Friday, February 28, 2014

The Dark Side of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

My brain works in weird ways. Just the other day I was thinking about Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and realized there is something very bizarre about this film: all of the historical figures our titular characters picked up met nasty ends.

Check it out:
  • Napoleon: Died of stomach cancer (or possibly poisoned by arsenic) while exiled on St. Helena. (Age: 52)
  • Billy the Kid: Gunned down by the law. (Age: 21)
  • Socrates: Condemned to death and forced to poison himself. (Age: 71)
  • Freud: Euthanized with morphine after suffering from cancer of the jaw. (Age: 83, our oldest)
  • Genghis Khan: Unclear on how exactly he died, but either he was killed in battle, died from illness, fell from his horse or died from wounds sustained in hunting or battle. (Age 65)
  • Joan of Arc: Burned at the stake for heresy. (Age: 19, our youngest)
  • Abraham Lincoln: Assassinated by a Confederate sympathizer. (Age: 56)
  • Beethoven: Again unclear but depending on the source it was either alcoholic cirrhosis, syphilis, infectious hepatitis, lead poisoning, sarcoidosis, Whipple's disease or was accidentally poisoned by his doctors. (Age: 57)
Isn't it a little odd that the filmmakers picked such a cast of historical characters? Not a single one who died quietly in the night of old age after a long, successful life. With the exception of Socrates and Freud, most even died young by modern standards. The craziest thing is that even after everything they experienced while travelling through time they still went back.

Sure you could argue Bill and Ted were too ignorant of history to warn any of them, or that because no one else in the present really believed they were the real person they saw no reason to warn them either, but why not warn each other? Couldn't Abe have tapped Nappie on the shoulder and tell him why it is a bad idea to invade Russia during the winter? And why couldn't Freud jump in and talk about how Lincoln doesn't do well in theaters (disproved in 2012). Furthermore, wouldn't some of the characters have seen something of how their lives were going to turn out as Bill and Ted visited periods of time to pick up/drop off everyone?

They don't, however, learn anything at all about their personal futures. Time travel doesn't work that way! They would at the very least have accidentally stumbled on some aspect of their future. I mean...okay enough...its a comedy. Just let it go and stop ranting, Mitro.

Sorry for the nerd rant. Have a happy Friday, everybody!

* * *

Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. His new short story "Road Trip" can be found in Forbidden Future: A Time Travel Anthology. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

An Introduction to Schooled in Magic


Guest post by Chris Nuttall.

One of my favorite themes in science-fiction and fantasy is the concept of a person from our world being transported back in time or into an alternate world where the rules of science are different and magic exists.  Lest Darkness Fall and Island in the Sea of Time are examples of the former, A Wizard in Rhyme, the Narnia books, The Wiz Biz and The Wizard of Oz (and sequels, spin-offs, etc) are examples of the latter.  Often, the lines are blurred; Harry Potter, to some extent, is a variation on the fantasy version of the theme.

Such stories work on two levels.  They’re exciting stories (they have to be) but they also let us see the alternate world through the eyes of everyman heroes from our own world, allowing us to see the differences and changes in the timeline thanks to the time traveler.  This allows the writer to sidestep one of the most common problems with alternate history, the need to explain the point of divergence to the reader without either absurd conversations or long expository pieces of text.

But something that tends to annoy me about the fantasy version of the theme is that they rarely have room for modern technology.  A Wizard in Rhyme has modern technology rarely working in the alternate world, while even The Wiz Biz runs through the ‘magic as computer programming’ theme rather than introducing modern technology.  Indeed, the only book I can recall where the newcomer Stranger in a Strange Land introduced modern technology to a fantasy world was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and that may not be considered fantasy at all.

[I’m pretty sure that I’ll be bombarded with emails about other exceptions to this rule <grin>.]

Schooled In Magic and its sequels follow the adventures of Emily, a shy and somewhat emotionally amused teenage girl (and history nut) from our world as she is accidentally kidnapped into another world by a necromancer with bad intentions.  Rescued in the nick of time by another magician and warned that the necromancer is still after her, Emily is sent to Whitehall School of Magic and told to learn how to use magic.  For Emily, it becomes a struggle to fit into a new world where nothing is quite as it seems and her mere existence brings her enemies.  But she starts to adapt and win friends...

And after that, when it dawns on her that quite a bit of what she considers normal on Earth is utterly unknown in the nameless world, she starts suggesting ideas to her friends.  And each pebble she tosses starts off a ripple of changes that sweep across the world and sometimes come back to bite her in some very strange ways.

The nameless world itself is largely medieval, set after the last great empire had shattered, leaving a handful of successor states facing the necromancers, who are slowly strangling the Allied Lands to death.  The large kingdoms are ruled by tyrannical monarchies, while city states are semi-democratic and magical families help tie the various kingdoms together.  Technology is in stasis, largely because of a combination of social pressure and magic filling in the holes, but the laws of science still work the same way, at least on first sight.  There’s nothing to stop Emily introducing all kinds of ideas, from steam engines to gunpowder, that will change the face of the world forever ...

... If, of course, she isn't stopped.  And there are many people with a vested interest in stopping her before the ripple of changes become a tidal wave that will sweep away all they know and replace it with something new.

Schooled in Magic is available in ebook form now.  A free sample can be downloaded from here, then you can download the book from the links here.  And you can read my annotations (warning; spoilers) here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Interview: Cody Franklin

I present my interview with Cody Franklin, creator of my new favorite YouTube channel, The Alternate History Hub:

Hello, Cody. Tell us a little about yourself.

Well I try to keep as much of my personal life off the internet so my videos seem less biased and more neutral. However I can say I am an Ohioan, and am currently going through a Journalism undergrad.  I try to think of myself as a creative person.

What got you interested in alternate history?

I've always been interested in history and geography, so after discovering alternate history scenarios people were creating online, it just seemed like a perfect mesh of knowledge and creativity. I instantly fell in love with the genre, yet never began writing my own videos until last year.

Were there any specific online scenarios that inspired you?

I would say that the most inspiring scenario for me was a video on 'alternatehistorypt'. His video 'A Southern Victory' was the first alternate history scenario I had ever seen and introduced me to the genre.

What is The Alternate History Hub?

The Alternate History Hub is a channel solely dedicated to the genre of alternate history, and the 'what if'. Using real life historical evidence, we try to piece together a scenario of what might have been.  Of course we can never 100% predict what might have been, yet we try to use alternate history to teach people how truly fragile history is.  The channel is meant to be a reminder of how for millennia, humans made decisions which eventually led up to you and I.  Like they say, you only appreciate something until its gone, and by using alternate history, we can remind people how we came to be in the modern world.

Why did you want to make alternate history videos for YouTube?

Ever since YouTube was created there has always been alternate history videos.  There were even some channels dedicated to only alternate history. However, even though I respected those channels, their videos were usually poorly researched or incredibly biased.  Looking at those channels I believed I could bring something new to the table, and make 'AlternateHistoryHub' stand-out among the community.  So, I began make alternate history videos.

Who designed your logo?

I created the idea of the AlternateHistoryHub logo.  I call it the United Earth.  However a good friend of mine from another channel, Dale from 'TheFactoid', re-imagined the logo, using my old concept.  His version is the present day logo.

What is the process you go through to create and upload a video?

I come up with an idea for my videos, usually the week before.   The whole process of writing, recording and editing takes about five hours. This comes in handy when I have classes and work, so my videos adapted to my schedule.

Do you have any future what ifs you are working on now?

Right now I'm working on another Alternate Countries video in celebration of our eventual 10,000 subscribers.  That will be in probably two weeks by my estimates.  However I'm also planning on releasing Part Two of an old video "What if the Soviet Union Won the Cold War".

What advice do you have for aspiring YouTubers?

Dare to be different and don't be scared to challenge the status-quo.  If you think you can bring something new to the table, go for it.  That's what makes YouTube special. Channels and people from all walks of life bring their own perspective for all to see and we as a community grow from the words of others.

Believe in your work, and make videos that you find interesting.  If you find something engaging, odds are others will share your passion too.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Releases 2/25/14

If you are planning to buy any of these books, please click on the links to Amazon below and support The Update!

Hardcovers

Influx 
by Daniel Suarez

What if our civilization is more advanced than we know?

The New York Times bestselling author of Daemon--"the cyberthriller against which all others will be measured" -Publishers Weekly) --imagines a world in which decades of technological advances have been suppressed in an effort to prevent disruptive change.

Are smart phones really humanity's most significant innovation since the moon landings? Or can something else explain why the bold visions of the 20th century--fusion power, genetic enhancements, artificial intelligence, cures for common disease, extended human life, and a host of other world-changing advances--have remained beyond our grasp? Why has the high-tech future that seemed imminent in the 1960's failed to arrive?

Perhaps it did arrive...but only for a select few.

Particle physicist Jon Grady is ecstatic when his team achieves what they've been working toward for years: a device that can reflect gravity. Their research will revolutionize the field of physics--the crowning achievement of a career. Grady expects widespread acclaim for his entire team. The Nobel. Instead, his lab is locked down by a shadowy organization whose mission is to prevent at all costs the social upheaval sudden technological advances bring. This Bureau of Technology Control uses the advanced technologies they have harvested over the decades to fulfill their mission.

They are living in our future.

Presented with the opportunity to join the BTC and improve his own technology in secret, Grady balks, and is instead thrown into a nightmarish high-tech prison built to hold rebellious geniuses like himself. With so many great intellects confined together, can Grady and his fellow prisoners conceive of a way to usher humanity out of its artificial dark age?

And when they do, is it possible to defeat an enemy that wields a technological advantage half a century in the making?

Paperbacks

A Clockwork Heart: Book Two in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow
by Liesel Schwarz

FOR BETTER OR CURSE. That might as well have been the wedding vow of Elle Chance and her new husband, the ex-Warlock Hugh Marsh in the second book of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, historical adventure, and paranormal romance into storytelling magic.

As Elle devotes herself to her duties as the Oracle—who alone has the power to keep the dark designs of Shadow at bay—Marsh finds himself missing the excitement of his former life as a Warlock. So when Commissioner Willoughby of the London Metropolitan police seeks his help in solving a magical mystery, Marsh is only too happy to oblige. But in doing so, Marsh loses his heart . . . literally.

In place of the flesh-and-blood organ is a clockwork device—a device that makes Marsh a kind of zombie. Nor is he the only one. A plague of clockwork zombies is afflicting London, sowing panic and whispers of revolution. Now Elle must join forces with her husband’s old friend, the Nightwalker Loisa Beladodia, to track down Marsh’s heart and restore it to his chest before time runs out.

The Clockwork Wolf (Disenchanted & Co.) 
by Lynn Viehl

As the proprietor of Disenchanted & Co. in a steampunk version of America, Charmian “Kit” Kittredge makes her living solving magical crimes. But when a snobbish lady begs for help, saving her reputation might very well cost Kit her life.

Doing a favor for deathmage Lucien Dredmore, Kit agrees to interview a newly widowed lady as a potential client. Upon meeting, however, she learns that the woman in question is none other than Lady Eugenia Bestly, president of the Rumsen Ladies Decency Society— someone who once led a vicious campaign to ruin Kit’s life. Ironically Lady Bestly now lives in fear herself, for the press is about to unmask her husband as the savage “Wolfman” who died while terrorizing the city.

As monstrous rampages continue to occur, Kit soon determines there is more than one Wolfman, and that they may themselves be victims of evil players. While avoiding both mechanized assassins and attempts by Dredmore and Chief Inspector Tom Doyle to take her under their protection, Kit follows a tangled path that leads from a prestigious gentlemen’s club fronting a hellish secret to a vengeful native tribe and dangerous, ancient magics.

E-books

Blood and Ashes: A Foreworld SideQuest (The Foreworld Saga) 
by Scott James Magner

SideQuests are stand-alone stories or novellas that chronicle the heroes, villains, and adventures in The Foreworld Saga across numerous eras and ages. They can be read in any order with or without prior knowledge of The Foreworld Saga.

As Mt. Vesuvius rumbles ominously, Pompeiian Councilor Valerius needs assistance in performing rituals to protect the city from the wrath of the fire-god, Vulcan. But his agenda is far from benevolent, as he cares less about quieting the volcano than taming it and taking the power for himself.

Now it’s up to Horatius, a former legionnaire and gladiator, to prevent Valerius’s sinister rites from coming to fruition. But with Vesuvius looming over the city—and the dead rising to defend the corrupt councilor—the warrior might have fled a troubled past only to have entered a doomed future…

To fans, authors and publishers...

Is your story going to be published in time for the next New Releases? Contact us at ahwupdate at gmail dot com.  We are looking for works of alternate history, counterfactual history, steampunk, historical fantasy, time travel or anything that warps history beyond our understanding.

* * *

Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. His new short story "Road Trip" can be found in Forbidden Future: A Time Travel Anthology. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Weekly Update #136

Editor's Note

Hey everybody, I got some great news. In my quest to improve the quality of the content and appearance of The Update, I have come to the stark realization that I need money to realize my goals. I have tried to do this in the most unobtrusive way possible, but my current model of generating revenue just isn't cutting it.

Luckily, changes to my home state's laws mean that the Amazon Affiliate program has once again been reinstated in Illinois. What does this mean? I have formed a partnership with Amazon to share revenue from products purchased through The Update. So if you click on the banner at the top right or one of the Amazon links embedded in an article and then purchase the book/comic/game/etc., The Update will share a small piece of the sale.

The good news is no one is under any obligation to buy anything they already weren't planning to buy. If you are going to buy something, however, please click on the banner or links you find here on The Update and support our mission to bring the best possible alternate history news and reviews to the Internet. If I make enough money off this I hope to invest it in a writing staff, a new domain main, new original fiction, books for monthly giveaways and more.

So please, if you see something you like, click on the Amazon links and help support Alternate History Weekly Update.

And now the news...

Rush and BOOM! Studios think big with Clockwork Angels comic

BOOM! Studios announced the March debut of a comic book version of Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson. Based on the band Rush’s concept album of the same name, Nick Robles will be the interior artist and Hugh Syme will be the cover artist.

“Rush is one of our all-time favorite rock bands here in the office, so we immediately jumped at the chance to work on Clockwork Angels,” said BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon. “The icing on the cake is that author Kevin J. Anderson is somebody we've always wanted to work with, so this is an all-around thrill. Mr. Anderson and Mr. Peart have brought us a breathtaking story that illustrator Nick Robles has beautifully visualized.”

For those who don't know, here is the description of tClockwork Angels from the press release:
Owen Hardy, like all the people of Albion, has lived his whole life under the rule of The Watchmaker. His entire life has been planned down to the exact second. But what happens when a young boy decides that things should not always goes as planned?
Clockwork Angels #1 arrives in comic shops on March 19th, the four-year anniversary of the album’s initial announcement by the band members, with a cover price of $3.99. The first issue will ship with two variant covers including a subscription cover and a retailer incentive. ECW Press will release the paperback version in May.

Now I have talked about Clockwork Angels a lot in the past, but are you looking forward to seeing it adapted into a comic book? Let us know in the comments below.

Age of Shiva is James Lovegrove’s newest Pantheon novel

James Lovegrove's Pantheon series, which spawned the "Godpunk" genre, will draw to a close with Age of Shiva. The final book in the series will be released by Solaris on March 26 in the US and Canada; and April 10 in the UK.

Set in a world where the Hindu gods hold sway, here is the description from the press release:
Zachary Bramwell, better known as the comics artist Zak Zap, is pushing forty and wondering why his life isn’t as exciting as the lives of the superheroes he draws. Then he’s shanghaied by black-suited goons and flown to Mount Meru, a vast complex built atop an island in the Maldives. There, Zak meets a trio of billionaire businessmen who put him to work designing costumes for a team of godlike super-powered beings based on the ten avatars of Vishnu from Hindu mythology. 
The Ten Avatars battle demons and aliens and seem to be the saviours of a world teetering on collapse. But their presence is itself a harbinger of apocalypse. The Vedic “fourth age” of civilisation, Kali Yuga, is coming to an end, and Zak has a ringside seat for the final, all-out war that threatens the destruction of Earth.
The Guardian has described the Pantheon series as being: “[t]he kind of complex, action-oriented SF Dan Brown would write if Dan Brown could write”. Wow, what a sick burn on Dan Brown. But do you think the series is as good they say? You know the deal, leave a message in the comments.

Vampires, Ghosts and Lady Detectives in Chuck Miller’s Vionna and the Vampires

Author Chuck Miller, creator of The Black Centipede, has a new novel from Pro Se Productions for those who enjoy pulpy, mash-ups: Vionna and The Vampires: Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires. Here is the description from the press release:
Vionna Valis and Mary Jane Kelly are a pair of hard working psychic detectives experiencing a run of bad luck. A new detective agency, the Femmes Fatales, is taking most of their business. Things seem to change for the better in the form of a new client named Scudder Moran, a wealthy young man with a unique problem; He has been targeted by the very, very late Professor James Moriarty—the Napoleon of Crime in another century, now Lord of the Vampires! 
Vionna and Mary find themselves in the middle of a case where everything is both improbable and impossible. How will they find their way to the truth? Unexpected help arrives in the ghostly person of the Great Detective himself, and they set about unraveling a tangled web of lies and secrecy that reaches deep into each of their lives. Can they find the light before Moriarty unleashes his final, most horrific scheme?
“Chuck Miller,” says Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor-in-Chief of Pro Se Productions, “is by far one of the most unique talents in Genre Fiction today. He takes the staples and standards of several different types of stories and doesn’t just mix them together. Somehow he intricately weaves usually disparate parts into the wildest trip on fiction I think any reader has ever taken. The Black Centipede stands out as a vastly distinct character from the rest of his masked cohorts and You’ll most definitely discover that Vionna and her cast of cohorts shine in their own deliciously dark way as well.”

Vionna and the Vapires will be the first volume in the Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires trilogy and is currently available where books are sold.

Map Gallery

In today's Map Gallery we begin with a fan map of the Stargate universe by Heisenberg. Specifically when the nations of the world joined the Stargate Program:
Next up I have my first map from the Alternate History Wiki to feature. It is a map of the Mayan Empire from the Principia Moderni II Map Game posted by CourageousLife that I just thought looked really cool:
We finish up with a very curious map from the webcomic Stand Still, Stay Silent. Don't know much about the story, just saw the map at AH.com and thought it looked neat. Enjoy:
If you would like to submit a map to our weekly Map Gallery, email me at ahwupdate at gmail dot com.

Video Gallery

Alright, we have a lot of videos to get through. Fist up we have another video from my new favorite YouTube channel, the Alternate History Hub. This week we learn how the world would be different without Nintendo:
Stay tuned for an interview with the channel's creator, Cody Franklin, that I hope to post this week. Next up, ever wonder how they make the sound effects in Europa Universalis:
Now on to meat of this Video Gallery. Two important video game trailers came out last week. First, the PlayStation horror game The Order: 1886 released two new videos. We begin with their new trailer:
And we follow that up with some gameplay and other info on the game:
Finally we wrap this gallery up with the new Wolfenstein: The New Order trailer:
Any other videos you would like to recommend? Let us know at ahwupdate at gmail dot com.

Calendar

March 1: Membership rates to join Loncon 3, the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, will increase.

March 1: Last day to fund the Zeppelin Attack! Kickstarter by Fred Hicks / Evil Hat Productions.

March 11: Last day to fund the Delta Green: Tales from Failed Anatomies Kickstarter by Arc Dream Publishing.

March 15: Last day to fund the That Ain't Right: Historical Accounts of the Miskatonic Valley Kickstarter by Jeremy Zimmerman.

March 15: Last day to fund the Storms of Lazarus Kickstarter by Karen Kincy.

March 31: Last day to enter the Southern Cross: Annuit Coeptis giveaway on Goodreads. (And don't forget to check out my review.)

Links to the Multiverse

Articles

Author (Harry Turtledove) tells tale of alternate history by Wes Higgins at The Oracle.
Brief History of Mexican Steampunk at Merenarios de DIOS.
Satellite Earth by Zadokofpavis at Alternaties Corporation.
Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Stereotype Threats at Anachrocon!' at Chronicles of Harriet.
Time travellers: please don’t kill Hitler by Dean Burnett at The Guardian.
Writers’ Workshops – Find one that works for you by Fran Wilde at Apex.

Books and Short Fiction

Alt Hist – Latest News by Mark Lord at Alt Hist.
Altered America: New Cover Reveal by Martin T. Ingham at Three Cents Worth.
Apex Magazine submissions update by Michael Matheson at Apex.
Cover Reveal for Jay Lake’s The Last Plane to Heaven at Tor.
PERFIDITAS joins INCEPTIO as a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree! by Alison Morton.
Peter Higgins on Alternate History of the Disreputable Kind at SF Signal.
Table of Contents: STEAMPUNK WORLD Edited by Sarah Hans at SF Signal.
Table of Contents: THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER 4: VOYAGES TO STRANGE DAYS Edited by Michael Croteau at SF Signal.

Counterfactual/Traditional History

3 Supervillain-Worthy Origin Stories of Famous Presidents by Daniel O'Brien at Cracked.
African Samurai, Tom Cruise, and Bloody Swords: What You Didn't Know About Japan's Famous Warrior Class by Matt Staggs at Suvudu.
How WWI shaped the 20th century and beyond by Angus Mackinnon at Yahoo.
Indian history textbooks claim Japan nuked the United States in 1945 by Charlie Jane Anders.
Thinking About Historic Preservation by Bailey Bradford at Making History.
Wait, they had a word for that? 1811 Slang by Gail Carriger.
What H.G. Wells Got Wrong When He Predicted the Atomic Bomb by Charlie Jane Anders at io9.
Who’s Afraid of a Counterfactual (Part II)? What if Leningrad Had Surrendered to the Nazis in World War II? by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld The Counterfactual History Review.

Films

6 Conspiracy Theories That Inspired Sci-Fi and Horror Movies by Ryan Lambie at Den of Geek.
Trailer for 'Jodorowsky's Dune' Gives a Peek of One of the Craziest Movies Ever Proposed by Max O'Connell at Indiewire.

Interview

Dan Lind at Matchsticks for my Eyes.
Daniel Suarez at Publishers Weekly.

Reviews

The Adjacent by Christopher Priest at Thinking about books.
Invention of Love at Steampunk.com.
Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest at Amazing Stories.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld at Chaos Theory.

* * *

Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. His new short story "Road Trip" can be found in Forbidden Future: A Time Travel Anthology. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Practical Guide to Lurking on AlternateHistory.com

At this year's Capricon I had a short talk with Kier Salmon about "lurking". I know it sounds sinister, but it is actually an innocent term for being a member of an online community without actively participating. Hell they even have a Wikipedia article about it.

Anywho, the conversation gravitated to AlternateHistory.com (AH.com) where I do most of my lurking. What with my own alternate history website, my career and wife, I don't have loads of time to participate as an active contributor to the mammoth forum. Thinking about it some more, I wondered whether someone who is new to the forum and not ready to participate as well would even know where to start looking for threads to follow. So without further ado, here are some good threads for the beginning lurker:

Map Thread XI: This is the main thread for new maps from the creators on AH.com. Every day there are new maps to check out, both stand alone or else linked to the timelines they are a part of. Currently it is 491 pages long and probably ready to become Map Thread XII.

Alternate Wikipedia Infoboxes: There are a lot of ways to tell a story. Have you ever tried to do it with a Wikipedia Infobox? I like this thread for the unique way the forum members describe an alternate timeline without large blocks of text.

ASB settings: My favorite map maker on AH.com is Bruce Munro, but did you know he has a long running thread of short scenarios? Bruce uses cynical humor and pop culture references (with a healthy dose of Lovecraftian horror) to fill in the gaps of well-known franchises. Plus he has maps!

Rememberences of Map Contests Past: Did I mention I like maps? AH.com has regular map contests, but linking all the individual threads would just be silly. Luckily, they are all archived in this thread. Enjoy!

Stand-alone timelines: There are a lot of timelines on AH.com. Many good, many bad, a few great. Check out our past showcases to get some recommendations, but I would also like to give shout outs to Damsels and Dirigibles, The Rise of the Tri-State World Order and The Rise and Fall of the Amerikaner Republics.

The Official Weird Dream Thread: This thread was suggest to me by Jon Davis on Alternate History Online. Not exactly my cup of tea, but this thread about people describing their weird dreams is already 110 pages long. Might be fun to check out at least once...

Are there any other threads I should have listed? Leave a comment below.

* * *

Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. His new short story "Road Trip" can be found in Forbidden Future: A Time Travel Anthology. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Preview: The War of the Grail by Geoffrey Wilson

I have a new book to add to my to read list: The War of the Grail by Geoffrey Wilson. The third book in the Land of Hope and Glory series. Set in a world of steam and magic where Europe was conquered by the Moors and later the Indians, here is the description from Amazon:
In Land of Hope and Glory Geoffrey Wilson imagined a world in which an Indian empire rules Europe through the power of magic. In The Place of Dead Kings, Jack Casey—an old soldier who never meant to be a hero—became England's only hope. Now it is 1856, King John is dead, and the war that Jack has dreaded since the start of the English rebellion has finally begun. Regiments of Rajthanan troops are massing to the south of free Shropshire, while to the north refugees bring stories of attacks by the devil himself. Both friends and enemies fear that unless Jack can find the elusive Holy Grail, there is no hope. . . A strange set of maps that Jack discovered in Scotland could hold the key to England's freedom. Kanvar, the rebels' enigmatic Sikh ally, believes the charts will unlock the secrets of the Rajthanans' magic and perhaps guide Jack to the Grail itself. But can Jack harness the power of the Grail before the conqueror's overwhelming forces destroy the dream of a free England forever?
I have already read and reviewed the first two books in the series, Land of Hope and Glory and The Place of Dead Kings, so you can check those out. I also interviewed Geoff a while back in case you want to learn more about the author. In the meantime, stay tuned for my review.

* * *

Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. His new short story "Road Trip" can be found in Forbidden Future: A Time Travel Anthology. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: Southern Cross: Annuit Coeptis by Dorvall and Philip Renne

American Civil War alternate histories are a dime a dozen. It has become hard to bring something new and fresh to the concept, but I think the good folks at Sekwana Comics have made a good start with their graphic novel Southern Cross: Annuit Coepti, volume one in the CSA Confederate States of America series. Written by Dorvall and illustrated by Philip Renne, the series will showcase the post-war world where the South won the Civil War, without the aid of alien space bats. But does Volume 1 hold up?

At the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee takes Longstreet's advice for the third day of battle turning Gettysburg into the ultimate Confederate victory. Washington is captured, Lincoln is overthrown in a coup led by McClellan, large swatches of Union territory is ceded to the Confederacy and free blacks who fought for the North are marched south to be sold into slavery. We see this from the point of view of various historical figures and four fictional characters who are implied to have larger roles as the series progresses.

I don't want to give to much of the plot away since the book is only 64 pages long. I was impressed by their ambitious plan to tell a pure alternate history in comic form, which is something you don't see often since most alternate history comics either involve superheroes or steampunk. There is a suggestion that someone is influencing events, but I am holding out hope that is not time travelers or other such ASB hand-waving. The illustrations by Renne were really good and captured the stark reality of war in mid 19th century. I also liked how the Confederacy was protrayed as being disorganized during the war, which is something even more traditional histories fail to grasp.

All that being I had a lot of issues with the scenario in general. Victory at the Battle of Gettysburg has become cliche and even some historians suggest that a Confederate victory would not have won the war for them. The Union would still have its defenses around Washington, their armies in the west and central Confederacy and their navy blockading southern ports. In Southern Cross, the Confederate victory completely destroys the Union's will to fight and they meekly surrender everything to the South. Considering the South only wanted independence, conquering the North just doesn't sound plausible. Even McClellan's coup is implausible and it is more believable that his bid to run for President in 1864 would have been successful with a loss at Gettysburg, followed by a negotiated peace where the South gains their independence with little loss to Union territories.

I did like the multi-dimensional characters and Nathan Bedford Forrest looks to be morphing into the series main antagonist. I found the female abolitionist to be a straw man (or would it be straw woman?) when it came to discussions about slavery and the reasons the Union was fighting. I also thought Dorvall confused Lincoln's pragmatism toward slavery as he strove to get elected as having no strong opinion toward abolition. You have to look at this entire life for a better picture of his views on the subject.

Despite my issues with the overall scenario and some of the characters, I found Southern Cross to be a good start for this pure alternate history comic series. There are so few of this type out there that it would be shame if this remains the only one of its kind.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. His new short story "Road Trip" can be found in Forbidden Future: A Time Travel Anthology. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

6 Common Mistakes Every American Revolution Alternate History Makes

Although American Civil War and World War II histories dominate the English-speaking world, stories about a stillborn United States are still quite common. Whether it happens because the Thirteen Colonies lose the American Revolutionary War or else the political upheaval that led to their independence is avoided through diplomacy, all the timelines lead to a world where North America from the Arctic to the Rio Grande remains under the Union Jack.

While these timelines have merit, both professional and fans authors often make the same mistakes, historical misconceptions and omissions again and again. To prevent this from happening in the future, here is a list of common mistakes found within American Revolution what ifs...

Florida
At some point, whatever government is created for British North America, they will want Florida. Sometimes they just take it or other times they buy it. Either way Florida will stop being Spanish not long after the POD. Except why would they need Spain need to hand it over in the first place? This is a mistake I find again and again with alternate American Revolution timelines and it needs to stop...now.

Here is what history tells us: at the end of the French and Indian War/Seven Years War, Florida was ceded to Britain and was split into West and East Florida. The two Floridas remained loyal to Britain during the Revolutionary War, but in the end were ceded back to Spain after they had sided with the rebellious colonists. Much later West Florida rebelled against Spanish rule and was annexed by the United States, while East Florida was ceded to the United States in 1821.

In a timeline where Britain retains control of the Thirteen Colonies, Florida would have remained British because Spain would either have no war to join or else would have been on the losing side. The two Floridas would be components of whatever government is created for British North America and might even have special status in those versions that had a war since they had remained loyal. So please stop making this mistake before I start tearing my hair out.

Louisiana and the Great Plains
As British North America grows in these timelines it expands westward and (usually around 1803) decides it wants the port of New Orleans and the rest of the Great Plains. This proves quite simple since they usually just take it from those dastardly French (curse them!). But why would the French be there in the first place?

This does not happen as often as the Florida problem, but still often enough I feel I should address it. As we know, France ceded New Orleans and the Great Plains to Spain, who added it to the Viceroyalty of New Spain (a.k.a. Mexico) at the end of the French and Indian War/Seven Years War. The territory remained under Spanish control until 1800 when France took back the territory under Napoleon who dreamed of building an empire in the Americas. A slave revolt in Haiti caused the Emperor to scrap those plans and instead sell the territory to the young American republic.

Having Louisiana become French again in a timeline where there is no United States assumes a lot events of OTL will still happen as scheduled, including the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon. Even if they did happen (which I will discuss later) it is hard to believe that Napoleon would want such a huge tract of land only lightly populated by Europeans that was surrounded on the north and east by the British. Most likely he would look elsewhere for his overseas empire and leave the land to the Spanish. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that the British Americans wouldn't want the strategic port of New Orleans, but it is still possible the land we know today as the "Louisiana Purchase" might be part of Mexico in one of these alternate timelines.

French Revolution and Napoleon
Speaking of the French, who incidentally were big supporters of the rebels, they end up in these timelines never spending all that cash propping up the Americans and thus never have the ton of debt that brings the French Revolution upon the royal houses of Europe. Enlightened monarchies continue to govern the world with democracy being nothing more than a quaint Ancient Greek custom and a young Corsican artillery officer dies of old age without anyone ever knowing his name

Of course, when has history ever been that simple? France's support of the Americans was just one of many causes that brought on the French Revolution and the lack of a Revolutionary War won't hand wave them away either (and its not like the monarchy would take all the extra money they saved to help the lower classes). Even a failed rebellion could still be disastrous for Louis XVI's rule if he still decided to intervene. The events and names might be different, but the French Revolutions could still happen and the chaos caused could allow a man like Napoleon to rise to power.

I admit one of the unwritten rules of alternate history is that nothing is inevitable, but we still need things to be plausible. A POD around the 1770s is not enough time to butterfly away an event that happened in 1789. In all likelihood, instead of defending New Orleans from the British, we could see Andrew Jackson take Orleans while leading an army of Red Coats. We have to remember that a good alternate history has to plausible and certain PODs will effect some historical events, but not others.

Canada
In these timelines, the great Dominion of British North America stretches from sea to shining sea. Members of Parliament gather in the capital, Georgetown (named after the great King George III), to celebrate another year as the most important member of the Empire. No one notices the politicians from the far northern provinces, but it is not like these men from the lightly populated, snowy wilderness have ever contributed anything significant to the Commonwealth. Right? RIGHT?!?!

One of the greatest flaws of American Revolution alternate histories is that they tend to be written by...well, Americans. These authors, however, remain surprisingly ignorant of the OTL British North America, or to put it another way, Canada. These timelines gloss over the northern half of British North America as almost if it doesn't matter and instead read more like an American history where everyone speaks with a British accent. This is especially important with timelines where recognizable historical figures still make cameos, but you rarely see Canadian VIPs in positions of importance.

While I will admit that the center of power might shift to the south in an enlarged British North America, how can one of the world's largest economies and most cultural diverse OTL countries not have an impact at all in a world where America remained under British rule? The city of Toronto alone is the fourth largest city in North America, which would make it the third largest city in a British North America (beating out my hometown of Chicago) and making it a significant region in politics. I guess what I am trying to say is that ignorance of Canadian history is not an excuse for your implausible alternate history.

Native Americans
Another group who is ignored in these alternate histories (and history in general for that matter) are Native Americans. In timelines where the Thirteen Colonies stay British, their history tends to parallel OTL history, that is if the author decides to mention them at all. Essentially they remain non-entities in these universes.

Now the Native Americans were treated rough by most Europeans, but the British did try to normalize relations with the tribes with the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which established the Indian Reserve that stretched from the Great Lakes to West Florida. The proclamation was controversial to the colonials and was one of the causes of the American Revolution. Most Native Americans east of the Mississippi sided with the British during the Revolutionary War and after the war were eventually driven west and forced to settle in reservations far from their ancestral homes.

In these alternate histories, however, it is unlikely the British would radically change their policy to Native Americans if they maintained control of the lands east of the Mississippi. In fact we might see the British grant autonomy to the most powerful and loyal tribes, much like the princely states of India of OTL. This policy might even be carried west if British North America expands that far leading to an ethnically diverse North America where Native Americans exercise more political power than they did in OTL. That sounds like a much more interesting alternate history to me.

The British Empire
Above is a political map of the world of The Two Georges, with the British Empire in red. Despite some loses in Africa, the British Empire is excessively larger than it was in OTL. In fact, most American Revolution alternate histories lead to an enlarged British Empire. But how plausible is it for the British Empire to be this large?

In a world where the Thirteen Colonies stay British, the Crown would need (if I can quote the late Warren Zevon) lawyers, guns and money to maintain their rule. If they are spending these resources on British North America, they would not be able to spend it elsewhere. Consider how different the history of Australia would be. Before the American Revolution, thousands of criminals had been sent to the Americas by the British. After the loss of the Thirteen Colonies, the British found replacement colonies in Australia. In a world, however, where they never lost their original penal colonies, there would be less interest about settling Australia and thus all or some of it could have been gobbled up by another Europe power.

The same can go for other important British colonies as well. A world without the French Revolution and/or Napoleon (if they for some reason do not happen) would not give the British the excuse to take South Africa from the Dutch. Plus considering the economic potential of the lands that make up the OTL USA and Canada, it might not be India that will gain the title of "jewel in the crown" of the British Empire. In fact this same economic potential might even give some alternate leaders the motivation to try and break from the empire and could potentially cause an earlier collapse of the British Empire.

Conclusion

All of the above are either outright mistakes, historical misconceptions or overlooked people/ideas that are common to American Revolution alternate histories. The best way to avoid them, in my humble opinion, is to do your research when you set out to create your timeline. Remember, as Mark Twain once said: "It's not what you don't know that kills you, it's what you know for sure that ain't true."

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. His new short story "Road Trip" can be found in Forbidden Future: A Time Travel Anthology. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Weekly Update #135

Editor's Note

Still having trouble reaching my goal of five articles a week. My job has been extremely busy this week as my firm has just brought on some highly successful real estate attorneys and clearing them through conflicts has been a nightmare. What I really need is a contributing blogger. Someone who can submit articles on a regular basis to help fill in the gaps. But how do I encourage someone to volunteer for such a role?

Well...I actually have a small budget to pay for a staff writer. I am thinking either a flat rate per article or a few cents per word deal. Nothing in concrete yet, but if you are interested, shoot me an email at ahwupdate at gmail dot com. Since I am creating a position out of thin air here, I am willing to consider any and all proposals as long as they meet the subject matter of the blog.

And now the news...

Coming Soon: The Enceladus Crisis by Michael J. Martinez

Friend of The Update, Michael J. Martinez, was in the news a lot last week. Although his next book The Enceladus Crisis (sequel to The Daedalus Incident) does not come out until May, already review copies are being sent to the usual SF sites. For those who don't know about The Enceladus Crisis, here is the description from Amazon:
Two dimensions collided on the rust-red deserts of Mars—and are destined to become entangled once more in this sequel to the critically acclaimed The Daedalus Incident. 
Lieutenant Commander Shaila Jain has been given the assignment of her dreams: the first manned mission to Saturn. But there’s competition and complications when she arrives aboard the survey ship Armstrong. The Chinese are vying for control of the critical moon Titan, and the moon Enceladus may harbor secrets deep under its icy crust. And back on Earth, Project DAEDALUS now seeks to defend against other dimensional incursions. But there are other players interested in opening the door between worlds . . . and they’re getting impatient. 
For Thomas Weatherby, it’s been nineteen years since he was second lieutenant aboard HMS Daedalus. Now captain of the seventy-four-gun Fortitude, Weatherby helps destroy the French fleet at the Nile and must chase an escaped French ship from Egypt to Saturn, home of the enigmatic and increasingly unstable aliens who call themselves the Xan. Meanwhile, in Egypt, alchemist Andrew Finch has ingratiated himself with Napoleon’s forces . . . and finds the true, horrible reason why the French invaded Egypt in the first place. 
The thrilling follow-up to The Daedalus Incident, The Enceladus Crisis continues Martinez’s Daedalus series with a combination of mystery, intrigue, and high adventure spanning two amazing dimensions.
Paul Weimer of SF Signal said in his early review of the novel that it "manages to improve on the first in significant ways but doesn't quite leap to the next quantum level." Still he did give it 4 out 5 stars, so I will take that as a recommendation. Those wishing to learn more about Michael can check out his interview over at the Functional Nerds and, for those aspiring authors out there, check out his original query letter to Michael's agent to find out what a successful query letter looks like.

Update: Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore

Alan Moore has a new entry in his successful League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. Titled Nemo: Heart of Ice, here is the description from SF Signal:
Moore revisits the world he created in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman in a new book, Nemo: Heart of Ice, which focuses on Janni Dakkar, daughter of Captain Nemo, and her trek across Antarctica to prove herself by recreating Nemo’s own Antarctic expedition. Moore draws from several sources, including H.P. Lovercraft, to create a dark and mysterious continent full of dangers and madness. As a character, Janni feels the weight of the Nemo name and legacy set squarely on her shoulders, and struggles throughout the book to come to terms with that.
Patrick Hester (of SF Signal Podcast fame) reviewed the comic for Kirkus and said "[f]ans of Moore's League will enjoy the book as an addition to the bigger universe, but for me, it fell a little flat. I wanted something more." So a disappointing review for someone like me who has read several books from the series, but I am still likely to read this one. What do you think?

Solaris commission Paul Kearney novel

Jonathan Oliver, commissioning editor of Solaris Books, has commissioned The Wolf in the Attic, a new historical fantasy novel by Paul Kearney. The novel is set in early 1930′s Oxford and features well-known fantasy authors JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis as characters. It is told from the point of view of a lonely, Greek refugee girl who one day discovers a Romany boy in her attic. The boy is a shape-shifter, and becomes her friend. The two begin to explore the world around Oxford, discovering things they never imagined existed. The girl, Anna, is obsessed by the Odyssey, and likens the Romany boy, Luca, to Odysseus. Here are the author’s thoughts:

“This story has been rattling around in my head for a long time. The genesis of it was a visit to Turkey some years ago, when I saw the magnificent ruins at Ephesus. I knew the ancient history of Asia Minor quite well, but its more recent reincarnation as Turkey was pretty much a mystery to me, so I started reading into it. The one event that really stuck in my mind during my research was the sack of Smyrna in 1922, a ghastly, shameful catastrophe that the world has completely forgotten about. The more I read about the forced exodus of the Ionian Greeks, the more I felt I wanted to say something about them. But how? I put the idea to one side.

“Then, several years later I went back to Oxford for the first time in almost two decades. The place I had known as a teenager was both similar and jarringly different to the memories I had been holding on to, and I had the oddest sense of being dislocated, ghost-like, remembering places and things that no longer existed. That powerful, stubborn mental grasp of a place that was no longer there in some respects made me think about the tenacity of memory, and the way it can mislead and deceive.

“Finally, back at home, I was simply walking the dogs along the beach, and the character of Anna  came to me in a rush. All those dislocated and disparate factors seemed suddenly to mesh, and I had the heart of a story unlike any other I’ve ever tried to tell.”

The novel will be published in autumn 2015. The agent was John Jarrold, and the deal was for UK/US rights.

Map Gallery

Only two maps caught my eye last week. The first is from one of my favorite timelines on AH.com, "A Crack at Draka" by Municipal Engine. That timeline's Great War has just concluded and here is what the world looks like in 1914:
Finally we have a non-AH map, but one I found highly amusing. It is a fan map by "theantilove" featuring the location where every animated Disney movie was set:
Which map did you think was the best? Let us know in the comments below.

Video Gallery

Got some good videos this week. First up, a curious gem I found through Unleash the Fanboy called Project Arbiter which has been described as a "diselpunk Captain America":
Next up is the weirdest "-punk" I have ever featured on The Update. Watch Adam and Joel from Rooster Teeth infiltrate Jazzpunk:
And now our gallery closes for the week with another episode from my new favorite alternate history channel, the Alternate History Hub, simply titled "What if the United States Lost the Revolution":
Know of any other videos alternate historians will enjoy? Let us know in the comments below.

Calendar

February 18-19: Harry Turtledove visits the University of South Florida for a reading, book signing and an  interdisciplinary discussion of alternate history.

March 31: Deadline to submit to Resurrection House's short fiction anthology.

July 17-20: The North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC), is held in years when the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) is held outside of North America. This year it will take place in Detroit, Michigan and will be known as Detcon1.

Links to the Multiverse

Books

The Michael Moorcock Collection: An Inside View by John Davey at Gateway.
Read the first 4 chapters. Obsidian Eyes by @AWExley #steampunk at The Masquerade Crew.
Which Gideon Smith Character Are You? by David Barnett at Postcards from the Hinterland.

Comics

Bendis & Oeming Offer First "United States of Murder Inc." Details by Albert Ching at CBR.
GRAPHIC NOVEL PREVIEW: Madame Frankenstein at Geek Syndicate.
How do you make World War II worse? Add royalty with superpowers by Rob Bricken at io9.
NEWS: Watchmen, Sandman, Chu, Russia and the Clown-Shoes of Cthulhu by Neil Gaiman.

Counterfactual/Traditional History

Alternate Great Lakes by Sean Sherman at Other Times.
Democrats, Media Slam President Romney Over Health Care Law Changes by Charles C. W. Cooke at National Review Online.
Game of Thrones looks like a sideshow next to these real historic events at New.com.au.
Hitler's Secret Science by Alex Michael Bonnici at Far Future Horizons.
The Road Not Taken: It may seem like Alex Rodriguez was destined to be a baseball villain, but he very nearly wasn’t by Rany Jazayerli at Grantland.

Films

What if the Nazis Had Destroyed Paris? Volker Schlöndorff's New Film, "Diplomacy" by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld at The Counterfactual History Review.

Games

Hearts of Iron IV has learned from CKII and EUIV by Mike Holmes at Gamereactor.

Interviews

Eleri Stone at My Bookish Ways.
Lavie Tidhar at Amazing Stories.
Lynn Viehl at The Qwillery.
Harry Turtledove at Eating Authors.

Podcasts

Writing Excuses 9.6: The Experience of Time at Writing Excuses.

Reviews

11/22/63 by Stephen King at SF Signal.
Code Red at Technology Tell.
Dimensions at Paul Levinson's Infinite Regress.
Sherlock 3.3 at Thinking about books.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes at Bookworm Blues.
V-S Day by Allen Steele at Locus Online.

Television

History's Most Famous People Re-Imagined as Weapons by Richard Eisenbeis at Kotaku.
What if “Doctor Who” Was an American Show? at Geeks are Sexy.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. His new short story "Road Trip" can be found in Forbidden Future: A Time Travel Anthology. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.