Wednesday, April 30, 2014

10 Reasons Why Its Tough To Be An Alternate Historian

No one's life is particularly easy, but every individual is presented with unique challenges that can frustrate and infuriate them. Here are some for alternate historians:

1) You always have to explain what alternate history is. Seriously, doesn't everyone get it by now? People have been doing this since the BC. We shouldn't have to explain anymore.

2) You have to assure a parent it won't affect your understanding of traditional history. No Mom, alternate history didn't cause me to fail that test. The professor is the one who is the real idiot!

3) People confuse alternate history with conspiracy theories and other nonsense. Go watch The History Channel if you like that stuff, alternate historians at least know we are making it all up.

4) You will argue at some point with a grammar Nazi about "alternative" being the proper word to use. Honestly, I don't care what the proper way to say it is. This is how everyone has said it for years and your one man crusade on an Amazon discussion forum is not going to change that.

5) Some believe Philip Roth invented the genre with The Plot Against America. What is it with literary snobs never giving SF its due? Are they just upset Roth lost to Wikipedia?

6) You don't exactly fit in with SF fans or traditional historians. Trust me, they feel just as uncomfortable around you as you do around them. Just try not to make any sudden movements.

7) Mainstream attempts at alternate history will always disappoint. There is also another word you can use to describe mainstream alternate history: "sucks".

8) Someone will confuse retro SF with alternate history. I wouldn't recommend correcting them either unless you want to be cursed and have your mother insulted. Plus I am pretty sure that orifice is not meant as an entrance.

9) You are always on the look out for racists. Believe me they can be pretty subtle too and their reactions are never pleasant. Death row inmates have more manners than these sad, pathetic people.

10) At some point you will have to explain the difference between "possible" and "plausible". You might as well try to solve the Israel/Palestinian conflict because they will be more courteous to you when they disagree with your argument.

Disclaimer: This list is inspired by my own personal experiences, but it is meant to be humorous. While I can understand if you don't think its funny (and you are probably right), if you are offended I highly recommend you avoid the comment section of any YouTube video, unless you wish to vomit profusely over your keyboard.

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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. I've had almost every since one of those things happen to me, I know your pain.

  2. You've gotten the juices flowing for me with this, I may have to write a rebuttal.

    1. I do admit you tend to be more optimistic than I am, but I still look forward to reading it.

  3. William Peter GrassoMay 1, 2014 at 7:41 AM

    #6 resonates loudest for me, especially the "traditional historians" who--despite the disclaimers and author's notes right up front--refuse to accept they're not reading a textbook. The urge to ask them, "Do you understand the concept of fiction and it's role in the socio/political realm?" remains strong but there would be no point. You already know the answer.

  4. Mainstream alternate history doesn't necessarily suck. Fatherland for example doesn't suck and it sold millions.

    Mainstream alternate history does tend to have different concerns than hardcore alternate history, being more concerned with storytelling and literary quality and less concerned with precision, but I'd argue that's not a bad thing.

    1. I guess I should clarify my "mainstream" statement by explaining that I meant more mainstream media, like television and films. For example, the Fatherland tv special on HBO was a much weaker product than Fatherland the novel.