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Suggestions

Uchronia: The Alternate History List

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping...

* Uchronia: The Alternate History List
* http://www.skatecity.com/ah
* Maintained by Robert Schmunk
* By rbs@skatecity.com



Review by Jeff Berkwits

Although most science fiction stories focus on events in the present or future, a number of speculative authors have created works that peer into the past and revise well-known historical episodes. Utilizing premises like "What if Abraham Lincoln had not been shot?" or "What if Germany had won the Second World War?" these writers attempt to examine and extrapolate how the altered occurrences might change the world.

Our Pick: A+

Such fanciful explorations are catalogued and chronicled on this comprehensive Web site. Almost every professionally-written creation that proposes an alternate history is examined, with entries indicating the original publication date, the guiding supposition of the tale and a brief synopsis of the plot. Myriad short stories and full-length novels are highlighted, along with various reference volumes and citations in critical journals and encyclopedias. A search mechanism that can identify works by author, keyword or language of publication/translation is also included, and there are separate sections devoted to appropriate anthologies, series and scholarly books.

The site also features a couple of real-world timelines, too: one devoted to alternate histories published before the Golden Age of science fiction, and another offering a complex chronological outline of divergent yarns based upon the adventures in the stories themselves. The remainder of the site includes a gallery of book cover artwork from appropriate books, relevant links, and details about the annual Sidewise Awards, which are bestowed annually to genre authors who offer innovative historical alternatives.

Back to the future

While many people might view the past as a relatively static milieu, this site offers a compelling argument that bygone events are fertile ground for inventive speculative storytelling. From the earliest days of civilization, humanity has apparently been wondering what might happen if history could be altered, and this exhaustive--yet surprisingly exhilarating--compendium reveals that such curiosity often results in highly imaginative and seemingly infinite possibilities.

The depth of research that went into the site is extraordinary, referencing little-known stories in a variety of literary venues and languages. It's certainly not surprising to find works like L. Sprague De Camp's classic tale "Lest Darkness Fall" or Mike Resnick's popular alternate history collections, but uncovering listings for an Esperanto translation of a Karel Capek fable or an obscure Locus magazine interview shows the amazing attention to detail that creator Robert Schmunk lavishes on the site.

With such far-ranging information readily available, most science fiction enthusiasts will find this online archive an invaluable source for both research and potential reading material. The up-to-date entries, which even list books that have been announced but not yet published, offer users the opportunity to uncover amazing stories by both relatively unknown writers and renowned authors. Combined with the book cover art, the timelines and the lists of Sidewise Award recipients and nominees, the site firmly demonstrates that the twists and turns of history hold significant promise for fans who frequently look to futuristic scenarios for their literary sustenance.

Allen Ginsberg once said that "There is nothing to be learned from history anymore. We're in science fiction now." Based on this site, I'm convinced he was wrong: the past can be superbly speculative too. -- Jeff


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