A recent reviewer on Amazon.co.uk complained that some of my stories were dull. That is a fair point. I do not agree but I accept for him they may have been. Then he complains that I do not have dynamic links from the stories to the historical notes at the end. This is a challenge with e-books. People cannot put their finger in at one page and flick forward to the end of the book. I was able to put such dynamic links into the five books concerned the evening that I read that comment. If he had emailed me directly then I could have done it sooner. People forget that you can amend and republish an e-book in 12 hours, sometimes even less if you are a regular publisher.
I suppose that most people do not want me to correct their error, because there is a tribe of reviewers who thrive on bringing down authors. It is a hobby in itself. It reminds me of all these 'errors' programmes about movies and television programmes, which show tiny mistakes that you never even notice when watching the original programme. Some people have been great and written to me with updates or corrections and I have amended the book immediately. However, most prefer to use any slips as a tool to condemn a book. One word wrong on a single page in this society is enough for an entire 200-page book to be condemned as useless. I know it makes them feel good and powerful but it means e-book authors face a much harder time than authors of the past, despite the fact that ironically, they have far greater power to amend errors.
Out of boredom, I decided to see if anyone was talking about my books in other contexts aside from the Amazon feedback sections. In my alternate history books I outline that one of my goals is to stimulate debate about the possibilities in history and that I am happy if people disagree with me if they are discussing the topics.
This is the longest debate, about Japan becoming an ally of Germany in the First World War which comes from my in 'Other Trenches':
They are not overly enthusiastic about my ideas, though it is rather presented as me saying this would happen rather than discussing the feasibility. Some of the contributors see Japan before the First World War as a puppet of the British which is a mistaken impression. This was the whole reason that Britain broke decades of behaviour and went into an alliance and with a country that no Power had considered a potential alliance partner. The relationship only lasted 20 years.
The commentators also seem to miss how stretched British naval forces were in that decade with the fear of German naval power, though the fear was greater than the actuality. They see no reason why the British would not try to restrain Japan in 1895 though this is exactly what they did in 1921-22 over the Shandong Peninsula and with warming relations with the USA they dropped Japan very quickly as an ally. Yes, Japan did not have the strongest navy in the world, but in the North Pacific and against the forces the colonial powers could muster there, it was strong, especially if aided by the Germans. This strength had been proven against Russia, though the commentators dismiss the naval strength Russia itself held before 1905.
This one is discussing the war between Italy and Greece in 1940-1 but mainly points to the chapter in 'Other Roads III' about the German invasion of Bulgaria: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/soc.history.what-if/zwZjrwRqDK4
A couple of other people have said they have read my books:
Stig Haugdahl stated on Twitter he had read 'Other Trenches':
In August 2014 someone calling themselves 'Deceptively Calm' gave me a nice review: 'Just finished "In other trenches" by a guy called Rooksmoor. A great collection of WW1-What-ifs, intelligently explored. Not fiction, just alternate history. I've already bought the sequel and am eyeing his books on alternate 19th century scenarios as well.'
I suppose all of us seek some supportive words. I get frustrated when someone attacks my books for being something that I never even intended them to be. I have had to put up big warnings about the essays not being fiction. Even then some feel that because I do not insist on a particular outcome I am somehow dodging what alternate history should be about; one even insisted I be removed from the alternate history category. It is clear that they want me to be dogmatic so that they can be dogmatic back and dismiss my ideas. A debate is harder to contest and they do not get the satisfaction of showing me what an idiot I am. Book writing and reviewing has become a combat sport.
I am interested in how I often get turned from 'Alexander Rooksmoor' into simply 'Rooksmoor'. Perhaps the blog name contributes to that, perhaps again it is characteristic of the pugnacious nature of online debate which so often turns to epithets drawn from physical violence, particularly rape.
I saw that a US reviewer, W.K. Aiken had posted a nice review of 'Route Diverted' which I felt 'got' what I have been trying to do and not simply complaining that I have not written the book that they want to write. Though I do feature real people in the stories, I have deliberately sought to avoid the little coincidences which make me as an avid reader of 'what if?' to groan. I want to treat the reader in a more mature way:
"Mr. Rooksmoor is a unique writer in that he does not take the usual "It's Alternate History!" tack when writing AH. Most writers will work twisty little ironies and whatnot into their prose - not a bad thing, mind you, just a common feature of the genre - and keep poking the reader with the "coincidences."
Mr. Rooksmoor has a much more subtle touch, relying on the existing knowledge of the reader a) that what is being read is fiction and b) of what really happened. He then takes a "slice of life" from whatever alternate reality he's created and lets the reader fill in the gaps. The narrative is more of a glimpse into what would be happening over the hill, around the bend and in the next town, away from the action on which Tsouras, Conroy or Turtledove would be focusing.
It's an intriguing approach and a nice contrast, but certainly more for the experienced AH maven.
Imagine Jerome K. Jerome's "Three Men In A Boat" written from within a 240-year-old Commonwealth. How much would be changed? Having the advantage of "OurTime" perspective, the differences would be intriguing but the scope would be minute."
I would say that most of the scenarios have a far broader perspective than just a single book. I like to note that small changes had the potential to affect millions.