What is Alternate History?
Simply stated, an alternate history is the description and/or discussion of an historical "what if" with some speculation about the consequences of a different result.
Other names which may apply to the form include alternative history, allohistory, counterfactuals, if-worlds, uchronia and uchronie, parallel worlds, what-if stories, abwegige geschichten, etc. Whatever it is called, alternate history somehow involves one or more past events which "happened otherwise" and includes some amount of description of the subsequent effects on history. Perhaps the most common themes in alternate history are "What if the Nazis won World War II?" and "What if the Confederacy won the Civil War?", but alternate Napoleons, Roman Empires, and Kennedys are also popular subjects.
Alternate history may appear in novels, short stories, scholarly essays, comic books, movies, television shows, plays and elsewhere. This bibliography limits its attention to alternative history in printed form.
The extent to which an alternate history may be developed varies radically and might comprise the entire plotline of a novel (e.g., Robert Sobel's For Want of a Nail... or Peter G. Tsouras's Gettysburg: An Alternate History) or perhaps just provide a single paragraph background to a short story or essay.
The majority of alternate history is written as deliberate fiction. As such, it is most often classified as science fiction, or at least that is where you are most likely to find it at your local bookstore. Nevertheless, you will find examples in other genres, including horror, mystery, historical non-fiction, historical fiction, children's and young-adult fiction, and "mainstream" fiction. When marketed as mainstream fiction or thriller/suspense fiction, alternate histories have been known to crack the bestseller lists (e.g., Len Deighton's SS-GB) and even get made into movies (Robert Harris's Fatherland).
For non-fiction "counterfactuals", the occasional complete volume is published, sometimes as a complete speculation such as the Sobel and Tsouras cited above, but more likely as a collection of essays (e.g. Robert Cowley's What If? or Kenneth Macksey's The Hitler Options). But the most likely non-fiction sources are history and economics scholarly journals. Note, though, that counterfactual economics is sometimes known as "cliometrics". Also, the term "alternative history" may be used in non-fiction to describe a work which provides a different interpretation (or "spin") of actual events than is commonly understood. This is not alternate history as discussed here.
The topic of alternate history is also frequently addressed in wargames and wargaming magazines, although in those media it is usually left to the reader/player to determine what happens after the "point of divergence" (aka, the "Jonbar point").
The word "past" was highlighted in the first paragraph of this introduction for good reason. There are many stories which have been written of near (and even not-so near) futures which when read now seem to be alternate histories because the dates mentioned have since passed by. Such stories may have been originally written as guesses as to what the future might bring, as warnings to the reader of an impending crisis, etc., but the authors' intention is plainly not to write alternate history and so such writings are not included here. The book most frequently submitted for inclusion in this database but which has been rejected because it is such a "retroactive alternate history" is John Hackett's The Third World War, August 1985, which was first published in 1978. Examples of other works so disqualified include Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here, postulating events beginning in 1936 but first published in 1935; numerous British novels published before World War I about the Imperial German military threat, beginning as early as 1871 with George Chesney's The Battle of Dorking; superseded science fictional works such as Robert A. Heinlein's Future History, which was mostly written in the 1940s and 1950s and includes extrapolation of what would happen in the late 20th century; and superseded near-future thrillers which postulate exciting events which could happen tomorrow or next year, including virtually anything by Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, Clive Cussler, etc.
You might argue that excluding all such retroactive alternate histories from this bibliography is "limiting", in which case you'd be exactly right. A limit must be drawn or else this bibliography would have the impossible goal of including a significant fraction of the books and stories that have ever been published, and potentially the majority of all science fiction.
Alternate history fiction is also often confused with "secret history" or "hidden history", in which something we think we know about the past is revealed to be incorrect. In many cases, a conspiracy is involved, often one which is "manipulating" history, as for example in the competing secret societies in Michael Flynn's In the Country of the Blind. Sometimes a novel is secret history because it describes secret events never revealed to the public. For example, in Joe Poyer's Vengeance 10 the Nazis built and launched a moon rocket, but no one finds out about it until a mysterious body is found on the moon sometime in the the 21st century. The important thing is that in a secret history, the present is still the present, or in more concrete terms, the contents of today's newspaper remain the same. In an allohistorical world, they very probably would not.
More subtle is the "generic" historical novel, which may present a somewhat altered version of events, typically one in which a fictional character is present at or active in some great event. Additionally, the author of an historical novel might shift events around in time in order to heighten the drama of the story. Classic examples of this type of novel are Alexandre Dumas' Les Trois Mousquetaires and its sequels, in which four dashing heroes play important roles in the history of 17th century France. Within the context of this bibliography, these novels would be considered secret history.
Also akin to alternate histories are what are sometimes called "personal alternate histories" or "micro alternate histories", stories in which fictional characters get a chance to see how their lives might otherwise have occurred. Examples include Alan Brennert's novel Time and Chance and the movies It's a Wonderful Life and Sliding Doors. However, the alterations in these stories are usually limited to the lives of the authors' own fictional creations and do not affect the external world, Consequently, they are generally not considered alternate histories appropriate to this bibliography. An exception in which such "reliving" does change history, and which is listed here, is Ken Grimwood's Replay.
There is also what is frequently called the "alternate world", "parallel world" or "secondary world" story. These are tales in which historical cultures of our world are re-cast so that the author may manipulate the reader's sense of familiarity. They may seem to use the trappings of alternate history, but these works are not set on Earth at all and so, again, are not considered alternate history as discussed here. Examples include the fantasy works of Guy Gavriel Kay and the "Videssos Cycle" by Harry Turtledove.
For further reading, perhaps the best discussion of what is and what isn't alternate history can be found in:
- Chamberlain, Gordon B. "Allohistory in Science Fiction". In Alternative Histories (eds. Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg), Garland 1986 (0824086597).
About This Bibliography
Uchronia: The Alternate History List is copyright © 1991-2013 by Robert B. Schmunk
The idea for creating Uchronia was first conceived in late February 1991 and was initiated by a request to the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf-lovers (now rec.arts.sf.written) for help finding stories in the alternate history genre. Version 1 of the "Usenet Alternate History List" was then posted on April 11, 1991, to rec.arts.sf-lovers. It was essentially a plain text file about 30 kB long and included about 250 items. Much of that first posting was based on information provided by Evelyn Leeper, who is still submitting entries today.
A new version of the Alternate History List was posted to Usenet once every month or two over the next six years. The first web version was posted in 1995, but for the next two years it remained just a slightly modified copy of the same material that was still being posted to Usenet. In early 1997, the list became Web-only.
Uchronia received its current name late in 1997. At almost the same time it also was converted to the spiffy Web version you see today, which is extracted dynamically from a text database. Although the underlying script has been heavily rewritten since 1997, the user interface of Uchronia has remained basically unchanged since then. As of January 2012, the database was about 1.5 MB in size and included about 3100 entries.
Copies of the "Usenet Alternate History List" which you may encounter on other websites are archives of pre-1997 Usenet postings and as such are seriously out-of-date. Please ignore them and instead visit only the Uchronia homepage at http://www.uchronia.com/ for the "correct" and up-to-date version of the bibliography.
As you read the entries in this bibliography, please note that:
- If you are searching for and can't find a particular short story, or maybe even a novel, check other entries by the same author to see if it was retitled or included in a larger work.
- Except in a few cases, works by an author who used a variety of pen names are all listed under the name by which he is best known. There should be "see" entries pointing from alternative names to the name used.
- The ten- and thirteen-digit numbers which appear in publication data are dashless ISBNs.
- Dates mentioned in the entries may include the notation CE or BCE. These mean Common Era and Before Common Era, respectively, and denote the same eras and year numberings which may be more commonly labeled by AD and BC.
- The term "allohistory" was suggested by Gordon B. Chamberlain as an alternative to "alternate history" in the essay cited above. Although some dislike this term for various reasons, its adjectival form "allohistorical" is used throughout this bibliography because of the ease with which it is spoken.
Finding Books and Stories
If you've spotted a story or novel in the bibliography that you'd like to read and are unsure how to go about finding a copy, here are some suggestions:
If a volume was recently published in a country other than where you live (or even in the one where you live), check one of the on-line mail-order bookstores such as Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon France, etc., especially one which is based in the same country as the book's publisher. Uchronia is an Amazon.com associate, so you will find links for many US publications in this database leading to the corresponding entries in Amazon.com's catalog.
Used bookstores can be good places to search for anything that was published in paperback, particularly within the last 15-20 years. As at new book stores, you may have more luck in the science fiction and/or fantasy sections, although more "serious" works may be over in the history section.
Antiquarian bookshops often contain some of the obscure works which may be difficult to find in the more common used bookstores. Even before the use of the Internet became commonplace, such shops provided booksearch service through a network. This sort of service is now available on-line, including Amazon.com's used book listings, Advanced Book Exchange and Alibris.
Public libraries, particularly larger ones, are a good place to find books published in hardback. If you live in a big city whose library has many branches, you'll likely have better luck at the central or main branch. Of course, you can always see whether it is possible to have items transferred to your local branch. If you do not live in a large city, check to see if your local library participates in a regional interlibrary loan system.
Research libraries, especially university libraries, can be great sources for more obscure hardback volumes. Also, any history or economics counterfactual is probably best sought at a research library. University libraries also seem less likely to "de-access" older material so they can sometimes be useful locations for finding older popular fiction.
Short stories which have been reprinted rarely or not at all since their initial publication in a magazine might be found in the microfilmed magazine collection at a library. Ask at the reference desk.
Keep your eyes open whenever you might be anywhere that books are sold. I've picked up a couple dozen alternate history paperbacks from New York City street vendors, including several 1960s science fiction paperback first editions.
Much of the information in this list was contributed by members of the on-line science fiction community and other alternate history fans. Notably, this list would not have been possible without the generous and continuing help of Evelyn C. Leeper. Important contributions have also been made by Thomas Cron. Many thanks to them, and to the other contributors, including (in approximate order of first contribution) A.M. Barbanson, Paul Boyer, Stan Brown, Calle Dybedahl, Todd Howard, Bill Johnston, Crawford Kilian, Mark Krenitsky, William Watson, Al B. Wesolowsky, John Whitmore, Daniel DanehyOakes, Guy Harris, Tom Hyer, Will Linden, Janet Lafler, Dorian Gray, Kenneth Allen Hite, Duncan A. MacGregor, Dave Schaumann, Michael A. Patton, Jim Love, Richard K. Fox, Vincent Archer, Matthew P. Wiener, Glen Cox, Gareth Suddes, Alan Beale, Beth Friedman, Andreas Morlok, Harry Turtledove, Chris Blakeley, Jörg Helbig, Per C. Jørgensen, Fernando Bonsembiante, Steven H. Silver, Meredith Dixon, Michael J. Morton, Susan K. O'Fearna, Jean-Yves Peterschmitt, Brian Stableford, Andy Sawyer, Joseph Admire, Arne Herløv Petersen, Stephen Baxter, Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro, Stuart Shiffman, Erwin Wodarczak, Ian Feldman, Bui Chin, Louise Rowder, Marek Wiechula, Roberto Fuentes, Massimo Mauro, Yaron Mayer, Ahasuerus, Ed McKnight, Fred Simkin, Jamie McQuinn, Lawrence Briggs, Stephen Dedman, Karen Hellekson, James D. Macdonald, Mike Taylor, Dragan Antulov, Brad Ferguson, Achim Stößer, Geir Strøm, Jack Dann, Eli Eshed, Stig Jørgensen, Craig J. Neumeier, Daniel Riche, Jay Shorten, Jürgen Thomann, Daniel from Hungary, Graham Head, Stephen R. Mendenhall, Piergiorgio Nicolazzini, Jim Rittenhouse, Steve Berry, Stephen Kissin, Christine Levis, Dennis Malone, Francis Rogers, Simon Sheppard, Ulf Åsén, Pierre Corbeil, Matthias Kranz, Lee Allred, Alexander Meerovich, Murray Smith, Bruce Grant, G. Miki Hayden, Jérome Labatut, Roberto Gerbi, Phil Masters, Peter Morley, Pedro Mota, Eric Henriet, Christopher M. Rebarich, Carson Graves, J.P. Fernandez, Antonio Tavares de Brito, Mark Shainblum, Ken Richardson, P. Mergey, Maciej Stefanicki, Jaap Boekestein, Just Hoaxer, Jesús Gil Fuensanta, Karl-Johan Noren, Bill Leisner, Nicholas Gevers, David Morse, Kim Newman, Ernesto Vegetti, Levana Taylor, Francis Spufford, Brian Richards, Kurt Sidaway, Nicholas Stanton, Greg Herriges, R. Gill, Ray Adam Smith Latiolais, Fabio Fernandes, Eric Flint, Richard Saint-Gelais, Lasse Nikkarev, Rasmus Dahlberg, Marc Madouraud, Andrew May, Steve Tally, Guenther Lehmann, Maurizio Munafo, Pat Johnson, Bradley Burch, Jacob Mohlman, Dan Cziraky, Jonathan Kozlowski, Sean Kelly, Andrew Zimmerman Jones, José Manuel, Gregory Wilmoth, Robert Post, Jim Reston, Valentin Ivanov, Martin Gidron, Mark R. Whittington, Steven Swain, Luke Schleusener, iimazin, Brian Castlevale, Chris Quillen, M. King, Kurt Giambastiani, Mark Jones, Darrell Schweitzer, Dmitriy Genzel, Michael Sheets, Oscar Jimenez Reyes, Vincent Mollet, Micharl Ryan, Mitchell Freedman, Jack Staik, Mario Farneti, Robert J. Karol, Ken Harlan, Geoff Cush, Sven Allenbach-Schmidt, David Dvorkin, W.L. Hesse, David Martínez, Eric Picholle, Jan Pavlik, Steve Badsey, András Gáspár, Sarris Delapore, Gavriel Rosenfeld, Luis R. González Manso, Thomas Owen, Sully Lasco, Robert Armidon, Raul Gonzalo Montero, Pedro A. Garcia Bilbao, Lasse Laitinen, Roland C. Wagner, Rex F. May, Fredric Paul Smoler, Xabi-Mikel Susperregi, George E. Rennar, Graham Willett, Janus Andersen, Jose Ricardo G. Bondoc, Steven Johnson, Rachel Stewart, Beth Bernobich, Traci Morganfield, Jorge Baradit, Thaddeus Holt, Campo Ricardo Burgos López, Guy Saville, Colm Ryan, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, Dirk van den Boom, Guido Schenkel, Anthony Docimo, Rich Thau, Stephen Fernie, Andrew Crumey, and Geoffrey Wilson. My apologies to anyone who has submitted information and whose name is omitted above.
Additionally, significant amounts of information have been extracted from:
- Hacker, Barton C., and Gordon B. Chamberlain. "Pasts that Might Have Been, II: A Revised Bibliography of Alternative History". In Alternative Histories (eds. Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg), Garland 1986 (0824086597).
- Contento, William. Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections. George Prior/G.K. Hall 1978 (081618092X).
- Contento, William. Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections 1977-1983. G.K. Hall 1984 (0816185549).
- Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field (ed. Charles N. Brown).
Libraries which proved extremely useful during research for this bibliography include the Fondren Library of Rice University, the Houston Public Library, and the New York Public Library (both its branch libraries and its famous Humanities and Social Sciences Library).
Submissions for New and Updated Entires
Submissions for new entries are always appreciated, as are corrections and additions to existing entries. Please e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that because many people have a different definition of the boundaries of alternate history, and because many submissions are short on detail, I very often do not add submissions until after having had a chance to actually read them. Sometimes this means that a submission is not accepted or rejected until a year or more later. Sorry, but I only have so much reading time. You can speed things up if your submission(s) clearly state what is allohistorical about a work and why you think it should be included in Uchronia.
Also, I receive a large amount of spam, over 200 pieces a day. To help ensure that your messages are not accidentally classified as spam by mail filters, please send your message as plain text. This means you should to turn off "HTML e-mail" in your mail program and you should avoid sending Word documents or other file attachments. Finally, please use the phrase "Uchronia submission" in your subject line. Thanks in advance for taking these precautions.
If you are an author wishing to send a tear sheet or review copy of your recent publication so that it may be better evaluated, you may mail it to:
235 West 102nd St #14U
New York, NY 10025-8432
Thanks, and enjoy,