1. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    What do you see as overused settings in Alternate History

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by X Equestris, May 15, 2016.

    I recently stumbled across a flash fiction contest focused on alternate history, and decided I'd take a stab at it. My initial idea was for a German invasion of the U.S.' East Coast following a very different World War 2. However, the more I've thought about it, the more it feels like the premise is worn out. "Axis wins/Axis conquers the world" is probably the most common sort of alternate history fiction I've stumbled across, followed by "CSA wins the American Civil War". Considering that, I wouldn't be surprised for this contest to get swamped with alt-WW2 scenarios, and the last thing I want is for my story to just blend into the crowd.

    So I'm curious: what sort of alternate scenarios do you find to be way, way overdone?

    On a side note, I'm leaning towards doing a "Carthage defeats Rome in the Second Punic War" based story. Any advice on how to make that as plausible as possible is welcome.
     
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  2. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    European countries send boats over to the newworld for resources, what they find is a race of people they were no where near prepared to deal with. That's right, i want Native Americans to not only repel the invading forces, but i want them to build their own boats and take over world!

    To answer your initial question, anything with Hitler is waaaay over done.
     
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  3. Sniam
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    Sniam Member

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    If I were you, I wouldn't used too recent events. I mean, everybody knows about recent History and has already thought about the "what if" once in their life. I would say, everything before WW1 would be way more interesting to look at, because nobody thinks about that nowadays.

    That is why the "Carthage defeats Rome in the Second Punic War" based story is a very interesting idea. How would it possibly happen ? I know for sure that Hannibal had the upperhand on land while Rome dominated the sea. I've made some research and found an interesting link : [ http://dcc.dickinson.edu/nepos-hannibal/second-punic-war ]
    If Fabius Maximus hadn't been elected dictator with his Fabian strategy, for example, things could have gone differently.
    Or you could re-write one of the three major drawbacks Hannibal suffered, I quote "First his brother Hasdrubal, who was attempting to reinforce Hannibal by land, was killed and his army destroyed at Metaurus in 207. Then Scipio Africanus completed the conquest of Hispania in 206. Finally, a large resupply fleet from Carthage was destroyed in 205."

    I hope you'll find what you need to write that story, I would be interested in reading it !
     
  4. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, the Battle at Metaurus was one of the things that I contemplated changing. Aside from reinforcements, the key to the campaign was which way Rome's allies broke. After Cannae, they were stretched thin from the massive troop demands placed on them, and many considered defection. A decade after Cannae, there was a major Celtic revolt in Northern Italy. Having that occur shortly after Cannae is probably going to be one major change I make. Aside from that, I'll probably have the Macedonians be more successful in the First Macedonian War, letting them land an invasion force in Italy. All those factors coming together at once seem like they'd be enough to pry Rome's allies loose, and give Hannibal the numbers he would have needed to lay siege to the city.
     
  5. Domino355
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    Domino355 Contributing Member

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    Another wayy overused alternate history is "if communism/facism won"
    Anything from 1984 to V for Vendetta and lots more fall down that category.
     
  6. Domino355
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    Domino355 Contributing Member

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    You can go with "what if the industrial revolution began in the Roman Empire" "what if the French Revolution failed" "what if the mongols managed to invade and conquer western Europe
     
  7. Cnayur
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    Cnayur Member

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    What if the UK had voted Remain... I jest.

    Domino355 mentions the Industrial Revolution... Technology invented earlier/elsewhere/slightly differently can always be interesting. Then there's this other thing that should be obvious but that hasn't been done that often I think. What if dinosaurs hadn't become extinct? I'm thinking full-on 80s Dino Riders fun! :)
     
  8. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you referring to the people from what is now the United States (Iroquois, Shawnee, Cherokee...)?

    Or are you referring to the Aztecs :D
     
  9. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Yes.
     
  10. Blütrunstig
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    Blütrunstig New Member

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    Right at the top of the list is 'What if the Nazis won WWII?'.

    Unless you've got something extraordinarily new and fresh to add to that premise, discard it right off of the bat.

    Right on its heels are a Soviet victory in the Cold War, a Confederate victory in the American Civil War, a Roman Empire that somehow survives to the present day, Christianity being strangled in the cradle, and the British suppressing the movement for American independence. I don't view those (except maybe the Confederate victory) as quite as trite as the Axis victory trope, but they're also pretty worn out. Again, probably not worth attempting unless you've got a special twist in mind.

    What I like is not necessarily scenarios like 'What if X side won this war that they lost in reality?' but less obvious things like 'what if X won in a different way then they really did?'. Say the Union crushes the south within a few months, or World War II manages to drag on for two or three years more, leaving a very different world behind when the Axis is finally vanquished.

    Also, the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars are woefully under-explored in fiction, considering what a rich and exciting time period it was
     
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  11. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Agree with others about what's overused. As for what to use, I would suggest a large number of smaller changes across the globe and some big impact results but none of the changes are obvious like "Communism won!" or something. More like what if what if Stalin was never in charge? Going in that kind of direction. I like what you've got though. I would suggest you think about the rest of the world. That's the biggest thing. Regardless of what your main thing is, it will affect other things. And I would suggest changing other things somewhat liberally because you want less compounded obvious and more diverse interesting changes.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2016
  12. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    • anything to do with World War II where American doesn't emerge as a world power
    • German/Japanese invasion of American soil
    • American Civil War
    • Assassination of JFK or Lincoln
    • any story where the War of Independence is either delayed or re-fought
     
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  13. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    I think my preferred model for alternate history is something like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell--i.e "What if people suddenly started using magic during the Napoleonic Wars?" Another good one is one of Turtledove's lesser-knowns, A Different Flesh, i.e "What if homo erectus co-existed with modern humans?" (Turtledove called it alternate natural history, but of course you still get some of the fun trivia counter-factuals, like I think Samuel Pepys comes up with the theory of evolution 200 years before Darwin would've).

    I'm all for doubling down on the "bonkers" factor. To me that's more interesting, especially if you follow a lot of it out to its logical implications. It takes some world-building, but it ends up feeling more satisfying, to me at least, than the usual, "What if Cleopatra had been...a MAN?" etc. Just a thought.
     
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  14. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    A good example of a rich and original take on alternate history is 1632 (Eric Flint). I enjoyed the original novels (1632-1634) very much :D

    What if a bunch of modern-day Americans get dropped down in the middle of Germany during the 40-years war?
     
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  15. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    There have been a couple good ones based on plagues playing out differently. The Years of Rice and Salt is Kim Stanley Robinson's take on a world without white people, and one where Columbus's expedition either never made it back or never took place due to plague (don't remember which), so first contact was when Aztec steamships showed up in London.
     
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  16. Blütrunstig
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    Blütrunstig New Member

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    I actually started writing that once and then (like everything else longer than a couple thousand words I've ever written) slacked off.
     
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  17. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    The outcome or prevention of various wars is an easy hook for Alternate Histories.

    Also anything involving Nikola Tesla or Leonardo Da Vinci. Rasputin is another popular figure to speculate on.

    It's not a genre I feel comfortable writing in or even reading due to the erasure of significant cultural history. But I like the idea of wild and fantastical influences on how historical events played out. Such as "magic" or "aliens" or "dinosaurs survived and we ride them now!"
     
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  18. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Confederacy wins the American Civil War
     
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  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Alt-History seems to always hinge on some well-known historical event, whether we reach back to Rome or Alexander, or we come to the 20th century with Axis vs. Allies. I say to reach for something a little more primordial. What if we had never learned flint knapping? What if we were so afraid of fire (like all other animals) that we never harness it. What if global average temperatures were just a few degrees colder at the time we tried to leave Africa and all we found was block of ice north of the Med?
     
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  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not necessarily an overused setting, but in terms of making things plausible...

    I recently finished listening to His Majesty's Dragon (dragons in the Napoleonic wars) and while I enjoyed it (excellent audiobook narrator!) I was frustrated about how much was the SAME about society. This wasn't a situation where dragons had suddenly been introduced--they were a naturally occurring species that had been domesticated long ago. But still EVERYTHING about the setting was the same as real history, except - oh, yeah, dragons.

    So everyone still dressed the same and acted the same as they would have in regular history, the same people rose to power, the same national boundaries developed, etc. And it just seemed completely nonsensical that this would have happened in the face of a huge, flying apex predator with human-level intelligence and a global range.

    I don't know - I'm not very good at turning my brain off when I'm reading, and I DID enjoy the book despite that issue. But... come on!
     
  21. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    For myself most alternate histories seem to revolve around European and American historical facts, and I guess that's because I'm western European. The other common ones that I identify with are the premise that something that's now extinct, isn't and magic.

    It would be interesting to know what other people outside of these groups (European & American) view as topics for an alternate history.
     
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  22. Domino355
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    Domino355 Contributing Member

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    There's one alt history which I am not quite sure has been done much, Id like to know. What if Germany won the First world war, blaming the war's redults on the Britain, and making the British Empire desend into Facism?
     
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  23. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    :superagree::superagree::superagree:
     
  24. Keystroke
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    Keystroke New Member

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    Anything Nazi, Roman, British, or Civil War related is wayyyyyu overdone.

    If you want a suggestion for a more obscure point of divergence I would suggest the Norse succeeding in establishing a kingdom in Northern England.
     
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  25. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Roman is a huge period with a lot of potential changes. And Britain is a country, that includes all of their history. But otherwise, mostly yes.
     

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