Monday, May 26, 2014

Weekly Update #148

Editor's Notes

Wow a lot of things happened last week.

First, the topic for the inaugural episode of Voices from Alternia: The Alternate History Podcast was chosen. And no, I am not going to tell you what it is...yet. You are going to have to wait just a little longer.

Second, The Update now has a page on the Alternate History Wiki (AlternateHistory.com's version, not the one on Wikia). It brought a huge smile to my face when Petike of AlternateHistory.com messaged me that he had created it. Thanks Petike and as for the rest of you please go there and start editing.

Third, a side project of mine on Facebook, the Alternate History Online group, just surpassed 1000 members. I actually started this group almost a decade ago when I was still in undergrad. It is amazing to see how much it has grown since then.

Finally, the number of people buying books through our Amazon banner and links has increased dramatically. Thank you guys so much. Every penny of the proceeds we make off the sales is going into the podcast!

Well enough bragging, time for the news. You know I actually thought about taking this Memorial Day off, but there was so much to talk about from last week, I just had to post something. Enjoy!

And now the news...

Preview: My Real Children by Jo Walton

A new alternate history book has caught the attention of the Internet. It is titled My Real Children and is written by Jo Walton. Here is the description from Amazon:

It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know—what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don't seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War—those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history; each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. Jo Walton's My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives...and of how every life means the entire world.​

So the novel appears to be a character study where two different versions of the characters live in two distinct timelines, neither one exactly our own. Annalee Newitz of io9 (who we will hear from again later in this post) gave a glowing review of the novel saying it was a "complicated, nuanced mediation on the question of how the personal and political intertwine to create a single life" and also complimented Walton on her ability "at evoking the complicated relationship between international politics and domestic dysfunction." Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing also praised the novel and said of its emotional impact that  he has to"[keep] the book at arm's length, lest it trigger another round of tears."

To be honest I think I might try picking up a copy of this book when I get the chance. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about My Real Children check out this excerpt on BoingBoing and this interview with Walton at Riffle.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is Out Now, but How is the Story?

Admittedly The Update is primarily a literary blog, but that doesn't mean we don't cover other mediums. Last New Releases I pointed out that the next installment in the popular Wolfenstein saga, Wolfenstein: The New Order, was released. It is set in an alternate 1960s where the Nazis won World War II and conquered the world. Well the reviews have been pouring in, but I am not going to be covering the comments on gameplay or graphics. Instead I want to know what reviewers thought of the plot. How is the alternate history of Wolfenstein: The New Order?

Colin Moriarty of IGN said the Wolfenstein really shines when it comes to plot. He complimented the game on its use real-life Nazi atrocities that made the game feel, in his words, "surprisingly human, and your situation quite desperate." Although he did point out much of the technology in the alternate 1960s is unrealistic. Lou Kesten of The Republic also commented on the use of Nazi atrocities in crafting the story saying "[o]ne minute, you're invited to reflect on man's inhumanity to man; the next, you're expected to relish splattering enemy brains all over their swastika-festooned fortresses". Meanwhile, David Hing of Den of Geek said "Wolfenstein has never needed to or pretended to be terribly smart, but I am going to make the unusual argument that it has been subtle" by not jumping to the usual tropes associated with World War II alternate histories.

And the game itself is chock full of Easter eggs. The guys at Achievement Hunter showcased the appearance of one from Wolfenstein 3D:
And Fallout:
Well it is good to hear that video games can do alternate history justice. Have you played the new Wolfenstein game? What did you think of the story?

More Reviews on Southern Cross: Annuit Coeptis

A couple months ago I reviewed Southern Cross: Annuit Coeptis by Dorvall and Philip Renne, a new comic featuring a Confederate victory at Gettysburg and an overall victory in the American Civil War. A couple recent reviews of the comic, however, have a caught my eye.

Cody K. Carlson of Deseret News (and no I did not pull this from an alternate timeline) said Southern Cross was a "fun and enjoyable alternate history tale that does offer some real food for thought", but knocked off points for too many sub-plots and an implausible post-Gettysburg outcome. Rhetta Akamatsu at Seattle PI called the graphic novel "dramatic and thought-provoking", but did feel certain elements of the book were implausible, like the enslavement of black Union soldiers.

So much like my review, both reviewers felt Southern Cross has merit, but suffers from some implausibilities. Have you read Southern Cross? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments.

Revolution Airs Finale

Revolution aired its final episode last week. It was reported a couple of weeks ago that the show was cancelled so this episode should have been the second season finale. I won't give any plot details away in case dear reader you have not watched it, but the reviews have not been good.

Annalee Newitz of io9 (told you) said "[t]he season finale — filmed before cast and crew knew it was their final episode — made us glad the show is gone forever." Most of Annalee's problems with the show stemmed from missed opportunities and the nonsensical cliffhanger. Paul Levinson mostly agreed with her on his blog saying "[t]onight's ending, I hate to say, made me glad this was the final season" but did leave a parting comment that about the show overall that let the review end on a high note by saying "everyone associated with the show can be proud for the two good seasons it gave us. Science fiction is a tough sell on television, and Revolution gave it a good shot."

Of course Revolution may still get a chance to do things right. There is always the possibility Revolution could get on another network or some streaming service like Netflix or Hulu. Its a long shot, but if fans really want it, they can convince someone with the money to make it happen...but judging from these reviews I don't think the fan power exists.

Europa Universalis IV Expansion “Wealth of Nations” Available for Pre-order, Ships May 29

You can now pre-order “Wealth of Nations,“ the second expansion to Europa Universalis IV. Adding a plethora of new trade and diplomacy features to the grand strategy game from Paradox, "Wealth of Nations" will be officially released on May 29, 2014 for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.

If you’re the type of person to research routes before heading into choppy waters, this video developer diary highlights the new challenges of "Wealth of Nations", including privateering, shipping companies, and covert economic sabotage:
For more information on the new show and on Europa Universalis IV, please visit the new Paradox website.

Video Gallery

I know I have already showcased a few videos in previous segments, but this is the dumping ground for the rest. First up, Epic Rap Battles of History is back with a rap battle between Superman and Goku:
They sure have been doing a lot of fictional mash ups lately. I would like to see return to more historical figures. Next, the Geeks With Wives podcast discusses alternate history:
I haven't listened to the whole show yet, so my apologies if the quality isn't great. We end with a video from our friend Alison Morton who has a trailer out for her new book Successio:

Links to the Multiverse

Books

10 Perfect Summer Reads Authored by NYU Alumni at Hashtagnyu.
Alternate history and steampunk - settling the ambiguity at Alison Morton's Roma Nova.
Clifford Beal on Balancing Fact And Fancy In Historical Fantasy at SF Signal.
Damian Dibben's top 10 time travel books at The Guardian.
FINALISTS: 2014 John W. Campbell Memorial Award at SF Signal.
Overdetermination by Ian C. Racey.
Sarah Cawkwell asks So What’s the Alternative? at A Fantastical Librarian.
Time Travel Is On by Damian Dibben at Short List.

Counterfactual and Traditional History (Plus News)

# Selfie, Steampunk, Catfish: See This Year’s New Dictionary Words by Katy Steinmetz at Time.
Amazing Original Disneyland Designs Included a Working Farm by Bianca Barragan at Curbed.
North Korean science fiction and the Maoist road to Mars by Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.
The Ten Most Bizarre Ideas For Using Nuclear Weapons by Mark Strauss at io9.
Twentieth Century Futurism Looks Really Bizarre Now by Vincze Mikl√≥s at io9.
What If FDR Had Been Shot? A Classic Counterfactual by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld at The Counterfactual History Review.

Films and Television

Behold the David Lynch 'Star Wars' that could have been by Anthony Domanico at CNET.
A brief history of the alternate histories of the X-Men by Derrick Sanskrit at AV Club.
Da Vinci's Demons 2.9: The Sword Fight at Paul Levinson's Infinite Regress.

Interviews

Michael J. Martinez at The Qwillery.

Podcasts

Episode 018: Meet the Podcaster - Why We Podcast at History Podcasters.
The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 248): Comics, Games, Bad Book Habits, Historical Accuracy in Fantasy and A Book That Turned Out To Be Unexpected at Sf Signal.

Short Fiction

There’s a Little Real History in my Alternate History #6 at M Fenn Writes.

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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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