Cyclopaedia 15: Alternate History

Welcome to Cyclopaedia 15: Alternate History. Cyclopaedia is a monthly article on the InnRoads Ministries website as part of the Resources series. Ever get that feeling of déjà vu? You are positive you have experienced this very moment before? Perhaps you have. Perhaps someone just altered the timeline you are in, causing mild ripples all around your version of reality so it only feels like you have been here before. Or, do you ever ponder what life would be like if some major event hadn’t happened the way it did? Would you have been born somewhere else? Would you be the same person? Put on your pondering hat, for it is time to mess with our memories!

If you have questions about this article or topics you would like me to consider researching for future Cyclopaedia articles, please leave a comment below.


Overview

Alternate History brings up many thoughts and feelings. To historical purists, this genre of fiction can look like historical revisionism. Speculative fiction fans view these as “What If” scenarios that challenge us to think outside historical norms to how the world could be different today. Within the science fiction genre, alternate history can take on many sub-genres such as time travel, alternate timelines, steampunk, and dieselpunk. All agree that Alternate History speculates to altered outcomes of key events in history. These minor or major alterations have ripple effects, creating different social, political, cultural, and/or scientific levels in the world.

Alternate History takes some queues from Science Fiction as a genre. Just like Science Fiction, Alternate History can be organized into two sub-categories that are “Hard” and “Soft” like Science Fiction.

“Hard” Alternate History could be viewed as stories and themes that stay as true to actual history as possible with just one or two single changes that change the outcome, such as the Confederate Army winning the Civil War or the Axis winning World War 2. These stories then delve into what this historically significant change would have on the greater world. Here Historical Fiction and Historical Revisionism ride a fine line, dependent upon the purpose of the Alternate History story.

“Soft” Alternate History, much like Space Opera and other softer science fiction stories, are a little more loose with their history elements, often utilizing time travel, parallel dimensions, or technological changes to explore these historical changes. Steampunk, dieselpunk, and time/dimensional travel stories are good examples of this subcategory of Alternate History. Alternate History rides a fine line between Historical Fiction and Science Fiction at this point.

Whatever type of Alternate History you enjoy, each challenges your preconceived understandings and feelings for a time period in history, perhaps offering you new perspectives on the people and events involved.

Most Common Types Of Alternate History

Alternate History has so many sub-genres associated with it. Each one has its own unique alteration of history, many of which are considered genres or themes unto themselves.

  • 80s Cold War invasion of United States
  • Axis victory in World War II
  • Confederate victory in American Civil War
  • Dieselpunk
  • Historical Revisionism
  • Parallel Timelines
  • Steampunk
  • Time Travel-Induced Historical Changes

Following are sources of information pertaining to Alternate History to assist prospective game masters, game designers, writers, and storytellers in knowing where to start their research.

 

ARTICLES

Conspiracy and Alternate History in Russia: A Nationalist Equation for Success?
By Laruelle, Marlene
Source: The Russian Review, v71 n4 (October 2012): 565-580

Fallacies and thresholds: Notes on the early evolution of alternate history
By Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey
Source: Historical Social Research, v34 n2 (2009 04 20): 99-117

Past Tense: The best of today’s alternate history isn’t likely to cheer you up. But it certainly won’t bore you.
By Smoler, Fredric
Source: AMERICAN HERITAGE, 50, no. 5, (1999): 45-48

The Third Reich in Alternate History: Aspects of a Genre-Specific Depiction of Nazi Culture
By Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey
Source: The Journal of Popular Culture, v39 n5 (200610): 878-896

Warping Time: Alternate History, Historical Fantasy, and the Postmodern uchronie québécoise
By Ransom, Amy
Source: Extrapolation, v51 n2 (201001): 258-280

What Almost Was: The Politics of the Contemporary Alternate History Novel
By Schneider-Mayerson,Matthew
Source: American Studies, 50, no. 3 (2009): 63-83

 

BOOKS

11/22/63: A Novel
By King, Stephen

1945
By Forstchen, William and Gingrich, Newt

Ab Urbe Condita Libri
By Livy

Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
By Nabokov, Vladimir

The Alteration
By Amis, Kinglsey

Alternate Histories of the World
By Buchholz, Matthew

Aristopia
By Holford, Castello

Aristotle and the Gun
By de Camp, L. Sprague

Bring the Jubilee
By Moore, Ward

A Different Flesh
By Turtledove, Harry

The End of Eternity
By Asimov, Isaac

End of the Beginning: A Novel of Alternate History
By Turtledove, Harry

Fatherland
By Harris, Robert

Flashpoint – Comic
By Johns, Geoff

Histoire de la Monarchie universelle
By Geoffroy, Louis

How To Write Alternate History
By Wolf, Grey

If It Had Happened Otherwise
By Squire, Sir John

Lest Darkness Fall
By de Camp, L. Sprague

Making History
By Fry, Stephen

The Man in the High Castle
By Dick, Philip K.

Men Like Gods
By Wells, H.G.

Night Watch
By Pratchett, Terry

Over the Top: Alternate Histories of the First World War
By Tsouras, Peter and Jones, Spencer

P.’s Correspondence
By Hawthorne, Nathaniel

The Plot Against America
By Roth, Philip

The Proteus Operation
By Hogan, James P.

Sidewise In Time
By Leinster, Murray

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan
By Greenfield, Jeff

Timeline 191
By Turtledove, Harry

The Two Georges
By Dreyfuss, Richard and Turtledove, Harry

Watchmen – Comic
By Moore, Alan

What Ifs? of American History: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been
By Cowley, Robert

The Wheels of If
By de Camp, L. Sprague

Why Alternate History Matters: The World Hitler Never Made
By Rosenfeld, Gabriel

 

GAMES

Achtung! Cthulhu – RPG
BioShock – Computer Game
Brave New World – RPG
Castle Falkenstein – RPG
Civilization – Computer Game
Command & Conquer: Red Alert – Computer Game
Crimson Skies – Tabletop & Computer Game
The Day after Ragnarok – RPG
Deadlands – RPG
Dust – Tabletop Game
Dust Tactics – Tabletop Game
Fallout – Computer Game
Freedom Fighters – Computer Game
Forgotten Futures – RPG
Gear Krieg – RPG
Godlike: Superhero Roleplaying in a World on Fire, 1936-1946 – RPG
GURPS Alternate Earths – RPG
Iron Sky: The Board Game – Tabletop Game
Mason-Dixon: The Second American Civil War – Tabletop Game
The Price of Freedom – RPG
Rivet Wars: Eastern Front – Tabletop Game
Secrets of the Dust – RPG
Shadows of Normandie – Tabletop Game
Space: 1889 – RPG
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Computer Game
Tannhauser – Tabletop Game
Twilight 2000 – RPG
Wolfenstein: New Order – Computer Game
World at War: America Conquered – Tabletop Game

 

CINEMA

11.22.63 – TV
Amerika – TV
An Englishman’s Castle – TV
Ascension – TV
Blackadder – TV
The Boys From Brazil
CSA: The Confederate States of America
District 9
Doctor Who – TV
Fatherland
The Final Countdown
The Good Dinosaur
Inglourious Basterds
Iron Sky
It Happened Here
Kiki’s Delivery Service
The Man in the High Castle – TV
Red Dawn
Six-String Samurai
Sliders – TV
The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
Timeline – TV
Voyagers! – TV
Watchmen

 

LOCATIONS

 

Anachro Con
http://www.anachrocon.org/

Anomaly Con
http://www.anomalycon.com/

The Museum of Alternate History
http://www.museumofalternativehistory.com/

Sidewise Awards for Alternate History
http://www.uchronia.net/sidewise/

 

PEOPLE

L. Sprague de Camp
Randall Garrett
Robert Sobel
Harry Turtledove


I hope you find these resources informative and inspiring for your adventures, storytelling, or game design.

Stay Creative!

T.R. Knight

( If you would like to save this list of resources as a convenient PDF for later reference, you can find that HERE )

 

Knight BusinessWHO IS T.R. KNIGHT?
He is a freelance editor, proofreader, and writer in the game industry. He is also a Husband and Caregiver to his wife Angie, Father of Twins Emily and Rachel, Foodie and Hobby Chef, and IT Director at Taylor University. You can learn more about T.R. at his blog http://www.freelanceknight.com.

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