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

Print Edition of Alt Hist Issue 3 Now Available

The print edition of Alt Hist Issue 3 is now available for purchase!

You can buy either from Amazon.com or Lulu.com. If you’re in the US you might want to choose Amazon, if you’re in the UK then Lulu will be the better option.

Just a reminder of what’s in Alt Hist Issue 3:

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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Alt Hist Issue 2 – Print Edition for UK via Lulu

Having waited patiently for Amazon.co.uk to get the print version of Alt Hist Issue 2 set-up I have now discovered that CreateSpace don’t provide distribution to other Amazon sites – a little weird to say the least. So that means for UK customers you can’t order a print version via Amazon (you can get a Kindle version though at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0050DEQIE).

But luckily Lulu do have a UK oriented business plan and I have created a print version that can be sold via their site. The price is £6.99 and I believe shipping is £2.99 at standard rate. Not as slick as Amazon with their free super saver delivery etc but not too bad. So all UK Alt Hist fans get on down to Lulu for your second dose of alternate history and historical fiction short stories.

Alt Hist Issue 2 on Lulu

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We love to hear your feedback

Just a reminder that there’s lots of ways to provide your feedback on Alt Hist – especially if you have purchased a copy of issue 1. Please let me know which stories you liked or didn’t like and why. Also if there’s anything you would like us to think about changing such as the format of the magazine, then please leave a comment.

You can rate and leave comments at various places as well as this blog. For instance our distributors Lulu, Smashwords and Amazon US and Amazon UK all allow readers to rate and review.

It would be great to hear from you – especially with Issue 2 currently in the works. We also have a few stories already accepted for Issue 3, so hopefully that won’t be too far off either.

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50% Off Alt Hist Issue 1 Until End of December 2010

I have now made available a 50% discount off the first issue of Alt Hist. This discount is available as follows:

Print copies via Lulu at £3.50/copy or equivalent US pricing

Ebooks in various formats available via Smashwords use the coupon code XE57C to buy at the discounted rate of $3.50

Kinde ebook available from Amazon for $3.49 (may take a couple of days to see on the Amazon site).

Please enjoy Alt Hist Issue 1 responsibly during the holiday season.

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