The Early Days of a Better Nation

Monday, February 08, 2010

Mammoths! Zeppelins! Hitler!

Last week I received my contributor copies of The Alternate Book of Mammoth Histories The History Book of Alternate Mammoths The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories, edited by Ian Watson and Ian Whates. The covers of all anthologies of alternate history must, by law, include a picture of a Zeppelin or Hitler (just as all American libertarian books must, under some obscure interstate commerce regulation, show a picture of that big government statue in New York harbour) and this one scores on both counts, in both its (alternate) versions. I'm very proud indeed to have one of the three original stories in it, alongside no less than 22 reprints, some of them classics and some quite new to me. Ian Whates gives the contents list here. I haven't read them all but I haven't had a let-down yet. James Morrow's 'The Raft of the Titanic' is going to be a future classic, and among the reprints Keith Roberts' 'Weinachtsabend' is one of the best SF short stories in a number of highly competitive categories (alternate history, 'Hitler wins', British New Wave, and, indeed 'short stories by Keith Roberts') and it's good to see it back in print.

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I see they got Nikola Tesla to play Hitler. :-)

Re the Statue of Liberty -- I hope our conservatives don't find out it's from France, or they'll want to rename it the ... uh ... Freedom Statue?

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Roderick----That's pretty subtle. I like it! No problem here and in the UK. They're just "chips."

If the guy on the cover is meant to be Tesla, the cover artist has sure made him look like the Austrian corporal. Maybe there's an alternate history where Tesla led the Iron Guard. I wouldn't want to live there.

I'm pretty sure it's meant to be Hitler; Tesla never wore that odd swooshing hairdo. But the face looks a lot more like Tesla than like Hitler.

The cover depicts the story "Catch That Zeppelin", whose main character is at one point told he resembles Hitler.

In the alternate history of that story, Thomas Edison married Marie Skłodowska, and I don't think Tesla makes as big a historical imprint.

Ah! So that's what the cover's about. Back to reading the book.

I notice that the redder cover has what is supposed to be a Russian-looking font.

Indeed it is a law with a name - Hite's Rule, 'alternate universes tend to have more zeppelins'. Coined by RPG-writer and terrifyingly erudite yet thoroughly nice chap, Kenneth Hite.

Do alternate universes really have more zeppelins, or is that an artifact of salience? I mean, when we read a story about an alternate universe that has fewer zeppelins, do we notice?

when we read a story about an alternate universe that has fewer zeppelins

It would be difficult to have fewer zeppelins than our timeline...

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