RonO (rono_60103) wrote,

Some Unrelated Thoughts Before We Depart

In an hour or so, we will be leaving for Pasadena and Westercon.  But before we go, there are a couple of thoughts about fiction that I’m going to share.

Origin of an idea?

Last night, I got to the final episode of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy TV series.  Near the end, Ford is trying to comfort Arthur on the fate of the Earth in about – from their current perspective – two-million years.  During this he mentions a planet from another dimension that was used as a ball in an intergalactic game of billiards (or pool, I don’t recall which term was used) and knocked into a worm hole.

Having only watched it a week or so before, this instantly reminded me of the conclusion to the Red Dwarf episode “White Hole” in which the resolution is when Lister knocks a planet into the eponymous  white hole using his pool skills (or maybe shear luck given is state of intoxication at the time)

Which makes me wonder, were Grant and/or Naylor inspired by the nearly throw-away line in the final episode of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (and very likely someplace in some or all of the other versions) when writing that particular episode of Red Dwarf?

On Historical Inevitability in Alternate History Fiction

I’m also working my way through the unabridged audio book versions of Harry Turtledove’s American Empire series.  Which, given that I haven’t read all that much alternate history, makes me wonder if there is a principle in writing AH fiction somewhat similar to the one I formulated about Time Travel Fiction: “All fictional time travelers are drawn, unless otherwise prevented, to the HMS Titanic.”

{Aside: I’ll admit that two of my favorite fictional time travelers haven’t made it yet, but Doctor Sam Becket is prevented by the rules that keep all (or almost all) of his travels within his lifespan, and The Doctor did end up on a version of The Titanic, albiet a doomed spaceship rather than an ocean liner, so that almost counts}

I’m wondering if certain events are going to happen in AH stories, unless their prevention can be argued from the point of departure, just to keep the world somewhat familiar to the reader (viewer, listener, etc.).

Now, I could easily argue that any point of departure that did not impact Europe before then 1860′s or 1880′s – I’m not exactly sure when – would have resulted in a massive and nasty continental war in the moderately early twentieth century.  And, in Turtledove’s “Southern Victor” (or Timeline 191) universe, this clearly holds.  And, if my high school term paper thesis is correct, it is very likely that for all intents and purposes this war wouldn’t actually resolve the issues, but set the stage for the next round sometime in the next 15-30 years.

Similarly, many natural occurrences, such as The Dust Bowl – or at least the conditions that when combined with the farming practices of the era led to it – probably should occur in most alternate time lines.

But, what I wonder is if in writing fiction that is to be understood by people in our time line it becomes fairly necessary to also include a worldwide economic depression starting in the late 1920′s, and having one of the defeated countries in the first war get so put down that a charismatic reactionary figure can rise to dictatorial power and widespread popular support.

I think I could argue that this could have been prevented or mitigated by different terms at the end of the initial war – less harsh treatment of Germany in our time line, less harsh treatment of The Confederate States of America in Turtledove’s.  But would a timeline that plays that out make for a good story, which is after all what an author of fiction is after.


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