Check out the table of contents for the new alternate history anthology Wars to End All Wars: Alternate Tales from the Trenches edited by N.E. White, currently available for only $0.99!

Here’s the book description:

Alternate tales set during the first World War, this short story collection takes history and tweaks it.

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1. Seven authors, including the award-winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author, Elizabeth Moon, commemorate that event by writing stories set during the great war, adding their own, sometimes speculative, interpretations and answering the question, “What if…?”

Here’s the table of contents…
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FINALISTS: 2013 Sidewise Award

This year’s Sidewise Awards for Alternate History have been announced:
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BOOK REVIEW: The Abominable by Dan Simmons

REVIEW SUMMARY: Based on the title and Simmons other works (The Terror), I was looking for the Yeti; I was looking for lots of Yetis! What I found was an excellent alternate history between the Great War and World War II on the slopes of Everest, slow to rev, but a fast and furious ending.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Three world-class climbers, Jake (a young American), Jean Claude (a French Chamoix guide) and the Deacon (a British veteran of the Great War) volunteer for a trip to find the body or whereabouts of Lord Percival Bromley, who either died climbing the mountain or met with an “Abominable” fate.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Set in a time when Everest has yet to be summited, that complicated point in history between World War I and World War II; in-depth descriptions of climbing in the cold; like The Terror, vivid descriptions about what it feels like to be very cold; have I mentioned the cold?
CONS: NEED MORE YETI! A few side trips to climb mountains for character-building; not sure the “I got this manuscript from a guy I met named Jake” handed-off memoir strategy is required.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s Dan Simmons. Read it.
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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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Martin Berman-Gorvine is the author of four science fiction novels: Save the Dragons! (Wildside Press, 2013), Seven Against Mars (Wildside Press, 2013; it has been nominated for next year’s Prometheus Award for Best Novel), 36 (Livingston Press, 2012), and, as Martin Gidron, of The Severed Wing (Livingston Press, 2002), which received the 2002 Sidewise Award for Alternate History (Long Form) at the International Science Fiction Convention in Toronto in 2003. His short story “Palestina,” set in an alternate history in which Israel lost its war of independence, was published in Interzone magazine’s May/June 2006 issue, and was a finalist for the Sidewise Award (Short Form), and his short story “The Tallis” appeared in Jewish Currents magazine, May 2002. He is a professional journalist, currently serving as a reporter for the Bureau of National Affairs newsletter Human Resources Report. He lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. with his wife, three orange tabby cats, two shy, overgrown kittens, and a sort of Muppet dog. Two sons from a previous marriage live with their mother near Chicago.

Parallel Worlds Never Meet, Unless You Bend Them

by Martin Berman-Gorvine

What good is alternate history? Serious historians have traditionally viewed “counterfactual” scenarios as little more than an amusing parlor game. On this view, it may be fun to speculate how American history would have played out differently if President John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated, but it is ultimately fruitless, a game best left to the conspiracy-mongers and other special-pleading partisans (JFK was ready to end American involvement in Vietnam! No, he was even more eager to plunge waist-deep into the Big Muddy than LBJ!)
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BOOK REVIEW: Odd Men Out by Matt Betts

REVIEW SUMMARY: In his debut novel, Matt Betts successfully mashes up a whole lotta things that wouldn’t usually go together.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Entertaining and fast-paced Civil War era alternate history mashes up steampunk, zombies, and pop culture references.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Amusing pop culture references are smoothly and slyly put into the narrative; the story is wildly imaginative, yet feels plausible; dialog is fun and at times laugh-out-loud funny.
CONS: Light on world building and characterization; short chapters made it hard to keep track of everything that was going on; final action sequence was predictable.
BOTTOM LINE: A fun and entertaining mash-up that’s not without a few issues, but shows that the author has plenty of potential.
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Here is the book trailer for David Barnett’s alternate history steampunk thriller, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, described thusly:

Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire. Airships ply the skies and Queen Victoria presides over three-quarters of the known world—including the East Coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.

London might as well be a world away from Sandsend, a tiny village on the Yorkshire coast. Gideon Smith dreams of the adventure promised him by the lurid tales of Captain Lucian Trigger, the Hero of the Empire, told in Gideon’s favorite “penny dreadful.” When Gideon’s father is lost at sea in highly mysterious circumstances Gideon is convinced that supernatural forces are at work. Deciding only Captain Lucian Trigger himself can aid him, Gideon sets off for London. On the way he rescues the mysterious mechanical girl Maria from a tumbledown house of shadows and iniquities. Together they make for London, where Gideon finally meets Captain Trigger.

But Trigger is little more than an aging fraud, providing cover for the covert activities of his lover, Dr. John Reed, a privateer and sometime agent of the British Crown. Looking for heroes but finding only frauds and crooks, it falls to Gideon to step up to the plate and attempt to save the day…but can a humble fisherman really become the true Hero of the Empire?

David Barnett’s Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is a fantastical steampunk fable set against an alternate historical backdrop: the ultimate Victoriana/steampunk mash-up!

And now, the trailer…
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Ok, I admit it. I troll Amazon for upcoming releases. How else would I found out about cool, upcoming books like this one? It’s Allen Steel’s forthcoming novel V-S Day: A Novel of Alternate History.

Here’s the synopsis:
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FINALISTS: 2012 Sidewise Award

The finalists for this year’s Sidewise Awards for Alternate History (named after Murray Leinster’s 1934 story “Sidewise in Time”) have been announced!

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In episode 154 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester gathers a group of SFSignal folks to discuss: History That Never Happened, Our Favorite Alternate History Stories.

Alternate histories play a big part in SF&F – what are some of your favorites?

Why? What made them stand out to you?

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BOOK REVIEW: The Outcast Blade by Jon C. Grimwood

REVIEW SUMMARY: The second Assassini novel strongly continues the story of an alternate Venice in a world with Vampires, Magic and Werewolves.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Tycho, Giulietta and the rest of Venice are caught in the gaze of two avaricious and dangerous Empires–the Holy Roman and the Byzantine

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Immersive and deep writing, excellent invocation of place and character
CONS: A few plot points seem strangely unresolved. A lack of sympathetic characters may turn off some readers.
BOTTOM LINE: Excellent build on the first novel that feels like a continuation rather than a middle book.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood, in The Fallen Blade [My SF Signal review here], introduced us to an alternate medieval Venice; a Venice where Marco Polo did not come back to be thrown in prison, but rather, with Mongol help (and a Mongol wife) set himself up to rule, a Venice with German Kriegshund (Werewolves), Vampires, and Magic, a Venice which is a powder keg of danger, discontent, and possibly, doom for the Queen of the Adriatic. The actions of an unlikely hero have saved the city from an enemy fleet, but even more pressing dangers remain…

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New Author Spotlight: Anne Lyle

New Author Spotlight is a series designed to introduce authors with 3 books or less in the different SF/F subgenres.

Today’s spotlight shines on Anne Lyle!

Her debut novel is The Alchemist of Souls published by Angry Robot Books.

Here’s the cover copy…

When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods–and a skrayling ambassador–to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?

Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally–and Mal his soul.

Check out her book if you’re a fan of Elizabethan style alternate history. And, you might also like these titles…

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REVIEW: The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith

REVIEW SUMMARY: Sucked of life, this steampunk, vampire mash-up misses the mark.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Vampires have taken over the world, ruling with a clawed fist. Humanity’s hope lies with a marriage of two nations, a “mysterious” freedom fighter, and a princess that is more than she appears.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Fun premise; use of technology of the era.

CONS: No mystery or flow; prose is rudimentary and doesn’t excite.

BOTTOM LINE: A debut novel that reads like one, this is for hardcore steampunk and vampire fans only.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: An enjoyable blend of alternate history stories that offer a wide range of topics and styles.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology of 11 alternate history stories.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Lucius Shepard’s excellent story, occupying 30% of the book, was the anthology’s centerpiece; Robert Charles Wilson’s story was also excellent; six other worthwhile stories.

CONS: Three stories were mediocre or worse – two of which were more literary experiment than fiction.

BOTTOM LINE: An enjoyable assortment of alternate history stories.

Alternate history is a sub-genre that continues to intrigue and surprise me. Long-feared because of the natural association with history – and the painful reminder of boring, force-fed history classes – it wasn’t until I started reading alternate history short fiction that I came to realize this need not be the case. What I found was that, in some cases, the fictional accounts of real-life events actually prompted research on a topic – quite the opposite reaction I had in school.

Other Earths edited by Nick Gevers and Jay Lake is an anthology of short fiction that presents 11 diverse alternate history stories. The diversity is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the reader is exposed to various authors and styles that broaden reading horizons; on the other there are likely to be some stories that are your cup of tea.

That is a truism for most anthologies, and so it is here. Of the three stories that worked the least, one was hindered by writing style and the other two felt like literary experiments. That said, two other stories were quite excellent: Robert Charles Wilson’s “This Peaceable Land, or, The Unbearable Vision of Harriet Beacher Stowe” and “Dog-Earred Paperback of My Life” by Lucius Shepard. The latter of these is a novella occupying thirty percent of the entire anthology. This weighed heavily of the overall enjoyment of the anthology, which offered 6 other worthwhile stories.

Individual story reviews follow…

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SF Tidbits for 9/15/09

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