Friday, April 18, 2014

Famous Tuckerizations of Alternate History

A "tuckerization" is when an author uses the name or likeness of a real person as a character in their fiction. Usually the author is friends with the person, but it could also be a contemporary celebrity or a fan who won a chance to have their name featured in their favorite work of fiction. Not only is this common in science fiction, but it is prevalent in alternate history as well. Here are just a few examples:

Ian Arnstein: Introduced in Island in the Sea of Time by SM Stirling, the bald and bearded Ian is a major POV character throughout the series. He also is knowledgeable about ancient history, had dreams of being a science fiction writer and made a Monty Python riff at the siege of Troy. If he sounds a lot like the master of alternate history himself, Harry Turtledove, you would be correct. Although as far as I know neither author has confirmed Ian is Harry, most fans are in agreement that the character is based off the author.

Michael Pound: Speaking of Stirling, over at his Facebook group Stirling hinted that the stocky (possibly Canadian) barrel driver from Turtledove's Southern Victory/TL-191, Michael Pound, is actually a tuckerization of him. "Michael" is the "M" in "SM" and Stirling did admit Turtledove likes to pun, which probably explains how Stirling became Pound (get it?). Both character and author are also quite outspoken.

Lord Darcy series: Although I have never read the series myself, Lord Darcy by Randall Garrett is a popular short fiction universe from the 1960s and 70s that is still spoken of fondly by older fans. This historical fantasy features England and France united under the Plantangenets. It is also full of tuckerizations including TA Water (Sir Thomas Leseaux), Michael Kurland (Michel Coure-Terre), James Randi (James Zwinge) and EE Smith (Sir Edward Elmer, Th.D).

Axis of Time series: The Lord Darcy series, however, pales in comparison to the king of tuckerization, John Birmingham, whose Axis of Time series is stuffed full of cameos. Some hero went to great lengths to list them out on Wikipedia, but not only did Birmingham include SM Stirling and Harry Turtledove (as Commander Turteltaub), he also referenced other recognizable names to alternate historians like Eric Flint and William R. Forstchen.

Can you name any other tuckerizations from alternate history fiction? Let us know in the comments below.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. 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.


  1. Fallen Angels is chockfull of this sort of thing

  2. Time for Patriots has a couple Columbia professors tuckerized in the last chapter, although neither is or was and SF figure: Ursetski for Professor of Electronic Music Vladimir Ussachevski, with reference to his Poem in Cycles and Bells changed to Sonnet in Bells and Cycles
    (I used the real one as theme music in a planetarium show years ago)


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