Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Red Baron Lives

Guest post by Joseph T. Major.

I started reading Alternate History in the sixties, when it was rare, works like The Man In the High Castle and Bring the Jubilee. This may have influenced my interest in history.

When the Internet got going, I found out about UseNet, which had the soc.history.what-if group; a source of much intrigue and interest. As that slowly faded away, like many, I graduated to the board.

I’d contributed to both, and hoped eventually to write a novel, helped by the fact that alternate history was getting more popular. But I wanted to be counter-trend: Instead of the Nazis winning, I would have them become a footnote in history. But how?

Well, there was someone who could have been suited to turn aside the tide, but he had inconveniently died in 1918. Now I felt that Manfred von Richthofen had not always got a fair shake in alternate history. His portrayal in Richard Lupoff’s Circumpolar! was not particularly fair, but that was admittedly a very fantastic alternate history. As for the one in The Probability Broach, as with that novel as a whole, the less said the better. Fortunately for my plot I had read several books about him and one by him (well, I suppose he had done something, but I know all too wall about celebrities who plan to read their own autobiographies some day).  But this needed a lot more; finding out about German politicians who were or became obscure, the development of aviation in the twenties and thirties (Richthofen was a test pilot as well as an air ace) and so on.

What I wanted to do was to do an alternate history; a story of the world as it developed after a change. Some events changed directly, others less so; there were trends in history and I wanted to have them develop in accordance with the change caused by my point of departure. There is a war; some sort of conflict was likely given all the personalities involved and one different ruler wasn’t going to change things that much, but it is a different war. There is, and some may not go for it, some politics, but that was also part of the world at that time and place (and, really, every other) and there were enough interesting people involved to make it more than just vote totals.

As for that, I did find two different incidents in Richthofen’s life from just before his death that could have changed his life. Add to that an Easter Egg (no, read the book and find out, but it does involve someone often linked to Richthofen) and there is a point of departure.

I will confess to having some references and jokes, that while not plot-breaking, do add a bit of humor to the story.

I hope that our editor and everyone else enjoys the work. As the man says in the Beatles’s “Paperback Writer”: “It’s a thousand pages, give or take a few, I’ll be writing more in a week or two.” Maybe not that much, but I have more (and different) works and hope people want to read them.

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Joseph T. Major learned to read at the age of two and a half and is reported to have stopped to sleep occasionally, if you can believe rumors. Check out his new book A Man and a Plane: An Alternate Germany.

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