Monday, 30 September 2019

Books I Listened To/Read In September

'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova
The title sums up this novel pretty well, because while it is actually a vampire story, tracking down Dracula across south-eastern Europe and Turkey, much of 'action' takes place in a series of archives. Having spent much of my youth researching in archives, I know how unexciting places they can be even when fellow readers are discussing how they would kill the pro-Nazi historian who has started attending. You have to admire Kostova's willingness to challenge what readers now seem to demand in terms of narrative structure. She has the narrative running in three parallel time periods: 1931, 1954 and 1972. Much information is provided through letters and accounts and it is typical that you are following what is happening in one of these phases but primarily gathering what has happened in an earlier one. To some degree this renders telling the three stories unnecessary and she could have simply gone with found resources. She portrays the various locations very well and is adept at showing the different social mores of the time she is showing, aided by two romances and the fact that a lot of events occur in Communist-era Romania and Bulgaria.

There is some fun with young people having to sneak around in the various locales, searching out lost relatives and enlisting the aid of a Turkish secret society but the book is far too long (704 pages in my edition) and too much is simply about working in archives. Even with secrets about vampires to be found, this cannot, as I know from personal experience, inject excitement into archival research. The final denouement ironically is far too terse. Overall it is a good idea but it has been taken to the extreme so deadening what could have been distinctive about this novel. If it had been 400 pages shorter it would have been crisp and with a greater degree of excitement but still able to contain the non-linear narrative and a different approach to vampire hunting.

'Stettin Station' by David Downing
This is the third book in the 'Station Series' featuring British/American journalist John Russell and German movie star Effi Koenen. It is set late in 1941 with the lead up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which shuts off Russell's last chance to remain in Berlin as a neutral American. The fact that I thought this was the fourth book in the series, I think highlights some of the problems with it. The book follows the pattern of the previous two. Russell spends a lot of time travelling back and forth to places whether around Berlin or, as in this book, back to Prague.

This allows Downing to show great research and knowledge of Central Europe at this time. He is good on the food shortages Germany was already facing two years into the war. However, too often these books are rather like the old Usborne Time Traveller books of the 1970s (the 1990s anthologies of them are now very collectable) in that simply showing what life was like back in the time visited is deemed enough. A spy novel needs more. Russell does lots of things with a kind of half-hearted nature. He gains information and statistics of the trains of Jews already being sent to Eastern Europe for their execution but really does nothing with what he has found. He works for the Abwehr, German military intelligence, in making links to US intelligence, but it falls through. He makes contact with the remnants of the German Communist organisation in Germany, aided very much at arm's length by the Soviets and he eats, drinks, goes to press conferences and travels around, occasionally picking up secrets or finding out the fate of someone.

The best bit of the novel is when Russell knows he has to escape Germany and is aided to get all the way to Riga and then on to a neutral Swedish ship, at much cost along the way. However, even then we do not feel invested in the people he meets. They are gone, arrested, tortured and executed almost as quickly as we have been introduced to them. Downing had excellent resources with which to work, but there is a spark missing in these novels. Russell is very prepared; Koenen even more so and somehow you never feel they are at real jeopardy and Downing fails to connect you to those who end up victims of the machine. To some degree the immense detail deadens the plots and we see far more of Russell on public transport or in cafes than we need to if the novel was to be gripping. The novel is not uninteresting, but it lacks the edge one would expect from a spy novel whatever time period it is set in.

'Worktown' by David Hall
This book is about one part of the first years of Mass-Observation an amateur social research project that later developed into working for the government and then became a company. This book focuses primarily on the work done in Bolton 1937-39, i.e. 'Worktown'. It was led by an anthropologist Tom Harrisson [sic] who developed a kind of cult of individuals, typically middle class young men, but some women and some local people who went round observing and interacting with the people of Bolton whether in the workplace, particularly the cotton mills of Bolton or social settings, notably the pub, churches, the cinema and dance halls, often noting obscure things like how long they took to drink a pint of beer or how long people spent buying something. Harrisson was oblivious to sociology and its practices, continuing to believe that he was creating something very new but lacking structure to what was done, a lot of effort achieved nothing.

There was a second branch in Blackfriars, London headed by Charles Madge which used a panel of people noting down their own activities. At times artists and a photographer also became involved. Harrisson was incredibly self-centred and certainly behaved like a cult leader, being lazy in himself but expecting volunteers to labour for long hours; raising some money for the project but leaving the volunteers short of food and running up unpaid bills with local suppliers while gallivanting off to Paris at great expense and using telegrammes when letters would do. As a result of his character, much of the mass of information gathered was never processed and the books promised especially to Gollancz, never appeared. The archive fortunately was saved and transferred to the University of Sussex but much of it remains unanalysed.

Hall's book is fascinating. Despite his focus on the Bolton end, he does give a history of the movement as a whole. However, the book itself is almost a reflection of the chaos of the Worktown project. Particularly in terms of assertions, such as this being an encounter with working class life for middle class participants, Hall repeats not just points, sometimes more than once, but even the same phrases. Even on a single page he flits between topics, going back and forth between telling the story of Harrisson's group and their findings. The chapters are titled as if they are going to cover specific themes but in fact have a very bumpy passage through the material. The book could have been much better organised either simply telling the story first and then looking at the findings in thematic sections of having distinct chapters about the lives of interesting people involved kept distinct from the findings. The group proved to be largely bohemian, drinking heavily and being very promiscuous.

The best bits of the book are the quotations from the observers' reports on a wide range of topics from behaviour in churches, pubs and factories to doing the football pools or attending all-in wrestling, a popular pastime in Bolton. These remind us that while some of the viewpoints seem dated, others are of the kind we would expect now - breast feeding in public being a notable one - and the struggles of working people to afford all the costs of living are familiar today. This is an interesting book, but it could have been a whole lot better with serious editing, but that increasingly seems to be absent in published books, including non-fiction, properly referenced history books like this one.

Audio Books - Fiction
'Trick of the Dark' by Val McDermid; read by Haydn Gwynne
McDermid is a strong crime writer who happens to be a lesbian. This novel features three lesbian and one bisexual characters, but what she has done successfully is make that not matter. This is not a novel making a point, it is one simply featuring some lesbians. Though there are murders involved, the focus of the book is really a psychological investigation when Charlie Flint is called upon by a former tutor to investigate the woman her daughter is seeing who may or may not have been involved in a number of deaths. Flint is able to call on police contacts, but goes about the investigation in an intellectual way rather than like the police. Her lust for one of the suspects, despite being married to another woman, complicates matters. This story could have been set up on a heterosexual basis, it just happens to be that it is not. It is a taut read and generally feels modern. I do wish, though, that McDermid had had a different university to Oxford to be the setting. The UK has 132 universities but too many authors come back just to Oxford (and not even Oxford Brookes). I guess it sells better internationally, but it would be nice to see characters with a university experience not subjected to the oddities of Oxford and Cambridge. This is a one-off story and proved to be well-written and satisfying.  Haydn Gwynne had a wide range of people to voice but did the accents pretty well and was very suited to the Oxford ones, even those of an American lecturer.

'A Killing Kindness' by Reignald Hill; read by Anonymous
So far I have been unable to find the name of the man who read this audio book. It is the sixth of the Dalziel and Pascoe novels set in Yorkshire and was published in 1980. You can feel the age of it in the text; Pascoe is very generous in giving 50p pieces to children who feature in the book and the technology with which we are now familiar is absent or primitive, in the case of the computers.  Even the use of linguists and psychologists by the police, a graduate in sociology as a detective and a gay detective, all something common now, are seen as innovative/distinctive. It is a traditional crime drama about the murder of various young women, not mutilated but left as respectfully arranged corpses. An added element of gypsies, a flying club and a clairvoyant confuse matters and the looting of a corpse complicates matters. Superintendent Andy Dalziel plays a rather stereotypical gruff Yorkshireman still willing to use intimidation in investigations counterbalanced by the modern, liberal Inspector Peter Pascoe with his feminist wife Ellie, member of various women's organisations; she has a baby during this novel. The aged nature of the novel gives it some charm and it is sufficiently complex to engage without bewildering; the explanations at the end do seem overlong.  The anonymous reader does well with a diverse cast and handles the various Yorkshire voices well, as far as I know, living far from the county.

 'The Creeper' by Tania Carver [Martyn & Linda Waites]; read by Martyn Waites
I know that publishing houses now cannot afford to employ editors to work thoroughly on novels with the result that you see grammar errors let alone weaknesses in styling and structuring. However, I find it difficult to understand how any publisher let this novel through. It is the second in the series of eight books published 2009-16 featuring Inspector Phil Brennan and his wife, psychologist Marina Esposito. The premise is fine. There is a stalker who penetrates women's houses and unnerves them with 'gifts' before abducting them, holding them and ultimately murdering them. As is common for crime novels now we see through the perpetrator's eyes and get to understand motivations well ahead of the detectives. In this novel there is an added element that the main perpetrator does not work alone. So far, so good.

To start with, one flaw is that, despite Brennan and his pregnant wife supposedly being the leads, we see the story through a wide range of people's eyes. Many of the police have very strong motives themselves; some of those involved are almost comically incompetent and there are whole sub-plots that are pretty petty in nature about police disadvantaging colleagues. Many of them behave in a very over-exaggerated manner in how they speak and act, not aided by Martyn Waites's own narration of the novel he has co-authored. The breathlessness of the text is taken further by Waites's reading of it and simply wears you down. Genuine tension is actually decreased by the insistence that it is a tense scene. The exposition at the end of the book goes on for far too long, sapping any of the tension that remains.

The greatest problem with the book, however, is the language. It really sounds what you might get from an undergraduate who has not studied a creative writing degree. It is chock full of clichés which is bad enough, but then the authors repeat them. I counted two 'heads will roll', two 'heart skipped a beat' and two 'heart hammered' and lost track of how often many others came around. Adjectives are piled on, sometimes four to a single noun. A joke about 'Finding Nemo' referencing the children's movie and a make of van, dates the story very quickly and is repeated, adding to the sense that the characters are poor at their jobs and obsessed with the trivial rather than what should be at the heart of the story. All of this, I understand, is supposed to make the book seem contemporary and gritty like the best of current US crime thrillers, but has the opposite effect, making it seem very amateurish, with language and styling that would be criticised at a writers' group and should have been stopped by the publishers. It is frustrating when there is so much great crime fiction out there which does not get highlighted that a book of such poor quality could have been accepted instead by a publisher and the authors encouraged to continue working in this low standard way.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Books I Listened To/Read In August

'Cyberabad Days' by Ian McDonald
This book consists of 8 short stories set in the same context as his 'River of Gods' (2004), what was India but around the year 2047. That book, I felt: jammed in far too many Cyberpunk ideas to work effectively. This book, by including just some of the ideas in each story is better. However, having read about the nutes, the battles over fragmented India's control of water and the genetically modified Brahmins already, these seemed spent. McDonald reworked the ideas and even simply showed incidents from the previous book from a different perspective. Interestingly, a number of the stories are from the view of children. There are interesting concepts such as a woman marrying an AI creation from a soap opera (another idea extensively used by McDonald) and the battles between water-controlling families which looks like 'Romeo and Juliet' only to go down an unexpected route.

The introduction of a character from Nepal, a temporary goddess, provides a fresh angle. However, by the end you really feel McDonald has gone at all of these things so intently, that they are now exhausted. This is not a bad book and McDonald has done well in giving new life to Cyberpunk tropes in an atypical setting for English-language readers. I would suggest that you ignore the publication dates and read this book first then, if you enjoy it, 'River of Gods' next. That way you will have some knowledge of the setting and had glimpses of particular incidents, before diving into a thorough story of them. If I had read this book alone I think I would have praised it more. I certainly think it contests the view too often expressed these days that 'short stories go nowhere' and McDonald shows himself capable with them as with epic science fiction. I am glad since this book, he has gone off in new directions, though perhaps as with his 'Luna' series he is in the territory of classic science fiction rather than the other sub-genres, though Cyberpunk always had its space corporations even if they were not a popular focus of the novels back at the sub-genre's height.

'Where Eagles Dare' by Alistair MacLean
I have seen the movie (1968) of this novel (1967) multiple times so when I saw this for 10p, I thought it would be interesting to see how it differed. The movie sticks quite closely to the novel, except there a long passages about a mad pilot flying the team to southern Germany in the book and the team have to do mountaineering not featured in the movie. In the movie, they have a lot more explosives. However, the story is much the same, a team of largely British operatives is flown to the German Alps in 1943 supposedly to free a US general held in a Gestapo headquarters located on a mountain top. In fact it is a mission to root out traitors at senior levels in British intelligence. Some of the names are changed and Clint Eastwood's character Lieutenant Schaffer does not have any romance in the movie in contrast to the novel. The killing of the three traitors is clustered together in the book rather than one separated off as in the movie.  In disguise the British agents visit many more pubs in the town before ending up at the sole one they visit in the movie.

At times I felt Maclean had been anachronistic. However, I found that the Miss. Europe competition begun in 1929 and the commercial production of asbestos dated back to the 19th Century.  The helicopter featured in the book is larger and more sophisticated than those used by the Germans during the Second World War and the term 'chopper' for a helicopter only appeared during the Korean War, 1950-53, at least 7 years after the book is set. Similarly at the time of the story there was no Heathrow Airport. It did not open until 1946 and was known as London Airport until some years later. I guess it shows how hard it was for an author to get details right in the years before the internet.

Overall, especially if you do not know the story, this is an interesting action novel. Unlike modern equivalents it is very tight and gets on with the job. If you do not know the twists, that is an advantage too. Eastwood felt there were too many, but I think that for a modern reader, this is what lifts it above many war action books.

'Ring of Steel': Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914-1918' by Alexander Watson
This is a hefty book (788 pages in my edition) but is an excellent read; one of the best history books I have read in a while.  Watson's scholarship is supreme and he brings to English-speakers a range of resources especially in Eastern European languages, that are not normally accessible. He also draw on books published throughout the 20th Century that have fallen into obscurity. Watson also makes good use of correspondence and diaries as illustrations of the human reality of the statistics and the strategies. It is his ability to connect the strategic and political to the everyday experience that makes the book so strong. The book details the different ways in which the two empires engaged their people and the mistakes they made. Challenges that the regions would face in terms of deprivation, massacres, nationality tensions and anti-Semitism are brought out. Watson is careful not to push a direct causal link especially from the Eastern Front to the activities of Nazi German forces in the Second World War, but does highlight parallels and the simple amount of murder going on in many of the same areas some twenty-five years earlier.

While the human aspect is a strength, Watson also proves excellent at analysing the economic challenges and shows how poorly prepared Germany and especially Austria-Hungary were for a sustained war. The astounding achievement is that their commanders, bumbling along at times, managed to keep the two countries fighting for so long. He also highlights Allied errors which did not exploit the weaknesses of the Central Powers, but the mobilisation of the public including schemes such as the 'nail' figures are fascinating. Overall, a thoroughly engaging book which at times is grim, but like all the best history books, leaves you feeling a greater comprehension of what happened and why it happened than before you read it.

Audio Book - Fiction
'The Girl Who Played With Fire' by Stieg Larsson; read by Martin Wenner
This is the second in the Millennium Trilogy published after Larsson's death. It follows the next steps for Lisbeth Salander, the violent hacker and Mikael Blomqvist the philandering journalist from the first book that I listened to back in May: This book is very messy. The first quarter of it is really a chunk of the previous book in which Salander continues the break in her contact with Blomqvist and goes to the Caribbean where she murders a man during a hurricane, something unconnected with the rest of the novel. She also has her breasts augmented. This highlights a worrying aspect of this novel. The augmentation runs utterly contrary to the character of Salander as we have come to know her. In this novel you really feel the male gaze. The repeated focus on Salander's bisexuality is another aspect of this and one can imagine Larsson as rather creepily poring over these elements, very much like some of the unreconstituted misogynist police officers he features. At times it is almost as if Salander is not developing properly as a character but being forced down certain paths to satiate the author and that jars.

There is an overly complex plot involving the abusive care system into which Salander was forced as a child, a biker gang and a Russian defector turned people trafficker. I like twists, but trying to bring all of these elements together, largely so that there can be more interaction between Blomqvist and Salander, feels really forced and it makes the book heavy going. The situation is not helped, especially in an audio book, with so many characters having similar names. In the end the mass of journalists, security officers, police, care workers, bikers, etc become impenetrable especially as we see through so many points of view and certain sub-plots fizzle out, perhaps only to be revived in the third book. As common with this trilogy there is a lot of violence but this is handled pretty well and you can see/feel the difficulties of an ordinary person facing a thug. Still, there is another aspect of the male gaze, carried over from the previous book, in that there are detailed naming of every piece of equipment whether a computer, a car, motorbike or gun, which does not help with the book flowing smoothly.  Perhaps being Larsson's legacy it was under-edited. Overall, this is even less impressive than the first book.

Wenner does reasonably well, though, unlike most of the Swedish sounding voices, Salander ends up sounding like she came from South London. Wenner is good as the voices when the character is injured or disabled in bringing that aspect to what they say.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

The Books I Listened To/Read In July

'The Mammoth Book of SteamPunk' ed. by Sean Wallace
There was a recent debate on the Never Was online journal about whether you could be steampunk and right-wing:  I had said that it was not that simple and there are elements of the genre such as the excitement of heavy industry and portrayal of Victorian social structures that could be seen as favoured by right-wing commentators.  However, reading this anthology which came out in 2012, I realised that my reading in the genre was dated.  Almost every protagonist in the 30 stories of this collection is either disabled or gay or from a black, Asian or other group in a minority in Western Europe. Indeed Ekaterina Sedia has written an opening essay that emphasises what she feels is the prime purpose of steampunk to paint a better picture of the alternatives available in the past as this can be the only basis of a brighter future.  Though a number of the stories connect more clearly to the fantasy genre, Sedia links them explicitly to science fiction, bouncing from the past into the future.

If this was your first contact with steampunk (or SteamPunk as Wallace has it) you would assume that these were necessary parts of the genre and perhaps, in the late 2000s they had already become and are this firmly in the late 2010s. In many ways by emphasising all the bad that steampunk has kept concealed beneath its bluster, this collection showed me that the genre is effectively dead or, at best, a very gloomy type of writing. It has turned me away from the genre completely to the extent there seems no point in me ever writing in it again.  I guess for the authors featured in this book, that would be a victory because it is apparent my kind of steampunk has no place in their universe.  I am sure the authors would tell you that as a white, middle-aged, formerly middle class man from Western Europe, I have no place in the genre anyway given the views that I must hold given that background.

All the stories collected are certainly informed by feminism.  This becomes anti-man in James Morrow's 'Lady Witherspoon's Solution'.  I do not know why editors of steampunk anthologies feel obliged to include horrific stories that really, despite their steampunk trappings, belong in the horror genre. I still shudder when I think of 'The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider Get Down' by Joe R. Lansdale in 'Steampunk' (2008) by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer which is effectively torture porn; 'Victoria' by Paul Di Filippo in the same collection features bestiality.  Morrow's story featuring the reduction of men to beasts and their castration and the collection of testes as entertainment for Victorian ladies, is of the same ilk.  The men are portrayed as the worst of their kind, but even the USA, parts of which tolerate the death penalty would not permit such abuse of prisoners let alone lionise it the way Morrow does.  Simply putting something into a steampunk setting does not excuse authors from churning out such vile work.  If they feel obliged to include such 'stories', editors should include a warning.  The inclusion of the story undermines the feminist approach adopted elsewhere in the book by suggesting it is no better than male chauvinism.  Imagine if Morrow had written a story in which women were injected with chemicals that reduced them to beasts that were then compelled to fight to the death and then the victors were mutilated; he would have been roundly condemned.

'Machine Maid' by Margo Lanagan, is almost as bad. It sees a skilled woman left largely deserted in a house in the wilds of Australia, altering a clockwork 'sex robot' to mutilate her husband. Fortunately Lanagan uses implied outcomes more than Morrow. However, it does alarm me how we have come to such a bad situation in relations between the sexes that it is seen as alright to have a 'mild' little story having men mutilated and this not been deemed to be horror if not a form of sick pornography. Apparently if an uncaring man, let alone a malicious one, is the victim then it is acceptable. Even the USA has a law against 'cruel and unusual punishment' of the kinds apparently happily shown by the authors in these stories. Such porn has no place in true steampunk.

Aside from Morrow and Lanagan's chapters, there is a mixed bag of stories.  Interestingly, a number of them shade from strict steampunk into fantasy. 'Clockwork Fairies' by Cat Rambo is set in Ireland and features real fairies countering the ones of the title. 'Icebreaker' by E. Catherine Tobler, concerning a dwarf widow of a scientist taking his remains to bury at the South Pole has fantastical creatures at the pole too.  'Tom Edison and His Amazing Telegraphic Harpoon' shows North America fragmented as the Mormons have summoned forth demonic flying creatures to defend Deseret. In both cases, the steampunk technology helps the protagonists win through. 'Prayers of Forges and Furnaces' by Ailette de Bodard combines her use of South American contexts with both a post-apocalyptic setting and a vampire. 'Numismatics in the Age in the Reigns of Naranh and Viu' by Alex Dally MacFarlane, is one of the stories that uses 'artefacts' as the basis of the story rather than telling the story in a straight forward way. It is a feminist story in a fantasy setting and shows how a queen went off to form her own realm, via the coins that she and her followers produce. It is an interesting idea but a bit lifeless.

'To Follow the Waves' by Amal El-Mohtar is one of a number of Middle Eastern set stories, a context unusual for steampunk stories; one of the lesbian romances in the book and features a woman who can craft dreams into jewellery that reminded me a lot of crafting in 'Humility Garden' (1995) and 'Delta City' (1996) by Felicity Savage.  'The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jula-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar' by Shweta Narayan is told by a clockwork bird and straddles not only those stories which seem to be more from mainstream fantasy than steampunk, but also come over as morality tales.  'The Clockwork Chickadee' by Mary Robinette Kowal is another of these, set among clockwork toys with a rather nasty revenge story. 'The Ballard of the Last Human' by Lavie Tidhar is in a similar vein though even less realistic as the heroes are a clockwork dog and a clockwork spider. 'Clockmaker's Requiem' by Barth Anderson is a surreal story about a world shifting from personal time to clock-based time, something which happened in our world, but not in a context as bizarre as this. As a result it is one of the philosophical stories of the book rather than one with real action. The clearest of the morality tales is 'The Clockwork Goat and the Smokestack Magi' by Peter M. Ball in which very little happens and it is really a parable than a standard short story.

Less fantastical, but with the same philosophical questioning at its heart is 'To Seek Her Fortune' by Nicole Kornher-Stace which features a single mother travelling the world with airship gypsies seeking a true prediction of her death. It is really about how she raises her son and is better on the context than the story. 'Fixing Hanover' despite being by Jeff VanderMeer a writer I have come to strongly disapprove of, is rather a parable too, about fixing a humanoid robot that washes up in a seaside town where a technician has fled. However, like the best short stories it hints at a far larger world that could easily fill a novel. It has a feel a bit like the settings of the 'Dishonored' (2012-16) computer games.  Perhaps similar if 'The Steam Dancer (1896)' by Caitlin R. Kiernan is like the warnings seen in the 'Terminator' movies (1984-2019) about robots becoming aggressive and/or dominant. It also highlights how much more sophisticated machinery is now portrayed in steampunk.

'Arbeitkraft' by Nick Mamatas is similar in seeing clockwork cyborgs to do dangerous jobs. It combines a robot takeover story with a Marxist critique as Friedrich Engels is the hero of the story.  It is easily assumed in these stories that with steam and clockwork technology robots with the intelligence of machines we see in science fiction would be possible, further ensuring that link to the genre I highlighted above. To me, though, this is really breaking down steampunk as having a level of rational limits and so making it simply a science fiction or indeed fantasy sub-set. 'Dr Lash Remembers' by Jeffery Ford, straddles such 'warning' stories with a fantastical element in which steam has been made into the carrier of a disease that leads to loss of control among humans so wrecking the steampunk world.  'Reluctance' is a steampunk zombie story with a disabled airship postman fighting against zombies in a remote USA town in order to refuel and escape. It is fast moving but very much as I have described it.

In my view the best story in the book is around a lesbian romance. This is 'The Effluent Engine' by N.K. Jemisin and sees an alternate history in which the uprising on Haiti has led to a black sovereign nation seeking help to defend its position by making use of the by-products of rum manufacture. Though a short story it is a great little adventure with a romancing of a female engineer at its heart and certainly hinting at a far greater 'world' that could feature in a novel.  Another one, though with an tragic lesbian theme, is' Hands that Feed' featuring a Jewish female engineer and people in a city that she encounters, one a young female thief. Again, it is set in a rich context that you want to find out more about. You hope for a happy outcome but I guess with the tone of much of this collection a tragic one should be predicted from the oppression of the setting.   Similarly mournful in tone is 'The Celebrated Carousel of the Margravine of Blois' by Megan Arkenberg.  A ghost hunter is brought to the house of the former lesbian lover of the late margravine but finds that really all that is happening is all the clockwork devices she built are decaying on her death; melancholy and little more.

I wonder if it is the alternate history facet that attracts me, but I feel another strong story is 'The People's Machine' by Tobias S. Buckell, not only in a steampunk context but one in which the Aztec Empire, rather as Japan did in the 19th Century, has persisted and the geography of North America is different with New Amsterdam having persisted and the British having won two American Wars of Independence have kept the independent USA no greater than the Thirteen Colonies. It is a murder mystery with a computer at the heart of it, like 'The Steam Dancer (1896)' addressing concerns that many science fiction stories look at.

'A Serpent in the Gears' by Margaret Ronald is a strange story about a robot protecting his master while they are approaching a cut-off settlement which has sophisticated technology combined with biology, it is a kind of steam version of cyberpunk, though it is unclear where this is located even though the story is in theory set on Earth. It is not bad but rather unsatisfactory. I found I mixed it up easily with 'Biographical Notes to "A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Airplanes" by Benjamin Rosenbaum' which is by Benjamin Rosenbaum who in a conceited way has put himself into this alternative world.  This story sees a steampunk world in which India has become the dominant force in the world and its culture supreme.  In the book while avoiding airborne assassins he considering writing an alternate history novel in which Western philosophical approaches are used and aeroplanes rather than airships predominate. The background rather stymies the action presented, though jumping between airships after the assassin is well done.

'The Zeppelin Conductors' Society Annual Gentlemen's Ball' by Genevieve Valentine is not really a story but one of these 'artefact' chapters, in this case a series of fragments outlining how men working in airship envelopes become physically distorted, so effectively it is another story featuring disability as well as highlighting the detrimental impact of steampunk developments.  However, it is really a series of notes for a setting rather than a developed story. 'The Anachronist's Cookbook' by Catherynne M. Valente is another artefact one. It has a bit more of a story but it is largely outlined in flyers that the heroine carries calling on revolution against what a lot see as traits, certainly pre-2000s, of steampunk in being socially oppressive and misogynistic.  It is an interesting approach but basically you are reading bombastic political leaflets for a fictional setting, so it is imagined propaganda rather a real story. Not an artefact story but one in which very, very little happens is 'The Armature of Flight' by Sharon Mock which is about a male gay couple splitting up as one goes to be fitted with mechanical wings and the other marries a woman. It is more like ideas for a story, rather than an actual story.

'Zeppelin City' by Eileen Gunn and Michael Swanwick is a fast moving story in a city ruled by brains in glass tanks where aerial bombing has become a sport. It has interesting ideas and is adventurous with a couple of engaging heroines. However, it is clearly dieselpunk, even with 1950s US slang, rather than steampunk and it belongs in a different collection to this one. 'Cinderella Suicide' by Samantha Henderson which seems to be set in Australia is so full of slang from that context that it is very, very difficult to work out what is going on. I do not know if Australian readers could make any sense of it. It seems to be about an exploration to where a spaceship has crash landed on the interior of Australia. It might be more mainstream science fiction than steampunk, it is hard to tell.

Overall, how tiresome I have found reviewing this anthology has brought home to me that I was largely unimpressed by the stories. Aside from the horrific, many lecture the reader as if we are all ignorant of various essential lessons and readers.  Others drown the reader in the authors' conceits. You read a novel or short story for entertainment rather than to be harangued as happens so often in this collection.  There are some good and interesting stories but in a large anthology they are quickly lost amongst the bulk of the others.  In the future I will certainly avoid any steampunk anthologies, even if, as with this one, I find them cheap at a carboot sale.

'Silesian Station' by David Downing
This is the second book in Downing's 'Station' series set in Germany in the late 1930s and 1940s.  This one begins in the summer of 1939 and ends with the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe that September. His hero, John Russell returns from the USA where he has visited with his son and has been given a US passport in place of his British one. He now also writes for a San Francisco newspaper.  As in the first book, 'Zoo Station' (2007), Russell spends a lot of time simply travelling around, whether in parts of Berlin or out to various countries. In this one he manages to go to Austria, the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia, Slovakia and Poland as well as visiting the Silesian region of Germany.  There are various motives for his journeys. In Berlin he socialises with his girlfriend and takes his son by his divorced German wife to various locations. Ridiculously he is working not only for US intelligence, but also the German SD counter-intelligence organisation and the Soviet foreign intelligence body at the time, INO.  Russell is also given personal missions, to help track down a missing Jewish woman from Silesia and help another Jewish woman who is the mistress of a high-ranking SS officer to escape Germany.  This web detracts rather than adds to the tension of the novel. There is far too much about where Russell is going with his girlfriend, a film star, or his son, where he parks, where he has lunch, what he has for dinner and so on.  Downing gives us loads of detail about Prague and Bratislava and other locales Russell visits, but largely to show off his research than truly add to the story. There is tension but only right at the end of the novel when Russell seeks to rescue Jewish women from an SS brothel and get a friend who has committed a murder, out of Germany.  Downing simply has too much going on for his main character and insists on so much detail, for the novel to really work. It is all very interesting but there are only brief moments when he snares you as a reader of a work of fiction rather than a book of popular history.

'Sherlock Holmes and The Hentzau Affair' by David Stuart Davies
As you might guess from the title this is a double pastiche, on both the Sherlock Holmes novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Ruritania novels of Sir Anthony Hope.  It is written as the Holmes stories were from the perspective of Dr. Watson.  It is very much in the style of one of those stories and Davies only makes a few slips, most jarringly when he uses to the term 'surrealistic tableau' to describe when two men masquerading as King Rudolf V of Ruritania encounter each other on a platform of Streslau station.  The story is set in 1894 and supposedly written in 1919, five years before the first meeting of the Surrealist group.  He might have got away with it if he had said 'Dadaist'. Overall, however, it is a brisk action story with sword fighting, abductions and numerous deaths.  It is a pleasure to read if you enjoy either Doyle's or Hope's work and can avoid trying to spot where Davies erred.

'Creative Editing' by Mary Mackie
I bought this book when it was published in 1995. I have dipped into it periodically since then but have never before read it cover-to-cover. While it shows its age, wordprocessors were only really coming into common use when it was published; it suggests you go to a library to do research because there were no internet searches and novels were still submitted on paper rather than via email, it has many principles that remain useful today. I should have read this book sooner because it has become apparent recently that with my school's strange aversion to direct speech, at times insisting on only reported speech in creative writing, what I learned about it was wrong. I was depressed to realise that I had not noticed my errors from reading hundreds of books since then. This added to the sense of despair that I will come back to at the end.

I did find Mackie's guidance on handling points of view much better than other commentators who insist on just one. I do disagree with her on the passive voice as she seems oblivious, like many people, to how it can distort the intended meaning and lead to highly contorted sentences. One compensatory thing is that Mackie, while highlighting various aspects to consider, keeps emphasising that it is down to the author themselves to decide how to apply them, rather than insisting that the author follows her prescriptions to the letter the way that some other help books on authoring do.  Added to that, including exercises, the book in the edition I read is only 208 pages long and is broken up into easy to access sections.  Thus, while I would recommend reading the book right through, it can be dipped into in the way I foolishly did over the past 24 years.  Having read the book in its entirety, I now recognise that even from this 'light touch' rather than dictatorial book, there are just so many things that you must get perfectly right to just get your book to a level at which a publisher might consider it, that it is an impossibility and that I should have abandoned my fantasy of ever getting a book published, decades ago.

Audio Books - Fiction
'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' by Ian Fleming; read by David Tennant
Unlike for most James Bond books, the movie of this one stuck very close to the original novel.  As a consequence, if you have ever seen the movie, you will have a very good idea of what happens and even individual lines from the book feature in it.  At the start of the novel, Bond is back in Royale-les-Eaux a fictional town between Étaples and Montreuil-sur-Mer that featured in 'Casino Royale' (1953), following Teresa 'Tracy' di Vicenzo who had beaten him racing recklessly through neighbouring towns. Paying her gambling debt he is then abducted by Tracy's father, Marc-Ange Draco who happens to be head of the Union Corse organised crime group. He tries to bribe Bond into marrying his daughter.  Draco puts Bond on to the trail of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. he has been pursuing since the end of 'Thunderball' (1961).  Bond goes undercover as a member of the College of Arms to Piz Gloria, a mountain top base in Switzerland where Blofeld is hypnotising British and Irish women to spread agricultural pests and diseases to wreck the British economy.

This novel actually feels like a James Bond movie, with the chases and the final climactic explosions.  While lining up to marry Tracy who is murdered at the end by Blofeld and his accomplice Irma Bund, he still sleeps with one of the hypnotised women.  While Bond is ambivalent about marrying Tracy until very late on, he seems to have less self-doubt than in the previous novels, though he wearies of chasing Blofeld with so little outcome. His relationship with Tracy is almost accidental but he feels that he has found someone of his nature who is as equally reckless as himself driving and gambling.  Bond does not, however, have any qualms dealing with Draco despite him being a major criminal engaging in smuggling and prostitution.  In fact the burgeoning relationship between the two men develops more steadily than that between Bond and Tracy and is reminiscent of the relationship between Bond and Felix Leiter which features in a number of the novels.  For Fleming to have continued the series Tracy had to be killed to free up the agent once more.  As a result, perhaps you come to expect it and it is less cutting when she dies than you might expect.

There are longeurs when Bond is undercover at Piz Gloria. He seems very dim in failing to work out what Blofeld is up to.  This leads to an extended section of Bond being at M's house working with various ministers over the Christmas period, which as it is laboured, fortunately does not feature in the movie.  For some reason Fleming felt compelled to replicate large tracts of a US government document on biological warfare as if he feared readers would not believe the basis of the plot featured in the story, but at times it is just a list, slowing the story unnecessarily.  The action scenes are well handled but interspersed at times with too much 'info dump' sections.

Tennant does pretty well and seems to have been brought in for this book because his natural accent is Scottish which Bond uses when pretending to be Sir Hilary Bray while undercover at Piz Gloria.  He is generally good on all of the voices, though, as he outlines in the interview at the end of my edition of the book, he struggled with the French and German names.  Overall, this is perhaps the book in the series which we would see as being most clearly 'James Bond' as it is understood in  popular culture and it does that job pretty well, but could have been tauter.  Perhaps by this stage of his career, Fleming was not being edited as thoroughly as in the past.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

'What If?'s I Have Written About

Now that I have been publishing 'what if?' analysis books and collections of short stories for three years, I thought it might be useful to identify the topics I have explored and in which book. I intend to update this as I publish more, so it is a snapshot of what is currently available. My 'what if?' books divide into two categories, those which had chapters of analysis and those with fictional stories set in the alternative context.

'What If?' Novels
'Against the Devil’s Men: A ‘What If?’ Novel of the Continuation of the Mongol Invasion of Europe'
'His Majesty's Dictator'
'Eve of the Globe’s War: A ‘What If?’ Novel of the Coming of the Second World War without an Industrial Revolution'
'Mark in the Sea: A ‘What If?’ Novel of the Persistence of Islands of Doggerland'
'Provision: A What If? Novel of the Second World War'
'Scavenged Days: A ‘What If?’ Novel of the Impact of the Assassination of President De Gaulle'
'Stop Line: A ‘What If?’ Novel of Resisting the 1940 Nazi Invasion of Britain'
'The Three Eagles: A ‘What If?’ Novel of the U.S.A., Mexico and the First World War' 

Collections of 'What If?' Fiction
'Another World’s War: What If? Stories of the Second World War’
'From Another Infamy: What If? Stories of the Second World War'
‘Detour: What If? Stories of Americans’

'Taking the Detour: What If? Stories of Americans'
‘Déviation: What If? Stories of the French’
‘Diversion: What If? Stories of the British’
‘Route Diverted: What If? Stories of the British’
‘Umleitung: What If? Stories of Germany’

'Wars to End: What If? Stories of the First World War'

Books of Alternate History Analysis
‘Other Roads: Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’
‘Other Roads II: Further Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’
‘Other Roads III: Additional Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’
‘In Other Trenches: Alternate Outcomes of the First World War’
‘In Other Trenches II: Further Alternate Outcomes of the First World War’
'Other Lives: Alternate Outcomes for Famous People in History'

‘In Another America: Views and Reviews of Alternate Histories for the USA in the 17th-20th Centuries’
‘Down Other Tracks: Alternate Outcomes of the 19th Century’
'Other Exits: Alternate Outcomes for Tudor and Stuart Monarchs’
'On Other Fields: Alternate Outcomes of the Middle Ages'
‘Other Earths: Alternate Outcomes of Geological Developments and Prehistoric Times’

In the following list, the date is the date of the divergence from our history. Some chapters reflect on a number of different divergences so you will see some repeated next to different dates.

An 'A' indicates that the chapter is analysis; 'S' that it is a story and 'N' shows a full-length novel. Very often I have produced a story to match a piece of analysis. The date in brackets after the 'S' or 'N' shows when the story is set. Some stories are set years or even centuries after the divergence in order to show how the world would have developed differently from that time.

The titles of the different books featuring a specific chapter should be obvious. The number after 'Ch.' is the chapter in the book which has that analysis or story.

Summary of Counterfactuals

4.54 Billion Years Ago: Earth's Axis at 0° to the Sun's Axis
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 01

4.54 Billion Years Ago: Earth's Axis at 90° to the Sun's Axis
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 01

4.54 Billion Years Ago: No Metal on Earth
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 02

3.6 Billion Years Ago: Inverted Earth – land as seas; sea as land
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 04

200 Million Years Ago: Pangea Did Not Break Up
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 03

100 Million Years Ago: Inland Sea in Australia
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 07

75 Million Years Ago: Western Seaway Remained in North America
- S (1817): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 01

55 Million Years Ago: Greenland Farther South
– A ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 06

55 Million Years Ago: Horses did not Evolve
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 10

35 Million Years Ago: Antarctica Farther North
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 05

15 Million Years Ago: No Isthmus Developed Between North and South America
- S (1998): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 16

200,000 Years Ago: Women are as Strong as Men
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 11

30,000 Years Ago: Dover Isthmus Continued
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 09

6200 BCE: Islands of Doggerland Not Inundated
 – N: Mark in the Sea

5600 BCE: Crimea Became an Island
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 08

4000 BCE: Sahara Desert Remained Green
– A ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 12

323 BCE: Alexander the Great Lived Longer
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 01

52 BCE Julius Caesar Defeated and Killed in Gaul
- S (52 BCE): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 16

44 BCE: Julius Caesar not Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 02 

9: German Tribes Defeated in Teutoberg Forest
- S (21): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 03

62: Romans Expelled from Britain
- S (62): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 03

337: Paganism Persisted
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 01

520: Romano-British Rule Persisted in Britain
- S (801): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 03

732: Umayyad Forces Won at Poitiers
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 02
- S (1699): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 03

878: Alfred the Great Defeated
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 03
- S (879): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 13

1002: Burgundy Persisted
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 04

1020: Viking Colonies Established Around Chesapeake Bay
- S (1586): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 15

1035: William the Bastard Did Not Become Duke of Normandy
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 03
- S (1041): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 13

1066: King Harold II Defeated at Stamford Bridge
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 05

           King Harold II Victorious at Battle of Hastings
- A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 06
- S (1088): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 14

1071: The Byzantines Won the Battle of Manzikert
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch.17

1098: The 1st Crusade Failed to Capture Antioch
- S (1098): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 04

1099: The 1st Crusade Failed to Capture Jerusalem
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 07

1135-47: A Different Anarchy
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 08

1181: Abu Ya'qub Yusuf I Lived Longer
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 19

1190: Friedrich Barbarossa Survived; 3rd Crusade Very Successful
- S (1193): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 14 

1203: Duchy of Brittany Remained Independent
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 13
- S (2011): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 02

1204: The 4th Crusade Did Not Damage the Byzantine Empire
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 17

1217: Prince Louis of France Became King of England
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 09
- S (1686): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 05

1241: The Mongols Did Not Turn Back from Europe
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 12

- N (1267): Against the Devil’s Men’
- S (1272): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 06

1268: The Crusader States Persisted
- A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 11

1270: The Chinese Discovered the Americas
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 10
- S (1524): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 09

1328: The English Won the Battle of Bannockburn
- S (1346): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 17

1346: No Black Death
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 14
          Black Death Killed a Majority of Europeans
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 15
          The French Won the Battle of Crécy
- S (1346): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 17

1376: The Black Prince Lived Longer
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 16 

1415: The English Lost the Battle of Agincourt
- S (1415): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 10

1422: England Won the Hundred Years’ War
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 16
- S (1432): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 11
- S (1649): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 20

1453: The Byzantine Empire Persisted
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 17

1475: German Explorer Discovered America
- S (1475): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 06

1481: Sultan Mehmed II Lived Longer
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 18

         Christopher Columbus Sailed to the Americas for Genoa rather than Spain
- S (1512): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 03

1485: King Richard III Won at Bosworth Field
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 01
- S (1783): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 13

1492: A Moorish State Remained in Iberia
- A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 19

1492: Italian City States Colonise North America
 – S (1512): ‘Taking the Detour’ Ch. 03
1493: Refugees from the Emirate of Granada Settled in North America
- S (1493/1978): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 18      

1502: Prince Arthur Came to the English Throne
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 02

1511: Catherine of Aragon Had a Surviving Son
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 04
- S (1534): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 10

1517: Martin Luther Died Younger
- S (1517): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 08

1536: King Henry VIII Died in a Jousting Accident
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 05
- S (1536): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 06

          Anne Boleyn Did not Miscarry
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 05

1537: Jane Seymour Did not Die in Childbirth
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 06

1538: King Henry VIII Married Marie of Guise
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 07

1540: King Henry VIII Found Anne of Cleves Attractive
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 08

1553: King Edward VI Lived Longer
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 09

1554: Queen Elizabeth I Brought to the Throne Earlier
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 10

1558: Calais Remained English
- S (1790): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 02
          Princess Elizabeth Did Not Become Queen
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 11

1564: Queen Elizabeth I Married and Had Children
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 12

1571; 1578; 1583; 1586: Queen Elizabeth I Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 13
- S (1573): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 16

1588: The Spanish Armada was Victorious
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 14 

1605: The Gunpowder Plot was Successful
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 15

1632: King Gustavus Adolphus Lived and Won the 30 Years’ War
- S (1635): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 17

1643: Oliver Cromwell Killed in Battle
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 04

          King Charles I Won the Civil War
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 16
- S (1654): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 17

1650: A Constitution Introduced to Britain
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 17
- S (1717): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 08

1664: Nieuw Nederland Persisted
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 01
- S (1986): ‘Detour’ Ch. 05

1685: The Duke of Monmouth Victorious
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 18
- S (1687): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 11

1688: King James II Remained on the Throne
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 19 

1745: The Jacobite Rebellion Succeeded
- S (1749): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 02

1750s: No Industrial Revolution
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 01
- N (1938): Eve of the Globe’s War

1759: North America became Largely French
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 02
- S (1763): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 19
- S (1768): ‘Detour’ Ch. 13

1760: Prussia Destroyed
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 02
- S (1760): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 01

1770s: Steam Car Racing Became A Sport
- S (1785): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 10

1777: George Washington Died at Valley Forge
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 05
- S (1778): ‘Detour’ Ch. 09

1778: The British Won the American War of Independence
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 03
- S (1983): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 02

1787: Federal Convention Led to Independent American States
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 04
- S (1976): ‘Detour’ Ch. 16

1790: French Revolution Defeated
- S (1890): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 09

1792: Japan Opened Up to the World Earlier
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 10

1794: Napoleon’s Career Less Successful
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 03
- S (1794): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 07

1799: Napoleon Made No Impact on French Politics
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 05
          Napoleon Did Not Abolish Balloon Troops
- S (1810): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 15 

1803: Duke of Wellington Killed in India
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 06
- S (1811): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 06

          Louisiana Not Sold to the USA
- S (1992): ‘Detour’ Ch. 10

1805: France Conquered Britain
- S (1809): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 07

1812: Napoleon More Successful
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 04
- S (2000): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 12

          USA More Successful in War of 1812
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 05
- S (1815) 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 11

          USA Less Successful in War of 1812
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 05
- S (1814): ‘Detour’ Ch. 17

          Indian Reserve Preserved
- S (1828): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 05

1813: Saxony Rather than Prussia Joined 6th Coalition
- S (1815): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 13

1830s: Colonialism Did Not Catch On
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 17
            Otto von Bismarck Remained a Lawyer
- S (1872): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 09

1839: Belgium not Created
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 06

1840: Napoleon III Executed
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 07

          Queen Victoria Assassinated
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 08
- S (1840): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 04

           Republic of Rio Grande Survived
- S (1863): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 07

1842: Britain Held Afghanistan
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 09
- S (1963): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 12

1844: Henry Clay Became US President
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 07

          Congresswoman Elected in New Jersey
- S (1845): ‘Detour’ Ch. 12

1845: Texas Remained an Independent Republic
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 06
- S (1945): ‘Detour’ Ch. 15

1848: Hungary Broke Entirely from Austria
- A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 14

          King Friedrich III came to the Prussian Throne
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 18

          Mexico Remained Larger
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 08
- S (1996): ‘Detour’ Ch. 01

1852: Earlier American Civil War and Earlier Deseret
- S (1856): ‘Detour’ Ch. 06

1857: Deseret was Sustained
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 09

          The Indian Mutiny Succeeded
- S (1871): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 04

1858: Napoleon III Assassinated
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 07

1861: King Friedrich III came to the Prussian Throne
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 18

          The Confederacy Won the American Civil War
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 10
- S (1868): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 11

1862: Otto von Bismarck was Less Successful
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 08

1863: Abraham Lincoln Assassinated Sooner; Herbert Hamlin Died of Pneumonia
- S (1863): 'Taking the Detour'

1865: Abraham Lincoln Not Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 07
- S (1867): ‘Detour’ Ch. 03

1866: Kaiser Wilhelm I was Restrained Less
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 13

1867: Hungary Broke Entirely from Austria
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 14

          Russian Colonies Remained in North America
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 11
- S (1940): ‘Detour’ Ch. 20

1870: France Won the Franco-Prussian War
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 15
- S (1871): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 17

1871: The Taiping State Persisted
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 11

          Italy not Unified
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 12

1878: War between Britain and Russia
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 16
- S (1878): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 14

          Kaiser Friedrich III Came to the Throne
- A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 18

1883: The Channel Tunnel was Constructed Earlier
- S (1883): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 19

1888: Kaiser Friedrich III Lived Longer
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 18

          The Boulanger Coup D’État Succeeded
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 19

1889: DC Electricity Used for US Supply to Homes
- S (1937): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 20

1892: Winston Churchill Died Younger
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 02

1895: Extensive Monorail Network Built in Germany
- S (1909): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 10

1898: France Victorious in the Fashoda Crisis
- S (1898): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 21 

1900: King Edward VII Assassinated
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 20

          The Boers Won the 2nd Anglo-Boer War
- S (1902): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 18

1902: Japan Became an Ally of Germany
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 04
- S (1914): ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 03

1907: Stalin Died before the October Revolution
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 09

          The State of Sequoyah was Formed
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 12
- S (1927): ‘Detour’ Ch. 03

1910s: Oil Exploration in North Sea Began Sooner
- S (1941): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 08

1912: Theodore Roosevelt Re-Elected US President
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 13
- S (1915): ‘Detour’ Ch. 07

          Irish Free State Covered All of Ireland
- S (1913): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 15

         British Admiralty Begins Developing Tanks 
– S (1916): ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 15

          Mussolini Remained a Left-Wing Journalist
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 11

          The First World War Never Occurred
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 01

- S (1916): ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 16

          Archduke Franz Ferdinand Not Assassinated
 – S ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 01

          Third Balkans War
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 01

           Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria War with Serbia
- S (1915): ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 11

          Industrial Action Halted the First World War
- A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 02

          Britain Did not Enter the First World War
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 02
- S (1914): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 01

          Germany Invaded the Netherlands
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 03
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 02

          The German Plans Succeeded
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 03

           French Plan XVII Fully Implemented
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 04

          Italy Fought as Part of the Triple Alliance
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 04
- S (1915): ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 06

          The Ottoman Empire Remained Neutral
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 05

          Germany Conquered Britain
- S (1941): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 15

          Germany Ran Out of Raw Materials
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 05

          Unrestricted Submarine Warfare Introduced Sooner
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 06
– N (1948): ‘His Majesty's Dictator’

          The Gallipoli Offensive Succeeded
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 06

           Allied Landings in Thrace Not Gallipoli
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 07

          Seaborne Invasion of Germany’s Baltic Coast
 - S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 08

          Ottoman Forces Invade Egypt
 - S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 10

          Austria-Hungary Defeated by Russia
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 07

           Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive Successful
– S (1940): ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 22

          Second Christmas Truce on Western Front
 - S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 05

          Russia Collapsed Earlier
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 07

            Romania Entered War in April 1916; Aided Russian Offensive
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 14

          Sustained US-Mexican War
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 08
- N: The Three Eagles

          Full Scale British-German Naval Battle
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 13

            German North Sea Battle Plan More Effective
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 12

           Austria-Hungary Captured Venice 
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 13

          Germans Developed Effective Tanks
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 13
- S (1918): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 12

          Germans Captured Verdun Fortresses
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 08
- S (1915): ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 09
- S (1916): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 18

          Charles E. Hughes Won the US Presidential Election
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 14

          British Developed an Airship Force
- S (1916): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 02

          Negotiated Peace
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 09

          Austria-Hungary Defeated by Russia
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 07

          USA Did not Enter the First World War
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 09
- S (1923): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 12
- N (1917): 'The Three Eagles'

          French Army Mutinies More Extensive
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 10

          British Army Mutinied Extensively
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 17
- S (1919): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 19

          The Bolshevik Revolution Failed
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 10

           The Kornilov Coup Succeeded
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 18

          Treaty of Brest-Litovsk Less Extreme
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 11

          Kaiserschlacht Sustained
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 12
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 19

          French Developed Stormtroopers
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 12

          Britain Did Not Impose Conscription on Ireland
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 11 

           Biological Weapons Used Extensively
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 20

       The First World War Continued
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 14
- S: ‘Wars to End’ Ch. 21

1920: Treaty of Sèvres Enforced
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 14

          Prohibition not Introduced
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 15

1924: Lenin Lived 10 Years Longer
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 10

         Hitler Deported from Germany
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 01
- S (1925): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 16

1929: Gustav Stresemann Lived Longer
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 13
- S (1936): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 07

          No Wall Street Crash
- S (1938): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 17

1931: Winston Churchill Died Younger
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 02

          Stronger Chinese Resistance to Japanese Invasion
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 03
- S (1931): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 05

1932: Hitler not Granted German Citizenship
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 02

1933: Germany-Poland War
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 02
- S (1933): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 04

1934: Franklin Roosevelt Overthrown by a Coup D’État
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 12
- S (1944): ‘Detour’ Ch. 11

          Mao Zedong was Killed
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 17

          Coup D’État in France
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 04
- S (1939): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 14

          Nazi Coup D’État in Austria Successful
– A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 01
- S (1934): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 10

           King Alexander of Yugoslavia Not Assassinated
- S (1943): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 15

1935: Mussolini Overthrown
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 11

1936: Edward VIII Remained King of the United Kingdom
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 14
- S (1955): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 07

          The Maginot Line was Built Along the Belgian Border
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 06

          Italy and Germany Did Not Become Allies
– A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 02
- S (1941): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 07

          Remilitarisation of the Rhineland Resisted
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 03

1937: The Republicans Won the Spanish Civil War
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 04

          The USA Joined Second World War from the Start
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 06
- S (1938): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 12

1938: Appeasement Succeeded in Avoiding War
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 05
- S (1940): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 07
- S (1948): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 14

          Neville Chamberlain was a German Collaborator
– S (1938): ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 03

          Germany-Czechoslovakia War of 1938
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 07
- S (1938): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 04

          Hitler Assassinated
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 18

          Mussolini Assassinated
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 11

          Stalin Debilitated by a Stroke
- S (1938/1941): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 19

         Allies Unable to Break the Enigma Cipher
- A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 14

         France Invaded Germany to Support Poland
 - S (1939): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 16

           Jewish Refuge Established in Alaska
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 17

          Britain Invaded Norway
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 05

          German Invasion of Norway Defeated
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 08

          USSR Invaded Norway
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 07
- S (1940): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 13

          Japan Invaded the USSR
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 08
- S (1942): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 09

          Lord Halifax Became British Prime Minister
– S (1940): ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 05

          German Invasion of Belgium Halted
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 04

          German Invasion of France Defeated
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 09
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 01

          Anglo-French Union Formed
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 05
- S (1965): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 18

          The BEF was Eliminated at Dunkirk
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 10

          Charles De Gaulle Killed in an Aeroplane Crash
- S (1949): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 08

          Italy Did not Enter the Second World War
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 09

          French Government Went to the Brittany Redoubt
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 13

          The French Government Relocated to Algeria
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 11
- S (1941): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 01
- S (1942): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 06

          Germany Invaded Switzerland
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 12
- S (1940): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 10

          Germany Invaded Spain and Portugal
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 15

          Spain and Portugal Fought Actively for the Axis
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 09
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 16

          German Invasion of Britain Failed
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 06
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 11
- N (1940): Stop Line
- S (1941): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 01

          German Invasion of Ireland
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 13

          Germany Invaded Iceland
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 10

          Italy Victorious in Greece
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 07
- S (1940): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 04

          Italy Invaded Palestine
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 03

          Mussolini Dismissed Earlier
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 11

          Poison Gas Weapons Used
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 17

         Franklin Roosevelt Only Allowed to Serve 2 Terms
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 16
- S (1951): ‘Detour’ Ch. 02

         Yugoslavia Remained Independent
- S (1943): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 15

         The British Held Crete
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 14
- S (1966): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 20

          Germany Invaded Cyprus
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 16

          Germany Invaded Bulgaria
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 11

          Soviet Response More Effective to German Invasion
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 08
- S (1941): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 19

          Latvia Became an Ally of Germany
- S (1943): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 12

          Vichy France Fought Actively for the Axis
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 12

          USA Concentrated on Fighting in the Pacific
- S (1944): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 09

          Germans Won the Second World War
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 01
- S (1968): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 20

          Japan Won the Pacific War
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 18

          Allies Unable to Break Shark Version of Enigma Cipher
- N (1943): 'Provision'

          Singapore was Better Defended
- S (1942): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 17

          Japan Invaded Ceylon
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 13
- S (1942): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 02

          Allies Invaded Norway
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch.12

          German Forces Reached Palestine and Iraq
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 13
- S (1942): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 03

          Germans Victorious at Leningrad and Stalingrad
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 16
- S (1942): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 18

          German Forces Captured Grozny
- S (1942): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 06

Japan Invaded India
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 13

          Allies Lost Battle of the Atlantic
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 15
- S (1943): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 09
- N (1943): Provision

          Allies Invaded Brittany
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 17
- S (1943): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 19

          Allies Tried to Liberate the Channel Islands
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 17

          Operation Mincemeat Failed
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 18

          Allies Invaded Greece Rather than Italy
- S (1943): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 15

          Italian Armistice Handled Better
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 14

          A Civil War in Hungary
- S (1943): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 14

         Germany Developed an Atomic Bomb
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 19
- S (1944): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 17

          Soviets Developed an Atomic Bomb First
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 20

          D-Day Landings in Pas-de-Calais
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 16

          France Became a Communist Country
- S (1945): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 11
- S (1974): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 08

          Hitler Assassinated
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 19
- S (1944): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 02

          Germans Used Numerous Jet Bombers
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 19
- S (1956): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 18

          Bridge at Arnhem Held by Allies
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 18
- S (1944): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 08

          Communists Won Greek Civil War
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 20

          The Soviets Aided the Warsaw Uprising
- S (1957): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 08

          No US Atomic Bomb Built and Invasion of Japan
- S (1946): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 01

         Morgenthau Plan Implemented
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 20

         Bakker-Schut Plan Implemented
- S (1956): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 11

1946: Joseph McCarthy not Elected a Senator
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 18

1948: More Alert US Foreign Policy
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 19

          Britain Became Part of the USA
- S (1952): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 16

          Thomas Dewey Elected US President as Expected
- S (1950): 'Taking the Detour' Ch.10

1950: USA Defeated in Korean War
- S (1950): 'Detour' Ch. 18

          USA Used Atomic Bombs in Korean War
- S (1985): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 14

1952: Robert Taft Elected US President; Nixon, Vice-President
- S (1963): ‘Detour’ Ch. 08

1956: British Victorious in Suez Crisis; Invaded Libya
- S (1956): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 12

1960: Richard Nixon Won the 1960 US Presidential Election
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 15

1961: Charles De Gaulle Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 16
- S (1961): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 05
- N (1961): Scavenged Days

          The Beatles were Convicted in West Germany
- S (1961): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 05

1962: USA Invaded Cuba
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 20
- S (1967): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 04

          Tactical Atomic Weapons Used by Cuba
- S (2003): ‘Detour’ Ch. 19

1963: John F. Kennedy not Assassinated
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 21
          East Germany Invaded West Berlin
- S (1963): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 18

1966: Mao Zedong was Ousted from Power
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 17

1968: Robert Kennedy not Assassinated
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 23

1969: USSR-China Third World War
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 22

1974: Lord Mountbatten Became Head of a British Junta
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 19
- S (1975): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 05

          Richard Nixon Remained in Office
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 24

1977: Hans Schleyer’s Kidnappers Found
- S (1978): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 15

1980: Ronald Reagan Fiasco in Broadcast Debate
- S (1980): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 19

1981: Ronald Reagan Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 20
- S (1987): ‘Detour’ Ch. 14

1984: Indira Gandhi Was Not Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 18

         Margaret Thatcher Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 21
- S (1984): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 09

2000: Al Gore Confirmed as US President
- S (2009): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 06

2003: President Al Gore Assassinated
- S (2009): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 06