Alternate history explores the many possible directions our world could follow if certain key events didn't occur at all or were changed in some crucial way. Is our Earth the only Earth, our reality the only one that exists? Or are there many parallel worlds and societies, some very similar to ours, some barely recognizable?
Lincoln had never become president, and the Civil War had never taken place?
Columbus never discovered America, and the Inca developed a massive, technologically advanced empire?
Magic was real and a half-faery queen ruled England?
Hitler and Germany won the war because America never got involved?
Many of the world's religions were totally commercialized, their temples run like casinos, religions deisgned purely for profit?
An author discovered a book written by an alternate version of himself?
These are just some of the possible pathways that you can take to explore the Other Earths that may be waiting just one event away...
This anthology includes stories by:
Robert Charles Wilson — Jeff Vandermeer — Stephen Baxter
Theodora Goss — Lizz Williams — Gene Wolfe
Greg Van Eekhout — Alastair Reynolds — Paul Park
Lucius Shepard — Benjamin Rosenbaum
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About the Author
Jay Lake was a prolific science fiction and fantasy writer, authoring over thirty novels and short stories. He was awarded the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction in 2004. He passed away in 2014.
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Table of Contents
THIS PEACEABLE LAND; OR, THE UNBEARABLE VISION OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
THE GOAT VARIATIONS
THE UNBLINKING EYE
DONOVAN SENT US
THE HOLY CITY AND EM’S REPTILE FARM
A FAMILY HISTORY
DOG-EARED PAPERBACK OF MY LIFE
NINE ALTERNATE ALTERNATE HISTORIES
About the Authors
“You can turn around and face me now, Mr. Churchill.”
Von Steigerwald stepped back, smiling. “Is this the Mauser you used at Omdurman?”
Churchill shook his head as he straightened his shabby coat. “That is long gone. I took the one you’re holding from a man I killed. Killed today, I mean.”
Churchill nodded. “The officer of the guard. He was inspecting us—inspecting me, at the time. I happened to say something that interested him, he stayed to talk, and I was able to surprise him. May I omit the details?”
“Until later. Yes. We have no time to talk. We’re going back. I am still an S.S. officer. I still believe you to be an English traitor. I am borrowing you for a day or two—I require your service. They won’t be able to prevent us without revealing that you escaped them.” Von Steigerwald gave Churchill a smile that was charming and not at all cruel. “As you did yourself in speaking with me. They may shoot us. I think it’s much more likely that they’ll simply let us go, hoping I’ll return you without ever learning your identity.”
“And in America . . . ?”
“In America, Donovan wants you, not Kuhn. Not the Bund. Donovan knows you.”
Slowly, Churchill nodded. “We met in . . . in forty-one, I think it was. Forty would’ve been an election year, and Roosevelt was already looking shaky in July—”
They were walking fast already, with Churchill a polite half-step behind; and Von Steigerwald no longer listened.
—From “Donovan Sent Us” By Gene Wolfe
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AGES OF WONDER edited by Julie E. Czerneda and Rob St. Martin Fantasy—the very word conjures infinite possibilities. And yet far too often, writers limit themselves to a few well-mined areas of the vast fantasy realms. But the history of our world offers many cultures and areas rich in lore and legend that have barely been explored. And so we have AGES OF WONDER. The nineteen tales included here take us from the Age of Antiquity to the Age of Sails, the Colonial Age, the Age of Pioneers, the Pre-Modern Age, and the Age Ahead. Join these adventurers as they explore all that fantasy has to offer in stories ranging from a Roman slave forced to seek a witch’s curse to aid his master . . . to an elemental trapped in a mortal’s body unable to reach for the power of the wind . . . to a family of tree-people hoping to find a new life in America . . . to a Native American tribe’s search for a new hunting ground and the one girl whose power could prove the difference between life and death . . . to the impact of technology on those who live by magic . . . and the Age that may await when science and magic combine into something new.
WE THINK, THEREFORE WE ARE edited by Peter Crowther Writers have been telling stories about sentient robots, computers, etc., since the Golden Age of science fiction began. Now fifteen masters of imagining have turned their talents to exploring the forms AIs may take in the not too distant future. Here are the descendants of Robby the Robot, the Terminator, and the Bicentennial Man, by authors such as Stephen Baxter, Brian Stableford, James Lovegrove, Tony Ballantyne, Robert Reed, Paul Di Filippo, Patrick O’Leary, Ian Watson, and others.
IMAGINARY FRIENDS edited by John Marco and Martin H. Greenberg When you were a child, did you have an imaginary friend who kept you company when you were lonely or scared, or who had the most delightful adventures with you? For anyone who fondly remembers that unique companion no one else could see or hear, here is a chance to recapture that magical time of your life. Join thirteen top imaginers like Rick Hautala, Anne Bishop, Juliet McKenna, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kristen Britain, Bill Fawcett, Fiona Patton, and Jim C. Hines, as they introduce you to both special friends and special places in their spellbinding tales. From the adventurous doings of a dragon and a boy . . . to a young woman held captive in a tower, and the mysterious being who is her only companion, though he can’t enter her room . . . to a beggar, bartender, and a stray dog in the heart of Nashville . . . and a woman who seems to have lost her creativity until a toy Canadian Mountie suddenly comes to life . . . you’ll find an intriguing assortment of comrades to share some of our time with.
Copyright © 2009 by Tekno Books, Nick Gevers, and Joseph E. Lake, Jr.
All Rights Reserved.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1472.
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA).
All characters in this book are fictitious.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
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First Printing, April 2009
eISBN : 978-1-101-02464-5
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Introduction copyright © 2009 by Nick Gevers and Joseph E. Lake, Jr.
“This Peaceable Land, or, The Unbearable Vision of Harriet Beecher Stowe,” copyright © 2009 by Robert Charles Wilson
“The Goat Variations,” copyright © 2009 by Jeff VanderMeer
“The Unblinking Eye,” copyright © 2009 by Stephen Baxter
“Csilla’s Story,” copyright © 2009 by Theodora Goss
“Winterborn,” copyright © 2009 by Liz Williams
“Donovan Sent Us,” copyright © 2009 by Gene Wolfe
“The Holy City and Em’s Reptile Farm,” copyright © 2009 by Greg van Eekhout
“The Receivers,” copyright © 2009 by Alastair Reynolds
“A Family History,” copyright © 2009 by Paul Park
“Dog-Eared Paperback of My Life,” copyright © 2009 by Lucius Shepard
“Nine Alternate Alternate Histories,” copyright © 2009 by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Nick Gevers and Jay Lake
In a sense, all fiction is alternate history. Did Odysseus rule in Ithaca? Where is Jack Aubrey in the recorded naval annals of the Napoleonic period? Did Rabbit Angstrom really play high school basketball? These characters are people that never were—that is what makes them part of fiction, after all.
Works that meet a relatively formal definition of alternate history have been with us since at least the nineteenth century. Aside from occasional fascinating literary sallies by the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Benjamin Disraeli, most early counterfactual fictions were jingoistic wish-fulfillments or utopian whimsies, followed somewhat later by academic gedankenexperimenten. With the evolution of modern science fiction, alternate history came along for the ride, enriching the genre with visions of altered actualities to complement those of distant planets and turbulent futures.
Today alternate history is in its own right a major subgenre of speculative fiction. There are superstars such as Harry Turtledove and Eric Flint, more experimental efforts from Esther Friesner, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Christopher Priest, and continued incursions from literature by way of writers such as Peter Ackroyd and Philip Roth. Alternate history even has its own award, the Sidewise, named in honor of the seminal Murray Leinster short story “Sidewise in Time.” The award is administered by the estimable Steven H. Silver, whose dedication to the form is legendary.
Alternate history is alive and well and living on bookshelves worldwide. So why this anthology? Because, rightly or wrongly, alternate history has come to form a ghetto of its own within speculative fiction. A very large portion of the alternate history canon is concerned with militaria, fiction about soldiers and the wars they fight. This is as if an entire symphony orchestra were represented only by the brass section; however grand, the brass quickly becomes monotonous playing on its own.
We solicited work from among the best writers in the field. Some are masters of the genre, with the sort of deep thought and brilliant voice that makes a book such as this eminently rewarding. Others are newer players becoming well known for their achievements in urban fantasy, new weird, and all the other movements and subgenres of the past decade or two.
We felt that the form would benefit from being challenged by these sharply innovative voices. These are writers who can produce fascinating work in striking out across the countries of the mind where Lincoln was just a country lawyer, Ralph Vaughan Williams was only a soldier, and Bugsy Siegel was a Knight Templar. Even better, they can take us to places where the shift of history was something else entirely—a faery queen on England’s throne, stars missing from the summer sky, an endless spiral of time along the shores of the Mekong. In short, this book is intended to be a showcase of what can be done by some of the most brilliant minds writing today, many working in a form not normally their own.
Like a microcosm of speculative fiction, alternate history’s name is legion, for it is many, with a multitude of potentials. This collection brings new names and new ideas to this old and honorable field. With luck, it will bring new readers as well.
THIS PEACEABLE LAND; OR, THE UNBEARABLE VISION OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
Robert Charles Wilson
“It’s worth your life to go up there,” the tavernkeeper’s wife said. “What do you want to go up there for, anyway?”
“The property is for sale,” I said.
“Property!” The landlady of the roadside tavern nearly spat out the word. “There’s nothing up there but sand hills and saggy old sheds. That, and a family of crazy colored people. Someone claims they sold you that? You ought to check with the bank, Mister, see about getting your money back.”
She smiled at her own joke, showing tobacco-stained teeth. In this part of the country there were spittoons in every taproom and Bull Durham advertisements on every wall. It was 1895. It was August. It was hot, and we were in the South.
I was only posing as an investor. I had no money in all the baggage I was carrying—very little, anyhow. I had photographic equipment instead.
“You go up those hills,” the tavernkeeper’s wife said more soberly, “you carry a gun, and you keep it handy. I mean that.”
I had no gun.
I wasn’t worried about what I might find up in the pine barrens.
I was worried about what I would tell my daughter.
I paid the lady for the meal she had served me and for a second meal she had put up in a neat small box. I asked her whether a room was available for the night. There was. We discussed the arrangements and came to an agreement. Then I went out to where Percy was waiting in the carriage.
“You’ll have to sleep outside,” I said. “But I got this for you.” I gave him the wrapped dinner. “And the landlady says she’ll bring you a box breakfast in the morning, as long as there’s nobody around to see her.”
Percy nodded. None of this came as a surprise to him. He knew where he was, and who he was, and what was expected of him. “And then,” he said, “we’ll drive up to the place, weather permitting.”
To Percy it was always “the place”—each place we found.
Storm clouds had dallied along this river valley all the hot day, but no rain had come. If it came tonight, and if it was torrential, the dirt roads would quickly become useless creeks of mud. We would be stuck here for days.
And Percy would get wet, sleeping in the carriage as he did. But he preferred the carriage to the stable where our horses were put up. The carriage was covered with rubberized cloth, and there was a big sheet of mosquito netting he stretched over the open places during the night. But a truly stiff rain was bound to get in the cracks and make him miserable.
Percy Camber was an educated black man. He wrote columns and articles for the Tocsin, a Negro paper published out of Windsor, Canada. Three years ago a Boston press had put out a book he’d written, though he admitted the sales had been slight.
I wondered what the landlady would say if I told her Percy was a book writer. Most likely she would have denied the possibility of an educated black man. Except perhaps as a circus act, like that Barnum horse that counts to ten with its hoof.
“Make sure your gear is ready first thing,” Percy said, keeping his voice low although there was nobody else about—this was a poor tavern on a poor road in an undeveloped county. “And don’t drink too much tonight, Tom, if you can help it.”
“That’s sound advice,” I agreed, by way of not pledging an answer. “Oh, and the keeper’s wife tells me we ought to carry a gun. Wild men up there, she says.”
“I don’t go armed.”
“Nor do I.”
“Then I guess we’ll be prey for the wild men,” said Percy, smiling.
The room where I spent the night was not fancy, which made me feel better about leaving my employer to sleep out-of-doors. It was debatable which of us was better off. The carriage seat where Percy curled up was not infested with fleas, as was the mattress on which I lay. Percy customarily slept on a folded jacket, while my pillow was a sugar sack stuffed with corn huskings, which rattled beneath my ear as if the beetles inside were putting on a musical show.
I slept a little, woke up, scratched myself, lit the lamp, took a drink.
I will not drink, I told myself as I poured the liquor. I will not drink “to excess.” I will not become drunk. I will only calm the noise in my head.
My companion in this campaign was a bottle of rye whiskey. Mister Whiskey Bottle, unfortunately, was only half full and not up to the task assigned him. I drank but kept on thinking unwelcome thoughts, while the night simmered and creaked with insect noises.
“Why do you have to go away for so long?” Elsebeth asked me.
In this incarnation she wore a white dress. It looked like her christening dress. She was thirteen years old.
“Taking pictures,” I told her. “Same as always.”
“Why can’t you take pictures at the portrait studio?”
“These are different pictures, Elsie. The kind you have to travel for.”
Her flawless young face took on an accusatory cast. “Mama says you’re stirring up old trouble. She says you’re poking into things nobody wants to hear about any more, much less see photographs of.”
“She may be right. But I’m being paid money, and money buys pretty dresses, among other good things.”
“Why make such trouble, though? Why do you want to make people feel bad?”
Elsie was a phantom. I blinked her away. These were questions she had not yet actually posed, though our last conversation, before I left Detroit, had come uncomfortably close. But they were questions I would sooner or later have to answer.
I slept very little, despite the drink. I woke up before dawn.
I inventoried my photographic equipment by lamplight, just to make sure everything was ready.
It had not rained during the night. I settled up with the landlady and removed my baggage from the room. Percy had already hitched the horses to the carriage. The sky was drab under high cloud, the sun a spot of light like a candle flame burning through a linen handkerchief.
The landlady’s husband was nowhere to be seen. He had gone down to Crib Lake for supplies, she said, as she packed up two box lunches, cold cuts of beef with pickles and bread, which I had requested of her. She had two adult sons living with her, one of whom I had met in the stables, and she felt safe enough, she told me, even with her husband absent. “But we’re a long way from anywhere,” she added, “and the traffic along this road has been light ever since—well, ever since the Lodge closed down. I wasn’t kidding about those sand hills, Mister. Be careful up there.”
“We mean to be back by nightfall,” I said.
My daughter Elsebeth had met Percy Camber just once, when he came to the house in Detroit to discuss his plans with me. Elsie had been meticulously polite to him. Percy had offered her his hand, and she, wide-eyed, had taken it. “You’re very neatly dressed,” she had said.
She was not used to well-dressed black men. The only blacks Elsebeth had seen were the day laborers who gathered on the wharves. Detroit housed a small community of Negroes who had come north with the decline of slavery, before Congress passed the Labor Protection Act. They did “the jobs white men won’t do,” for wages to which white men would not submit.
“You’re very prettily dressed yourself,” Percy Camber said, ignoring the unintended insult.
Maggie, my wife, had simply refused to see him.
“I’m not some radical old Congregationalist,” she told me, “eager to socialize with every tawny Moor who comes down the pike. That’s your side of the family, Tom, not mine.”
True enough. Maggie’s people were Episcopalians who had prospered in Michigan since before it was a state—sturdy, reliable folks. They ran a string of warehouses that catered to the lake trade. My father was a disappointed Whig who had spent a single term in the Massachusetts legislature pursuing the chimera of Free Education before he died at an early age, and my mother’s bookshelves still groaned under the weight of faded tomes on the subjects of Enlightened Marriage and Women’s Suffrage. I came from a genteel family of radical tendencies and modest means. I was never sure Maggie’s people understood that poverty and gentility could truly coexist.
“Maggie’s indisposed today,” I had told Percy, who may or may not have believed me, and then we had settled down to the business of planning our three-month tour of the South, according to the map he had made.
“There ought to be photographs,” Percy said, “before it’s all gone.”
We traveled several miles from the tavern, sweating in the airless heat of the morning, following directions Percy had deduced from bills-of-transfer, railway records, and old advertisements placed in the Richmond and Atlanta papers.
The locality to which we were headed had been called Pilgassi Acres. It had been chartered as a business by two brothers, Marcus and Benjamin Pilgassi of South Carolina, in 1879, and it had operated for five years before the Ritter Inquiry shut it down.
There were no existing photographs of Pilgassi Acres, or any of the institutions like it, unless the Ritter Inquiry had commissioned them. And the Final Report of the Ritter Inquiry had been sealed from the public by consent of Congress, not to be reopened until some time in the twentieth century.
Percy Camber intended to shed some light into that officially ordained darkness.
He sat with me on the driver’s board of the carriage as I coaxed the team over the rutted and runneled trail. This had once been a wider road, much used, but it had been bypassed by a Federal turnpike in 1887. Since then nature and the seasons had mauled it, so the ride was tedious and slow. We subdued the boredom by swapping stories: Percy of his home in Canada, me of my time in the army.
Percy “talked white.” That was the verdict Elsebeth had passed after meeting him. It was a condescending thing to say, excusable only from the lips of a child, but I knew what she meant. Percy was two generations out of slavery. If I closed my eyes and listened to his voice, I could imagine that I had been hired by some soft-spoken Harvard graduate. He was articulate, even for a newspaper man. And we had learned, over the course of this lengthy expedition, to make allowances for our differences. We had some common ground. We were both the offspring of radical parents, for example. The “madness of the fifties” had touched us both, in different ways.
“You suppose we’ll find anything substantial at the end of this road?” Percy asked.
“The landlady mentioned some old sheds.”
“Sheds would be acceptable,” Percy said, his weariness showing. “It’s been a long haul for you, Tom. And not much substantial work. Maybe this time?”
“Documents, oral accounts, that’s all useful, but a photograph—just one, just to show that something remains—well, that would be important.”
“I’ll photograph any old shed you like, Percy, if it pleases you.” Though on this trip I had seen more open fields—long since burned over and regrown—than anything worthy of being immortalized. Places edited from history. Absences constructed as carefully as architecture. I had no reason to think Pilgassi Acres would be different.
Percy seldom spoke out loud about the deeper purpose of his quest or the book he was currently writing. Fair enough, I thought; it was a sensitive subject. Like the way I don’t talk much about Cuba, though I had served a year and a half there under Lee. The spot is too tender to touch.
These hills were low and covered with stunted pines and other rude vegetation. The road soon grew even more rough, but we began to encounter evidence of a prior human presence. A few fenceposts. Scraps of rusted barbwire. The traces of an old narrow-gauge railbed. Then we passed under a wooden sign suspended between two lodgepoles on which the words PILGASSI ACRES in an ornate script were still legible, though the seasons had bleached the letters to ghosts.
There was also the remains of a wire fence, tangled over with brambles.
“Stop here,” Percy said.
“Might be more ahead,” I suggested.
“This is already more than we’ve seen elsewhere. I want a picture of that sign.”
“I can’t guarantee it’ll be legible,” I said, given the way the sun was striking it, and the faint color of the letters, pale as chalk on the white wood.
“Well, try,” Percy said shortly.
So I set up my equipment and did that. For the first time in a long while, I felt as though I was earning my keep.
The first book Percy had written was called Every Measure Short of War, and it was a history of Abolitionism from the Negro point of view.
The one he was writing now was to be called Where Are the Three Million?
I made a dozen or so exposures and put my gear back in the carriage. Percy took the reins this time and urged the horses farther up the trail. Scrub grass and runt pines closed in on both sides of us, and I found myself watching the undergrowth for motion. The landlady’s warning had come back to haunt me.
But the woods were empty. An old stray dog paced us for a few minutes, then fell behind.
My mother had once corresponded with Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was a well-known abolitionist at one time, though the name is now mostly forgotten. Percy had contacted my parents in order to obtain copies of that correspondence, which he had quoted in an article for the Tocsin.
My mother, of course, was flattered, and she continued her correspondence with Percy on an occasional basis. In one of his replies Percy happened to remark that he was looking for a reliable photographer to hire for the new project he had in mind. My mother, of course, sent him to me. Perhaps she thought she was doing me a favor.
Thus it was not money but conscience that had propelled me on this journey. Conscience, that crabbed and ecclesiastical nag, which inevitably spoke, whether I heeded it or not, in a voice much like my mother’s.
The remains of Pilgassi Acres became visible as we rounded a final bend, and I was frankly astonished that so much of it remained intact. Percy Camber drew in his breath.
Here were the administrators’ quarters (a small building with pretensions to the colonial style), as well as five huge barnlike buildings and fragments of paving stones and mortared brick where more substantial structures had been demolished.
All silent, all empty. No glass in the small windows. A breeze like the breath from a hard-coal stove seeped around the buildings and tousled the meadow weeds that lapped at them. There was the smell of old wood that had stood in the sunlight for a long time. There was, beneath that, the smell of something less pleasant, like an abandoned latrine doused with lime and left to simmer in the heat.
Percy was working to conceal his excitement. He pretended to be casual, but I could see that every muscle in him had gone tense.
“Your camera, Tom,” he said, as if the scene were in some danger of evaporating before our eyes.
“You don’t want to explore the place a little first?”
“Not yet. I want to capture it as we see it now—from a distance, all the buildings all together.”
And I did that. The sun, though masked by light high clouds, was a feverish nuisance over my right shoulder.
I thought of my daughter Elsebeth. She would see these pictures some day. “What place is this?” she would ask.
But what would I say in return?
Any answer I could think of amounted to drilling a hole in her innocence and pouring poison in.
Every Measure Short of War, the title of Percy’s first book, implied that there might have been one—a war over Abolition, that is, a war between the states. My mother agreed. “Though it was not the North that would have brought it on,” she insisted. (A conversation we had had on the eve of my marriage to Maggie.) “People forget how sullen the South was in the years before the Douglas Compromise. How fierce in the defense of slavery. Their ‘Peculiar Institution’! Strange, isn’t it, how people cling most desperately to a thing when it becomes least useful to them?”
My mother’s dream, and Mrs. Stowe’s, for that matter, had never been achieved. No Abolition by federal statute had ever been legislated. Slavery had simply become unprofitable, as its milder opponents and apologists used to insist it inevitably would. Scientific farming killed it. Crop rotation killed it. Deep plowing killed it, mechanized harvesters killed it, soil fertilization killed it.
Embarrassment killed it, once Southern farmers began to take seriously the condescension and disapproval of the European powers whose textile and tobacco markets they craved. Organized labor killed it.
Ultimately, the expense and absurdity of maintaining human beings as farm chattel killed it.
A few slaves were still held under permissive state laws (in Virginia and South Carolina, for example), but they tended to be the pets of the old planter aristocracy—kept, as pets might be kept, because the children of the household had grown fond of them and objected to their eviction.
I walked with Percy Camber through the abandoned administration building at Pilgassi Acres. It had been stripped of everything—all furniture, every document, any scrap that might have testified to its human utility. Even the wallpaper had peeled or rotted away. One well-placed lightning strike would have burned the whole thing to the ground.
Its decomposing stairs were too hazardous to attempt. Animals had covered the floorboards with dung, and birds lofted out of every room we opened. Our progress could have been charted by the uprisings of the swallows and the indignation of the owls.
“It’s just an empty building,” I said to Percy, who had been silent throughout the visit, his features knotted and tense.
“Empty of what, though?” he asked.
I took a few more exposures on the outside. The crumbling pillars. The worm-tunneled verandah casting a sinister shade. A chimney leaning sideways like a drunken man.
I did not believe, could not bring myself to believe, that a war within the boundaries of the Union could ever have been fought, though historians still worry about that question like a loose tooth. If the years after ’55 had been less prosperous, if Douglas had not been elected President, if the terrorist John Brown had not been tried in a Northern court and hanged on a Northern gallows . . . if, if, and if, ad infinitum.
All nonsense, it seemed to me. Whatever Harriet Beecher Stowe might have dreamed, whatever Percy Camber might have uncovered, this was fundamentally a peaceable land.
This is a peaceable land, I imagined myself telling my daughter Elsebeth; but my imagination would extend itself no farther.
“Now the barracks,” Percy said.
It had been even hotter in the administration building than it was outside, and Percy’s clothes were drenched through. So were mine. “You mean those barns?”
“Barracks,” Percy repeated.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Alternate history is one of my favorite subgenres in Science Fiction, and it is a subgenre that lends itself as well to the short story as to the novel. The sting in the tail in realizing just where the divergence lies in a story's world and how it lies changed with our own often works better in a short story than the expanse of a novel. An AH novel explores an alternate history at length; a story is about the sting in the tail.So I read Other Earths, a collection of new AH stories, with eagerness. Edited by Jay Lake and Nick Gevers, Other Earths includes stories by authors well versed in the genre, including Stephen Baxter, Paul Park and Robert Charles Wilson.Like all anthologies, though, anthologies can all too often be very uneven in their quality. The very variety of the authors presented here means, necessarily, stories with wildly divergent styles, aims, and themes. Paul Park's story, "A Family History", has an almost dream like quality to it that is very alike to his Roumania novels. It is very different than the rigorous "The Unblinking Eye" by Baxter, which is really a puzzle story wrapped in the trappings of an alternate history. Liz William's "Winterborn" adds an element of fantasy to the alternate history.And so all of the stories range in this way. What this meant for me, though, and likely will mean for you is that while you will undoubtedly find stories here you will like, its just as certain there are stories in this set of 11 stories that you will dislike, perhaps intensely.It is a good line up of authors in the book, however, and if you are at all interested in Alternate history, I do recommend the book to you.
I have the last story to read yet. It started out intriging and then evolved to repetitive. This is the first short story I have read in a long time. It doesn't make me want to come back.
Alternate history is one of my favorite subgenres in Science Fiction, and it is a subgenre that lends itself as well to the short story as to the novel. The sting in the tail in realizing just where the divergence lies in a story's world and how it lies changed with our own often works better in a short story than the expanse of a novel. An AH novel explores an alternate history at length; a story is about the sting in the tail. So I read Other Earths, a collection of new AH stories, with eagerness. Edited by Jay Lake and Nick Gevers, Other Earths includes stories by authors well versed in the genre, including Stephen Baxter, Paul Park and Robert Charles Wilson. Like all anthologies, though, anthologies can all too often be very uneven in their quality. The very variety of the authors presented here means, necessarily, stories with wildly divergent styles, aims, and themes. Paul Park's story, "A Family History", has an almost dream like quality to it that is very alike to his Roumania novels. It is very different than the rigorous "The Unblinking Eye" by Baxter, which is really a puzzle story wrapped in the trappings of an alternate history. Liz William's "Winterborn" adds an element of fantasy to the alternate history. And so all of the stories range in this way. What this meant for me, though, and likely will mean for you is that while you will undoubtedly find stories here you will like, its just as certain there are stories in this set of 11 stories that you will dislike, perhaps intensely. It is a good line up of authors in the book, however, and if you are at all interested in Alternate history, I do recommend the book to you.