Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My Romance with Alternate History… continued

In an earlier article on this blog, I confessed to my love to the niche genre of alternate history.  I also reviewed some of my early influences on my writing.  It occurred to me afterwards, that a survey of the field would be helpful. (First, I’d recommend the website Urchonia, that lists all things alternate history – it is a terrific reference tool.)

In terms of books, this time around, I’d like to look at how different authors covered off the same narrow topic.  For example, in Harry Harrison’s A Rebel in Time (1983), a time traveler goes back in time to supply advanced weaponry to the Confederacy – a Sten Gun. Ultimately, the plot is foiled by another time traveller, a government agent, but all the mucking around with history does succeed in creating a new timeline where the South still loses.  In Harry Turtledove’s The Guns of the South (1992), the weapon of choice is the AK-47 and the time travellers are disaffected South Africans who wish to establish the Confederacy as a future ally.  The plot, largely told from the point of view of Robert E. Lee, has all the hallmarks of a Turtledove novel being well researched and believable (if you had a time machine). This time, the South wins the Civil War, largely due to the influence of the AK-47.

Another pairing of narrow alternate history topics concerns the Japanese invasion of Hawaii in the Second World War. (I’ve done this while playing Axis and Allies – it tends to piss off the U.S. player something bad.) The indomitable Harry Turtledove wrote a two-volume series Days of Infamy (2004) and the End of the Beginning (2005.) Both books are meaty and epic in scale with a wide cast of historic and fictional characters. The invasion follows on the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor. The series makes for satisfying reading. In 1942 (2009) by Robert Conroy, the Japanese invade some months after crippling the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. The novel is rousing enough, also featuring historical and fictional characters aplenty. There is also a heroic band of guerilla fighters (something missing from Turtledove’s novels, whose characters flatly state guerrilla-style resistance is impossible.).

So that’s it for my little episode of compare-and-contrast. I’ll just end it with a reminder that my own two contributions two the genre, Elvis Saves JFK! and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History,  are available for just $0.99 and $2.99, respectively.  Of course, they're both free to preview.  Both books are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Another Preview From Elvis Saves JFK!

Here's another preview from Somerset House Press's latest e-book, Elvis Saves JFK!  I wrote Right of Return over a two day period during a break from teacher's college and it's still one of my favourites. It was also the last story my great friend and writing mentor Juan O'Niell saw before he died all too soon. He called it "fucking little masterpiece." 

Right of Return

The sun shone in a brilliant blue sky, as SS Obergruppenfuehrer Karl Dietz stepped smartly up the broad white marble steps that led to SS High Command. He smiled as he looked at the red and silver banners that hung from the lampposts on either side of him. They marked the 100th anniversary of the final triumph over the plutocratic Western Allies and their traitorous Japanese lackeys. He stopped at one swastika-and-eagle tipped lamppost, where a foreign guest worker—a South Slav by the cast of his brow—struggled to hang one of the banners.
“You,” snapped Dietz, “take care with that! The warriors of the Greater Reich did not sacrifice themselves so that you could sully their memory.”
The poor fellow gulped as he looked at the SS runes and the rank tabs on Dietz’s black uniform lapels. “J-Jawhowl, Herr oberst!
Dietz straightened his high-peaked cap as he marched to the top of the stairs. He was in a good mood, not because of the anniversary celebrations, which were still a few days away, but because he had received a rare personal summons from the Riechsfuehrer SS, second in line to the Fuehrer himself.
Dietz paused long enough under the wide marble columns of the front entrance to take in the view. From the top of the steps he looked out at the broad expanse of the Welthauptstadt Germania, the world capital that the legendary First Fuehrer, Adolph Hitler had built out of the bomb-shattered ruins of Old Berlin. His eyes travelled with pride along the long broad avenue, busy with midday traffic. The avenue passed under the enormous Victory Arch that, as legend had it, the First Fuehrer had sketched as an art student, and around the world’s largest building, the 290 metre high dome of the Volkshalle, now covered in the respectable green patina of age. Atop the dome, perched the symbol of imperial might, a golden Nazi eagle with a globe in its talons remained untouched by time, an enduring symbol of the Thousand Year Reich.

So much more to do. Dietz turned around and entered the building, returning the black-uniformed guard’s whip-crack salute. His jackbooted heels clicked on the marble floor as he walked down the long corridor and into the darkness.
“Sit down, Dietz.” The Riechsfuehrer’s cough echoed in his darkened office that reeked of stale cigarette smoke. The curtains had been drawn and the only light came from a small green bankers’ lamp on the Riechsfuehrer’s broad mahogany desk. His condition surprised Dietz. While he knew the Riechsfuehrer was an old man, he had not known that he was this far gone. When he smiled the Riechsfuehrer looked like a living skull. “Come, sit.”
“Yes Herr Riechsfuehrer.” Dietz sat down in a leather armchair.
The second most powerful man in the Reich took a cigarette from a wooden case on his desk, struck a match, and lit it, the match-head briefly flaring before he touched it to the cigarette. The cigarette tip glowed red as he inhaled. “It’s been a while since you were attached to the Ministry of Space, now hasn’t it?”
“Yes . . . I did tours of duty at both the Lunar and Martian stations.”
“Are you familiar with the Von Braun Lunar farside array?”
“It’s our deep space communications post for the Jupiter missions . . . I’ve not been there recently.”
“Very good.” The Riechsfuehrer coughed as he exhaled from his cigarette. “What I am about to tell you is a State Secret.”
 “I am honoured.”
“Spare me your gratitude. Have you any other cases pending?”
“Just the resurgence of some writings of a lunatic Dutchman who was sent to the camps about sixty years ago. His writings about the earth being visited by ancient astronauts have been gaining some measure of popularity among the lower classes.” Dietz sniffed.
“Give it to one of your subordinates.” The Riechsfuehrer coughed again. “I have something far more fitting your station.” He smiled, the lines in his skeletal face showing in the dim light. “Two weeks ago, Lunar farside picked up a deep space signal. It wasn’t one of ours.”

Preview copyright 2010 Michael Cnudde


You can buy Elvis Saves JFK! by going here for just $0.99 and is free to preview. And of course, War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History,  is on sale for $2.99, and as always, it's free to preview.
Both War Plan Crimson and Elvis Saves JFK! are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.