ALTERNATE NOTIONS (Miscellaneous Thread for ‘Books and Media’

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For some reason known only to myself I'm currently trying to work out what the Army of a British Republic might look like in the mind of an 1820s authoress; all I have so far is that Royal Blue would be in short supply when it comes to facing colours ...
You know that today is being a very nice day indeed when you stumble onto a freely-available Harry Turtledove story online and it has MAMMOTHS!
I think that the simplest, most horrifying opening for an alternate history novel that has yet occurred to me has just popped into my brain.

“The panzers were at Jerusalem.”
Having now read IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES all the way through, one can only say that I like it; while it's definitely more 'Soft' alternate history than FATHERLAND, it strikes me as an excellent companion piece to Mr Robert Harris' novel (and possibly a great comfort, in light of the latter's ending). If nothing else, the book reminds us that history never, ever ends while people are still making it (though reading events so clearly modelled on Glasnost in the year of Putin's War makes one worry for the Gimpels et al and their chances of enjoying a slightly less dangerous future).

In any case, as with A DIFFERENT FLESH one can feel Herr Doktor Professor Turtledove engage with this novel on rather more than just a professional level; it's difficult to read it with the knowledge that Harry Turtledove is himself the father of three daughters and not be rather charmed with how much of himself he's managed to smuggle into Heinrich Gimpel (and still more by how much that family clearly love each other).

It's also fascinating how little explicit violence there is in this novel of the Third Reich triumphant without ever leaving us under any illusions that the Nazis have grown better with age, even as they have grown fat with good living; it's made painfully clear that this is an Evil B***** of an Alternate and even the relative disinterest in a strictly plausible 'Nazi Victory' scenario doesn't really weaken the piece overall.

This may not be a world the Nazis could have made, but it's most certainly the sort of world they would have made if they could (At least if they could have taken out those delightfully stubborn German Jews whom we are lucky enough to meet through this novel).
Having finished IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES I now find myself reading the first of Mr Christopher Nuttall's TWILIGHT OF THE GODS series ... and have only just realised how much I prefer CHOSEN OF THE VALKYRIES as title for that setting (Not least because TWILIGHT OF THE GODS gives the Third Reich far, far too much credit whereas the latter title has a much keener sting in it's tail).

Concerning the novels themselves, this is my second reading and first re-read; I enjoyed them the first time around (they've got a very crunchy sense of probability around them that IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES doesn't really bother with, preferring to offer a setting that somehow seems to be more stylised in design and more banal in tone than the non-Turtledove work) and am also very keen on the articles he posted in his blog further outlining the novel's setting.

As seen HERE


Included for the sake of completeness

... also, those wondering if I'm reading STORM FRONT et al while trying to puzzle out how the characters from that novel & it's series would fit into IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES and it's associated timeline (not to mention vice versa) are, of course, quite right.


I think that the simplest, most horrifying opening for an alternate history novel that has yet occurred to me has just popped into my brain.

“The panzers were at Jerusalem.”
I posted something in ASB that could use this as an opening (basically Hitler includes Jews as an Aryan race and helps them "cleanse" Israel of the Palestineans after WW2 is over)
I was thinking more along the lines of a Nazi drive into the Middle East obliging Jewish guerrillas/terrorists fanatical enough to consider using the Nazis to get rid of the British to experience the rather horrid consequences of such a course of action - also that a Nazi force arriving at the gates of that most Jewish city would automatically turn any ensuing story into a Horror Story!
On an unrelated note, one of the more interesting hooks for an Alternate History story occurred to me just today - what might modern medical dramas look like in a timeline where penicillin was never discovered? (A technically-small change from the history we know, yet one with consequences almost certainly more colossal than the outcome of a mere war).
It just struck me that it may be fun to puzzle out the body paint system whereby males of the Conquest Fleet (The ‘Lizards’ of WORLDWAR) indicate their rank & position within the aforesaid Fleet’s hierarchy.

All I have so far is that drivers & pilots would probably be painted with the same design as their vehicles and that front line soldiers would probably make use of designs that offer them a certain amount of camouflage (Presumably while behind-the-lines types use more solid colour; logically front liners are often hand-painted on the fly by their squad mates while the general staff & support staff get properly spray-painted).

I may need to go looking for a generic ‘Race male’ silhouette on which to puzzle out some designs.
I’ve recently come to the rather sad conclusion that Mr Harry Turtledove’s THE WAR THAT CAME EARLY timeline - with it’s multiple great powers left with fresh grudges and no very conclusive outcome after World War 2 - might be the the most likely to breed a World War Three of all his alternate histories (with the obvious exception of THE HOT WAR).

Hopefully a general war in the local 1960s could avoid throwing nukes like so many slingshots …
You know you have a bad case of Alternate History when you find yourself crunching numbers trying to decide what sort of population British North America might have in a world where the Eastern Seaboard floated away into the mid-Atlantic and left Ohio beachfront property (Well, technically speaking 'British Terranova' but going too deep into the details is how I found myself neck-deep in the first place!).
Misery is trying to work out whether JOE STEELE is a bigger ******* than THE VICTORIOUS OPPOSITION's Jake Featherston (whoever wins, many, many people lose); happiness is imagining which of them would bounce first were somebody to kick them off the same cliff.

On a slightly less macabre note, it's interesting to wonder whether either of these two would feel any personal hostility to each other, were they somehow to meet - to which my answer would have to be "Maybe" (On the understanding that "Uncle Joe" as president of the United States is CS President Featherston's Public Enemy #1 and vice versa; on the other hand I'm not sure they'd be able to muster up much personal antipathy towards each other otherwise, being divided less by ideology and more by nationality).
On a related note, it's also interesting to wonder how an artist could bring that properly 'American Stalinesque' quality to an adaptation of JOE STEELE when (so far as I know) one of the key conceits of the setting is that - at least on the surface, at least in the United States of America - nothing visibly changes.

I wonder what the Fan Art community would have to say on the subject?
I wonder what a CSA-USA-British Empire alliance as imagined by the late Sir Winston Spencer Churchill would look like? (“So very, very Anglo” seems the most apt reply).
For some reason I like the notion of making every allusion to American comics in ‘Nazis Win - but not too big’ timelines like FATHERLAND or THE THOUSAND WEEK REICH an allusion to Quality Comics.

After all, Freedom Fighting on ‘Japanazi’ planets is what the natives of Earth-X are famous for!
You know that a crossover between A DIFFERENT FLESH & WORLDWAR would be worth it, if only for the inevitable running joke of Conquest Fleet representatives (with the exception of Scientific experts) never quite being able to tell Humans apart from sims without some helpful pointers.

It’s almost as amusing to picture this as it is to imagine the perennially Serious Jake Featherston’ reaction to learning that aliens have invaded … and they’re LIZARDS.
CROSSTIME TRAFFIC, by it’s very nature, is a superb vehicle for crossovers between the diverse alternate timelines of Harry Turtledove, but it’s also amusing to imagine various reasons why CROSSTIME might avoid it’s more famous peers - IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES is too Nazi; WORLDWAR has FTL space travel and alien lizards, so it’s a little TOO advanced for comfort; SOUTHERN VICTORY is presumably too poor & too angry (Even a long time after the Great Wars); I am, it must be said, assuming that Mr Turtledove’s blatantly magic settings are off-limits, since CROSSTIME works with science, not sorcery; I can’t think of hilariously slender excuses for the others though.

Except the world with Bigfoots in it; somebody took one look at that and decided to keep that one all to themselves.
I recently stumbled onto the fact that at least some submarine crews of Nazi Germany wore surplus British uniforms captured after Dunkirk (since Nazi industries were having a hard enough time outfitting the Army without worrying about the navy), suitably modified for the Kriegsmarine crewmen least likely to be hauled in by the Fashion police - or, for that matter, taken alive by the Royal Navy.

Thinking of Xavier March (from FATHERLAND by Robert Harris), the German creation of an English author, wearing ex-British uniform while he serves with the Wolf Packs is just so hilariously appropriate it makes me smile.
Having just re-read Mr Christopher Nuttall's TWILIGHT OF THE GODS trilogy for the first time I can safely say that one much prefers CHOSEN OF THE VALKYRIES (title of the second novel in this series) as a title for the trilogy; quite frankly one feels the original name gives the Third Reich too much credit.

Thankfully nothing else in these books threatens to put the Nazis on any sort of pedestal; this is a thoroughly ruthless demolition job on a Third Reich collapsing under the weight of it's own inefficiencies even before student protests boil over into outright Revolution, followed shortly by a full-blown Civil War ... and then things go NUCLEAR.

It's a grim, tension-full and violent series that does rather a good job of setting up a credible 'Third Reich Triumphant' timeline (indeed the novels and Mr Nuttall's online articles about the setting make me very interested in trying to fill some of the gaps left by his world-building ... or at least play around in the ample room left for speculation), then demolish significant portions of it and a fascinating contrast with IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES (Explicitly mentioned as an inspiration in an afterword and very gracefully homaged in the story itself by the existence of an 'Ambassador Turtledove').

There's a certain dark humour in the fact that the latter, a novel in which the Third Reich has explicitly conquered the world (as opposed to establishing dominion over Europe, a little bit of Africa and pieces of Asia), actually comes across as slightly less grim than a setting in which there exists a United Nations* explicitly dedicated to preventing the Third Reich from achieving World Domination (and, as the novel explicitly notes, doing even better at that job than even they realise).

*Strictly speaking a 'North Atlantic Alliance' but 'NAA' doesn't have quite the same ring as 'UN', yeah?

Mind you, comparison is odious and both these works have more than enough strengths of their own to make both well-worth reading (Especially as companion pieces); if I prefer IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES it's mostly because in that novel The Reich collapses with a whimper instead of a roar and you just know that Hitler & the Boys would just HATE that so much more than the rather more Wagnerian bloodbath of RAGNAROK.

When choosing between different versions of the Third Reich's collapse, each equally good, always pick the one the Nazis themselves would hate more.