Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Review: The Enceladus Crisis by Michael J. Martinez

Today at Amazing Stories, I reviewed The Enceladus Crisis by Michael J. Martinez, the second book in his Daedalus series. For those who don't know, the Daedalus series is a tale about two parallel dimensions. One set in a future not far off from our own and another is set in an alternate history where alchemy works. You can find out more by reading my review of the first book in the series, The Daedalus Incident, and my interview with the author.

So what did I think of Enceladus? You will have to click on the bolded link above to find out.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

New Releases 4/15/14

You can support The Update by clicking the banner on the top right or the links below if you are purchasing through Amazon!

Paperbacks

Age of Shiva by James Lovegrove

Zachary Bramwell, better known as the comics artist Zak Zap, is pushing forty and wondering why his life isn t as exciting as the lives of the superheroes he draws. Then he s shanghaied by black-suited goons and flown to Mount Meru, a vast complex built atop an island in the Maldives. There, Zak meets a trio of billionaire businessmen who put him to work designing costumes for a team of godlike super-powered beings based on the ten avatars of Vishnu from Hindu mythology. The Ten Avatars battle demons and aliens and seem to be the saviours of a world teetering on collapse. But their presence is itself a harbinger of apocalypse. The Vedic fourth age of civilisation, Kali Yuga, is coming to an end, and Zak has a ringside seat for the final, all-out war that threatens the destruction of Earth.

E-books

Antioch Burns by Daniel Ottalini

When a scouting expedition goes disastrously wrong, Marius Quinctius Regillus finds himself in a horde of trouble. With the Mongols encircling the grand fortress city of Antioch, Regillus and his men are trapped between a governor’s ambitions and the Mongolian weaponry. With nowhere to turn, can they save the city, or will Antioch Burn?

Discover a new threat to the industrial Imperium of Rome in Antioch Burns, the latest novella by award-winning author Daniel Ottalini.

Audio

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest's long-awaited steampunk debut, Boneshaker, opens in the early days of the Civil War when rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

Games

War of the Vikings by Paradox

War of the Vikings delivers the next generation of Paradox’s close quarter combat focused brands that moves the setting to the Viking Age. All of these factors enabled us to create a game experience that has an increased intensity, improved accessibility, and more intuitive combat experiences ensuring you’re always presented with interesting choices.

Launch onto the battlefields of the Viking Age in intense close quarter combat, where skill beats strength and the possibility of death is always one opponent away.

To fans, authors and publishers...

Is your story going to be published in time for the next New Releases? Contact us at ahwupdate at gmail dot com.  We are looking for works of alternate history, counterfactual history, steampunk, historical fantasy, time travel or anything that warps history beyond our understanding.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Map Monday: Map of North America, 1750 by PlatoonSgt

I have always been interested in timelines where the British do not dominate the east coast of North America, so I of course took notice of this map from PlatoonSgt which was posted at AlternateHistory.com:
This map is from PlatoonSgt's timeline Where Hearts Were Entertaining June. It is set in a world where the little known English Armada was more successful in breaking the power of the Spanish navy. I hope to catch up with the timeline in the near future, but to get back to the map, in this timeline the British colonize Brazil and the Gulf Region, leaving the east coast to the French, Dutch and Portuguese. Although I am not sure yet where PlatoonSgt plans to take his timeline (although he hints at Brazil becoming a world power), it does seem we are looking at a North America that is more divided and ethnically diverse than it is in our timeline. Should be interesting.

Honorable mentions this week go to Flags of the Confederacy by xt828 and the Kingdom of Boa Esperança by Reagent. If you want to submit a map for consideration for the next Map Monday, email me at ahwupdate at gmail dot com with your map attached and a brief description in the body of the email.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Weekly Update #142

Editor's Note

I was pleasantly surprised by how popular Timeline Thursday: Out of One, Many by Erwin Wodarczak was last week. I am glad people aren't put off by my exploration of retro timelines. I will try to track down a few more oldies but goodies for your reading pleasure.

Speaking of reading, there was a period of several weeks when I wasn't doing any reading. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I finally got back into the habit. If you are ever feeling a little down in the dumps, try restarting some habit you let fall to the wayside.

And if you are going to dive back into reading, remember to click through our Amazon banner and help support The Update!

And now the news...

Preview: The Adjacent by Christopher Priest

A book that continues to get a lot of press is The Adjacent by Christopher Priest. Here is the description from Amazon:

The eagerly anticipated new novel from “one of the master illusionists of our time.” (Wired)

In the near future, Tibor Tarent, a freelance photographer, is recalled from Anatolia to Britain when his wife, an aid worker, is killed—annihilated by a terrifying weapon that reduces its target to a triangular patch of scorched earth. 

A century earlier, Tommy Trent, a stage magician, is sent to the Western Front on a secret mission to render British reconnaissance aircraft invisible to the enemy.

Present day. A theoretical physicist develops a new method of diverting matter, a discovery with devastating consequences that will resonate through time.

I actually just purchased this novel, so expect a review in the near future (unless I get to another book first, but more on that later). If you want to learn more about The Adjacent you can read an excerpt at Bleeding Cool or check out a pair of interviews Priest conducted over at Barnes and Noble Review and Amazon Blogs.

Preview: Age of Shiva by James Lovegrove

James Lovegrove's new novel, Age of Shiva, is the final book in his godpunk Pantheon series. Here is the description from Amazon:

Zachary Bramwell, better known as the comics artist Zak Zap, is pushing forty and wondering why his life isn’t as exciting as the lives of the superheroes he draws. Then he’s shanghaied by black-suited goons and flown to Mount Meru, a vast complex built atop an island in the Maldives. There, Zak meets a trio of billionaire businessmen who put him to work designing costumes for a team of godlike super-powered beings based on the ten avatars of Vishnu from Hindu mythology. 

The Ten Avatars battle demons and aliens and seem to be the saviours of a world teetering on collapse. But their presence is itself a harbinger of apocalypse. The Vedic “fourth age” of civilisation, Kali Yuga, is coming to an end, and Zak has a ringside seat for the final, all-out war that threatens the destruction of Earth.

If you would like to learn more check out an interview with Lovegrove on My Bookish Ways (and if you hurry you still have time to enter into a book giveaway) and learn the story behind the final Pantheon novel over at UpComing4.Me.

Preview: Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon

Here is a curious novel about a zombie invasion from a parallel universe. It is Tim Lebbon's Coldbrook and here is the description from Amazon:

Coldbrook is a secret laboratory located deep in Appalachian Mountains. Its scientists had achieved the impossible: a gateway to a new world. Theirs was to be the greatest discovery in the history of mankind, but they had no idea what they were about to unleash.

With their breakthrough comes disease and now it is out and ravaging the human population. The only hope is a cure and the only cure is genetic resistance: an uninfected person amongst the billions dead.

In the chaos of destruction there is only one person that can save the human race.

But will they find her in time?

Coldbrook has been the darling of SF Signal this week. Not only did they post an excerpt, but also a 4 1/2 star review by Kristin Centorcelli that said Coldbrook was an "intelligent thriller that offers much more than flesh eaters on the prowl." Very curious indeed.

Video Gallery

We begin this week's Video Gallery with a look at the new Wolfenstein: The New Order trailer:
Wow, is that really what happens in soccer? Perhaps more Americans should follow the sport. Anywho, fans of the turn based strategy game Civilization will probably enjoy this trailer for the new game Civilization: Beyond Earth:
We end this gallery with another video from our friend Cody Franklin where he discusses what would happen if Operation Unthinkable took place:
If you have videos you would like to recommend, let us know at ahwupdate at gmail dot com.

Links to the Multiverse

Books

5 Ways to Make Sure You Write Every Day by Mark Lord.
1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies – Snippet 17 and 18 by Eric Flint
Daniel Levine’s ‘Hyde’ reanimates Robert Louis Stevenson’s infamous bipolar doctor at The Washington Post.
Excerpt: The Revolutions by Felix Gilman at Macmillan.
Game Novels 2: The Gladiator at Gamasutra.
How to research historical fantasy by Mark Alder at SFX.
How to Stay Motivated as a Writer by Mark Lord.
Review: The Abominable by Dan Simmons at Thinking about books.
Review: Steam & Strategem by Christopher Hoare at Amazing Stories.
The shortest-lived countries in history at When Gravity Fails.
The Story Behind Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins at UpComing4.Me.

Counterfactual and Traditional History

Dixie Victorious - What if the Confederacy Won the Civil War? by Alex Michael Bonnici at Far Future Horizons.
If Neil Kinnock had become prime minister in 1992 by Martin Rosenbaum at BBC.
Local Republican Caucus Passes Resolution Allowing Wisconsin To Secede by Amanda Terkel at Huff Post.
Photo Of Nikola Tesla Was The First Ever Taken By Phosphorescent Light by Lauren Davis at io9.
The Polish Soldier Who Snuck into Auschwitz by Félix Macherez at Vice.
Time Travel Questions at Wil Wheaton dot Tumblr.
The What If's of History at Storify.

Films

Can You Identify Different Time Travel Movies Based On These Graphs? by Lauren Davis at io9.
Days of Future Past Photos Reveal The X-Men's Dark History And Future by Meredith Woerner at io9.
'Jodorowsky's Dune' review: The (un)making of a science-fiction classic that never was at Oregon Live.
Martians Invade Again in Alternate History WAR OF THE WORLDS: GOLIATH [Review] at Quiet Earth.

Games

“What If?”: Exploring Gaming’s Alternative Histories by Cameron Koch at GameInformer.

Interviews

Hazel Gaynor at My Bookish Ways.
Alison Morton at Novel PASTimes.

Podcasts

History Podcast Checklist by Jordan Harbour at History Podcasters.
Nerds Assemble episode 83: Chatting with Ack-Ack Macaque author Gareth Powell at Nerds Assemble.

Short Fiction

The Iceberg by Andrea Mullaney – Free Story Extract at Alt Hist.
Review: The Time Traveler's Almanac edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer at Barnes and Noble Review.

Television

Da Vinci's Demons 2.4: Copernican Revelation at Paul Levinson's Infinite Regress.
The da Vinci mode: The historical basis for Tom Riley's unusual portrayal of Leonardo at The Independent.
The time travel movie 12 Monkeys is becoming a TV show in 2015 by Jon Fingas at Engadget.
Turn Premiere: Good Historical Drama in Revolutionary New York at Paul Levinson's Infinite Regress.

Theater

Review: 'Gravity' offbeat history lesson in Cotuit at Cape Cod Online.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Flag Friday: Saint Lawrence

Originally posted on Sean Sherman's blog Other Times. Support an alternate historian by subscribing to his blog!
In 1788, the United States Constitution was being ratified by many of the States. By the end of the year only Rhode Island and Saint Lawrence had not ratified the document. The French-speaking and culturally different inhabitants of the colony had too many differences to the British-stock Americans. In 1789 Rhode Island joined the Union, but Saint Lawrence finally declined to join the new political entity.

Saint Lawrence formed its own government. It's flag has a field of blue in the canton with white symbols to represent its provinces, inspired by the American flag. The main field of the flag is red to represent the blood shed during the Revolution and during the years of British oppression. A single white stripe to represent the first province is near the end of the fly end of the flag.


By 1800 the flag has three Fleur-de-lis. They represent the Provinces of Saint Lawrence and Quebec while the third represents the unorganized territories around the great lakes.

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Sean Sherman has been a fan of alternate timelines ever since seeing Spock with a goatee.  By day he is a CPA, at night he explores the multiverse and shares his findings over at his blog, Other Times.

World War I Alternatives Part 2: Entente Victorious

A few weeks ago I discussed what could happen if the Central Powers (and more particularly Germany) won World War I outright. Now I will discuss the alternate histories where the Entente wins the Great War..

Wait a second? Didn't the Entente/Allies/etc. win World War I in this history? How is this alternate history? Well you are correct, the Entente did win World War I (although it has been pointed out to me that Germany still won the war on the Eastern Front), but that doesn't mean the speculation stops there. Fans and professionals like to create timelines through big, overall changes to history. Someone who lost will win and someone who died will live (and vice versa). That style of thinking, however, can really limit your creativity.

Consider Glen's "Dominion of Southern America" timeline on AlternateHistory.com. In his timeline the Americans win their independence from the British, just as they did in this timeline. The hook, however, is that Canada sided with the rebels, but the Carolinas and Georgia did not, and remained a British colony. Thus you keep the big event it shares with our timeline, but still have the freedom to craft an alternate history that is unique and divergent from our own history.

Also there is an argument to be made that the Entente's victory in our timeline was near inevitable, as Chris Nuttall pointed out in his article "The Almost Certain Victory: A Strategic Analysis of World War One". Without some unforeseen change before the war begins or during the early years, the Germans and their allies will likely lose the war anyway. This is important to consider when crafting any World War I alternate history.

So with that in mind, lets take a look at the first scenario in this category: an outright Entente victory. In our history fighting ended between the Allies and Germany on November 11, 1918, when the Armistice of Compiègne was signed. It is interesting to note that this wasn't a surrender by the Germans (in fact the Germans still had troops on French and Belgian territory when it was signed), but a peace designed to satisfy the war weary German people who had revolted and overthrew the Kaiser.

But what if the Germans had been defeated outright and forced to surrender? Such an outcome seems impossible given what we know of the war, but some authors have tried to devise such a world, such as Bernard Newman's The Cavalry Went Through! which suggests that a change to British tactics and training could have meant an early defeat of Germany without having to wait for the German people to tire of the war.

What would be the outcome of such a world? Fritz Leiber suggested in his short story "Catch that Zeppelin!" (recently republished in The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories) that the defeat would create a more humane and scientifically advanced Germany that missed out on Hitler and the Nazis...and yes, like any utopia, they have airships as well. While it is true the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles didn't help matters for Germany, there many other factors at play that could have still led to some extreme ideologue coming to power in post-war Germany.

Is there another scenario that might ensure a lasting peace in Europe after an Entente victory? Well another popular scenario in alternate history is for the United States to join the League of Nations. In our history the United States refused to ratify the agreement that would see them join the League, despite President Wilson's best efforts which may have led to incapacity at the end of his term. But what if Wilson was successful and convinced America to back the League? Perhaps he heeded the advice of other foreign leaders, as "It Might Have Been" by James Beck proposed. Could it have led to a more advanced and peaceful world as found in the "Gernsback" setting of GURPS Alternate Earths?

Much like Leiber vision of Germany, I find such an idea to be overly optimistic. Although a lasting in peace Europe might be out of reach, does the Middle East have a chance? In our history, the British and French reneged on their agreement with the Arabs to allow them self-government if they rebelled against the Ottomans and instead divided the region up into several League of Nations mandates. These mandates did not take into account the ethnic and religious differences in the area and some believe it to be a direct cause of the sectarian strife that still envelops the region to this day.

Could this outcome have been avoided? To prevent European colonialism, the Arabs would have needed to defeat the Ottomans with little or no assistance from the British or French. James Fiscus suggested as much in his short story "Jihad" and I suggested a similar solution in my guest post on This Day in Alternate History. I admit my scenario is just as optimistic as the stories I mentioned previously, but I was only making the point that if the Middle East could have avoided European imperialism at the end of World War I, the world might have been a better place.

And that really is the common denominator for all three of the scenarios mentioned above. Authors who tweak the Entente victory are usually searching for an even better world than the one we have now, because let's face it, liberal (and I don't mean "leftist") democracies are preferable to militant autocracies. Speaking of militant autocracies, I almost forgot about the most popular Entente victory scenario of them all: Russia does not fall to communism. That, however, is a story for another day...

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Timeline Thursday: Out of One, Many by Erwin Wodarczak

I know balkanized North Americas are old hat with many alternate historians, but at one point we all had to experience it for the first time. For me it was "Out of One, Many" by Erwin Wodarczak. To give you an idea of what we are working with, here is a map:
North America in 1878.
The timeline is, according the author, inspired by "What If Elbridge Gerry Had Been More Rational and Less Patriotic? (1787)" by William Riker, original published in What If? Explorations in Social-Science Fiction edited by Nelson Polsby. The point of divergence is in 1787 when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention fail to come to an agreement on congressional representation. A conflict over Vermont between New England and New York breaks the United States further apart and the Union eventually dissolves.

"Out of One, Many" features a lot of elements that caught my attention as a young alternate historian. It has an enlarged Virginia controlling the Midwest (except for the Western Reserve), a French Louisiana that would create an empire across the Great Plains, a British West Coast and smaller states like New Jersey and Delaware making a go as independent nations instead of being shoehorned into a larger nation. This timeline formed the foundation for how I approached all balkanized North America timelines and it still holds a special place in my heart.

Perhaps I am being overly sentimental, but I do believe the early 21st century was a golden age for online alternate history. There was a bevy of personal author sites where you could find timelines and even tie-in fiction. Today most of these sites have disappeared, but you can still find them using the Wayback Machine. That is when I rediscovered Wodarczak's "Out of One, Many" in 2009. I created a new project that I dubbed "Save Our Alternate History", where I would copy these old timelines (with the author's permission, of course) and post them on the AltHistory Wiki.

"Out of One, Many" was the first, and only, timeline that I transfered to the wiki. Although Wodarczak gave me his blessing, the second timeline I tried to transfer failed after the author refused to give me permission. Stymied, I lost interest in the project and moved on to other things. The original timeline is still intact on the Wiki, so I highly recommend you go and read it.

I am starting to think I should rename this series "Throwback Thursday". I am not sure how many retro timelines I will cover, but I am enjoying this and I hope you are too. If there are any other timelines you would like me to check out or you would like to recommend to our readers, contact me at ahwupdate at gmail dot com.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.