Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Alternative History

~posted by Selby G.

History is a series of events. But what if some of those important events had a different outcome? What if the Soviet Union won the cold war or Kennedy didn’t get assassinated? How would that change the world? Science fiction writers are known for pondering the wild realms of speculation and that is exactly what they do in Alternate History Sci-fi.

Find Three Princes in the SPL catalogThe most popular premise for alternate histories is probably the Nazis winning World War II, but there are plenty of other options. Like, what if Egypt still ruled a huge chunk of the world into the 1800’s? If this idea intrigues you then check out Ramona Wheeler’s Three Princes. When Otto von Bismarck, the European terrorist, plots to overthrow Pharaoh Djoser-George, the princes Scott and Mik must work with the Incan empire on the other side of the Atlantic to keep the dynasty intact.

Find 11/22/63 in the SPL catalogDo more modern events pique your interest? How about the possibility of saving JFK from assassination? In Stephen King’s 11/22/63 a high school English teacher from Maine goes back in time to save the president and alter the future. But who’s future will he change more, his or the country’s?

Find The Gladiator in the SPL catalogOr what if communism had spread across the globe like we worried it would during the cold war? That is exactly what has happened in Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator. Subversive games are being sold from a nondescript shop in Milan. Will the young patrons of the store be rounded up and sent to work camps? Or will the only employee to escape the secret police start a revolution?

Infamous historic events are a rich source of inspiration for science fiction writers. Alternate history allows us to explore the terrors or glory that could have been. If you have a favorite alternative history sci-fi book share the title in the comments section so others can enjoy it as well.

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2 Responses to Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Alternative History

  1. Derek Peschel says:

    Would you mind two recommendations?

    Pavane by Keith Roberts depends on a historical branch point (the Spanish Armada conquers England) but creates history through the lives of the characters instead of forcing the alternative history to parallel real history.

    Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle could be hard science fiction based on a very different science, or a very alternative history based on a very fundamental branch point. (The library had a copy, but doesn’t seem to have it now, so I have put in a purchase request.)

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