I can’t disguise my pleasure when my fiction is mentioned on bulletin boards on the internet, especially when it’s on websites I really didn’t expect to find them.
And one such has been alternatehistory.com which advertises itself as “the largest gathering of alternate history fans on the internet”. And Alternate History as the site informs us is “the exercise of looking at the past and asking “what if”? What if some major historical event had gone differently, and how could that have changed the world?”.
And it is on this site that following the release of Thoroughly Modern Emancipation that I’ve been mentioned on one of the forum threads by one of the site’s frequent contributors VariantAberrant, but seeing that it is in a thread entitled The Sloppiest Alternate Histories Out There… inevitably it’s not the most flattering.
You can obviously follow the link, but what VariantAberrant says about me is the following:
It’s nice to be mentioned as a ‘Briton of some flavour’ (though what flavour I don’t know: vanilla? chocolate? coffee?). And it’s nice to be promoted in this way.
Nevertheless, just how sloppy are my Alternate Histories (AH)?
Well, let’s be honest. They’re not that rigorous as far as alternate histories, but I don’t think they are exceptionally ill-informed. But where VariantAberrant is absolutely right is that I have deliberately avoided mentioning a Point Of Divergence (which is what I guess ‘POD’ stands for).
One reason for this is that it makes very clunky prose to mention it explicitly. For instance, how many characters are likely to say: “Things could have been so much different if the Ribbentrop-Malenkov Pact hadn’t lasted the entire three years of the Second World War” or “How would it have been if King Harold hadn’t defeated Duke William at the Battle of Hastings a thousand years ago?” or “What if that meteorite hadn’t hit Earth 65 million years ago and the Dinosaurs hadn’t become extinct?”
Another is that I never envisaged a single Point of Divergence in either of Blessed by Nature or Thoroughly Modern Emancipation, though it is hinted. In the first short story, I guess the “what if” is just “What if the Thirteen American Colonies hadn’t rebelled?” and in the second is the “What if Slavery had never been repealed in the United States?”. But in both cases, I’m not sure that it’s easy to imagine how either of these scenarios might have played out in practice. I wonder whether the economic and social pressures that caused the European Empires to collapse wouldn’t have happened anyway, irrespective of events in North America. For instance, all the nations that once composed the Spanish and Portuguese Empires were independent well before the end of the 19th Century. And with regards to Thoroughly Modern Emancipation, the institution of Slavery only survived in the Southern States of America for so long is because, like the sugar-growing colonies of France and Spain, these states only remained economically viable on such an inefficient model because it suited the financial capitals of New York and London who benefitted from the asymmetrical trade balance (as they still do from exploiting the nominally independent states of Africa).
I’ve always enjoyed Alternate Histories. My favourite are those books by Dougal Dixon especially The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution , but I’ve also read The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick and non-fictional speculative books like What If?. However, my main purpose in writing Alternate History (and then not that often) is for satirical purposes.
Nevertheless, since these stories have also been posted to Sex Fiction Websites, there has also been the obligation to wedge in some nudity and sex which is where (to be honest) I think I’ve been least successful in addressing my readers’ precise expectations.