Thursday, April 17, 2014

Timeline Thursday: CSA Today by Matthew White

Years ago, people looked at the state of American politics and asked a simple question: who actually won the American Civil War? It is not that ridiculous of a question. The last half of the 20th century was full of southern politicians, on both sides of the political spectrum, holding positions of national importance. So Matthew White decided to showcase how the political careers of northern and southern politicians would be different if their respective regions were separate nations in his timeline "CSA Today".
I will be completely honest: this is not a very plausible timeline. White doesn't go into detail about how the South won the American Civil War or how the CSA handled the end of slavery (a crisis that historian Roger Ranson thought could have broken up the nation in the 1880s if not handled correctly). The CSA's continued existence to the 1960s is simply presented as a matter of fact with no explanation. Meanwhile, the butterfly effect is completely ignored by having world history still play out as it did in our timeline, with recognizable political figures still gaining importance in their respective nations.

The separate histories of the two nations differ drastically. The American history tends to be kind of dull, with issues such as civil rights and national healthcare having been dealt with earlier. The Confederate history tends to be the more interesting of the two and darker. White portrays the Confederacy as a poor, corrupt and intolerant nation racked by civil disorder. I can already hear the furious clicking of keyboards as people prepare to tell me everything that is wrong with this scenario, so please let me preempt that by getting to the point of this Timeline Thursday.

Many alternate histories are criticized for their author's political bias and rightfully so. That being said, there is a fine line between political attacks and social commentary/satire. Both can be controversial, but only one can successfully act as the warped mirror of society the author intended. Regardless of whether or not you agree with White's timeline or whatever message you think he was trying to get across, you can't ignore the fact that alternate history (like science fiction in general) can and has been used to point out the flaws in mainstream society. "CSA Today" is an early example of this phenomenon in the young online community of alternate historians and probably influenced many of those who read it.

For that reason alone I felt it deserved some recognition, because even works of alternate history that are implausible (and borderline offensive) can still have an impact on our community. As always, if there are any timelines you would like for me to check out or ones you would like to recommend to our readers, please 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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