Get all back issues of Alt Hist

As well as being able to subscribe to Alt Hist, and buy individual issues, you can now purchase all 5 back issues at a discount. The offer is for all 5 printed issues and includes free copies of the eBook for each issue as well as free shipping in the US – all this for only $44.95 (each print issue normally costs $9.99, so with free eBook and shipping taken into account that’s quite a good saving.

If you want to take advantage of this offer then either go to the Subscribe page or hit the PayPal button below:

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Offer only available at the moment for US customers.

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Alt Hist Issue 2 – currently free at Amazon.com for Kindle

Amazon.com are currently running a free promotion for Alt Hist Issue 2 Kindle Edition. So if you haven’t read that issue yet, now is a good opportunity!

Here’s a reminder of what’s in Issue 2 of Alt Hist:

Long Nights in Languedoc’ by Andrew Knighton
The Apollo Mission’ by David X. Wiggin
Son of Flanders’ by William Knight
In Cappadocia’ by AshleyRose Sullivan
The Orchid Hunters’ by Priya Sharma
Death in Theatre’ by Jessica Wilson
The Scarab of Thutmose’ by Anna Sykora
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ by N. K. Pulley

And reviews of:

Historical Fiction Writing: a practical guide and tool-kit by Myfanwy Cook
Ruso and the River of Darkness by R. S. Downie
Rome Burning by Sophia McDougall

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Interview with William Knight, author of ‘Son of Flanders’

Our final author interview for Issue 2 is with William Knight, author of ‘Son of Flanders’, a World War I murder mystery set in the trenches of the Western Front.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m currently a student in Upstate New York, studying European History with a mind towards teaching. In my spare time I’m a bartender.

What attracts you to historical fiction?

I’ve always loved history. When I first started at University I was a Criminal Justice major. After the first History class I took, I changed my major that very day. And reading fiction that takes place during an actual historical event is an amazing experience. Unlike history books which provide the backdrop to a historical era, fiction allows you to delve deeply into the subject, almost a worm’s eye view.

Is this your first story about WW1?

The first one I attempted to get published. The first that I wrote was a horror story, that didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped. The war itself was such a horrific event, that adding supernatural elements to the plot felt a bit extraneous. I was thrilled when I discovered Alt Hist as the genre is currently suffering for publications and the care and attention to detail put into the magazine by the editor, Mark Lord, has made this a truly enjoyable experience.

How did you get the idea for the story?

Like many of my ideas, I often find it hard to trace the genesis. I’ve always wanted to write a story set during the war, and one day I traced an outline that became Son of Flanders.

Your story gives a vivid portrayal of the trenches. How do you think soldiers were able to cope with the conditions they faced?

By a remarkable feat of inner strength. The shelling was continuous, 24 hours a day. And the conditions were absolutely abhorable. One soldier described finding a fellow Tommy stuck in a shell hole during the Passchendaele campaign. They were unable to extricate him from the mud, and had to watch as he slowly drowned. And also through their sense of humor. It often comes through the pages when I read memoirs from the time period.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on another story set during the First World War. Just a fascinating subject, with so much to explore.

William has had stories published in Electric Velocipede, Space and Time Magazine, and Necrotic Tissue. His website is www.williamknight1.blogspot.com.

Don’t forget to check out William’s story ‘Son of Flanders’ in the second issue of Alt Hist.

Interview with Andrew Knighton, author of ‘Long Nights in Languedoc’

Andrew Knighton is making writing stories for Alt Hist a bit of a habit! With a piece of medieval historical fiction in both issue 1 and issue 2, I’m hoping that we’ll be seeing much more of his work in the future. Find out a bit more about him in our interview.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Norwich, and following a couple of detours now live in Stockport, part of the growing sprawl that is Greater Manchester. I spend most of my time doing the sorts of things people do to avoid reality – playing games, writing fiction, and working in an office.

How did you get the idea for ‘Long Nights in Languedoc’?

The two I’ve had in Alt Hist came from different places mentally. ‘Holy Water’ came from reading about local Cheshire myths, and then cramming together the ones that seemed to have a thematic connection. The story that a lord had a statue executed particularly appealed to me because it showed an idea taken to its logical yet absurd conclusion.

‘Long Nights in Languedoc’ was inspired by my undergraduate dissertation from over a decade ago, which was about the role of chivalry during the Hundred Years War. I love the idea of chivalry, and again it’s the absurdities and contradictions that appeal to me. No-one really lived by its rules, so I wanted to explore the behaviour of someone who tried. The monsters became a vehicle for that – an impossible challenge for an impossible person.

Both your stories for Alt Hist have been set in the Middle Ages. What’s the appeal of this period in history for you?

It’s in my upbringing. My parents used to take me to castles during my summer holidays, and my dad read me Ivanhoe and Lord of the Rings at a susceptible age. I loved the glamour and excitement that is the fantasy of the middle ages, an age of heroism completely different from our own. As I grew older and more jaded I became fascinated by the reality of that period, the inequalities and stupidities that made the Middle Ages so much like the modern world. But it’s mostly still a love of castles.

Who are your favourite authors/books and why?

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, because of its wonderful depiction of a person as a product of their setting, and never gets bogged down in its prose. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – a story that’s funny, sad and insightful, full of great characters and with a smart, playful structure. Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles – an epic story with an unusual setting and some fascinating, deeply damaged characters.

Now that I look at those choices together, it seems that I like contradictory characters facing impossible situations and defying the accepted order. And I don’t like straightforward happy endings. There needs to be some bite.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve been playing with ideas about smugglers. There’s a period sometimes referred to as the scientific age of smuggling, when people along England’s south coast went to ingenious ends to turn a tax-free profit. Fake hulls, hidden chambers, secret coves, chases across sea and shore. But just as fascinating is the context, the way that a certain type of crime became acceptable to whole communities, and a way for them to retain some independence from oppressive power structures. It’s not just a struggle for rum, it’s a struggle for
identity and for control. But turning that into a successful story is proving tricky.

Andrew has a website at https://andrewknighton.wordpress.com.

His stories for Alt Hist are:

‘Long Nights in Languedoc’ from Issue 2

‘Holy Water’ from Issue 1

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Review of Alt Hist Issue 2 at Fantasy Book Review

Alt Hist Issue 2 just received a very good write-up at the website Fantasy Book Review. Alt Hist is described as containing “engaging and well-written short stories with a historical setting that portray actual events or events that could have happened”.

I particularly liked the last paragraph of the review:

In music there is nothing better than finding and liking a band that is as-of-yet pretty much unheard off, only for them to go on and become a world-renowned name. I believe that this is why readers may also enjoy Alt Hist – the authors mentioned above will likely be new to 99% of readers but we may be catching them right at the beginning of their career and find that we can embark on a great journey with them.

You can read the whole review of Alt Hist Issue 2 at Fantasy Book Review.

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Interview with N. K. Pulley, author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Alt Hist’s next author interview is with N. K. Pulley, who wrote ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ for Issue 2.

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

I work for Cambridge University Press in the maths and astronomy departments, where I write a lot of blurbs and steal cake from the production editors. In September, I’ll be starting a creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia. I hope, at some point after that, to go to Japan.

How did you get the idea for the story?

Keita Mori coelesced one evening while I was watching Dr Who. I built everything else around him; I read through some old editions of the London Illustrated News to see what was happening in the 1880s and found that there had been an Irish bombing campaign, and that there had been a Japanese presence in Knightsbridge in the form of a show village. One of the lovelier things about historical fiction is that it practially writes itself.

I understand that your story is part of a series. What does the future hold for the characters of Watchmaker of Filigree Street?

Gilbert and Sullivan, a clockwork octopus and some suffragists, although possibly not all together.

Do you write exclusively historical fiction or do you stray into other genres? If so what do you think the main challenges are of writing historical fiction compared to other genres?

I write fantasy too. In some ways it is much easier than historical fiction, because you can make up your own timeline and your own rules; in others, historical fiction is a gift to plotting because often the things that actually happened, or could have happened if somebody hadn’t had toothache, are much more extraordinary than something completely imaginary. I think the main difficulty is finding the line between fiction and biography. It doesn’t do to get too bogged down in whether the Earl of Salisbury grew petunias or not, but at the same time, there needs to be enough research involved to avoid any howling errors.

Don’t forget to check out N. K. Pulley’s story ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ in the second issue of Alt Hist.

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Interview with AshleyRose Sullivan, author of ‘In Cappadocia’

AshleyRose Sullivan, author of ‘In Cappadocia’ from Issue 2 of Alt Hist is next up for an interview.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Los Angeles now but I grew up in the mountains and foothills of Appalachia. I have a degree in Anthropology with minors in English and Theater and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. Aside from writing, I founded and run a Shakespeare Institute for children in rural Kentucky.

What attracts you to historical fiction?

I’ve always been a huge history fan but when it comes to fiction, I prefer alternate history. I like looking at the tapestry of our past, getting really close to it, and asking, “What would happen if I were to pull at this single thread? What sort of effect might that have on the larger piece?” And, of course for me, thinking about it isn’t enough. I have to come as close as I can to actually pulling the thread and running with it. Writing alternate history is a way for me to do that.

Tell us a bit more about the background to the story ‘In Cappadocia’.

I’d heard about the Cappadocian civilization before but had never seen it until I caught a special about it on The History Channel. Once I got a look at the amazing caverns that make up the underground cities and the alien landscape above them, I was transfixed. I thought about how terrifying and captivating a place like that would be to an invader from antiquity and wanted to get close to a person like that – to show how scary the unknown can be.

One of your stories has been turned into a musical. How did that come about and what did you think of the results?

At Spalding, I got to work with a number of really talented writers. One of the playwrights, Tommy Trull, liked my work and asked if I had any stories that might work as a musical and I sent him “Silent Pictures” which is about an immigrant actor at the end of the silent film era who’s in danger of losing his job because of his accent. The play premiered at the Greensboro Fringe Festival in North Carolina. Tommy did an amazing job converting the story to a musical, especially considering the fact that the main character didn’t have a single line of dialogue in the original piece. It’s a fresh, multimedia production and I love what he’s doing with it.

What are you currently working on?

I recently finished an alternate history young adult novel which I’m beginning to shop around and I just started research on a new novel that mixes contemporary paranormal elements with events and people from history.

Don’t forget to check out AshleyRose’s story ‘In Cappadocia’ in the second issue of Alt Hist.

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Interview with Priya Sharma, author of ‘The Orchid Hunters’

Priya Sharma has written two stories for Alt Hist so far: ‘The Bitterness of Apples’ in Issue 1 and ‘The Orchid Hunters’ in Issue 2. She kindly answered a few questions for Alt Hist.

How did you get into writing?

Reading a great book transported me but it also made me envious. I realised I wanted to write too and was making excuses not to. Some people find it a natural, easy process but I had to go through a very big pain barrier to make a start. Writing can feel like pulling teeth but nothing beats the thrill of completing a story (except for an editor accepting it, of course).

What do you do apart from writing?

I love books and films. It’s my mother’s fault. She introduced me to Hardy and Hitchcock. I’m a doctor by day.

How did you come up with the idea of writing about Victorian orchid hunters?

Men once died looking for what we can now get at the local garden centre. I find the history of the mundane fascinating- wars were once waged over coffee and nutmeg. Orchids are a window into a certain strata of Victorian society and its ideals. When I saw a documentary that showed elephants cradling the bones of their dead I knew I wanted to work it into a story and the ‘elephant orchid’ was born.

Are you working on any other short stories or novels at the moment and if so can you tell us a bit more about them?

I have two novels sat on my hard drive that need reworking- one is a historical fantasy and the other science fiction. I’m currently writing a horror short about the recession. The other piece I’m wrestling with is about a woman haunted by the failure of her marriage.

What are your ambitions as a writer?

To write more and write better. To be better at plotting. My approach to writing doesn’t lend itself to tight story structure, so it means I have to do a lot of rewrites to get a story I’m happy with. If I was better at planning it would also make it easier for me to write another novel.

Priya’s website: www.priyasharmafiction.co.uk contains more information and links to her other work.

Don’t forget to read the free extracts of Priya’s stories ‘The Bitterness of Apples’ and ‘The Orchid Hunters’.

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Interview with Anna Sykora, author of ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’

Anna SykoraNext we have an interview with Anna Sykora, author of ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’.

Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your writing

I grew up in a Manhattan apartment, a shy total oddball, reading my better world. Later I had a dream -I wanted to eat – so I actually practiced corporate tax law for 12 years (a nice living, no life). Then I married a German with visa problems. Now I’ve no living but a lovely life, reading and writing to my heart’s surfeit in this provincial nest (German Hanover).

I write everything from humor to apocalyptic horror and traditional poetry. I just placed my 98th tale and 188th poem, all by editors’ choice.

The internet keeps me connected with fantastic creatives pursuing their visions, all for tokens of money or just true love. At the end of the day, it’s love that matters more – most folks agree.

How did you get the idea for the story ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’?

I was reading the scholar Toby Wilkinson’s lavishly illustrated Lives of the Ancient Egyptians, and there on page 50 is a sculpture of a fleshy, almost female scribe. What if? I wondered. Down the ages, how many women have pretended to be men, in order to make careers they loved?

Looking at more pictures of art, and researching Egyptian life helped me fill in the story.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

As a girl I fell in love with H. G. Wells, and I still revere his lucid style. I just love Dostoyesky too, for his insights into the angels that dwell with the demons within us.

In poetry I’d say Rilke and Emily Dickinson rule my attention; both, extremely solitary, expressing their personhood through precise art.

As well as fiction I understand that you also write poetry. I am
fascinated to know more about how you balance working in these two
different formats.

Poetry for me is my deepest language: not even a ‘practice’, it’s what I hear in my head. On a desert island, I’d write poems in the sand, or recite them to the shrieking birds. I usually can write it after a short nap in the late afternoon. Sometimes it burbles up of its own free will, and I just have to write it down.

Prose, on the other hand, is WORK – best handled after breakfast, while the coffee’s still hot. I’ll rewrite a story 20 times, till every sentence sings. Then I’ll keep sending it out, no matter what, until it sticks somewhere. I once got a tale accepted after 37 rejections, no lie.

What are you working on at the moment?

My usual, ridiculous hodgepodge of SF and horror prose – and literary verse. Never will I ‘specialize’ and become a unique selling proposition! Indeed I’d like to try more alternate history soon. It tickles my imagination.

Having lived in Germany for decades now, I’d be confident trying a German setting.

Anna also told us about some of her other publications

I’ve got a humorous fantasy, ‘My Unicorn Summer’ in the latest issue of Mystic Signals, and my satire of marriage, ‘A Little Dust’ should appear in The Cynic Online on August 1.

Readers who liked ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’ might also enjoy my SF epic Megachicken, in last October’s archives of Radio Station WRFR’s ‘Beam Me Up’ programme in Rockland, Maine.

Don’t forget to read a free sample of Anna’s ‘The Scarab of Thutmose’ from the second issue of Alt Hist. We think you’ll like it.

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Interview with David X. Wiggin, author of ‘The Apollo Mission’

Next in our series of interviews with authors from our second issue is David X. Wiggin. He wrote the wonderful ‘The Apollo Mission’ for Alt Hist Issue 2.

1. Can you tell us a bit about the mythology behind this story: Apollo and the links with NASA’s space programme?

Apollo, being the Greek & Roman deity of the sun and archery (not to mention a symbol of the triumph of rational civilization over nature), is really the most logical choice for a program that involves shooting giant arrows into the sky. Originally this story was going to be about the moon landing hoax conspiracy theory (not something I believe in but I think there’s some wonderful potential there) and in the course of doing research on space travel I came across the story of Wan Hu, a minor Ming Dynasty official who tried to fly into space using rockets attached to his chair. Immediately this turned to thoughts about earlier civilizations starting up space programs and a program for Rome – with its expanding empire, advanced technology, loyal soldiers, and actual worship of Apollo – suddenly made way too much sense. I’m surprised we don’t see more ideas for flying machines or lunar travel in ancient texts, frankly, but I guess that was seen as pretty far fetched for even those advanced civilizations.

2. What do you think might have been the historical implications if Romans had ventured into space?

I can’t even imagine. But since you asked, I’ll try.

Well, contrary to the legionnaire’s good feelings before he starts to plummet, I suspect Rome probably would have gone bankrupt and fallen all the same before it could have done anything meaningful with the program. The knowledge involved probably would have been forgotten for centuries until the sparkling minds of the Renaissance rediscovered it. Imagine: the V-2 rocket, invented by Leonardo almost half a millennia early! Imagine that power in the hands of an Italian city-state or the Catholic Church, the power to strike with the wrath of God from hundreds of miles away at your command. Now, imagine the same technology in the hands of the no-less brilliant Islamic world, a religiously-inspired Cold War heating up centuries early with Jerusalem or Constantinople caught in the middle. Hmmm… I think I smell sequel!

3. Tell our readers a bit about your background as a writer and what you’re currently working on.

I’ve been writing stories since I came in 3rd at a Halloween writing competition in 3rd grade. I wrote the same sorts of godawful poems and stories everyone did up through high school and then got into Sarah Lawrence College where I studied under and alongside some pretty amazing writers. I was fortunate to have the experience of growing up in places like Japan and Russia thanks to my parents work in the State Department, so I draw a lot from those experiences.

I tend to be pretty ADD and am a horrible commitaphobe so I usually have 4-5 projects going simultaneously and take years to finish any of them. Mostly I’m working on short stories these days and I’m doing research for two different books: a fantasy-comedy set in 1930’s China and a horror-mystery set in ’20’s Japan that’s basically an Edogawa Rampo homage. I’ll probably have them done in 10 years or so!

4. What are your favourite fiction genres and why?

Fantasy and horror would be my favorites, though they’re only ahead of the pack by a nose. Really I enjoy all kinds of literature and most of my favorite books in recent years have actually been more journalistic and autobiographical than anything else but I love the freedom of style that fantasy and horror provide. I mean, which would you rather read if given a choice? A book that dissects class and race in America, the beauty and torment of what it means to be human; or a book that discusses those things and has NAZI WEREWOLF NINJAS? The answer seems pretty clear to me.

David doesn’t have a website at the moment, but here’s some links to where his other work can be found online:

“A Fabulous Junkyard”
Steampunk Magazine #4
http://www.steampunkmagazine.com/steampunk-magazine-issue-four/

“The Burden of Proof”
Theaker’s Quarterly #36
http://theakersquarterly.blogspot.com/2011/03/theakers-quarterly-fiction-36-now.html

“Chess Stories #1-5″
http://www.louffapress.com/22664.html

Don’t forget to read a free sample of David’s ‘The Apollo Mission’ from the second issue of Alt Hist. We think you’ll like it.

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