I am a fan of speculative fiction. Most of what I read falls under that umbrella, which includes science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and others. Science fiction is one of my mainstays, and alternate history is another. I learned about the alternate history1 genre by reading Harry Turtledove’s WWII series of novels, and took off from there.
One of the recent prime examples of alternate history fiction is the 1632 Series written, co-written, and edited by Eric Flint. Mr. Flint started with the fantastical assumption that a small town in West Virginia (based on the real-life town of Mannington, WV) was transported through space and time to Thuringia, Germany, in 1631. That’s in the middle of the 30 Years War, by the way. The stories depict and describe the political, military, cultural, medical, horticultural, sexual, and various other -al changes that occur due to this time/space transposition. I first read the book and its sequel in 2004 but never got into the short stories and anthologies that came along with it. Now, I’m starting over and reading the series through from end to end (in the recommended order).
To date there are five (?) main-line story novels, six other novels in the setting (but off to the side of the main action) and a gazillion stories and treatises about what happens when you stick a bunch of Americans into the Holy Roman Empire. However, (I mentioned that Eric Flint is a Co-Author and Editor of this series) one of the things that makes this series so interesting is the collaborative nature of the universe. No author, no matter how engaged and educated, can know or explore all the ramifications of an event like that supposed by the series. Instead, numerous people have contributed works detailing things such as the effect on the Lutheran church, and how you would go about setting up radio networks during the Maunder Minimum, and how the musicians of the day will be impacted by the sudden glut of musical knowledge brought by the 20th Century Americans. These stories aren’t just set in the same universe, they actively impact the mainline series by injecting events and characters.
In case you aren’t reading between the lines, I like this series. I recommend it.
PS: A huge recommendation from me: If you decide to read it, read it with Google Maps open next to you. Being able to place the events geographically as they’re occurring (and only a few places are fictional in these books) is a huge benefit.
- I’m sure a more literary-minded academic could answer this, but what’s the difference between “alternate history” and “fiction” once time has gone by? For example, while Alas Babylon falls firmly into the apocalyptic category of novels, couldn’t it be considered alternate history? [↩]