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02-17: Alternative History

Alternative History

Alternative History is a genre of fiction.  In a work of alternative history, the author makes a change in the historical record and then explores the ramifications of that change in the work of fiction. Alternative History is set in the past.

Alternative History is also called “Alternate History,” “Allohistory,” “Uchronie,” or “Counterfactual History.”

Popular Alternative Histories consider what would have happened if Hitler had won World War Two, if the slaveholders had won the Civil War, if George III had held onto the American Colonies, or if FDR had been assassinated. Alternative History can be classified as science fiction or historical fiction and can also have elements of mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, horror or historical fiction.

Steampunk is a popular subgenre of Alternative History and would require separate attention.

In Polaris the subject term is “Alternative histories (Fiction)”.

As a genre of fiction, the weeding guideline for Alternative History is X/2/MUSTIE. Weed based upon condition and use.  The CREW Manual says:

“For most public libraries, circulation is the primary factor for weeding fiction. Discard works no longer in demand, especially second and third copies of past bestsellers. Retain works that are in demand and/or of high literary merit, but replace worn copies with new editions. Discard lesser works by classic authors if they are not circulating. Consider discarding all titles in a series if you are not able or willing to replace missing titles, especially if the books do not stand alone.”

Suggestions for Weeding


Suggestions for Purchase

Harry Turtledove is the acknowledged monarch of alternative history.  Buy any new book of his. 

Some other titles worth considering include:

  • The British Lion by Tony Schumacher, 2015 (9780062394590)
  • Joe Steele by Harry Turtledove, 2015 (9780451472182)
  • The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew, 2015 (9780763691257)
  • Tales from the Otherverse: Stories of Alternate History edited by James Reasoner, 2015 (9781519314277)
  • A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar 2016 (9781612195049)
  • The Madagaskar Plan by Guy Saville, 2015 (9780805095951)
  • The Book of Esther by Emily Barton, 2016 (9781101904091)
  • A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin, 2015 (9780857502575)
  • Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, 2016 (9780316261241)
  • Judenstaat by Simone Zelitch, 2016 (9780765382962)
  • 1636: The Ottoman Onslaught by Eric Flint, 2017 (9781476781846) - part of the Assiti Shards or 1632 series
  • The Virgin's War by Laura Andersen, 2016 (9780804179409) - part of the Tudor Legacy series/see also her Boleyn Trilogy

For older titles, please check the Sidewise Award for Alternate History winners at http://www.uchronia.net/sidewise/

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