Monday, January 12, 2015

Weekly Update #175

Editor's Note

I'm hoping to make a couple of important announcements this week, so stay tuned. I am not sure what format I will be making the announcement. One might be posted on the blog and blasted out through social media, while the other might only get the social media blitz. Either way, they are both pieces of good news and I hope you are all excited as I am.

And now the news...

Alternate History Television in 2015

2015 appears to be the year alternate history will make its presence known on television.

Amazon announced it will debut its pilot season this Thursday, January 15th, on Amazon Instant Video. Among their many new shows, will also be their adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle. This is a show I have talked about extensively over the last few months and I am eager to see what they have come up with. Sadly that is all I have to report. We will all know more later this week.

Meanwhile, at the Televisions Critics Association (TCA) Winter 2015 Press Tour, the creators of the adaptation of Susanna Clark’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell announced, among other things, a Spring 2015 release. The creators also promised to get through about 200 pages per episodeLaurence Caromba of the Mail & Guardian, called the book "dense and meandering", but thought the show could still work as a "alternative-universe version of Downton Abbey." I'm about half way finished with the book myself, so hopefully I will be done before it airs later this year and even a review up.

Coming Soon: The Just City by Jo Walton

Coming out tomorrow is Jo Walton's The Just City. Jo is the author of numerous alternate history works including the Small Change series and My Real Children (which you can read a recent review of at Sibilant Fricative). But what is her new book about? Let's first check out the blurb:

"Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent." 

Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future—all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge,  ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome—and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo—stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does—has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives—the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself—to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.

And now what do the critics say? Liz Bourke of Tor listed as one of the books to look forward to in the first half of 2015, but Niall Alexander (also of Tor) was a little more restrained saying "[s]ome will have a harder time than others putting aside...first act’s failings, but those who do push through can count on a considered account of character and morality that mixes fantasy with philosophy and history with the stuff of science fiction."

If you get a chance to read The Just City, let us know what you thought in the comments.

Coming Soon: Pacific Fire by Greg van Eekhout

Greg van Eekhout's Pacific Fire, sequel to California Bones, will be published on January 27th, but there has already been some buzz on this follow up. First, here is the blurb from Amazon:

I’m Sam. I’m just this guy. 

Okay, yeah, I’m a golem created from the substance of his own magic by the late Hierarch of Southern California. With a lot of work, I might be able to wield magic myself. I kind of doubt it, though. Not like Daniel Blackland can. 

Daniel’s the reason the Hierarch’s gone and I’m still alive. He’s also the reason I’ve lived my entire life on the run. Ten years of never, ever going back to Los Angeles. Daniel’s determined to protect me. To teach me. 

But it gets old. I’ve got nobody but Daniel. I’ll never do anything normal. Like attend school. Or date a girl.

Now it’s worse. Because things are happening back in LA. Very bad people are building a Pacific firedrake, a kind of ultimate weapon of mass magical destruction.  Daniel seemed to think only he could stop them. Now Daniel’s been hurt. I managed to get us to the place run by the Emmas. (Many of them. All named Emma. It’s a long story.) They seem to be healing him, but he isn’t going anyplace soon.

Do I even have a reason for existing, if it isn’t to prevent this firedrake from happening? I’m good at escaping from things. Now I’ve escaped from Daniel and the Emmas, and I’m on my way to LA. 

This may be the worst idea I ever had.

Curious, but what do the critics think? Paul Weimer reviewed Pacific Fire for SF Signal and gave the book 4 out of 5 stars. In his review he said "inclusion of new characters, new facets to the universe, and further details on the world building enrich the universe that the author is building, and the characters he is creating." Sounds like a solid recommendation. Those interested in learning more can read an excerpt over at Tor.

Links to the Multiverse

Books and Short Fiction

2014 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced at File 770.
Alt Hist Issue 7 – Blurb and Editorial Teaser by Mark Lord at Alt Hist.
Chapter 3 of The Desert and The Blade by SM Stirling.
Chivalry - The First Jake Savage Adventure - eBook Now Free by Mark Lord.
Cover Reveal for Adam Christopher’s Made to Kill at Tor.
Cover story by Stuart Bache at The Bookseller.
Exclusive Cover Reveal: THE VENUSIAN GAMBIT by Michael J. Martinez at SF Signal.
The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time Part 13 at Amazing Stories.
James Young pens 'alternative history' of WWII at The Topeka Capital-Journal.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Has Written a Mycroft Holmes Mystery! at Tor.
Review: Jacaranda by Cherie Priest at Tor.
Review: Secret Cargo by Charles Christian at Amazing Stories.
What If? Alternative History in Fiction by Jeff Burns at The Histocrats' Bookshelf.

Counterfactuals, History and News

The 10 Most Insignificant Wars in History by Esther Inglis-Arkell at io9.
Counterfactual Nazi Cows! by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld at The Counterfactual History Review.
Futuro Houses: Otherworldly Homes For Earth-Bound Humans by Ella Morton at Slate.
Jesus Might Not Have Been Judas' Only Victim by Esther Inglis-Arkell at io9.
NASA produces vintage travel posters for newly discovered planets at The Guardian.
Nuking Nazi Germany? by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld at The Counterfactual History Review.
Putin’s Eurasian Dream Is Over Before It Began by Reid Standish at Foreign Policy.
So, What Was In That Boston Time Capsule? by Rebecca Onion at Slate.

Film and Television

All Tim Burton Movies Occur in the Same Universe at Tor.
Friday YouTube Bonus! Key & Peele in Steampunk Gangstas at SF Signal.
Oakwell Hall celebrates its film track record at Telegraph & Argus.
Predestination Could Be The Greatest Time Travel Mindf-ck Ever Filmed at io9.
Review: Agent Carter Pilot & Ep.2 Time and Tide at Geek Syndicate.
Rod Taylor (1930-2015) at File 770.


The Supreme Court Came Alarmingly Close to Allowing Video Game Censorship at Slate.

Graphic Novels and Comics

A Truly, Honestly, Actually Never-Before-Seen Comic Comes To Kickstarter at Bleeding Cool.


Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris at Myth Behaving.
Stephanie Burgis at Gail Carriger.
Marjorie Liu at Newsarama.

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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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