All posts by Peter Higgins

[GUEST POST] Peter Higgins on Alternate History of the Disreputable Kind (+ Giveaway!)

Peter Higgins read English at Oxford University and Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. He was a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford and worked in the British Civil Service. His short stories have appeared in Fantasy: Best of the Year 2007, Best New Fantasy 2, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Fantasy Magazine, Zahir and Revelation, and in Russian translation in the St Petersburg magazine Esli. His alternate history novel Wolfhound Century is out now in paperback and the sequel, Truth and Fear, it out next month.

Alternate History of the Disreputable Kind

by Peter Higgins

There’s a kind of alternate history which, for the sake of argument, I want to call respectable. The kind that has a Point of Departure, and apart from that one POD, everything is obedient to the rules of recognizability. There’s a frisson of pleasure in the familiarity, the nearness to truth, the kiss of its world against ours. Yes, it could have been like this. This kind of alternate history really is very respectable now. Pulitzer Prize winners write it. Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America.

And then there’s another kind of alternate history, and I want to call it disreputable. It’s not the counterfactual historian’s history. It’s something different. It’s the past as imaginative space, memory space, atmosphere: a place where histories and fictions, realities and fantasies, myths and legends, emotions and desires, morph and jumble and jostle in serious play. All is real and everything is possible in this marvellous junk shop. It’s a carnival.
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