Alt Hist Issue 5 Reviewed at Fantasy Book Review – 8 out of 10!

Alt Hist Issue 5 cover“8 out of 10 cats prefer Alt Hist” – well maybe not quite, but Alt Hist did recently get a very nice review over at Fantasy Book Review. So if you haven’t read Alt Hist Issue 5 yet, please go and take a look at their review and you’ll see what you’ve been missing :)

As ever Alt Hist is a solid, well-written collection of short stories that will appeal to readers who enjoy works of alternate history, historical fiction and historical fantasy. From the American Civil to the Second World War this anthology takes us for a trip through the major events that have shaped human history.

Well worth checking out the other reviews at Fantasy Book Review as well – it’s a great site.

Enhanced by Zemanta

New Alternate History Book Review: Red Sky Blue Moon by Bruce Golden

Red Sky Blue Moon by Bruce GoldenBook Review by Darlene Santori

  • Paperback: 386 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1st Edition edition (April 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1484133226
  • ISBN-13: 978-1484133224

Purchase from: |


While the plot may seem well-worn, the setting and the circumstances surrounding Bruce Golden’s new book aren’t.  Red Sky, Blue Moon features an unusual bit of alternate history, wherein thousands of Earth’s inhabitants from various cultures are actually transported to another world.

Aliens who may have seeded the first life on Earth return eons later, collect humans in massive groups from various societies (along with animals from their environs), and transplant them on another world as a sort of science experiment.  More than a millennium later, these transplanted cultures have evolved differently than their forbearers who were left behind.

One of these cultures grew from the barbaric roots of Scandinavian Vikings, circa 10th Century Earth.  They have developed into a cutthroat corporate society in an early industrial stage.  The political machinations and corporate maneuvering combine to create an intriguing socio-cultural dynamic.  In addition, they’re racial purists to whom even the slightest birth defect or genetic disease is a social stigma.  Despite this, they are plagued by a cancer-like disease they call the “blight,” though few publicly acknowledge it when they find they’re stricken, because it’s a social blight as well.

When one corporation’s chief discovers the savages living on another continent have to trace of the disease, and also seem to have longer life spans, he plots to learn their secret–a secret which could bring him both wealth and power.

These “savages” as the “corporatocracy” thinks of them, were culled from various Native American Sioux tribes sometime in the early 18th Century.  They’ve only been on this world a few hundred years, and haven’t changed that much from the people of the plains most readers are familiar with.  It’s the juxtaposition of these two societies, and the conflict between them which forms the heart of this book (though the corporate Aesir are also in conflict with their lower-class Vanir workers).

As for the aliens who brought the humans to this world, their story is more of a footnote, told in journal-like excerpts in the prologue and at the beginning of some of the chapters.  Their eventual fate is a bit of a surprise.

The storyline of this book is somewhat predictable, but it’s the journey more than the destination that will enthrall readers.  Like his novel Evergreen,  this book is so rich in characters and detail that you won’t want to let it sit idle for too long, or you’ll forget who’s who and what’s what.  But it’s the attention to detail, and the marvelous world building, that make Red Sky, Blue Moon a completely enjoyable read.  That, and the fact that, like Golden’s other works, this book is fast-paced, moving through relatively short chapters, and keeping the reader hooked.  If you enjoy pages and pages of prosaic description, this book probably isn’t for you.  Golden is known more for his dialogue and authentic, memorable characters.  He doesn’t get bogged down with purple prose.  His scenes have more of a cinematic feel.

However, if you love world-building, this is the book for you.  Golden has taken the history, traditions, and cultures of the Sioux and the Vikings and woven them into a completely new world, much the way Frank Herbert used Islamic culture in Dune (not to say this book ranks with Dune).  And, a surprise at the end reveals they’re not the only Earth cultures kidnapped by an alien intelligence.

Red Sky, Blue Moon is an epic science fiction tale that should draw you in and hold your interest until the very end.  It’s the kind of book you want to read again a year later to see what intricate tidbits you might have missed the first time

Enhanced by Zemanta

Want to get Alt Hist without even thinking about it?

Now you can – simply subscribe and you’ll get each copy of Alt Hist in printed format with a free eBook sent to you.

Simply go to our Subscribe page to find out more about this great deal which will save you time and money – great discounts are available!

Enough sales talk! This is a bit of an experiment so any feedback appreciated on what offers you would like us to provide – for instance would you like to have an eBook only subscription? Is PayPal OK as a payment option? Please let me know.

Enhanced by Zemanta

What kind of people read Historical Fiction? Help find out.

Would you like to help with the understanding of Historical Fiction as a genre? If so, then the wonderful Historical Novel Society is currently running a survey into reading habits of those who partake of fiction set in past times.

I encourage anyone who likes Historical Fiction to take the survey. I believe that the results will be made public in the future – so you’ll be able to understand a little bit more about your fellow readers and the genre as a whole.

Here’s the introduction to the survey if you want to know a bit more about it:

Your views on reading and on historical fiction are very important to us, and we very much appreciate your time.

THE SURVEY SHOULD ONLY TAKE 5-10 MINUTES. In addition to the survey results, as a thank you we would like to offer a free e-copy of the Historical Novel Society’s historical fiction anthology from authors at the London (UK) conference in 2012. You will be prompted for your email at the end of the survey.

PLEASE PASS THE SURVEY URL ALONG – – the more participants, and the broader the base, the better.

Survey questions were developed by M.K. TOD, author of UNRAVELLED and blogger at, in collaboration with RICHARD LEE, founder of the Historical Novel Society. We are grateful to the many authors and bloggers who contributed ideas for this year’s survey and agreed to publicize it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Book Review: Inceptio by Alison Morton

Inceptio by Alison MortonInceptio, by Alison Morton

Review by Ian Shone

  • Paperback: 316 pages (eBook edition also available)
  • Publisher: SilverWood Books Ltd (1 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781320624
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781320624

Order via |

Visit Alison Morton’s website for ordering details

With almost any example of alternate history, the reader is expected to take a leap of faith. The parallel world extrapolated from the divergence point can often be a bit of a stretch, and we are usually happy to suspend disbelief and turn a blind eye to logical and factual errors. After all, why should we let a sketchy premise get in the way of a good story?

Occasionally, however, the premise just asks too much from the reader. Any discussion of Inceptio would necessitate some attempt to explain the background to the story, so I will attempt to do so. When the Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire (by this time well into its decline and within spitting distance of its fall), a group of senatorial families made their way north into Pannonia (in the novel) and founded an enclave dedicated to preserving paganism and ‘the old ways’. Where modern day Slovenia ought to be, there is now ‘Nova Roma’ instead, where people speak Classical Latin and worship the pantheon of old gods.

While the Empire and even the barbarians that destroyed it swiftly became overwhelmingly Christian, this pagan enclave survived while the Pelagians, Cathars and Bogomils were persecuted and snuffed out. The Goths and Huns left it well alone, and even being located directly in the path of almost all of the Crusades does not seem to have posed an existential threat. Fine—but on top of all this, Nova Roma has been a matriarchy almost since its inception, ruled by women for reasons that are never really satisfactorily explained. There is still more. This tiny, isolationist state has also become a kind of economic and technological superpower rather like Switzerland—where, incidentally, women didn’t get the vote until 1971.

Bluntly put, the world-building behind the story just doesn’t make any sense. For some writers, a nonsensical conceit is no obstacle (Brian Aldiss springs to mind) and a good story can still be told under these conditions. Unfortunately, Inceptio does not meet the considerable challenge it has set for itself. In its favour, the pace of the story is brisk and dynamic (if formulaic), and the first person narration camouflages some of the clumsier prose. However, it often reads more like ‘young adult’ or romantic fiction than the adventure story it essentially is. The characters are thin, and their arcs (particularly that of the protagonist Karen) are often difficult to take seriously.

The time-capsule approach to preserving elements of old Rome in Nova Roma is painfully superficial in parts, drawing attention to details like the use of solidi and gladii, and the use of the praenomen-nomen-cognomen naming system. Classical Latin also seems to have survived in its original form, where it has evolved into the Romance languages everywhere else. The whole thing feels quite slapdash. That said, this is the first novel of a trilogy, and as such must bear the weight of both its own plot and the unwieldy mythos which it must introduce. It thus suffers from having to keep too many plates spinning. The second and third instalments may well build on this and surpass this shaky beginning with a more coherent story, and Inceptio may itself benefit from added context.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Interview with Douglas W. Texter, author of AD 1929

This is the second of our interviews of author’s from our fifth issue. Douglas W. Texter contributed the alternate history story AD 1929 for Alt Hist Issue 5. Read on to find out more about the story and about Doug’s career in writing.

Al Capone has a charismatic allure that attracts fiction writers. What is it about his character that attracted you to write about him?

To me Al Capone is fascinating. He was certainly brutal. He really did beat people to death. Then again, look at the leaders of some of the countries that the US supports and calls friend and you’ll see that this brutality is there as well. We turn a blind eye to foreign thugs as long as they help us. Criminals have no monopoly on physical violence. Capone also had a few other qualities that make him interesting to me. First, he was generous. He did in fact spend a summer in Lansing, Michigan, and pay for a young bride’s wedding. He helped out people during the Depression as well.  In addition, he was charismatic. Walter Winchell and Damon Runyon were mesmerized by him. Finally, he was organized. What’s always struck me is the level of organization in the 1920s and 1930s, especially after the Crash. Files and taxonomy were the order of the day. In some weird way that I don’t fully understand yet, the physical organization—files, libraries, museums, etc—paved the way for the organization provided by the computer a few generations later. Government was incredibly organized. On both sides of the Atlantic, governments were consolidating power to deal with the Depression and, of course, to mobilize armies for what would become the Second World War. Criminality seemed to mimic the general modernist drive toward centralization. Capone’s organization was centralized and efficient. Today, we live in a postmodern age, when crime (think of the theatre shooting last year in Colorado) has become random and senseless, like much of the postmodern world. While Capone was a violent criminal, he made sense.

Do you think it’s possible that a person like Al Capone could have ever become President of the United States?

Most US Presidents have done brutal things during their administrations: drone strikes, fire bombings, assassinations, declarations of war, to name a few. So, from that perspective, would violence have precluded Capone? I don’t think so. Now, Capone was a criminal. Would that fact have precluded him from the Presidency? I don’t think so, ultimately. A conviction would change that, and, of course, Capone was convicted of tax evasion. But an un-convicted and charismatic criminal? I could see that kind of person becoming President very easily. Remember, I live in a country that has seen Ronald Regan, Jesse Ventura, Al Franken, Sonny Bono, and the Terminator hold high office. So much of politics in the US is about show. Capone had the resources to produce a very good show.

Can you tell us a bit about Marinetti’s attempts to work with Mussolini?

Marinetti never came to America, and as far as I know, never communicated with Capone, but I’ve been fascinated by Marinetti ever since I was introduced to Futurism when I did my MA in English at Villanova University. We were studying Great War literature and culture. Marinetti did in fact serve as the Minster of Culture under the Mussolini regime in the 1930s and 1940s. When I was thinking about creating “AD 1929,” I thought to myself that Mussolini was a lot like Al Capone. And Marinetti was always interested in the super-modern. He really did write that people would eventually grow propellers. So, it made sense to me that Marinetti might want to come to the US, which was more “up-to-date” than Europe. And then I wondered what would have happened if Marinetti had left Italy and worked for Capone.  And the result is the story.

How did you get into writing?

I’ve been involved with writing and writers in one way or another since I was twenty-two. During college, I wrote some essays that were published, and I was a student worker at the University of Pennsylvania Press. After college, I was a production editor at a medical publishing house. That was very weird. I edited stuff that I couldn’t understand. Then I did my MA and wrote a lot during that time. After that, I went to the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard and worked as a textbook editor. Then, I went back to school for my Ph.D. in English and wrote constantly: hundreds of pages a semester. As for fiction, when I was about thirty, I woke up one morning and said, “I should write fiction.” Then, I said, “I want to write science fiction, and I have no idea how to do it.” So, after writing a few stories, I applied to go to the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop. I started publishing short fiction right after Clarion. I was still doing my Ph.D. as well. So, I was writing fiction, scholarly essays for publication, reviews, and articles for the Chronicle of Higher Education almost simultaneously. I like both fiction and the essay form. I also got fairly lucky in 2006 and won the Writers of the Future Competition.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I teach in a BFA in Creative Writing for the Entertainment Industry program at Full Sail University in Orlando. Essentially, I teach literature to budding screenwriters. One of the ironies is that one of my colleagues, who is Italian, loves the Futurists. I’m in the classroom a lot. I’m also an alumni admissions interviewer for my undergraduate institution, the University of Pennsylvania. I read at the Catholic Church I attend. I enjoy investing and finance and spend a fair amount of time working on my investments and reading about investing. Right now, I’m also brushing up on my editorial skills by taking some online courses through the University of California at Berkeley. Last—but certainly not least—I spend time with my family, Lynn, my fiancé, and her two boys, Michael and Joel.  Lynn and I are getting married in December, and our honeymoon will be in Scotland—where I studied for a year when I was an undergraduate. We will be going to Orkney and then Edinburgh, for Hogmanay.

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 just finished a story, “Das Zombie Boot,” that I submitted to Raus! Untoten! an anthology calling for tales about zombies and Nazis. My story—a cross between Das Boot and Twenty-eight Days Later—tells the tale of what would have happened if a U-boat had been in New York Harbor in 1942 when a biological experiment went awry and created a super-virus.  I’m currently working on an essay that I’m going to submit to the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts about John Birmingham’s Axis of Time trilogy, which imagines what would have happened if a US-led multinational naval task force had been sucked back in time to the Battle of Midway Island. After I finish this project, I’ll be writing an alternate history story about the American Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who died in Bangkok in 1968. In my story Merton lives and fulfills his changed destiny. After that, I have to finish up another non-fiction project about the history of medical publishing. Then, when the dust settles, I’m returning to work on the second draft of my first novel, Berlin Airlift: An Alternate History. This novel tells the tale of what would have happened if Joseph Stalin had decided to drive the Americans out of Berlin in 1948, during the airlift.

What are your ambitions as a writer?

My goal is to publish long-form alternate history. I love doing thought experiments, and I love alternate history and have since I was about eight when I saw the Star Trek episode City on the Edge of Forever and read Marvel’s “What if” comics. In the last few years, I’ve been—in several ways—surrounded by alternate-history writers. I reviewed Robert Conroy’s 1942 for Strange Horizons and got into a rather intense discussion with SM Stirling. Then in 2009, I studied at the British SF Foundation’s Master Class at the University of Liverpool and met Adam Roberts, a very formidable writer of alternate history and a genuinely wonderful person. Then I wrote about Harry Turtledove for the New York Review of Science Fiction.

I’m getting ready to make my move!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Interview with Meredith Miller, author of The Stiff Heart

Meredith climbing through Men-an-Tol
Meredith climbing through Men-an-To

Meredith Miller contributed the short story “The Stiff Heart” to Alt Hist Issue 5. She kindly agreed to answer some questions about the story and about her writing – and sent us a rather fund photo too!

Can you tell our readers what the background is to the title of your story, “The Stiff Heart”?

This is an embarrassing story! The title is taken from a line in Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes–‘. For some reason, I spent a good deal of my life believing Emily Dickinson had shot herself! In my defense, neither poetry nor nineteenth-century American Literature are my academic area! I must have gotten this idea somewhere in the poems themselves when I was young. In any case, I have been preoccupied with the idea of the female recluse. Another of my stories, ‘The Window’s Wife’ (in Prole 6) centers on a different reclusive female figure. I knew about Emily Dickinson’s self-seclusion and also that she was in love with the young woman who became her sister-in-law. I decided to take all that for the subject of my story.

One problem with historical fiction can be when facts get in the way of good story-telling. For this reason, I always develop a bit of character before I embark on research. So I drafted the story, then read some biography on Dickinson, only to discover that she had, in fact, lived a fairly long time and died of an illness!

Just to clarify, the story is not intended to be about Emily Dickinson at all, it simply explores those ideas and that middle-class, late-nineteenth century New England setting.

What drives your central character to do what she does?

What drives the narrator here, really, is a sense of anomie, a feeling that there is no place in her social world where she can be fulfiled and make sense. I realise now that most people will assume she wanted to marry Gordon. In fact, my idea was that she was in love with Patience! That doesn’t matter, though, as much as the fact that there was no room in her world for her to simply be a person on her own.

What attracted you to the setting and period of “The Stiff Heart” (American Civil War)?

As an academic, my research is on the novel between 1865 and 1965. At the time when I first drafted this story, I’d been reading a lot of late nineteenth-century periodicals, both the serialised fiction and all of the other wonderful things they contain – political and philsophical essays, scientific musings, cultural criticism, gossip, etc. I am American, but live in Britain, so I was interested in the way British periodicals viewed what they referred to as ‘the American war’. In fact, there was more support in Britain for the South than contemporary Britons like to admit! Also, though, left-wing British writers were very much in support of abolition and union democracy.

How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing since before I could write. When I was four, I used to dictate poetry to my older sister, and she would write it down. I’ve never really seen myself as anything else.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Garden my allotment and work on my house. I bought a derelict house a few years ago. It’s a lot of work! Also, I am an academic so I publish literary criticism and teach both undergraduate and postgraduate students. That last is a real privilege and a joy. Also, I like people and love to talk! I have a wonderful, clever daughter and I like spending time with her and with the rest of my mad and talented family.

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 am currently doing final revisions on a novel, Fish-shaped Island. It’s set in Long Island in the spring of 1979. For those of you not old enough to remember, those were crazy and wonderful years in which to be alive. The novel is about a small town in that period and its underlying creativity and violence. I won’t say anything about where it’s going, but watch this space. My next published story, ‘Ice’ will appear in the Autumn 2013 issue of Stand. Anyone who wants to keep in touch can follow me on Twitter @meredithseven. My Twitter account will also lead you to my website, The Window’s Wife.

What are your ambitions as a writer?

I have two novels completed and would love to see them both in print. A third, Whiteness, is calling loudly for me to write it. I have partially completed a novel about Enlightenment philosophy and pirates, set in the early eighteenth century and called The Ship of the New Philosophy. I would love to find someone who isn’t frightened by my unholy mix of literary and genre writing to publish it. Philosophical pirates are so much fun!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Should Alt Hist set-up a discussion forum?

I have been wondering if Alt Hist should have it’s own discussion forum. The forum would be open to anyone interested in historical fiction and alternate history and would allow users to discuss any subject related to historical fiction as well as the stories that appear in Alt Hist. The forum would probably be hosted at site as that site is a lot easier to customize than this one.

So what do you think? Should we?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Alt Hist Issue 5 now published!

I am very pleased to announce that Alt Hist Issue 5 has now been published!

Alt Hist Issue 5 cover

You can purchase eBook and Print copies from: |

And eBook copies from:

Smashwords | Apple iBooks | Barnes & Noble Nook | Kobo | WH Smith

Alt Hist Issue 5 features stories covering a variety of historical periods from the 1800s to post-War USA.

This issue includes five new original works of fiction including stories about Al Capone and Italian Futurism, the aftermath of the American Civil War, the real Frankenstein, the Bridge that consumes the souls of men, and the latest instalment in a series of stories about a successful Nazi invasion of Britain.

Alt Hist is the magazine of Historical Fiction and Alternate History, published twice a year by Alt Hist Press.

You can read a free preview of each story by following the links below:

  • After Mary by Priya Sharma
  • AD 1929 by Douglas W. Texter
  • The Stiff Heart by Meredith Miller
  • The Bridge by Micah Hyatt
  • Battalion 202: Rotten Parchment Bonds by Jonathan Doering

Priya Sharma’s “After Mary” is set in the mid-1800s and  is the story a scientist with dreams of greatness who lives alone in his country house with only his assistant, Isobel, and servant Myles.  Then his friend comes to the house and leaves a copy of Frankenstein, which changes everything.

“AD 1929” by Douglas W. Texter is a story describing a meeting of artistic guile and criminal muscle. This is a tale of what might have happened if the Italian Futurist F.T. Marinetti had come to America and gone to work for Al Capone.

Meredith Miller is the author of “The Stiff Heart” which draws its title from a poem by Emily Dickinson. Meredith’s piece is a story about life under the surface, in New England in the 1870s where secrets and fears and desires sometimes refuse to behave properly. Not everyone joins in the self-satisfied complacency of this prosperous post-Civil War community.

Micah Hyatt is the author of “The Bridge”. Throughout history men have risked their lives to achieve great feats of engineering: The pyramids of Giza. The Empire State building. The Panama canal. But those who build The Bridge risk their very souls.

“Rotten Parchment Bonds”, the latest story in the Battalion 202 series by Jonathan Doering, features Harold Storey, a quiet man praying for a quiet life after the horror of the First World War trenches. But his prayers are cruelly crushed by the German Invasion of Britain in 1941. As a police officer he is forced to co-operate with Nazi officials and is thrown into moral turmoil by the accommodations that start to be made. But perhaps there is one good man amongst the enemy ranks?

Book Reviews: Dragonslayers & Jason and the Argonauts – from Osprey Adventures

Ian Shone’s latest book reviews are two titles in a new series from Osprey called Osprey Adventures

DragonslayersDragonslayers, by Joseph A. McCullough

Order from: Osprey | |


Jason and the Argonauts, by Neil Smith

Order from: Osprey | |

Here we take a brief detour from historical fiction into the neighbouring territory of myth and legend with these

Jason and the Argonauts

two slim children’s volumes from Osprey Adventures. That is not to say that the appeal is strictly limited to children, however, since anyone with an eye for good design should appreciate just how well these books are put together.

Both books follow a similar format as far as presentation goes. Both are lavishly illustrated with photographs of ancient artworks depicting their mythological subjects, from sculptures to woodcuts to stained glass windows. The photographs are supplemented throughout by original art, and in the case of Jason and the Argonauts the standard is especially high. These ethereally beautiful paintings by José Daniel Cabrera Peña cleverly employ light and perspective to achieve some startling effects, and this volume would be worth buying for that alone.

As far as content goes, the two books necessarily differ in approach. Here Dragonslayers has the upper hand, as it gives a broad overview of dragonslayer myths from all over the world, from Siegfried to St George to the Song of Hiawatha. Some of the stories are unfamiliar to all but the serious student of folklore, and it is great to see figures like Dobrynya Nikitich given equal footing with Beowulf and John Lambton. The standard of the original artwork comes nowhere near to that of the other book (it looks just a little bit ‘Games Workshop’ in comparison), but this scarcely detracts from the whole. The little snapshots of various legends make it a great book to dip in and out of. Jason and the Argonauts is, on the other hand, a straightforward retelling of the familiar legend, and thus lends itself more to a single sitting.

While these books are certainly aimed at children, they would be an attractive prospect on any bookshelf, and I can see them appealing particularly to comic book fans. They are also pleasingly inexpensive for what they are, and would make a great birthday present or stocking filler for your nieces and nephews. Strongly recommended.

Enhanced by Zemanta