One Week Left of Alt Hist Issue 7 Giveaway

Alt Hist Issue 7 eBook CoverIf you’re a member of the Goodreads website then you can enter the Alt Hist Issue 7 Giveaway!

We’re giving away FIVE print copies of the latest issue of Alt Hist. If you want to read the latest and best historical fiction short stories then you might be able to grab yourself a free copy.

The giveaway finishes on 15th February, so hurry over to Goodreads now to enter.

Alt Hist Issue 7 features the following stories:

  • “The Vivisectionist’s Daughter” by Jason Kahn
  • “Cold Flesh” by Andrew Knighton
  • “The Independence Day” by Pavel Nikiforovitch
  • “Heff in Dearborn” by Michael Fertik
  • “Battalion 202: The Sheep and the Goats” by Jonathan Doering
  • “Set Britain Ablaze” by Jonathan Doering
  • “The Red Vortex” by Priya Sharma
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Alt Hist author Michael Fertik hits New York Times Bestseller list

Reputation EconomyMichael Fertik, who contributed “Heff in Dearborn” to the latest issue of Alt Hist, has just hit the New York Times Bestseller list at #7 with his book The Reputation Economy: How to Optimize Your Digital Footprint in a World Where Your Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset.

You can buy the book on Amazon and at other good booksellers. And don’t forget to take a look at Michael’s wonderful story in Alt Hist Issue 7.

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Alt Hist Issue 7 is here!

The latest issue of the bestselling historical fiction magazine

I am pleased to announce that Alt Hist Issue 7 has now been published!Alt Hist Issue 7 eBook Cover

You can purchase eBook and Print copies from:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble

And eBook copies from:

Smashwords | Kobo | iBooks

Alt Hist returns with the seventh issue of the popular magazine of historical fiction and alternate history. This is the biggest issue of Alt Hist so far and this time we have seven wonderful short stories for you—including two parts of the popular Battalion 202 series and stories from Alt Hist favourites Priya Sharma and Andrew Knighton. If you like historical fiction, then you are sure to love this issue of Alt Hist.

Alt Hist Issue 7 features the following stories:

  • “The Vivisectionist’s Daughter” by Jason Kahn
  • “Cold Flesh” by Andrew Knighton
  • “The Independence Day” by Pavel Nikiforovitch
  • “Heff in Dearborn” by Michael Fertik
  • “Battalion 202: The Sheep and the Goats” by Jonathan Doering
  • “Set Britain Ablaze” by Jonathan Doering
  • “The Red Vortex” by Priya Sharma
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Alt Hist Issue 7 – Cover Reveal

For all of you looking forward to seeing the new Alt Hist Issue 7 – here’s the cover! Hoping to be able to announce the new Issue in about a week’s time.

Alt Hist Issue 7 eBook Cover

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Alt Hist Issue 7 – Blurb and Editorial Teaser

The latest issue of Alt Hist is nearly ready to be published. To whet your appetite here’s the blurb and editorial so far – may change a bit for the final version :)

Alt Hist returns with the seventh issue of the popular magazine of historical fiction and alternate history. This is the biggest issue of Alt Hist so far and this time we have seven wonderful short stories for you—including two parts of the popular Battalion 202 series and stories from Alt Hist favourites Priya Sharma and Andrew Knighton. If you like historical fiction, then you are sure to love this issue of Alt Hist.

Alt Hist Issue 7 features the following stories:

  • “The Vivisectionist’s Daughter” by Jason Kahn
  • “Cold Flesh” by Andrew Knighton
  • “The Independence Day” by Pavel Nikiforovitch
  • “Heff in Dearborn” by Michael Fertik
  • “Battalion 202: The Sheep and the Goats” by Jonathan Doering
  • “Set Britain Ablaze” by Jonathan Doering
  • “The Red Vortex” by Priya Sharma

Editorial

Welcome to Alt Hist Issue 7. We have now been going for over four years and pretty much staying on our target of publishing two issues a year. The main purpose of Alt Hist is to provide a home for quality short fiction with a historical setting—be it alternate history, historical fantasy or straight historical fiction. I think that our seventh issue has some outstanding pieces of fiction.

In “The Vivisectionist’s Daughter” by Jason Kahn the famous physician and anatomist Andreas Vesalius comes to Istanbul. The end of Vesalius’s life is shrouded in mystery. It is reported that he died in 1564 after being shipwrecked on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Jason Kahn gives us an alternative view of the last days of Vesalius through the eyes of Qadri, a construction worker in Istanbul who rescues Vesalius’s daughter from danger and from then on finds his fate being intertwined with Vesalius himself.

“Cold Flesh” by Andrew Knighton brings us a morality tale from Medieval England. Matthew Tinderfield is happy to see his neighbour, Sir William Bodray, hang for his part in a rebellion against the king. But his satisfaction turns to dismay and horror as he reaps what he has sown. Andrew has previously had other stories with a medieval setting published in Alt Hist—see Alt Hist Issue 1 and 2. “Cold Flesh” neatly combines dark humour with visceral horror.

“Heff in Dearborn” by Michael Fertik is an unusual tale that brings together a figure from Greek mythology and the champion of modern factory assembly lines, Henry T. Ford. Hephaistos, ancient Greek god of the forge, now living in contemporary Los Angeles recounts a key incident in his life.  The incident took place in early 20th century America, when Hephaistos, disguised as a man named Heff, met Henry Ford.  It was the dawn of the automobile; cars were still being made by hand.  Hephaistos and Ford race their hand made cars on the famous racing beach in Daytona.  Hephaistos wins handily, embarrassing Ford. Ford, secretly suspecting his opponent’s real identity, decides to invent a new process, a new way of manufacture that will kill the old ways once and for all.

“Independence Day” by Pavel Nikiforovitch is an alternate history set in a present day when celebration of the 4th July in America is very much a minority activity. Most Americans aren’t patriots. One man struggles to celebrate the most important day in his country’s history. The main things he has to fight against are the indifference of his own family and neighbours—in this reality, the USA barely exists as a political entity. The cover of this issue of Alt Hist pays homage to a reference in “Independence Day”.

Battalion 202 returns with two new stories written by Jonathan Doering. Battalion 202, for those who haven’t read recent issues of Alt Hist, is the what-if tale of British resistance to a Nazi invasion in WW2. The first story in this issue, “The Sheep and the Goats”, takes us back to Harold Storey, a local policeman in Pontefract who is forced to work with the occupying Gestapo. Will Sergeant Storey risk his own life to aid the British resistance? “Set Britain Ablaze” reveals a significant part of the back-story to the Battalion 202 series through a variety of personal records of figures such as Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill and the Head of the SOE, Major General Gubbins. You can read in their own words, how these historical figures might have responded to a Nazi occupation of Britain. We anticipate that there will be another four stories in the Battalion 202 series and that will be published in the next few issues of Alt Hist, concluding with the finale in Alt Hist Issue 10.

Priya Sharma has contributed a number of stories to Alt Hist in the past. Her last story, “After Mary” from Alt Hist Issue 5, was recently recognized by Ellen Datlow as one of the most notable horror stories of 2013. Her latest piece for Alt Hist, “Red Vortex”, is my favourite of Priya Sharma’s stories so far. “Red Vortex” is a compelling exploration into the psychology of a great figure in history. Priya paints a picture of an early life that is completely believable and fearsome. The “Red Vortex” lifts the lid on the psyche of a monster.

I hope you enjoy the stories in Alt Hist Issue 7. If you have any comments about them then we would love to hear from you.

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Snodgrass and Other Illusions by Ian R. MacLeod – Reviewed by Gordon O’Sullivan

Snodgrass and Other IllusionsSnodgrass and Other Illusions: The Best Short Stories of Ian R. MacLeod by Ian R. MacLeod

Review by Gordon O’Sullivan

Kindle Format
Print Length:
330 pages
Publisher: Open Road Media (2013)
ASIN: B00C652Z32

Purchase from Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

“What the hell was it, Gus wondered, that made the living so reluctant to give up the dead, and the dead to give up the living?” In Snodgrass and Other Illusions, Ian R. MacLeod asks a lot of such questions but eschews any definitive answers. An award winning writer of speculative and fantastic fiction, MacLeod wrote these eleven collected stories between 1993 and 2011 using a wide variety of settings, most of which are, for the most part, shorn of fantastical elements. As the author comments in his introduction, “there are very few starships and even fewer aliens in my stories but plenty of things that really happened in history, or almost did, or might do soon.”

Running like life lines through every story is love, in all the normal forms with some abnormal ones thrown in for good measure. In ‘Isabel of the Fall’, a more traditional science fiction story, the idea of love leading to loss is explored in this touching tale where the innocent and unexpected flowering of friendship between two women is destined to end in thorns. That sense of fellowship being badly repaid is a recurring element throughout, there is a darkness apparent in all the stories. It’s certainly strong in ‘Tirkiluk’ where a World War Two British officer arriving at an Arctic weather station seeks answers, “I seem to have come a long way, just to make some sense of my life.” When a pregnant Eskimo, Tirkiluk, draws him in, seeking his help, his life changes and in the most radical way. There is however plenty of humour mixed in with the darkness. The purest alternative history story and certainly the funniest, is ‘Snodgrass’, “So you’re John Lennon, from Liverpool … You were the guy who left the Beatles.” John Lennon hasn’t been shot, is completely down on his luck and is bitter but still brutally funny, “George still looks like his Mum and Macca is Cliff on steroids”.

In ‘Nevermore’ a creepily affecting love story, MacLeod explores the idea of keeping our loved ones alive after death. In this collision between the theory of technology and the reality of emotion, when technology permits the dead to exist in a new form, how does a man feels when his dead wife calls him on the telephone? This temptation to interfere with human existence for love’s sake, no matter the consequences, is also explored in ‘Past Magic’ with its melancholic view of cloning. The question here is can the replacement version of a dead child ever be the same as the original? MacLeod asks are we justified in attempting to stretch and extend our natural lives in these artificial ways.

A seeming resemblance to the historical record often makes these stories stranger and more intriguing, these tales arguably wouldn’t have the same impact set in more fantastical universes. ‘The Master Miller’s Tale’, for example, looks at the conflict between tradition and modernity but through the prism of a Victorian-like courtship. An industrial revolution is occurring but one based on magic rather than coal, “all the old spells, you know, the stupid traditions, the mumbling and the superstitions and the charms and the antique ways of working, all of that’s on the way out. Modern spells aren’t about traditional craftsmen—not when you can mine the magic right out of the ground.”  Love can also be lethal if you’ve dallied with “The Chop Girl”. A young woman on a World War Two RAF base is quickly seen as a jinx when the pilots she’s dallied with never return from their missions, all of them ‘chopped’.  “… the idea of my being bad luck seemed to settle around me, clinging like the smoke of the cookhouse”. Only a phenomenally lucky pilot and someone who loves her for what she truly is can break that jinx but at what cost to himself? Love exacts a cost for everyone in this collection.

Snodgrass and Other Illusions is a fragrant stew of themes and authorial concerns, a challenging collection of stories running from science fiction through fantasy to horror, all with love at their centre. Some are set in a recognisable past, some in a reimagined here and now, while others reside in the unknowable future. MacLeod is a stylist, using a dense descriptive style and keeping dialogue to a minimum. Most of the stories start off with a recognisable background but then something radically different emerges. While some of the narratives stretch the idea of a ‘short’ story in their length, MacLeod get away with it through the innate strength of his ideas and characterisation. Overall, this is a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking collection.

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Priya Sharma’s After Mary included in Ellen Datlow’s Honorable Mentions

Alt Hist Issue 5 coverSome great news for Alt Hist. One of our stories from Alt Hist Issue 5 has been included in the list of “Honorable Mentions” by esteemed Editor Ellen Datlow. The list covers her favourite Horror stories from 2013. She breaks the list into batches. Priya’s story is listed here along with some of her other stories.

Well done Priya!

You can read a preview of After Mary on this site – and of course the full story in Issue 5 of Alt Hist – so if you haven’t got a copy be sure to get one today – read some great stories and support Alt Hist.

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Through a funhouse mirror: the challenge of building alternate histories

Guest Post by Andrew Knighton 

Andrew has had stories published before in Alt Hist and has a new story for us coming up in Alt Hist Issue 7. Here he gives his thoughts on how to write alternate history.

Writing alternate history is an act of world building. Like science fiction and fantasy literature it involves creating a world like our own but different. Unlike science fiction and fantasy, alternate history is about the challenge of creating a setting that plausibly could have been. It is an act of adaptation rather than raw creation, taking the world and reflecting it as if in a funhouse mirror, distorted and yet familiar. That creates a unique set of challenges.

The right place to start

Most alternate history starts with a single jumping off point. This can be tightly specified, as when Josiah Ober explored the early death of Alexander the Great in Robert Cowley’s What If? collection. It can also be broader – I explored a Europe colonised by the Aztecs in one of the stories in From a Foreign Shore.

Whatever the jumping off point for your story, one of the challenges is getting it across without resorting to heavy handed exposition. This can come from showing the moment when everything changed, or it can come more gradually. Either way, that moment and its consequences should ripple through the setting, giving it its other-worldly element and reminding the readers of what has changed. You are faced with the challenge of asking ‘what about this world would be different, and how?’

This is further complicated by having two sets of readers – those who know the real history you’re deviating from, and those who don’t.

Being accessible

Readers unfamiliar with the real details are in some ways the easiest to please. Everything in the story is new to them, and they won’t be picking apart the real from the unreal, the convincing changes from the less plausible ones, the deliberate differences from the errors in your research.

But what they also won’t do is fill in the gaps as more knowledgeable readers would, or take an interest just because it’s about that moment in real history. You have to show them how the world hangs together and give them a reason to care about this world, regardless of its relationship with our own.

Ignoring that challenge can leave alternate history in a ghetto, accessible only to aficionados. Getting it right can create widespread appeal.

Being consistent

For the knowledgeable reader you have to go the other way, sweating the minutiae of your world. You won’t have created an alternate history consistent with their vision – no two imaginations are the same – but you can be consistent within your world and consistent with what’s known of history.

This is where research becomes important. If your story follows the triumph of the Spanish Armada, as described by Geoffrey Parker in another What If? article, then you need to know what sort of man Philip II was so that you can consistently show how he would have followed up on that victory. You need to know how many of the Spanish might have spoken English, how they would have been supplied, what their invasion plan was. You’re not writing about the real world, but by writing alternate history you’re claiming to spin out from it. There will be readers who know those details and who feel alienated when you get them wrong.

The writer’s tightrope

You’ll never please all of the readers all of the time. But as long as you’re aware of the challenges you face, you increase your chances of creating a plausible alternate history.

From a Foreign ShoreAbout the Author:

Andrew is a freelance writer based in Stockport, England, where the grey skies provide a good motive to stay inside at the word processor. His collection of history and alternate history stories, From a Foreign Shore, is available through Amazon and Smashwords. He blogs about books, film, TV and writing at andrewknighton. com and can be found on Twitter as @gibbondemon .

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Book Review: Coming Home by Roy E. Stolworthy

Coming HomeComing Home by Roy E. Stolworthy

Reviewed by Christopher Yates

  • Paperback, 368 Pages
  • ISBN: 9781781590713
  • Published: NOV 2012
  • Claymore Press

Purchase at Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

As we move through the centenary anniversary year of the Great War, one would expect the market to become saturated with the memories, untold stories and fiction novels chronicling the exploits of the heroes of both sides. How will one story stand up against the others? Will they approach the subject matter from a similar angle or will somebody step up and offer something different? I’m pleased to say that Coming Home’ by Roy E. Stolworthy offers the latter.

The novel opens in Westminster Abbey, at the grave of an unnamed soldier. A man, Joshua Pendleton, enters the abbey and kneels at the grave. He removes a watch and, whilst placing it on the tomb, he recites the last part of a tribute chiselled into the marble ‘They Buried Him Among The Kings Because He Had Done Good Toward God And Towards His House.’ Then, after looking left and right to make sure he’s alone, he whispers to the unnamed warrior ‘Hello Thomas. How are you this morning? It’s raining outside, as usual. Although I hear the forecast is better for tomorrow’… It’s a beautiful opening. The iconic image, and one reminiscent of the unmarked graves that litter many a battlefield across the European theatre, created by the simple description of an ‘unnamed soldier’ sets you up for the atrocities ahead, the emotional rollercoaster you are about to embark on, and one that raises the questions for later; Who is Thomas? And why is he known only to one man?

The focus then switches back to 1916 and the story starts proper. The plot is a new, clever take on standard war fiction and can be broken down into three acts. Act one: introduces us to our protagonist, Thomas Elkin. Blaming himself for the accidental death of his brother, Thomas enlists in the army, under his brother’s name, with the sole intention of dying a heroic death in combat. Act two: Boot camp. We witness the deconstruction of the boy Thomas Elkin and the re-construction of the man, Archie Elkin. Act three: The war and Thomas’s attempts to immortalise his brother’s name, whist also coming to terms with the changes within himself and his environment.

As a reader, what we are faced with is a harrowing eye witness account of the horrors of the Great War. We learn as Thomas learns and grow as he grows. What starts out as an exciting adventure quickly turns into the nightmare it really was.  Through Roy Stolworthy’s use of beautiful prose, we are invited to share the sheer desperation those poor men on the frontline felt and the hopelessness of the task they had undertaken. Through allowing us to know Archie’s secret, we are asked to judge his character and the selfish urges that force him to undertake the most dangerous of missions. He not only puts his own life in danger, but also the lives of his comrades who have come to trust and rely on his leadership.

The character of Thomas/Archie is the back bone of the story. I’ve read too much war fiction (mostly glorified American acts of heroism) where the central character is always cut from the ‘Rambo’ mould, willing and wanting to win the war singlehandedly, and I’m glad to say that with ‘Coming Home’ this is not the case. In Thomas/Archie, Roy Stolworthy has created a character that could be anybody. A character that is an Average Joe off the street, thrust into an environment, who is reacting to that environment and the choices that he subsequently makes. Apart from his desperation for death, he has no qualities that are out of the ordinary and this is what makes him so endearing to the reader. In truth, and trying in vain not to be too patriotic, he embodies the real heroes who stood up to be counted when the time came. As such, you can’t hide form the emotional impact of the ordeals he experiences.

However, this is not to say the story is not without its faults. Parts of the narrative don’t sit well and are a bit out of place; for instance the feeding of the brother to the pigs is totally out of character with how Thomas is portrayed and the death of Corporal Wollard at the end of chapter 4 reads like a bit of a cop out. However, ironically, the problem with the story is the main plot point; Thomas’s attempts at death and his subsequent escapes. What starts out as a heroic deed, quickly descents into an annoyance with comedic overtones. Time after time he faces ever increasing odds and time after time he walks away unscathed. As the novel moves on, the reader quickly realises that only a nuclear warhead is able to end this poor boy’s life, whilst everybody around him drops like flies. Maybe I’m being a bit too flippant in my description, but somebody once said to me that reading a good story is like dreaming a dream. Every time there is a mistake or something doesn’t fit, the illusion is broken and you wake up. Unfortunately, these interludes of Thomas/Archie’s depression is where the illusion breaks. It gets old very quickly and at times I found myself skim reading these passages.

Having said that, ‘Coming Home’ is still a brilliant read and one that I would whole heartedly endorse. It deals with the subject matter in a frank, serious, and realistic way and contains an ending that will leave the reader thinking for many a restless night to come.

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Sealed by Noeleen Kavanagh – Free Story Extract

Originally posted on Fantasy Short Stories: the New Magazine of Fantasy:

“Sealed” by Noeleen Kavanagh is an evocative fantasy tale about Mara who lives alone and friendless in her coastal village. However, one day, an act of kindness on her part forces her to grasp her own powers and in doing so she realises that her life is her own to change.  Noeleen’s story “The Pivot” appeared in the first issue of Fantasy Short Stories.

Visit the page for Fantasy Short Stories: Issue 2 if you want to order a copy to read more of this and other stories.

Free Extract from “Sealed” by Noeleen Kavanagh

The ship was there, a mile or so out to sea, driven onto the Banford Sands by the storm last night. She listed in the water at an unnatural angle, broken-backed, accepting the blows of the sea, for she could no longer fly before it.

A pile of ragged clothes lay near my feet, flung…

View original 2,227 more words

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