At the Boundary of Normal: History and Horror – A Guest Post by Andrew Knighton

Today we have a guest blog post by Andrew Knighton, author of The Sound of Stones from Alt Hist Issue 9.

At the Boundary of Normal: History and Horror

History and horror have a lot in common. Not just through their ability to bring darkness into fiction, but through the way they make us feel. It makes them a perfect combination of genres.

The Essence of Horror

Horror stories are all about events at the edge of normal reality. A clown who tips over from unsettling into sinister. Shadows in the woods that move from more than just the wind. A stranger in the street who is stranger than we ever imagined.

As explained in an article at Filmmaker IQ, while grounded in reality and relevance, horror also requires us “to face the unknown – to understand it and make it less scary”.

The Essence of Historical Fiction

Historical fiction also lies at the boundary between the familiar and the unknown. The life we see is like ours but different. People live, love and work much like ourselves. They have families and faith, feelings and furniture, the same range of sublime and the mundane as us. They may even live in the same places we do, share our religion, nationality or politics, depending upon the book and the reader.

Yet life in historical fiction is also different. When people sit down to dinner the food is not quite like ours. The clothes are different. The houses are different. They live in our reality, but made unfamiliar by time.

With both placing us at the edge of our reality, it’s almost inevitable that history and horror can work well together.

Foreshadowing Through Difference

One of the most obvious ways in which a historical setting can support horror is through foreshadowing. The different beliefs of people in the past can be used to bring in ideas that we no longer find plausible, such as monsters in the forest or the existence of demons. Ordinary conversations can refer to elements of the supernatural, setting them up to emerge later in the story.

The different reality of the historical past can also be used to foreshadow danger. Medieval Europe was rife with inter-personal violence, in the streets as much as the battlefields. The Aztec empire was the site of brutal human sacrifices. Hunger and disease plagued humanity from the dawn of time. Such themes can be used to create a sense of dread even before the supernatural enters. In a story like Charlotte Bond’s The Poisoned Crow, the dread of violence and forced marriage sets the tone from the start.

Creeping in Through the Unfamiliar

Unfamiliarity can misdirect the reader as much as it prepares them. A malformed stranger and a beast growling in the forest may make us fear that the moment of horror has come, only for them to be unmasked as a leper and a wolf. Tension is built and relieved for a greater shock later.

All the while, the feelings provoked by history and by horror accentuate each other. By facing both at once, we get a deeper sensation of something familiar and yet unfamiliar, something not quite right. David Tallerman’s The War of the Rats deliberately toys with combining the unusual and the mundane. A rat infestation is made worse by the trenches of World War One, becoming something truly horrific. The combination of the ordinary and the awful makes the story more unsettling than if it were set in the modern world.

Horror and history play similar tricks on our minds. They play those tricks particularly well when they get together.

About the Author

Andrew is a Yorkshire based ghostwriter, responsible for writing many books in other people’s names. He’s had over fifty stories published in his own name in places such as Daily Science Fiction and Wily Writers. His historical short story Honour Among Thieves is available for free from Amazon or Smashwords. You can find stories and links to more of his books at andrewknighton.com and follow him on Twitter where he’s @gibbondemon.

Alt Hist Issue 8 – eBook on Kindle publishes on 31st October 2015

Just a reminder that Alt Hist Issue 8 will publish on 31st October 2015 for Kindle – the pre-order price is cheaper than the published price will be – so go and grab a copy now. eBooks from other retailers and Print issues will be available about a week later.

Stories include:

  • Demons and the Deep Blue Sea by Andrew Knighton
  • Dewey Defeats Truman by Mark Devane
  • His Last Day by Richard Buxton
  • The Retreat Proceeded Orderly, at Least    by Kenan Orhan
  • The Fullness and the Hollowness by Jonathan Doering
  • Small Miracles by Jonathan Doering

Pre-order now via Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Alt Hist Issue 8 – Pre-orders Available

Alt Hist Issue 8 - Provisional Cover copyOrder your copy of Alt Hist Issue 8 now before the official release date and benefit from special pre-order pricing!

I am very pleased to announce that Alt Hist Issue 8 is now available for pre-ordering in eBook format. Currently its available on Amazon and also Barnes & Noble. Details of pre-ordering via other retailers will follow soon – hopefully next week. The publication date is 31st October. The running order below may change as may the cover image.

The price for pre-orders is $2 cheaper than the price will be once published – so well worth placing your order now!

The eighth issue of the popular magazine of historical fiction and alternate history contains six great new short stories, including two new stories in the Battalion 202 series and tales featuring the American Civil War, the First World War, Second World War alternate history and the Middle Ages.

Stories include:

  • Demons and the Deep Blue Sea by Andrew Knighton
  • Dewey Defeats Truman by Mark Devane
  • His Last Day by Richard Buxton
  • The Retreat Proceeded Orderly, at Least    by Kenan Orhan
  • The Fullness and the Hollowness by Jonathan Doering
  • Small Miracles by Jonathan Doering

Pre-order now via Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Others to follow.

Sidewise Winners Announced

The Sidewise Awards, which honour the best in Alternate History writing, were announced on the 17th August. The winners were:

Sidewise Award for Best Long Form Alternate History

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Enemy Within

(WMG Publishing)

Sidewise Award for Best Short Form Alternate History

Ken Liu, The Long Haul: From the Annals of Transportation,

The Pacific Monthly, May 2009 (Clarkesworld Magazine, 11/14)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has previously won the Sidewise Award for her story “Recovering Apollo 8” in 2007.  She has won two Hugo Awards and a World Fantasy Award.  Rusch was one of the founders and editors of Pulphouse Publishing and spent six years as the editor of The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Ken Liu has won two Hugo Awards, a Nebula Award, and a World Fantasy Award.  This is his second nomination for the Sidewise Award.  His first novel, Grace of Kings was published in 2015 and Liu has been working to translate science fiction by Chinese authors into English, including Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem.

For more information about the Sidewise Award, please see http://www.uchronia.net/sidewise/

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

Interested in Alt Hist but want to try before you buy? Get a Free Issue

I am pleased to announce that you can now get a free issue of Alt Hist – our first issue is now available free in eBook format from the following retailers:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

Alt Hist Issue 1 CoverThe first issue of Alt Hist features six short stories. Click on the links to read the first part of each story:

“The Silent Judge” by David W. Landrum
“Easter Parade, 1930” by Rob McClure Smith
“Holy Water” by Andrew Knighton
“Lament for Lost Atlanta” by Arlan Andrews
“The Bitterness of Apples” by Priya Sharma
“Travelling by Air” by Ian Sales

Alt Hist Issue 1 also includes an interview with Brandon H. Bell, co-editor of Aether Age, and information about the alternate history anthology Columbia & Britannia.

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Historical Fiction Book Review: Hitler Stopped by Franco by Burt Boyar

Review by Scott Skipper

Hitler Stopped by Franco by Burt BoyarHitler Stopped by Franco by Burt Boyar

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (19 Dec 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1480264393
  • ISBN-13: 978-1480264397

Purchase from: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Nothing Less Than Superb

Burt Boyar and his late wife had extraordinary access to intimate details of an obscure piece of World War II history.  Most Americans’ view of Generalísimo Franco is of an implacable Fascist dictator who ran Spain with an iron hand for nearly forty years.  That may be true enough, but Hitler Stopped by Franco shows us that he had another facet.  Imagine being the supreme leader of civil war torn, impoverished and helpless Spain with divisions of Wehrmacht amour parked on your border and Hitler continually whining, cajoling and demanding access to Gibraltar through your sovereign territory.  With Spain totally defenseless, Franco had to play the ultimate cat and mouse game.  He had to convince Hitler of his friendship, and that he would join the Axis ‘any day now’ while he kept relief coming from the Allies with assurances of maintaining strict neutrality.  For three years he managed to walk this tightrope. The Boyars were able to interview actual players in this tableau who were present at high-stakes meetings with the world’s most dangerous men.  The depth of the research behind this story is uncanny.  Written in the form of historical fiction, this fascinating history reads like a suspense novel.  The characterization of Franco will give the reader a new perspective of the man who saved Spain twice.  I cannot give this book enough praise.

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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 Arlan Andrews, author of ‘Riders on the Storm’

Arlan AndrewsArlan Andrews is another writer who has written previously for Alt Hist, his ‘Lament for Lost Atlanta’ appeared in Issue 1, and his new story ‘Riders on the Storm’ has recently appeared in Issue 3.

In ‘Riders on the Storm’ several of the characters use slang from a future language. How did you go about creating the language they use?

I let my mind go “out of gear” and try to feel what might pass for slang/language in about 50 years. Look at today’s converstions versus those of 50 year ago — half of what we say would make no sense: “tweet”, “OMG”, online, email, stimulus, neo-con, jihadi, 9/11, UAV, stealth, Mbit, VR, Facebook, apple, iPad/Pod, and many more. I just try to slide into a natural progression of things. (Actually, I have no idea where any of it comes from — it’s just there when I need it.)

What’s your favourite time-travel story and why?

Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove; because he is the master of the genre, and easily makes one believe in the story as it unfolds. As a Southerner, one always has a slight tinge of wishful thinking that perhaps Things May Have Been Otherwise.

Tell us a bit more about SIGMA.

When I worked in the White House Science Office 1992-1993, I was appalled at the lack of imagination when government bureaucrats tried their hand at forecasting. I wrote a manifesto — “The Future is too important to be left to Futurists!” — and asked some fellow science fiction authors, mostly Ph.D.s (to avoid the Washington, D. C., “giggle factor” to join me in providing the government and others with our own brand of science-fiction-based futurism. Our website, www.SigmaForum.org, has the background details, list of membrers, their bios, and some news clips. In January 2012 some of us will be appearing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as guest panelists at the Global Competitiveness Forum 2012.

How did you get into writing?

My father read to me before I could read, and family members made up stories. I also wrote. I began submitting science fiction stories after I met some writers and began to read stories I thought I could have written better. My first publication was a poem, “Rime of the Ancient Engineer,” in Asimov’s Magazine, in 1980, followed by stories in Analog. I’ve done about 500 pieces, fact and fiction, in 100 venues, most lately with fiction in Althistory.com, Analog and Kindle e-books. My factual pieces appear in Atlantis Rising Magazine, and a regular column in UFO Magazine.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I have a real job as an environmental engineering supervisor, coordinate SIGMA activities, travel to ancient sites, and otherwise enjoy a real life with wife, children and grandchildren.

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?

My e-novel, Valley of the Shaman, will be available on Amazon.com in January 2012. I usually do short stories or articles at the drop of a hat, typically on a weekend, and they are most often not planned ahead of time.

What are your ambitions as a writer?

To join the Kindle Million Sellers Club.

Union or Confederacy?

Heart – Confederacy; intellect/patriotism – Union; with a time machine I would probably go back and assassinate both John Brown and John Wilkes Booth ca 1850.

Don’t  forget to take a look at Arlan’s website at www.SigmaForum.org, and also his story ‘Riders on the Storm’.

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Alt Hist Issue 3 eBook Published

Alt Hist Issue 3 Published as an eBook

The latest issue of Alt Hist: the Magazine of Historical Fiction and Alternate History has now been published in eBook form. We have free previews of each story available over at the Current Issue page – simply click on the title of the story and you can start reading.

I hope you enjoy reading Alt Hist Issue 3; as ever I welcome your feedback. If you’re interested in getting a print version of the Issue then that will be available at the start of December – so stay tuned for further news.

Alt Hist Issue 3 FRONT COVERAlt Hist Issue 3

For eBooks format please visit Smashwords or Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk for Kindle versions.

The third issue of Alt Hist includes two stories about the American Civil War, one about the great Tesla, a tale of post-war revenge set in Dublin, and a compelling story about the early years of the space race.

Full list of stories and authors:

Praise for Alt Hist:

‘The second issue of Alt Hist magazine builds on the solid basis of the first issue, bringing a collection of historical fiction and alternate histories from a broad cross-section of history. There are some wonderful stories among them.’
SFCrowsnest, www.sfcrowsnest.com

‘engaging and well-written short stories with a historical setting that portray actual events or events that could have happened’
Fantasy Book Review, www.fantasybookreview.co.uk

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