Thursday, April 10, 2014

Timeline Thursday: Out of One, Many by Erwin Wodarczak

I know balkanized North Americas are old hat with many alternate historians, but at one point we all had to experience it for the first time. For me it was "Out of One, Many" by Erwin Wodarczak. To give you an idea of what we are working with, here is a map:
North America in 1878.
The timeline is, according the author, inspired by "What If Elbridge Gerry Had Been More Rational and Less Patriotic? (1787)" by William Riker, original published in What If? Explorations in Social-Science Fiction edited by Nelson Polsby. The point of divergence is in 1787 when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention fail to come to an agreement on congressional representation. A conflict over Vermont between New England and New York breaks the United States further apart and the Union eventually dissolves.

"Out of One, Many" features a lot of elements that caught my attention as a young alternate historian. It has an enlarged Virginia controlling the Midwest (except for the Western Reserve), a French Louisiana that would create an empire across the Great Plains, a British West Coast and smaller states like New Jersey and Delaware making a go as independent nations instead of being shoehorned into a larger nation. This timeline formed the foundation for how I approached all balkanized North America timelines and it still holds a special place in my heart.

Perhaps I am being overly sentimental, but I do believe the early 21st century was a golden age for online alternate history. There was a bevy of personal author sites where you could find timelines and even tie-in fiction. Today most of these sites have disappeared, but you can still find them using the Wayback Machine. That is when I rediscovered Wodarczak's "Out of One, Many" in 2009. I created a new project that I dubbed "Save Our Alternate History", where I would copy these old timelines (with the author's permission, of course) and post them on the AltHistory Wiki.

"Out of One, Many" was the first, and only, timeline that I transfered to the wiki. Although Wodarczak gave me his blessing, the second timeline I tried to transfer failed after the author refused to give me permission. Stymied, I lost interest in the project and moved on to other things. The original timeline is still intact on the Wiki, so I highly recommend you go and read it.

I am starting to think I should rename this series "Throwback Thursday". I am not sure how many retro timelines I will cover, but I am enjoying this and I hope you are too. If there are any other timelines you would like me to check out or you would like to recommend to our readers, contact me at ahwupdate at gmail dot com.

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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.

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