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


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.

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

“The Burden of Proof”
Theaker’s Quarterly #36

“Chess Stories #1-5”

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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