Things that often get ignored in TLs...

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Snake Featherston, Dec 24, 2008.

  1. Snake Featherston Banned

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    1) From what I've seen, there aren't an awful lot of TLs that deal with linguistics. Surely in the event of a longer-lasting, say, Roman Empire, the Latin Language would have been in a stronger position or the Germanic languages in a weaker one? If the Romans say, expand to the Vistula and thus establish a foundation to be rebuilt on, might there not be hybrid Latin-Slavic languages or Latin-Germanic ones? I've also not seen the effects of different societies and their strengths and weaknesses on the structures of language itself. With a balkanized China or US scenario, the different dialects present in OTL will get stronger and more like separate languages. If said balkanization goes on long enough, entirely separate languages might evolve, depending on the nature of it. On the other hand, with a scenario like a longer-lived Mongol Empire or a greater-sized Islamic Caliphate under Arab rule, the resulting dialects of Mongolian or Arabic might leave greater influences than IOTL (and with Arabic, that influence can be all out of proportion to the initial number of speakers). There's also a tendency to ignore that just as a modern Anglo can't understand Beowulf, or modern Romance speakers Classical Latin, or what have you, that language changes over millenia from loanwords and from general evolution over time are also ignored.

    2) I also don't see in many scenarios that ultimately societies that get hegemony become overconfident, their ruling principles ossify, and then it all goes to hell and the society may or may not be rebuilt. That's the story of China (with rebuilding going on) and the former Roman Empire (without rebuilding it.) It also seems that TLs never take into account things like the OTL 1910s, where a massive social upheaval simultaneously topples multiple societies, such as the Porofiriato, the Chinese Empire, the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire (slightly later than the others, but all the same...), the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Taisho Democracy. If Imperial Germany imposes a German domination of Europe, then it goes on and on, and Europeans never get together enough to topple it, or alternately, the German Empire never gets overconfident or stagnant and thus brings itself down. If the Soviets conquer all of Western Europe, same thing. If the Ottomans and Byzantines survive longer, their survival into the 20th Century and beyond is all but assured, never mind that the demands that brought down both OTL Empires never lessened and just continued.

    3) The converse of the above. If the US or China or some region IOTL united is divided, it always stays divided, no Qin Shi Huangs come along and impose unity (or Chandragupta Mauryas). The presence of nationalism, as well as the Roman example are often ignored in such TLs. Even if people think that a United US is just like OTL, the nature that such a unification takes, whether peaceful or a military unification like the creation of the Maurya Dynasty and the Qin Empire, will have immense, long-lasting effects on the "new" US. A militarily-united USA might prove to be much more despotic than the OTL one, for instance. A peacefully-united (on the model, perhaps of the Haudenosaunee) one might be more isolationist, but more inclined to trade both with indigenous peoples and neighboring countries and with other continents.

    4) In cases of greater success of totalitarianism or other autocratic dictatorships, the process of devolution that occurs in all such cases is often handwaved away. The Qin state devolved to such rapidity that it completely crashed and burned, but the examples of France (turning from the violent Revolutionaries the more peaceful Neo-Bourbons), the USSR (from Stalin to Brezhnev), the PRC (from Mao to Xiaoping), to innumerable instances from dynasties worldwide, they all testify that eventually no matter the nature of a society, that it will sooner or later change and adapt, or collapse, and for totalitarian or repressive states, such change often means collapse.

    5) Certain continents are entirely, if not entirely, mostly entirely, ignored in AH. Where are the Oceanian PODs dealing with different layouts of the islands, and different Australias? Why are African PODs so often ignored (I've got a TL in the works about an alternate Bantu spread and the results that has on later African culture, it's in the embryo stage as of present time, but it's my next project after IIFTOS (shameless plug.))? Where are the South American PODs? Or the ones that deal with Native Americans? Or Central Asians? Or, hell, for that matter, alternate religious PODs? I'm religious, been raised an Evangelical and all that, but my first major TL deals with an alternate Judaism and no Christianity (but perhaps a related cultural manifestation), so it doesn't bother me much, religious history is still religious history. Why no TLs, perhaps, on a different nature of paganism, perhaps a world where Western paganism develops theology and intricate natures of societies and the East doesn't, prompting the rise of a syncretic Christian culture in India, and a West that retains a form of polytheism up to the modern age? This is Alternate history, after all.

    5.1) Why is finance more or less ignored in most TLs? The reasons for societal collapses when they occur are usually financial or cultural or what have you. The role that financial structure and trade relationships between various cultures plays is virtually ignored, also. If it's done, it's done in Turtledovesque fashion with complete ignorance of what and why except that the events portrayed are a duplicate of OTL. And the role of economic strain in the collapse of Indigenous American and African societies is almost entirely ignored. Marxist history overdoes the role of economics, but that doesn't mean it's irrelevant, for Chrissakes!

    and lastly...

    6) Cultural intermixing. The Arab Empires of the period from AD 600 onwards have had an immense impact on Christianity, ditto Chinese society on Japan, and of course, the nature of the English and their attitude to colonization in both Canada and the US (but also in the Caribbean) produced radically different situations for Indians. A world where a Neo-Roman Empire comes into contact with the Indians, say, or perhaps a super-China or Japan or even India itself coming into contact with the Indians (sorry Flocc, but this was too delicious a pun to ignore) and the cultural intermixing that produces? Also, this is as good a place as any to note that in most TLs, India plays precious little importance, when IOTL, it was and still is one of the major cultural centers on the planet, and Africa also, for that matter.

    Timelines that play some aspects of these up might be more interesting, and dare I say, more like a real world to read. And while I'm at it, I'd like to credit some of the people that convinced me to consider this: Hendryk and Leo, as well as AHP and for negative examples Chris and Admiral Canaris (for the constant dictatorship-wank he liked.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2008
  2. Ofaloaf Nothing really mattress

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    4's a good one. Very few African PODs, even ones involving wacky German shenanigans in WWI or anything. The tricky part is that no one knows much about it pre-European colonization- some North American TLs sometimes suffer from that, when its evident that the author knows nothing about Native American society and hardly considers them when dealing with colonial politics.

    The thing about 5 is that most historians, from what little I can tell, aren't economists, and most economists aren't also historians. What I could tell you about economics could fit on the head of a pin, f'r instance.
     
  3. Hendryk Banned

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    While "Superpower Empire" doesn't focus on linguistics, some linguistical issues have been explored in a spin-off story, Leo's "Jakutija".

    I took that into account in Qian China, where the originally dictatorial regime underwent gradual liberalization in the 1970s.

    That's where Jared's "Land of Red and Gold" comes in.

    I did focus on it in my now-defunct Sinowank TL "The Chinese discover America in 1435". I even had a new religion come out of the encounter between the Chinese and the Native Americans.
     
  4. Snake Featherston Banned

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    Yes, 4 is often ignored, and that frankly gets tiresome to me, especially in printed AH, but sometimes on AH.com itself. Endless wanking of whatever empire comes along, and it never ossifies or fails to adapt.

    After all, the Qing arguably created one of the largest contemporary states of the time, but that expansion itself was when they dug their own grave singing a song while doing it.

    Well, with 5, I intend to delve into all of these things in my TLs, and economics is going to start playing a crucial role in my TL, especially where the Israelists are concerned, and not necessarily a benevolent one.

    Indeed. Your TL and Leo's spin-off are one of the exceptions, and I considered mentioning it in the post, but I got lost in a few of the examples and forgot to mention it. :eek:
    As I said, you're one of the exceptions when considering this.

    I'll have to look into that one.

    I'll repeat, your TLs are some of the few that I've seen that take that into account. I've seen numerous TLs where the Tsarist Russian state is always that of either Ivan IV or Alexander II, or where considerations such as how expensive maintaining a hegemony is are vaguely, if at all considered. That was one of the few positive points of ITPOME to me.
     
  5. EdT Member

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    You're quite right; more TLs need to use these aspects, as they would be far better for it. I think the problem though, certainly with 1, 5 and 6 , is that these are all areas where the typical writer might not be an expert, and so is scared off slightly. The vast majority- 90%+ of the stuff on this board is discussing North American and European political or military history, and I think that's entirely understandable from the point of view of where board members come from and what they're familiar with; it's the same reason why the vast majority of literature on the subject is either WW2 or the American Civil War.

    I entirely agree that the more obscure areas of history are interesting, and thinking about linguistics, religion and social factors more generally are vital, but they require two things that many posters are unwilling to do- proper, in-depth research, and a mix of imagination and a sense of plausibility. It's far easier to posit an alternative military history of WW2 than it is to make up a plausible religion, for example; it takes time and effort, and many people don't neccesarily want to get that engrossed.

    Personally, I love to do that sort of digging- I miss my student days and use my AH writing as a way of keeping my mind active and retaining my ability to do decent research, which is also vital for my job. But, I guess it isn't for everyone.

    While my current TL is centered around late 19th century British politics, I am determined to include as much detail of the rest of the world as possible; if you're interested in an alternative Africa I've done several detailed posts on that with several more to come, and the next post will explore Asia too.

    If you haven't come across them by the way, I suspect you would love "Bronze Age New World" or Submission, the latter of which sadly has no single website and has to be browsed through the different threads on SHWI. These two TLs do everything that you're complaining alt historians shy away from, and are two of my personal favourites.
     
  6. Tyr air in space

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    5: Well I've done a different Australia TL. I'm sure there's been a few others too.
    The problem with Africa/Oceania TLs isn't racism or west centrism or any bollocks like that, purely that not much is known about the history of those areas. Most KNOWN history is about Eurasia and most of us only learn the European part of that.


    5.1: Totally. Though we do have a lot of good stuff here the typical newbie alternate history follows one of the golden laws of strategy games and applies it to the real world- more land=more power. That's all there is to beign a powerful country, owning lots of land.
    Its ignored in other ways too. Every time someone manages to miraculously beat Britain in the 19th century....If they had tried it IOTL their economy would have collapsed.


    One problem I do find though is if you get too detailed people just aren't interested.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2008
  7. Valdemar II Banned

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    That often get ignored is population density, and the lack of nationalism as the almost primeval it has become in 19-20 century Europe. Of course other goes the other way and ignore the protonationalism which did exist*.

    *There's little doubt that linguistic and "regional" identification did exist before the birth of modern nationalism.
     
  8. DuQuense Commisioned Officer CSN

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    Whe had a very nice TL here about 4 years ago. It dealt with a codifying of the Norse religion, allowing it to withstand the impact of Christianity.

    In My -Years without Summers- TL I do mention the cost of rebuilding London & Paris -[In Africa] And Government not being able to afford to move people.

    But the real reason behind your points is Laziness;), It is difficult enuff trying to figure the Political differences, so whe assume the Economics and Culture will handle themselves.

    As for your other areas of the World - Given the presences of SAmerican, and Other Posters on this Forum, I have wondered Myself why so few Other TL's
     
  9. DAv Middle Class... sorry

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    Not to blow my own horn but my British Imperialism TL does have some real changes in Africa from a modernising Ethiopia and Great Zimbawbwe Kingdom in South Africa.
     
  10. Astrodragon Coffee-seeking Dragon Donor

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    While they are all good points, I suspect the main reason you arent going to get an AH dealing with all (or at least many) of the issues, as well as the usual ones (like military), is that it would make for an extremely boring read....

    Remember, fiction, unlike real life, requires to be interesting enough to hold a readers attention.

    For example, an AH dealing with how changes affected language use and structure would, I'm afraid, bore me to tears.
     
  11. Snake Featherston Banned

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    It depends on how you go about it. Focusing on any one of these alone is, of course, overdoing it. Ignoring them altogether is rather annoying, especially to those who try to invision new worlds and how a slight change in history can effect things. I'm rather irritated, for instance, with the number of TLs that invision different Europes or the average Ameriwank TL that has the US conquer all of North America and somehow American English, the economic structure, and so on, plus the sheer damn size and the demographic makeup of such a US would look like. At some point, TLs that don't attempt to at least have something worth looking at about how and why they do what they do just get...irritating.

    Yes, I read that TL. I rather enjoyed it. As I come from a Germanic background, a little wanking of the old tribal religion is nice, on occasion. Usually its the Greco-Romans that get wanked. I've yet to see something like that for the Slavs, though.

    1) Well, the basic fact that the Bantus expanded in a certain direction is obvious. That's one aspect I'm changing in the ATL, a Bantu expansion north instead of south. I'm working out a plausible explanation to go into the Sahel and then the Sahara, what it exactly is is still up in the air.

    2) Amen, brother. Then people presume that the US could conquer everything in sight without bothering about how it would govern that territory or what the influx of massive numbers of non-Anglo cultures is going to mean for the US.

    3) It's all in how you do it. A simple bulleting is not necessarily that interesting, but snippets of the ATL cultural-linguistic makeup, its analogies of Wealth of Nations and Das Kapital, and yes, Mein Kampf could be very interesting indeed, charting the cultural and economic and linguistic development of a world.


    With 1, I find that the case is simply that many people don't know that much about linguistics. They might know the names of other languages and a few of them, but few would get that Khmer is distinct from Chinese in terms of language family, or that just because Magyar is a neighbor to Slavic tongues (or Romanian for that matter) that does not make them necessarily of the same language family. And this is China, Cambodia, and Europe we're discussing, here.

    With 5 and 5.1, it can often be that people do not do the research into those various cultures to find out what is known about them, and what little is known is less than we would like. All the same, PODs about such cultures are not impossible to do, and one of my future projects is going to be a WI about the events surrounding the annexation of Hawaii.

    With 6, people have this annoying tendency to say "Ooh, this seems nice," about a surviving pagan Rome or pagan Germans without reflecting on the neighboring societies and what that might produce. Same with alternate colonizations of the Americas. I've seen precious little about India, period, and someone should do a TL where, like the Rome-doesn't-fall ideas, WI the contemporary Indian Empire of the Guptas manages to avoid collapsing to the Hunas, like the inevitable longer-lived Roman Empire TLs.

    I agree with you on the rest, and look forward to checking out your TLs. And I've seen the former, and I especially liked it, but I'd never seen the latter, and I will check that one out, also.
     
  12. Broz Well-Known Member

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    it would generally seem many people, not all, regard history as a succession of battles, wars and political parties, with a tendency to just gloss over the rest, unless theres some smart and witty way to use some obscure subcultural fact or indirectly related technical development to somehow affect the same succession of battles, wars, and political parties
     
  13. Snake Featherston Banned

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    Except that history is not just a succession of those things. It's a series of interconnected events and interactions that are peaceful and otherwise, much more than a succession of battles, wars, and political parties. One of the biggest drivers of the post-1492 world and of 1492 itself was and is trade, which factors into 5.1.
     
  14. Broz Well-Known Member

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    obviously yes, in fact you could almoust say the many battles and wars are in fact by-products of the rest, sometimes even tips of the iceberg in a way, or critical moments of system overload and crash
    but it is simpler for people to concentrate on the obvious and supposedly familiar, all the more so since if you actually went digging into all the historical facts about all that constituted the, mostly not so turbulent and for some not so interesting course of history, you risk getting lost in a mountain of converging stories and emergent systems in which all parts are almost equally important
    so people stick to what they are familiar with, interested in, or can find on wikipedia
     
  15. Faeelin Lord of Ten Thousand Years

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    How do you deal with that well? Some things are fairly obvious; bigger esperanto, for instance. But charting an entirely new language?


    On the other hand, France is still here after what, 1200 years? Perhaps there will always be an England...

    I wish I had your confidence here. Look at North Korea; and Stalin followed, after all, Lenin.

    There have been a few of these, I think. Hrmm. I forget which, though. Oh, Bentham is one with a fairly different philosophical context.

    I did try my hand at this; search for Answers for Milinda, for Hellenistic Buddhism tying into incipient Gallic urbanization.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2008
  16. Cicero the Younger Pompous Windbag

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    I've given some thought as to what Modern Latin might look like in a Roman-Empire-survives-to-the-present-day world. Unfortunately--and this is why it's better that most AH scenarios don't delve much into language--I'm not a qualified linguist or a speaker of the language I was considering. I like to study linguistics, and I know more about it than the average person. But I am by no means an expert on how language changes over the centuries. And neither are most people who deal with AH. If I tried to actually work out the structure of a Modern Latin, the result might impress laymen, but real linguists would just point and laugh.
     
  17. Ofaloaf Nothing really mattress

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    If I may, do you have any suggestions for a good crash course on economics for a writer to use instead of the stuff pulled out of his arse?

    Also I seem to have mixed up 4 & 5 with 5 & 5.1...
     
  18. Hendryk Banned

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    Glad you enjoyed it :)

    One of the points of the spin-off series was precisely to explore the TL from unusual angles, and I'm thankful for the talent and creativity of the guest writers in that regard. Besides, I have another superb story coming up.
     
  19. mattep74 Well-Known Member

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    1. Because i dont think anyone of us is a professor in linguistics and i dont see why this should be a factor in ATLs when OTLs history books never tell who speaks what language.

    2 - 4. Because we dont think like that/dont want it to happen?

    5. I dont care much about Africa IRL, why should i care about a African WI?

    5.1 I am no economic historian and no only economic basics and thus i avoid writing about it.

    If you want realism like that why not write one yourself. I dont see the fun in writing all of this into stories
     
  20. Broz Well-Known Member

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    but all 6. are valid points, people really do neglect a huge load of what constitutes the totality of reality when making conclusions about history

    its just that any which way you approach t you cant avoid simplification, you simply dont have enough facts