New Releases segment? Contact Mitro at  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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Mitro is founder and editor 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 works toward being a published author himself one day.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Weekly Update #56

Editor's Note

Sorry for the late post.  I just got back from a friend's wedding in Peoria.  I had a great time and would like to wish Dan and Kim Pelphrey the best of luck as they start their new life together.

Thanks to Doc Quincy E. Quartermain who runs the Alternate History Track at Dragon Con.  He was kind enough to let me post updates the blog at the Track's Facebook group.  It is a good place to get info on alternate history, especially Steampunk, and get updates about what the Track has planned for the Con.  I highly reccomed you go check it out.

This week we will have New Releases on Tuesday, a Chris Nuttall article on the CSA on Wednesday, a review of Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson (who was kind enough to send a signed copy of his novel to review) on Thursday and a run down of why you can expect over the month of June as we get closer to the one month anniversary.

We also got our first reader from Namibia.  Welcome!

And now the news...

Mike Tymczyszyn to sign copies of Titan

Screenwriter and author Mike Tymczyszyn will be signing copies of his graphic novel Titan: An Alternate History on Saturday June 2nd at Chapters on Queensway.  For those who have not read Titan, here is a brief description:
“Professor Peter Tytan wasn’t even a blip in history. He taught archeology to largely unengaged students, and lived a largely unassuming life. That life changed when a brutal mugging left him broken, bloodied and hallucinating. Did the lives he saw really happen? Could a tribe of nomads have been gathered together from the Steppes of ancient Russia and marched to war across Asia? Could a single slave have changed the outcome of The Crusades? Who really profited from the Industrial Revolution, and was his death just the beginning of an empire that will eventually control the world?”
Those hoping to learn more about the graphic novel can read my review of Titan or this one at TdotComics by Ryan C. Burgess.  When asked about Titan 2 on Twitter, Mike replied: "we're working on it. Hope to have at least one issue done by fan expo this August!"

Links to the Multiverse


Counterfactual by Arthur Goldhammer at French Politics.

If Britain had joined the euro by Jeremy Warner at The Telegraph.

Writing the alternate history historical by K. Reed at Writers and Authors.


Brave New World: Revolution – The Trilogy Begins, is it a “A New Hope” or a “Phantom Menace”? by What Jonas Thinks.

Literary Look Ahead: The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Michael Schaub at NPR.

Review: 'Geared for Pleasure' by Rachel Grace done by Jessie Potts at USA Today.

Review of Goliath by Scott Westerfeld done by Calico Reaction.

Review of The Mongoliad, Book One done by Marlene Harris at Reading Reality.

S.M. Stirling's Emberverse Series by Ross Arlen at A Threatening Noise From The Sea.

Online AH

1636: The Kremlin Games – Snippet 41 by Eric Flint.

Ad Astra Per Aspera at TV Tropes.

May 24, 1789 – Irish Rebels Take Dublin by This Day in Alternate History.

May 25, 1521 – Martin Luther Assassinated by This Day in Alternate History.

Video Games

What If Square Never Left Nintendo? by Todd Ciolek at 1Up.

What If Steam Hadn't Recovered From Its Shaky Launch? by Dennis Farrell at 1Up.


Hope for Revolution by My Green Misadventure.

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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.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: "Final Impact" by John Birmingham

Guest review by Chris Nuttall.

All right, Mr Birmingham, where’s book 3? Final Impact is book 4! Fair warning, there are some spoilers here.

When last we saw our much-loved friends the MNF – Admiral Kolhammer, Julia Duffy, Captain Habali, Mike Judge – and their much-detested enemies – Himmler, Hitler, Yamamoto, etc – in Designated Targets, they were gearing up for a major conflict. Hitler’s desperate attempt to conquer Britain had failed. Yamamoto’s gamble to take Pearl Harbour had succeeded – amid bloodletting and atrocities that would have made more sense in a Paladin of Shadows book – and there were dozens of threads waiting to be resolved in Book 3. I cannot say that I spent a year desperately waiting for this book – only three authors get me THAT desperate – but I was looking forward to it.

I opened the book and I thought…where’s the action?

Actually, that’s not entirely fair. There is plenty of action in this book, but it’s not the action I was expecting.

Consider; at the end of DT, we were led to expect that there would be a major thrust against Pearl Harbour, spear-headed by the former JSDF ship, by the Allies. There would be a major political struggle against J. Egder Hoover (of FBI) fame. Dan and Julia would get married – and a romance was hinted at between Mike Judge and Karen Habibi. There was a team of future Russians operating within the USSR – and hints that the Russians had captured a ship from the future. We would FINALLY find out who was responsible for the racial rape-murder way back at the beginning…and the mystery of Sanction Five. And, and, and…

When Final Impact opens, all of these events have happened. Dan and Julia have not only married, but split up; Dan has gotten himself killed somewhere off-page in the two years gap between DT and FI. Pearl Harbour has been recaptured. The Japanese are FINALLY on the ropes. D-Day is underway, with a massive invasion of Europe, and the Russians are preparing to stab the Nazis in the back. It’s not a bad book, but it has a lot of small problems. I WANTED to see that battle, damn it!

Ok, I have written a trilogy myself – Second Chance – around a basically similar event, and I do understand some of the problems. In 1942, the US had very little that could actually be deployed; the fantasies of citizen soldiers notwithstanding, men with guns and without training are not good soldiers. In 1944, particularly with future help, the US is almost drowning in war production and it becomes a battle of economies. There has to be something between those two periods, and I understand – without approving – the reason for jumping forward. DT no longer works as a book because FI does not conclude the trilogy. We need a Book 2.5.

(I also have a small case of sour grapes as some items here remind me far too much of Second Chance, although there are only limited solutions to the problem.)

In most cases, Birmingham does a fair job of touching on the effects of the ISOT. The treatment of Russia, however, borders on sheer mil-wank fantasy. It is VERY difficult, if not impossible, for the Russians to do as much as Birmingham suggests, the presence of the captured ship – which the MNF seems to let them get away with – notwithstanding. Consider, as Dale Cozort points out, the Soviets were actually VERY dependent upon western aid; just because the shipment of arms and ammunition was not critically important does not mean that the aid was unhelpful.

The Russian industry – I forget if the term ‘hero project’ existed then – was very good at churning out thousands of crude (in industrial terms) tanks, but much less good at the finicky stuff. American radios kept the Russians talking to one another and American trucks kept the Red Army moving. American food kept the Russians feeding and American railway stock kept their network running. If the lend lease from the US is cut off – a POD in its own right – the Russians somehow have to gear up to alter production to replace what they were no longer getting from the US, which is not as easy as it sounds. Building items from the 1950s would take almost as long as the 6 years or so it would take to reach that date.

The knowledge from the future is less helpful than it seems. Birmingham shows us the USSR turning on everyone who would betray Stalin in the future, which would excite major paranoia among the upper soviets. Even without some kindly soul deciding to strike first, they would still have problems doing everything that they are shown doing. They would NOT waste resources – debatable, but understandable from their POV – on an aircraft carrier…and they would not make a jump for Japan. Taking Manchuria and even parts of China makes sense; trying to develop a blue water capability means nothing when they face a lethal threat from the west, Germany. Historically, the USSR did not attempt to build up a navy until their main land requirements were completed.

Q – What is a safe Russian border?

A – One with a Russian soldier on each side.

Sadly, there seem to be far fewer links between the characters as they appeared in WOC and DT; so much of their development happens off-book. This happens to the extent that it is difficult to reconcile them - I liked Julia in the first two books; in FI, she’s a bitch. Nice as it is to see Karen and Mike married…what happened? We don’t know. I can’t see either Roosevelt or Churchill considering Stalin as anything other than an enemy, not after what happened in the first history. And Prince Harry…well, I may have firm anti-monarchist credentials, but I would have expected him to willingly disappear into the MNF, having a free opportunity to escape the Royal Family. (Heh, that little set of details REALLY needs to be explored; the post-war impact on the Royal Family and the British Empire.)

But enough griping. If you read this without any knowledge of the underlying factors of WW2 – or you can suspend disbelief – you’ll enjoy it. I sometimes think that the book goes too far in illuminating what bad people the enemies are – and what nasty people twenty years of the jihad have made of the MNF – but that’s just me. John, it’s a good book, but we do need a section between DT and FI.

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Chris Nuttall blogs at The Chrishanger and has a website by the same name. His books can be found on Amazon Kindle.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: "Angels of Vengeance" by John Birmingham

Grade: A-

Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham is the latest (and last?) novel in the trilogy that began with Without Warning.  Some backstory, our tale begins when a dome of energy descends onto North America on the eve of the Iraq War, covering most of the continent. Millions perish and anyone who attempts to enter the dome disappears as well.  The United States of America (except for Alaska, Hawaii, and a small enclave around Seattle) is destroyed, along with  large chunks of Canada and Mexico (plus the Bahamas but no one mentions them at all, so screw it).  While some mourn or celebrate the loss of life, it becomes clear that a world without America is a bad place indeed. The world economy collapses and the global environment is ruined as nuclear reactors fail and fires rage in the depopulated North America with no one around to stop them.

The story continues in After America.  The dome is gone and the North American wilderness is open for recolonization.  The United States is struggling to retake its lost homeland from gangsters, pirates, scavengers and Islamist fighters fleeing the irradiated Middle East (after Israel carried out the Samson Option), which comes to a climax in the epic Battle of New York.  A greater threat, however, comes from Texas where a mad former general will either remake America in his own image or force the country into a bloody civil war.  In the rest of the world, the geopolitical situation is fluid and new powers our testing the old order.

Angels of Vengeance concludes many of the story lines began in the previous two books.  While Birmingham uses many point of views to tell the story, there are three characters who are the primary plot movers, our "angels".  First, we have Echelon agent Caitlin Monroe, or "Commando Barbie" as some call her.  She is on the hunt for the terrorist who instigated the civil war in France and the Battle of New York.   She really wants him dead and will go anywhere and do anything to accomplish her goal.  Second, we have Sofia Peiraro, a teenage girl who witnessed the murder of her family in Texas and survived the trek north to Kansas City with her father, only to learn that he has been murdered.  She suspects it was ordered by General "Mad Jack" Blackstone, governor of Texas, and she is now heading south to avenge her family.  Finally there is Julianne Balwyn, a British-born aristocrat turned smuggler. She is being stalked through Darwin, Australia, now a cyberpunk-esque free port in this changed world, by hitmen ordered to take her and her friends out by someone powerful with a score to settle.  To stop him, Jules will have no choice but to put herself in the open and let her hunters strike.

I have enjoyed Birmingham's works for three main reasons: bringing techno-thrillers to alternate history, not being afraid to kill off important characters and the use of strong female characters in a genre dominated by men.  He did not disappoint me in this novel and I especially was amused by how Microsoft dominates the tech world with their smart phones having that annoying paper clip, Microsoft Where? and people saying "go MSN it."  More importantly, the entire series has been a plausible and very descriptive scenario on what was likely to happen if the United States were to disappear.  It also had good character development and, of course, action.

If I had any real complaint it was how James Kipper turned out.  I felt that he went from a reluctant rebel, to idealistic leader and finally to naive politician.  Considering the events of After America I found it odd how he evolved into someone who could not be bothered with making the hard choices.  Since he is only a minor character in this novel, however, his presence does not do enough to ruin the story, but it is disappointing to see one of my favorite characters lose what made me like the guy in the first place.

I guess the last thing to talk about is whether or not this novel is a conclusion to the series.  Certainly the final epilogue leaves it open for more books and there is still so much going on in the world that could be covered.  The ending, however, might just be the only plausible way to end such a story.  Life does not stop for the characters just because the book ends.  There are no real happy endings, only life going on, with its pitfalls and promises.  I really did enjoy the series and I hope those reading this review who have not read the series will go and pick out these books to read.

Also if anyone wants to make a map of what they think the world of Without Warning looks like, I would love to post it on Weekly Update.

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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.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Russo-Japanese War – Alternatives

Guest post by Chris Nuttall.

"What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution."

V.K. Plehve, Russian Minister of the Interior
to General A.N. Kuroparfon

The first war to be fought completely within the 20th century, the Russo-Japanese war was a preview of the First World War and a harbinger of many of the troubles that would follow in the later years.  Despite the apparent simplicity of the conflict, there were wheels within wheels and the diplomatic state was very confused.  However, the conflict was one of the most decisive and unexpected victories that the world had ever seen, as, for the first time, an Asian state defeated one of the European great powers.

Quick bit of background first.  The Japanese had developed rapidly in the years after their ‘discovery’ and opening by Admiral Perry.  They had swiftly built up a small, but efficient army and navy that was a fair match for the European forces, although the Japanese could not hope to match the numerical superiority of the French, German or Russian armies.  The Japanese, therefore, decided to join the forces that were nibbling away at China and declared war in 1898, swiftly defeating the Chinese forces and occupying vital strategic points.  However, the European powers decided not to allow this upstart nation to keep its gains and an alliance of France, Germany and Russia faced down the Japanese and compelled them to return most of their gains.

Japan was humiliated by this exercise in naked power.  Despite her participation in the multinational force sent to relive besieged Peking during the Boxer Rebellion, in which she was treated as an equal for the first time, she still felt deep resentment at her treatment.  Forging an alliance with Britain, the Japanese prepared a surprise attack on the Russians.  For their part, the Russians were supremely confident of victory and expected the war to reforge the nation and the Tsar’s power.  However, the Russian incompetence, poor planning and logistic difficulties – not to mention social upheaval – allowed the Japanese to win the war.

That was not written in stone.  The Russians had countless chances to gain an advantage over the Japanese and a better diplomatic position.  There were proposals made by the commanding officers to the Tsar that the Tsar rejected, many of which would have strengthened the Russian position – and finally, there were a number of international incidents, which could have turned a small war into the first world war.

Possibly the first possible change in events – unless you don’t allow the war to happen at all – is the Japanese landings at Chemulpo.  The Russians became aware, at least at a local level, that the Japanese were landing, but they did nothing.  If the Russians had attempted to interfere with the landings, however, there is a good chance that they would succeed in preventing the Japanese from landing or at least slowing them down.  In which case there would be a good chance of winning the war, or buying time for the reminder of the Russian army to mobilise.

Another possibility comes from the early naval action at Port Arthur.  The Japanese successfully bottled up the Russian far eastern fleet there, but then managed to leave a possible threat behind them, meaning that they needed to keep their fleet near the Russian harbour.  If the Japanese had sunk the Russian fleet, however, there are two possibilities.  The first one is that the Russians would be discouraged from sending the Baltic Fleet halfway around the world and probable Japanese defeat when they ran out of supplies.  The second is that the Tsar might decide to make peace after the loss of the fleet.

After their successful landing, the Japanese advanced towards the Yalu River, where the Russians had encamped.  The Russians failed to detect the Japanese ‘spearpoint’ and therefore a small force had to fight off the main Japanese attack.  Unsurprisingly, they failed, while the Russians had not kept a reserve in place to seal up the gap.  This victory convinced the bankers in London and New York that the Japanese could fight and therefore allowed the Japanese to take out more loans.  If the Russians had stopped the Japanese here, or even delayed them for a time, it might have made the bankers and foreign governments more hesitant and made the Japanese economic problems worse.

As the Japanese army approached Liaoyang, it appeared that China might join the war on the side of the Japanese, eager for a chance at revenge against the Russians.  Just how strong this feeling was is unclear, although thousands of Chinese served with the Japanese, they were rarely in combat situations as combat troops.  If the Chinese government did join the war, they would help the Japanese out to some extent, even to supplying them with weapons they were either unwilling or unable to use themselves.  However, Chinese intervention would almost certainly mean French and British intervention, although French intervention would be difficult without British support.  I suspect that the British would pressure the Japanese to end the war at that point before the unequal treaty framework collapsed completely.

The single most tragic battle – both for the casualty lists and for the lessons for WW1 that were ignored – was the battle for Port Arthur.  The Russians had heavily fortified this fortress and expected it to be able to hold out for an indefinite period.  The Japanese expected to take it quickly, but lost thousands of men on useless attacks before managing to gain a commanding position.  This delay cost the Japanese the chance to capture the Russian fleet and the possibility of extra reinforcements for the advance to Mukden.  There are really two possibilities here: if the fortress had fallen quickly, the Japanese might have captured much of the Russian fleet and then had extra forces to push upwards, perhaps defeating a Russian army instead of pushing it backwards.  On the other hand, if the Japanese losses had been significantly higher, their army might have run out of steam much sooner and before the Russians had decided that the war was lost.  Total Japanese defeat would then become very possible.

A different possibility comes from the Russian retreat and subsequent build-up at Mukden.  The Tsar pushed the Russian commanders into several small offensives against the Japanese positions, which failed, although a few alarmed the Japanese.  What if one of them had succeeded?  The destruction of a Japanese army would keep the Russians in the war longer, which would probably mean a draw or a Russian victory.

Related to that change, what if the Japanese managed to wipe out a major Russian force?  That’s actually more likely than a Russian victory, as the Japanese were far better at manoeuvring and the Russians lacklustre at best.  If a large Russian force was to be wiped out for nothing, it makes the position of the Tsar far more precarious.  He may sack the Russian commander earlier than OTL, which places a real moron instead of a pragmatist in command.

One reason that the Russians gave up in 1905 was the outbreak of revolution in Russia, fuelled by the reports of Russian disaster in Manchuria and the massive shortage of food as rolling stock went east.  In OTL, those revolts were quickly suppressed by granting the Duma a few concessions and massive violence.  What if there had been a prolonged period of disturbance?  Nationalists in the recently conquered parts of the empire and Poland might see a chance to regain independence.  Germany and Austria-Hungary might take the territory that Germany took in 1917.  Japan might take more territory than OTL.

As I’ve noted before, world wide war seemed a distinct possibility at several points, but the worst of them all was the Dogger Bank incident.  The Russians had sent a fleet on the long voyage round the world to Japan.  En route, the Russians mistook a British fishing fleet for Japanese torpedo boats and opened fire.  After much argument, the Russians apologized, but they were basically unrepentant.  The British public demanded war, so what might have happened if they had declared war on Russia?  The British fleet would have had no difficulty sinking the Russian fleet and adding extra support to Japan, but the Russians would almost certainly pressure the French into joining the war.  In which case, the Japanese would have to fight the French ships in the Far East (of which there were only a few) and the British would end up fighting their home fleet.  On the naval front, however, the war would go to the British and Japanese.  However, what about the army side of things?  Britain is not a great land power and there are few points where the small British forces would be decisive.  They would probably send a division or two to support the Japanese in Manchuria, while attacking French colonies.  This would present its own problems, as the French had powerful colonial forces and there would be serious havoc.  The longer the war went on, the stronger the Russians would become in Manchuria and there would be problems across the British Empire.  The Boers, for example, might consider ‘renegotiating’ the peace treaty from 1900.

The best solution the British could find would be to make a deal with the other European powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary.  That would give their alliance the muscle to stand up to the Franco-Russian alliance.  Imagine WW1 with the British on the German side.  It is highly unlikely that the French could have defeated such a combination, which would let them get hammered by the Germans, then the Germans would carve themselves an empire out of the Ukraine and Byelorussia.  The problem, for the Japanese, would be hanging on in Manchuria until the Russians collapsed.

One of the most interesting possibilities from the war, although not directly related to the outcome, was the life of a brave cavalry officer named Carl Gustav Mannerheim.  Mannerheim, as we know, survived the war with distinctions, served the Russians on the Eastern Front in 1914, returned to Finland and commanded the White Guard in the brief Finnish Civil War – and led his nation to survival in the Winter War (1939-40).  What might have happened if Mannerheim had not survived the war?  There were no other military leaders of his calibre in Finland in 1919, let alone 1939.  The Finnish Civil War might have gone on long enough for the Red Army to re-enter in 1920, or perhaps allowed the Russians to defeat the Finns in the Winter War.

The final possibility from the war is financial.  The Russians refused to pay Japan anything after the war.  Suppose the Russians were less tight-fisted or needed to end the war quickly – a longer period of disturbance might do it – and decided to pay Japan.  Would the money help expand the Japanese system?  Make it more stable?

To conclude this article, I hope I’ve illustrated just how vital the Russo-Japanese war was to history.  A Russian victory would have serious effects on the balance of power, as they would gain such predominance in North China and Korea that they would be very tempted to go for all the marbles and occupy China, perhaps with the support of the French and Germans.

Further, the Russians used the shock of their defeat in OTL as an excuse to clean house, sack some of the more incompetent officers and improve their army.  That the army was unable to survive a long war has obscured the fact that the Russian army of 1914 was an order of magnitude stronger, better equipped and commanded than the Russian army of 1904.  Had that army collapsed in 1914, we would all be speaking German today, as the Germans would have had time to defeat France before the Russians could get mobilised and invade East Prussia.

The Russo-Japanese war was a small war involving only two powers directly.  It was, however, one of the most important wars in history.  Go figure.

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Chris Nuttall blogs at The Chrishanger and has a website by the same name. His books can be found on Amazon Kindle.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Releases 5/22/2012

New Paperbacks

The Walls of the Universe by Paul Melko

Description from Amazon.

John Rayburn thought all of his problems were the mundane ones of an Ohio farm boy in his last year in high school. Then his doppelgänger appeared, tempted him with a device that let him travel across worlds, and stole his life from him. John soon finds himself caroming through universes, and, when the device breaks, unable to return home. John settles in a new universe to unravel the machine’s secrets and fix it.

Meanwhile, his doppelgänger tries to exploit the commercial technology he’s stolen from other Earths: the Rubik’s Cube! John’s attempts to lie low in his new universe backfire when he inadvertently introduces pinball. It becomes a huge success. Both actions draw the notice of other, more dangerous travelers, who are exploiting worlds for ominous purposes. Fast-paced and exciting, this is SF adventure at its best from a rising star.

New E-books

The Archaeologist by Bo Widerberg

Description from Amazon.

Professor Alexis Arson, is ordered to time travel back to the past. He is to find out if the strange behaviors of our fore-fathers are true. Going back, all the way to the year 2050 AD, he finds out that the informations they had about this ancient time was true. While spending his time in New York, to get the informations asked for, he meet a young man, that later will follow him back to the Earth he lives on. He lives on the second Earth, the Alpha Earth. There are more then one Earth, including the old one, there are five altogether. And, all five are identical to the last little creek.

The Fist of God by M. E. Brines

Description from Amazon.

It’s 1940 and the fires of war have set Europe ablaze, but America remains blissfully neutral. To please his parents, skeptical Stuart Mackenzie studies to become a reverend. He has about as much concern for the outcome of the war as he does for South American sports scores. But his idealistic brother, a former bootlegger with ties to the Purple Gang, volunteers for the Royal Air Force. And when his hurricane is shot down, Stuart abandons his studies to seek bloodthirsty revenge.

The Fist of God follows Stuart’s adventures through secret agent training at a remote manor in Scotland, sabotage missions in Occupied France, to the final mission at the Wewelsburg, a medieval fortress the SS had turned into an occult research center. Can a confirmed skeptic defeat a coven of Nazi sorcerers on their home ground? What chance will the mundane weapons of the Allied powers have against ancient magic and an artifact said to have slain the very Son of God?

Homeland by Greg Lawrenson

Description from Amazon.

The United States and China had achieved an unofficial peace or cease of hostilities with Japan and Germany in 1946. Japan retained control of over half of China.

Germany had succeeded in taking great Britain with operation Sea Lion. With England no longer in the war the United States had no way to continue it’s bombing raids on Germany. Germany was now also free to move more men and supplies from the West to the East for the fight against Russia. It was at this time the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Germany to had just developed the atomic bomb and was about to strike New York City.

When the United States announced they now had a fusion bomb that could destroy the entire world. This bomb was so powerful that is could not be used as an offensive weapon. Its use meant everyone would die. If Germany and Japan used their atomic power they would be engaging in a war no one could win. With recent bombing of Hiroshima, Japan and Germany were convinced to stop further aggression. And so the world settled into an uneasy unofficial peace for years. Until 1957

The New World of 1957

Trust and Lies (The Battle of Monster Island) by Bloodstone

Description from Amazon.

The Battle of Monster Island

A 5 part serial set in the alternate history of 1948!

Episode 1 - A Heroic Story
Episode 2 - The High Ground
Episode 3 -Trust and Lies
Episode 4 - Project 963
Episode 5 -The Final Battle

This series of short stories chronicles the strange events that befell a group of Rangers who were shot down over a remote island, overrun with monsters. Not only do they have to contend with the environment and the nightmarish creatures of the island, but a group of Japanese soldiers led by a shadowy, scheming ninja has also been stranded on the island. The key to their survival is a radio tower, but to reach it, they will have to overcome the most alien and fearsome creature of all.

Episode III: Trust and Lies

After a raucous battle with a ninja, enemy soldiers and mutant apes, the Captain finally reaches the hilltop and discovers someone else may be living on the island. But before he can investigate, he will have to spend the night camped in the dreadful jungle, surrounded by the enemy.

To fans, authors and publishers...

Do you want to see your work given a shout out on our New Releases segment? Contact Mitro at  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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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.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weekly Update #55

Editor's Note

Sorry for not posting anything on Friday.  I was in Philadelphia for my sister's birthday and college graduation (never stop exploring Jackie).  Good news, now that she is done with school she is going to put some of her marketing education to work by helping me spruce up the blog for the one year anniversary!

Speaking of the one year anniversary, you probably have already noticed a few changes.  First we have a new Facebook group to supplement our Facebook page.  I hope that the group will be useful for those readers who prefer the group format over the pages in getting updates on the things they like.  Plus it is a much better format to get real feedback from fans.

Also I have signed up with Google Adsense, hence why you now see ads on the blog.  As much as I love writing about alternate history, updating and maintaining Weekly Update can be a full time job.  Plus it is hard to try new things or attract new contributors without a way to finance both.  So if you see something you like in the ads, please click on them.  I and everyone else who contributes to Weekly Update will sure appreciate it.

I would also like to give a shout-out to Jordan Harbour for his suggestions on forming a Facebook group and signing up with Adsense.  Go check out his podcast, Twilight Histories, . With a time travel theme, the show takes you on an adventure in the style of the Twilight Zone and Dan Carlin. Learn more about it by reading my review of the podcast.

Got some good stuff coming this week.  Tomorrow I will share with you the new releases of the week and Wednesday I will have an article from Chris on the Russo-Japanese War.  The rest of the week will be rounded-off with two reviews, both on the works of John Birmingham.

And now the news...

NBC's Revolution

Probably the biggest news of the week was the debut of the trailer for NBC's RevolutionThe new fall show (brought to us by Jon Favreau, Eric Kripke and JJ Abrams) is sci-fi drama set in a world where technology no longer works.  Sounds like a rip-off of SM Stirling's Emberverse series, as some have suggested, but let us watch the trailer first before casting judgment:

Though the show share elements from Stirling's work, I think it is safe to say that the show takes from Emberverse just as much as the Emberverse takes from the stories that preceded it.  For lack of a better term, Revolution is just another entry in the "alien space bats stole our toys" genre.  So we will likely not be seeing headlines such as "Science Fiction Author Sues NBC for Copyright Infringement" in the near future.

The more important question, however, is whether the show will be worth watching.  Perhaps our good friend Seb can sum up some of the issues I had with the trailer:

A magical macguffin locket that stores electricity. Planes just tumbling out of the sky. Way too much overgrowth for 15 years. Everybody super healthy, clean, with good clothes and with good teeth (they are self-taught farmers, and 85% of the population most likely died off in a massive Battle Royale). Katniss Everdeen stand-in. Didn't run out of razors and shaving foam apparently. Only organized force is an "Postman" stand-in of evil-for-the-sake-or-evil dudes: "the Militia", using muskets and Crossbows (contrary to JJ Abrams belief bullets were already made in huge quantities before the advent of electricity).
Seb makes some good points, but  he leaves out a crucial omission by the show's creators.  No where do we see the use of steam power to replace the loss of electricity.  Revolution, at least judging from the trailer, is in a perfect position to be a post-apocalyptic steampunk universe, though it does not look like the creators are going in that direction with their show.  That is disappointing, especially with the growing popularity of steampunk, NBC could have tried appealing to that crowd to build a strong and loyal fan base for the show.  That being said, I will still probably watch the premier and you can expect a review in the months to come.

Links to the Multiverse


6 Ridiculous Lies You Believe About the Founding of America by Jack O'Brien and Elford Alley.

51st Parallel North: the Lost Russian Border by NuclearVacuum at Soviet Moonshot.


Clash of Eagles Campaign Update by Sebastian P. Breit.

Excerpt from Coldest War, sequel to Tregillis's fantastic supernatural alternate WWII novel Bitter Seeds at Boing Boing.

Guest Post by Author K. Reed with Awesome Post-Apocalypse Giveaway and a Chance to win an iPOD with a simple comment! at Live to Read.

Matt Ruff reads from ‘The Mirage’ on Berfrois.

Most Mind-Blowing Surprise Endings from Science Fiction and Fantasy Books by Jennifer Griffith Delgado at io9.

SF/Fantasy Reviews, May 15, 2012 by Jackie Cassada at Library Journal.


Never-Before-Seen Concept Art from David Cronenberg’s Total Recall! by Ron Miller at io9.


Exclusive: Kim Harrison on 'The Hollows' TV Show by Joseph McCabe at

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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, May 17, 2012

Interview: Rhys Davies

I now present to you dear reader my interview with Rhys Davies, author of Timewreck Titanic.  Enjoy:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Oh, this is a hard one. Well, I was born just before Christmas 1986 in the town of Pontypridd, South Wales. As a child of the nineties I grew up on an eclectic mix of Saturday-morning cartoons, blockbuster films and all manner of literature, which I guess eventually coalesced into a love of science-fiction and fantasy; as an example, when I was young my favourite movies were Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and Titanic. Through these I somehow found my way, at age eleven, to reading full-length novels by authors such as Michael Crichton, Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy, though looking back on that I’m a little ashamed at how fervently I worshipped before the altar of ‘airport literature’. Thankfully that was a phase I eventually grew out of.

My then taste in reading material notwithstanding, it was apparent from my childhood that I was going to develop into a ‘creative’ individual, so it only made sense that I should pursue a suitable dream (namely, becoming a published author), and eventually I attended Lancaster University in the northwest of England, studying English Literature with Creative Writing.

Nowadays I’m very much a multimedia person; I write stories, shoot amateur films and edit videos and audio dramas for fun. It’s only now though that I’ve actually started trying to build a career out of these interests, and, fingers-crossed, I’m about to see some success in that.

What got you interested in alternate history?

Well, as I mentioned already, I was very much a fan of Back to the Future as a kid, which got me to wondering what the consequences might be if one tiny event in the course of time was altered or prevented, and from that dangerous line of thought I eventually arrived at where I am now.

In all seriousness however, I once read that the two most dangerous words in human history were “what if?” and I have found myself spiraling further down that particular rabbit-hole. I can’t remember when it was that I ‘discovered’ the genre of alternate history, but it was probably when I read the appendices to The Lord of the Rings. Much like a model-maker might craft a boat, locomotive or landscape from scratch, shaping it to match his personal vision, JRR Tolkien had sought to ‘create’ a complete mythology with these books; the back-story explored in the Appendices, but barely touched on in the actual narrative, led me to the concept of ‘world-building’, which acted as my ‘gateway’ to Alternate History. I think that is the main appeal to me, the freedom to craft an entire reality and then either guide it towards one particular outcome, or let it take on a certain life of its own and see where this divergent timeline leads.

What is Timewreck Titanic about?

The basic premise of the story is that on April 14th 2012, the centenary of the Titanic’s sinking, a number of ships have gathered over the wreck site to pay tribute. Suddenly, several vessels from the fleet are thrown back in time by exactly a century. They find themselves in close proximity to the sinking Titanic, with no guarantee they can ever go home. The rest of the story flows from that concept, explored through the multiple perspectives of both real-life figures involved in the disaster, and a number of fictional time-travellers who are all-too aware both of the terrible cost of the sinking, and of the bloody course that the twentieth century is set upon. I’d like to think that the story asks the reader ‘what would you do in this situation?’ but honestly that would be giving me too much credit!

What inspired you to write the novel?

Much as I would like to say the concept sprang fully-formed into my mind, the actual story is much more convoluted, and consists of three divergent ideas coming together.

I’ve felt an affection for the ‘Ship of Dreams’ for many years and, at the same time, a certain dissatisfaction in how almost every film or novel involving the ship just tells the same story all over again, with perhaps the addition of a fictional subplot or two. After reading a rare exception to that rule, Joseph L’Episcopo’s One Last Voyage, which exposits that Titanic just missed that infamous iceberg and sailed on until withdrawal from service in the 1940s, I began wondering whether or not I could do something similar.

At the same time, I was reading Eric Flint’s excellent 1632 stories, in which ‘Grantville’, a West Virginia mining-town, is displaced in time and space, landing in the German province of Thuringia in the middle of the Thirty Years War. The idea of a large group of modern ‘everymen’ being forced into interaction with historical figures appealed to me, set several gears turning in my mind and opened my thoughts to the possibility of combining alternate-history with time-travel. In tribute to this, one of Timewreck Titanic’s main characters, Jordan Jones, hails from Farmington, a real town in the same region that Flint drew on to create his fictional community of Grantville.

Finally, through the zombie-horror film Outpost, I stumbled across the urban legend of ‘The Nazi Bell’, a supposed anti-gravity device developed by the Nazis during WW2. The similarities with the equally mythical ‘Philadelphia Experiment’ struck me as good material for a story, but at first I was considering developing it into a webcomic starring a Captain America-esque superhero to be named ‘The Spirit of St Louis’, powered by technology smuggled out of Germany by defecting scientists. The project stalled however when I was unable to locate an artist to collaborate with.

Then in August 2011, I met a gentleman named Gary Chalk, an author and illustrator, while the both of us were on holiday in France. During a very long ferry-ride he described to me how through e-books and self publishing it was nowadays easier for new writers to get a foothold in the publishing world, and I decided I would try and write something short, sharp and snappy and publish it online as an experiment.

That’s all well and good, but unfortunately, I did not know what to write about! Then, about a month later I was driving home one night and listening to some rock music at eardrum-shatteringly loud volumes. A series of rapid electric-guitar chords suddenly caused me to visualise the image of a helicopter taking off from the deck of a ship and powering across a dark ocean to a sinking vessel, the Titanic, while a figure yelled through a megaphone the words “Captain Smith, prepare to receive pumping assistance!”

Eureka. Suddenly all three individual ideas dovetailed together. The Titanic, time-lost people, and secret tech. I finally had my idea.

After musing on it for a month I finally sat down on October 3rd last year and started writing. The initial plan was to have a first draft of 120,000 words completed by Christmas, but the story just kept growing until it was not finished until April, by which point it had nearly doubled in size. Far from being ‘short, sharp and snappy’ Timewreck Titanic somehow grew into this massive narrative full of numerous ships and characters, probably because I kept indulging myself by working in every new idea that came to mind.

What sources did you use in researching the novel?

Too many to name in all, but besides my own library of Titanic literature, the most valuable resource I found to hand was the Internet. Through it any prospective writer has unlimited access to historical documents, period accounts, modern commentary and debate, and multiple perspectives from which to build your own stance on a familiar subject. It’s amazing how much information can be at your fingertips in seconds nowadays; in fact one problem I had was that right up until the final day of writing I kept stumbling across new tidbits which prompted more and more rewrites, until eventually I just had to say to myself “STOP!”

Readers have complimented you on the period language used in Timewreck.  How did you get such a good grasp of the old lingo?

Honestly, I’m not consciously trying to sound ‘ye olde world’ when writing, it just comes quite naturally. I honestly believe that after years of digesting period books and drama, I’ve assimilated some of the language of the time. The only actual convention I set myself when crafting dialogue was to keep the period characters simply ‘formal’ rather than pushing the clichéd “I say, old fruit, Pip-pip, tally-ho!” style of dialogue. Against this, the time-travellers are ‘looser’ in their language, and more prone to using informal slang, abbreviations, contractions, curse-words and nicknames, which perhaps goes further to underscore the differences between the two eras.

How did you come up with the title?

The title was actually one of the harder parts, because I wanted something that would convey that this was a time-travel novel, and that the Titanic was involved. Ultimately it was a friend of mine, Daniel Price, who finally suggested that ‘Timewrecked’ would be a good base to build upon, as it combined the idea of ‘time’ with a nautical theme, and matched the idea that the majority of the characters have in effect been shipwrecked, becoming castaways in time. After a little massaging, I finally settled on the current title, Timewreck Titanic.

Who designed the cover? 

This is a bit of a story itself. My father recently retired from a position at the local further education college, and through some of his old contacts he put me in touch with their Art Department. I sent in a brief describing the book and explaining that I needed a piece of art for the cover, and their response was extremely enthusiastic. As a result, designing a cover for Timewreck Titanic was set as a project for that term’s first year class, with me going in once every two weeks or so to give pointers and feedback. There were eighteen students, all of whom had their own vision of what the cover should be, and choosing a winner was pretty tough; in the end I narrowed it down to three and then went and slept on it for a fortnight before making my final decision. The winning artist is an incredibly talented guy named Gwalchmai Doran, and I’m sure he’d be gratified at the positive mention his work has already received in the site’s review.

Why do you think we continue to see works set during the sinking of the Titanic?  Why are people so intrigued by this tragedy?

That’s a question I tackle multiple times in the book itself, and I’ve still not got a definite answer. The best I can offer is that it is a ‘romantic’ tragedy in which all parts of society were involved, from the painfully elegant passengers in First Class to the hopeful immigrants travelling in Steerage; it is impossible among all these different people to not find at least one we can empathise with, which humanises what might otherwise be a very impersonal disaster.

Contrast as well the horror of that fateful April night with the all-too-brief life of the great ship herself; born of boundless optimism, and five years in the making, she sank in less than three hours, gaining in her death a certain immortality. In my eyes, this huge vessel born on a Belfast slipway is tangled up not just with the individual lives of all who sailed in her on that one voyage, but also the society that birthed and built her. Titanic was the first disaster of the twentieth century that managed to reach out to people in all walks of life (though sadly, not the last), and that is no less true today.

If you could travel to any point in the past, when would it be and why?

I’d say the early-to-mid 1950s, just to experience first-hand the post-war sense of pride and accomplishment, and to witness the last hurrah of the Age of Steam, such as the great locomotives and ocean liners that once bestrode the world like giants.

Plus, hey, with my future knowledge I could probably be the Bill Gates of this new timeline. “Money, money, money...”

The last half of the 20th century had a lot of tragedies and armed with knowledge from the future, would you attempt to intervene in any of the events?  

Most likely. It would be wonderful to prevent the worst excesses of the Cold War, but it is questionable as to whether or not a single individual could make a considerable difference based on how much momentum the nuclear arms race would have already gained by the 1950s. Alternatively I could opt not to take action and allow history to proceed ‘on course’ until the 1960s or 1970s, when I could potentially intervene in events such as the Kennedy Assassination or the Vietnam War.

Ideally, if I was travelling in time with the goal of altering history, the ideal temporal destination for me would be the era of the Titanic’s sinking, in those crucial years leading up to the First World War. My belief has always been that the ‘War To End All Wars’ actually started the chain of events that led to the deprivations of the 20th century, and that the first priority of a time-traveller seeking to play God with history would be to avert that conflict or lead it to a quicker outcome in favour of the Allies.

What do you think would happen as a result of your interference?

I’d say it was impossible to predict. One of the lessons history has taught is that it does not run on tracks; once you turn it loose, it is going to run amok into pastures new. This is the potential danger of meddling in post-WW2 politics; the world came so close to atomic war in the original timeline that there’s a grave risk of accidentally inflaming the Cold War into actual nuclear annihilation.

Tampering in Edwardian history at least removes the hazard of immediate destruction, giving that nuclear physics was still in its infancy – the flip-side is that in order to procure peace you would have to prop up a pair of oppressive regimes (Imperial Germany and Russia) in the hope that they would turn towards a better path, but with no guarantee that they will. The outcome could be stability, or simply allow the conditions that led to both WW1 and the Bolshevik Revolution to fester until they erupt into a new and equally devastating conflict.

Do you have any other projects you are working on?

Oh boy, yeah. Besides initial ideas for the next volume in the Timewreck Series and a potential handful of children’s books, for the past six or seven years my best friend and myself have been co-developing a work called Project Aurora, the first volume in what promises to be a massive science-fiction story (practically an ‘epic’). We’ve had several false-starts but with my recent success in completing Timewreck Titanic I’m confident in finally making some headway on it. It’s going to be a much-more focused narrative set in the early thirty-first century, centred on three youths gradually uncovering a century-old conspiracy in which they are all unwilling pawns.

What are you reading now?

Surprisingly, not much at all. During the final few months of writing I basically stopped reading for pleasure in order to focus on the project, and now that I’m done I’m having a hard time picking up something new; I’ve tried getting back into the 1632 books, and the second volume of Orson Scott Card’s Ender Series but I’m struggling, so if anyone has anything good they’d like to recommend, drop me a line. Quality alternate history would be very welcome.

Do you have advice for would be authors?

Don’t give up hope guys; there has never been a better time for aspiring writers to break into the market. The Internet has opened up all manner of possibilities for self-publishing and self-promotion. Once published, you can also gain new insight from evaluating the finished manuscript, exploring strengths and weaknesses through feedback from readers, so gaining valuable experience as a writer. More importantly, once you’ve completed your first manuscript, you can set it to work earning you some cash on formats such as the Kindle and Lulu. In a sense, your work becomes an asset that can begin drawing in revenue even as you try promoting it to publishers and agents.

And as the song says, “don’t stop believing, hold onto that feeling” – if you’ve got an idea, or a concept, or a vision, hold on tight and take it as far as you can. You might at times doubt yourself, and question your abilities, but you only fail if you give up along the way. So sit down, pull up a keyboard, and see where your imagination will take you!

Good luck!