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5 Alternate History Topics

Updated on June 19, 2013

Alternate History

#1 The South Shall Write Again

The first, and probably one of the most common alternate history tropes in American speculative fiction, is the idea that the Confederate States never lost the war, and that the Confederacy is still alive. The manner in which the Confederation survives could be a result of many different forces, everything from time travel, to magic, to alien beings...or simply could be a result of a new roll of the dice.

What comes next, usually, is distinct split between Northern and Southern Policy, which the Confederacy, traditionally, siding with European Allies. Sometimes the North plays an aggressor, imperialist state, sometimes it is swept up in revolutionary fervor. No matter what the differences between the two sides of the Mason-Dixon, one thing is sure, that the blood spill will divide them for the next century, if not longer.

#2 The Thousand Year Reich in 100 Pages

Being a demagogue with the power to enthrall millions of minds and lead a willing democracy into dictatorship and war, Adolph Hitler has always been fascinating reading for millions of people. Part of that, is imagining what would have happened if the 3rd Reich had won the War, and what a Fascist world would have looked like.

While its not hard to imagine that life would have been less than favorable for non-ethnic Germans, and incredibly hostile to anyone they classified as a 'lesser race', most of the titles that hit on this trope seem to agree on one thing. The long-term survival of the Nazi idealogy was dependent upon Hitler's personal Charisma, and that eventually relations with the Japanese, and internal/domestic relations would have broken down.

Thank goodness, we will never know the truth of these claims, but it is important to remember, that these types of books, while the may explore some uncomfortable topics, do not celebrate Hitler. Rather, they offer us an interesting, and artistic view of what could have been, and help reinforce that nothing like that should happen again.

Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon

#3 Return of the...Fantasy Trope!

Fantasy fits nice and neatly into Alternate History. Afterall, if the context is, things that could shape the way the world developed, then nothing can do that better than the actual inclusion of magic into our universe. This magic could be veiled and soft, or powerful and overwhelming, but in either state, will have drastic effects on the world around us.

Sometimes, its not even magic itself, but the existence of that which is trully Fantastic. Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon is a prime example of this. She manages to take a well known fantasy archetype (Dragon Riders, Draconic Combat, etc) and fit it nice and neatly into the 18th Century! Well worth a read, it brings a new view of how such things would have happened, if such things existed.

#4 Fetch me my Monocle!

Steampunk sometimes fascinates me, and at other times dismays me. Its a cultural movement, yet a genre, and also a fashion. It doesn't advocate any particular social cause, economic system, or anything. If anything, it advocates for a cultural view that probably never existed, one to which we will likely never become invested, with the exception of those who find interest in it.

That being said, Steampunk does make for some interesting reading. It links together historical anachronisms in a way that would be impossible for traditional Alternate History authors, and does so in a compelling, and entertaining way. Nothing is particularly beyond the bounds of reality, when shown in this light.

#5 What if Aliens...were visited by Aliens!?

While, this is not an attempt to make commentary on the Ancient Astronaut theory, there are many alternate history books that cover the course of human history as recorded by (or manipulated by) Alien beings. Everything from them watching over what happens to prehistoric mankind, to extraterrestrials landing in the middle of World War II and attempting to conquer us. If this interests you, Turtledove is right up your alley.

What if!?

Well, thanks for visiting this hubpage. I find alternate history incredibly fascinating, to the point that I write it myself. My first short story concerns an alternate history concerning the War in the Pacific against Japan never coming to a complete end. If interested, feel free to check it out!


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