Thursday, November 19, 2015

Multiverse Profile: France

The recent Paris terror attacks was a horrific reminder that religious fanatics are still a threat to civilization. It is something that has awakened the wider world to this fact that similar recent attacks in Lebanon and Iraq have not. Nevertheless, with everyone flying the French tricolor on their profiles, I felt now may be the right time to resurrect an old segment that I like to call "Multiverse Profile". This is where I breakdown how a nation, state/province or region is portrayed in alternate history and today I would like to look at France.

Actually when I began doing research for this article I almost forgot how influential France and its people have been to the genre, which they call uchronie. In fact, the alternate history bibliography, Uchronia, got its name from the French word for alternate history. Furthermore, next to the English-language community, French speaking alternate historians have the most alternate history sites on the Internet and when it comes to this blog, France is the #5 destination for where I get the most visitors from. That is more traffic then what I get from other predominantly English-speaking countries like Australia and Canada.

Of course, that is just the present day state of alternate history in France. The French have been creating alternate history since the beginning. Some of the earliest alternate histories ever published in French include Alain-René Lesage's Les Aventures de Monsieur Robert Chevalier, dit de Beauchêne, capitaine de flibustiers dans la Nouvelle-France (1732), Jean-Baptiste-Claude Delisle de Sales' Ma République (1791) and Louis-Napoléon Geoffroy-Château's Napoléon et la conquête du monde, 1812-1823: histoire de la monarchie universelle (1836). Louis Geoffroy's novel is not only one of the earliest works of alternate history published in large quantities, it was also probably the first example of a "wank" since the novel had Napoleon unify the entire world of beating Russia and Britain. Now in hindsight creating the first wankfest probably shouldn't be celebrated, but we won't blame all of France for one guy's implausible timeline.

Now France has a long history that covers centuries of time, which means that it is rife with potential points of divergence. That being said, France often takes a secondary role in a lot of alternate histories, at least in the works published by the English-speaking community. While the number of scenarios involving Napoleon/Waterloo do rank very high according to Evelyn Leeper (especially in France itself), other parts of French history remain rather obscure. The Wiki, however, does mention that there are still plenty of timelines where France is doing long as Germany doesn't win World War I and World War II.

Still if you are curious to learn more about France in alternate history, there are plenty of portals for where you can start your journey. The aforementioned Wiki has a list of timelines that are either France-centric or else has the country make a major appearance. The AltHistory Wiki also has a long list of nation profiles for Frances that appear on their timelines, along with two featured timelines where France takes center stage: "Napoleon's World" and "French Trafalgar, British Waterloo" (which confirms the fact that timelines where Napoleon is more successful are very popular). Finally lets not forget the hard-working editors over at Harry Turtledove Wiki who have compiled all the references to France in the works of the master of alternate history.

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to France's impact on our favorite genre. I am sure I missed a lot of important points and, if so, please let me know if the comments. I recommend you check out some of the links I shared and open your mind to new points of divergence that you may have avoided in the past. Also, if you liked this article, let me know. I may do more profiles on nation's and their impact on alternate history, especially on those nations that are often ignored by alternate historians.

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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.


  1. Yeah, more multiverse profiles would be good. With regards to less features regions, maybe something about the Aztec or maybe China? Or, if you really want to get out there, about Africa in general

  2. I'm surprised that this website, which is generally bringing much quality on AH, is taking as genuine these statements on "Napoléon et la conquête du monde, 1812-1823: histoire de la monarchie universelle", dismissing it as a "wank".

    This comes, while we're talking of a work that can be read freely*, from people that probably never read it and never had the intention to.
    At best, I think that's comes from reading a quick resume on the wiki, and at worst from some litterary francophobia.

    Is the timeline described preposterous? Indeed. But the bombastic claims are intended to be so, and couldn't be reduced to that.

    I'm not going to summarize all the book but by dismissing Louis Geoffroy's work as something not worth to be celebrated, the author decided to not look onto what makes this TL unique : constant winks at the author such as Napoleon litterally destroying St Helena for no reasons, mentions of misattributed or imaginary monuments, or even the alleged purpose of the bool : to proove that, in spite of rumors, Napoleon won!

    I won't even go into the technical developments of the book, but calling it a wank, whom, only reedemable point was to be the first...
    No, that's a saddening and miguised opinion, ciritcally for an article that wanted to celebrate francophone AH.

    I'm surprised as well to see no mention of Charles Renouvier, the inventor of "Uchronie" both as a word and as a concept, and to see AH on France eventually limited to mentions in Turtledove's books.

    Maybe the author doesn't know, or lacked time for that, but there's a vibrant AH tradition in French SF, that knew a third breath with the 90/2000's.

    I can't name them all, but it ranges from Ugo Bellagamba (La cité de Soleil, Tancrède), Jean-Pierre Pécau (Jour J or Empires series for exemple as there's many series he participated on), Johan Heliot (La Lune seule le sait) and the French Internet AH timeline : La France Continue
    Not that the period before didn't know its own AH novels : As-tu vu Montézuma ? is a good exemple, one among many.

    I understand the author's intentions were to celebrate France in AH, but I really think he wholly missed the point.


    1. First, my thanks for thinking my blog produces quality AH and my apologies for not living up to those standards. I would like to reiterate that I meant no offense and was only trying to share a brief overview on French alternate history.

      That being said, please don't take my use of the term "wank" as a dismissal. Like ASB, wank has been used in the online alternate history community as both a critique and a category for a certain type of timelines. The fact that it was the first of its kind, is something to be celebrated and wasn't meant as a dismissal. I did joke little, but that was more at the expense of those readers who don't like those type of timelines and I personally am not one of them.

      To be honest I haven't read Geoffroy's novel, but I have read various reviews of it and listened to author Adam Roberts give a break down on it at the Sideways in Time Conference in Liverpool last March. From those sources, it seems in my opinion that a lot of people do take Geooffroy's claims of what would happen if Napoleon was victorious seriously. Granted all works of fiction can be interpreted in multiple ways and perhaps this book shouldn't be taken as seriously as others. Instead of relying on others, I should make an effort to find a copy and read it, especially since it is a historically important work for the genre.

      As for Charles Renouvier, you're right, I should have mentioned him. That was my fault, but I do believe you were a little unfair in referencing only the article from the Turtledove Wiki. I linked to multiple sites, including timelines centered on French history I read and the list of French language alternate history sites the people at had collected.

      Could I have done a better job? Absolutely, but I was limited to the fact that I wanted it to be brief and finished in a timely matter since my works schedule prevents me from developing some ideas at all. Perhaps I should have reached out to someone more knowledgeable than myself (and now that I think of it there are a couple people who come to mind), but I didn't. The thing is I try to have 4-5 days of content for this blog per week and it often means sacrificing quality for quantity. It is something I have struggled with and many have suggested I cut back on my schedule...which is something I may do next year.

      The rest of your comment dedicated to French alternate history is interesting, but due to my own ignorance as someone from the English-speaking community, I wouldn't know and may not be in the position to easily find it. I had hoped my article would inspire some interest and encourage people to learn more...and based on the contents of your comment I sort of succeeded in that goal at least with myself. I do want to stress that I want to know more about the French community, especially since I do get a lot of traffic from them.

      Would you be interested in writing a guest post on French alternate history? I can post it on The Update and would promote on social media and elsewhere. Please let me know at ahwupdate at gmail dot com.

      Again thanks for being a reader and hopefully I can do better in your eyes next time.


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