Monday, October 19, 2015

Weekly Update #208! The Counterfactual Zeitgeist, Silver on the Road and The Book That Started It All for Turtledove.

Editor's Note

I have been writing less than I should lately. To be frank its hard to keep this blog going sometimes. Its not laziness exactly, more like lack of motivation. I find myself interested in other projects, like my YouTube channel or my own ficition. I always thought there may be a time when I leave the blog for good and with the 5 year anniversary coming up, that may be a good time to call it quits and move on to something else. I don't want to do that, but I also feel that if I am not enjoying what I am writing then what is the point of forcing myself to do it?

I don't know. There could numerous other reasons why I don't have the energy to blog and maybe I will return to my full schedule in the near future. We shall see. Anywho, this Weekly Update is catching us up with the events of the last two weeks so there is a lot more alternate history goodness to devour. Enjoy!

And now the news...

Headline: Is Alternate History Going Mainstream or Is It Just the Uniforms?

Since I have started this blog I have read, commented on and written numerous articles myself about whether alternate history will ever go mainstream. This article in The Independent written by author David Barnett (Gideon Smith) is no exception, although he does approach it in a more skeptical fashion than most.

David points to the upcoming television series based on The Man in the High Castle from Amazon and SS-GB which will premiere on BBC as evidence of alternate history's prominence in the mainstream. The Man in the High Caslte has certainly been getting a lot of attention lately, especially with the new trailer releases and the promotional campaign Amazon has been doing with the cast and producers. With two major TV shows forthcoming and others hinted at by other networks, it does feel that alternate/counterfactual history has entered the "zeitgeist".

David, however, is quick to advise restraint. He quoted Kim Newman (Anno Dracula) who argues most alternate histories will remain a hard sell to the TV watching audience, thus the genre will remain a niche market for the foreseeable future (which means my sitcom about a gay couple from New England in Russian America will not be getting a producer anytime soon). David also quoted famed counterfactual history critic Richard Evans (Altered Pasts) who said that while alternate histories can be entertaining, their educational value is minimal. Barnett, however, also argued that another reason why we shouldn't get excited about the popularity of alternate history because the attention toward the aforementioned shows may have more to do with the Nazi aesthetic that many audiences take a macabre interest in. If that's true, plots that do not diverge during WWII may have little chance of being seen on major networks.

In general I agree with David's comments, but that doesn't mean I don't have some optimism. Dismissing alternate history television as a niche market is a little short-sighted since almost everything today is a niche market. Shows are getting renewed with numbers that would have gotten themselves cancelled decades ago. Its easier (relatively speaking) to find work as a writer then it has been in the past and there are a variety of mediums for a show to reach an audience (network television, cable, streaming, YouTube, etc.). While our favorite genre may never get out of its niche, there is nothing stopping said niche growing a few more sizes.

Book of the Week: Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman

The book that got a lot of attention from you guys over the last two weeks was Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilma, who I believe was SM Stirling's former editor. Here is the description of her book from Amazon:

A heroic fantasy by an award-winning author about a young woman who is trained in the art of the sinister hand of magic, but at what price?

Isobel, upon her sixteenth birthday, makes the choice to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. This is a being who deals fairly with immense—but not unlimited—power, who offers opportunities to people who want to make a deal, and they always get what they deserve. But his land is a wild west that needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in. Inadvertently trained by him to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel circuit through the territory. As we all know, where there is magic there is chaos…and death.

Paul Weimer of SF Signal gave this book 4 1/2 stars and said Silver on the Road has "[s]trong characterization, particularly of the main characters Isobel and Gabriel; excellent sense of place;  author’s prose hits on all cylinders; striking cover art that the book lives up to." That is a pretty good recommendation. I may have to pick up a copy when I get the chance.

Video of the Week: Harry Turtledove on the book that helped him find his writing...and his wife!

Video of the week goes out the master himself: Harry Turtledove. Lets learn about the book that started it all for him (including his marriage):


For some reason Blogger wouldn't let me add the video in the usual way, but at least you got to see it. Lucky for you, I can also present you with my recent video:

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update, a blogger on Amazing Stories and a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History judgeWhen not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the day when travel between parallel universes becomes a reality. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and YouTube. Learn how you can support his alternate history projects on Patreon.

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