Monday, February 28, 2022

Harry Turtledove is like Doctor Who only with less Daleks

 I’m going to make a wonderfully broad statement. There are two flavors of alternate history stories: ones that ask wouldn’t it be fun if X happened and ones that ask what would have really happened if X had happened.

Alternate Generals is an anthology of stories that fall squarely into the second camp. It was edited by Harry Turtledove, a guy who must be able to see twelve timelines at once. Seriously, the guy probably has to remind himself which reality he’s in when he wakes up in the morning.

As the title completely spells out, Alternate Generals contains alternate history stories centered around military figures through history. What if Sun Tzu ended up in Persia? What if Joshua Chamberlain fought for the south? What if Napoleon had become a catholic priest?

Two things that all the stories have in common is excellent quality (Harry Turtledove really did well as an editor) and having very few fantastic elements. The closest there to fantastic are two stories where Eisenhower and Jan Smuts have visions but you could explain those as hallucinations. Oh and Boudicca having magical powers.

In fact, several times during reading Alternate  Generals, I had to stop and go look stuff up to figure out what was different than recorded history. The book was educational for me. I know Alternate History is usually considered a sub-section of Science Fiction but the only difference between most of these stories and non-genre specific fiction is that it was about famous people.

Alternate Generals doesn’t have a lot of happy stories in it. But it is chock full of well written stories. Turtledove edited two more volumes of Alternate Generals and I will probably look into them.

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