15 Comments

What a great list. You've made me reconsider some books I hadn't thought worth the bother. "American Nations with magic" is such a good idea!

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I think that you should mention Eric Flint's sprawling 1632verse somewhere. One of the things about that series is that it's very much based on solid technology and very little handwavium. People (including me in one short story) spent a lot of time and effort researching real people who would be alive at the time and seeing how the Americans from our era might manage to industrialize 1630s Europe with plausible contents of West Virginia garages and yards and so on.

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Pavane is a great piece of alt history

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On your recommendation, I got a copy of "Lest Darkness Fall" (the library system didn't have it). I enjoyed the detailed description of Rome in slow, genteel decline (like Philadelphia...) and the hero's brazen decision to change the course of history. Since I am quite clumsy, and most academics I know are, too, his 100% success rate in re-inventions struck me as just a tad over-optimistic!

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Very happy to see the GURPS mention!

No Robert Silverberg?

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The bit about the new Lourve pyramid -- just the thought of it puts me in hysterics. Thanks for the comprehensive review.

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I was so excited for Civilisations and I was similarly let down! If you don't mind a lot of metafictional digressions on the ethics of writing history, his book HHhH is excellent.

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Has someone written an alternative history in which Russian traders and missionaries expand down the whole west coast, beat out the Spanish, and the western United States is Orthodox?

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Mrs. Psmith, you are my HERO, and I would be RT-ing this to oblivion if I hadn’t recently gotten off Twitter. Second the comment below about 1632–I actually think the series does a pretty good job presenting how the Americans’ culture melds with local mores—but this is 800x more helpful than the websites that already exist to guide the alternate history reader. (I continue to maintain that it’s not actually alternate history if the “alternate” bit is simply “and also there is magic.”) I’ll also add that the TVTropes page for the Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility is a gem of a resource (https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SlidingScaleOfAlternateHistoryPlausibility).

My own introduction to the genre was through academic counterfactual history, which has made me kind of snobby about it all unless I can be made to really embrace the “speculative” aspects; best options on your list for either “hard” alternate history or such a compelling speculation that I’ll ignore the internal critic?

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