Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Alternative Pasts, Presents And Futures

Whereas a future history becomes an alternative history as it recedes into the past, an alternative history becomes a future history if it is extended into the future. Thus, SM Stirling's Protracted Struggle between the Alliance for Democracy and the Domination of the Draka parallels the various UN/US-USSR/Cold War/World War III scenarios that we listed recently. In Stirling's The Stone Dogs, as in James Blish's They Shall Have Stars, Earth becomes a dictatorship but a few political refugees escape from the Solar System.

In fact, various other discontented groups also leave the Solar System in:

Robert Heinlein's Methuselah's Children;
the Breakup period of Poul Anderson's Technic History;
Anderson's Rustum History, The Boat Of A Million Years and Harvest Of Stars;
the Great Exodus period of Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium History.

Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers is an alternative history novel set in 2025 but does not feature space travel because, like Anderson's Maurai History, it recounts recovery from a global disaster.

The Ransom Trilogy, CS Lewis' reply to Wells' and Stapledon's future histories, also addresses the history of the future. Issues concerning the future of mankind on Earth are resolved in Volume III. In Volume II, the future is prophesied. Ten thousand years hence, Maleldil, Malacandra, Tor-Oyarsa-Perelendri and many hnau and eldila will descend, destroy the Moon and liberate Thulcandra (Earth) from its present hidden rulers -

- and you cannot get any more alternative than that.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I can think of yet another "alternative" to add to your list: an alternative timeline set in our PAST. The clearest example I've thought of being Avram Davidson's stories set in his Triune Monarchy of Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania (collected in THE ADVENTURES OF DR ESZTERHAZY). The stories were meant to "parallel" the 19th century/early 20th century Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.

One point to remember about the eight Survivors we see leaving the Solar System in the last parts of THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS is that while they were certainly discontented no one was oppressing them. For various reasons they felt unable to fit in to the strange new society we see in the last part of BOAT. But, instead of dismissing or ignoring their unhappiness, the "ruling intellects" of Earth thought it wiser, for their own long term good, to assist Hanno and the other Survivors in leaving the Solar System.