Please welcome Gail Z. Martin, whose novels with Solaris Books include the upcoming Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC, and The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series co-authored with Larry N. Martin. I asked Gail to tell us a bit about what it means to write "alternative history."
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By Gail Z. Martin
What do you think of when the term ‘alternative history’ comes up?
Some people think of pivotal battles or moments in history. What if Hitler had won World War II? What if the Confederacy had won the Civil War? What if Lincoln had stayed home instead of going to Ford’s Theater? From that altered battle or event, the new timeline moves forward, and the author imagines a world different from our own.
Sometimes, the change is more subtle. What if an invention had come along earlier, later, or not at all? What if an influential philosopher or politician who is credited with setting a movement or ideology into motion never lived? That begs the question of whether or not an idea or invention would have come along eventually, if not by the person in our timeline who developed it, then by someone else. But what difference would a delay (or advance) in timing make?
Imagine the different route history might take if a natural disaster (like Hurricane Katrina or the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius that buried Pompeii) never happened. Or if a narrowly-averted natural disaster (the many hurricanes that veered away from making landfall on the East Coast at Category 5 status, for example) did happen? In a nod to the famed ‘butterfly effect’, that a tiny, random change that seems insignificant (like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings) can cause a huge difference when the ramifications play out. Many stories have been written about the difference one ‘average’ life makes (think “It’s a Wonderful Life”, which is really alternate history).
In Iron and Blood, the steampunk series co-authored with my husband, Larry N. Martin, we take a look at a Victorian Pittsburgh with crucial differences. In the real world, inventor George Washington worked briefly with genius Nikola Tesla, and then they went their separate ways. In our world, they found Tesla-Westinghouse Corporation, a nexus for steam-powered inventions. A disastrous flood, fire and earthquake that didn’t happen in real life occurs in our steampunk world, leading to the rise of the shadowy Oligarchy who stepped in to impose order after the catastrophes. That same Oligarchy sabotaged the nascent oil industry at Drake Well, so that steam power remained ascendant over petroleum.
Those are just a few of the altered details, but the ripple effect on history becomes larger and larger as time goes on, and it affects everything about the story and the characters, making the book a tale that could only happen in that alternative timeline.
One of the coolest things about alternative history is how it gives us a different lens to look at actions and consequences, to trace back how we got to where we are now and what might have changed that, and where we could have ended up. So whether you like your alternative history as steampunk, military adventure, sci-fi or fantasy, there are plenty of flavors to choose from!
My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! For details, click here.
About Iron & Blood
Jake Desmet and Rick Brand, heirs to the Brand & Desmet Import Company, travel the world to secure treasures and unusual items for the collections of wealthy patrons, accompanied by Jake's cousin, Veronique 'Nicki' LeClercq . Smuggling a small package as a favor for a Polish witch should have been easy. But when hired killers come after Jake and a Ripper-style killer leaves the city awash in blood, Jake, Rick and Nicki realize that dark magic, vampire power struggles and industrial sabotage are just a prelude to a bigger plot that threatens New Pittsburgh and the world. Stopping that plot will require every ounce of Jake's courage, every bit of Rick's cunning, every scintilla of Nicki's bravura and all the steampowered innovation imaginable.
Extra Days of the Dead Trick or Treat Freebies!
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You can read an excerpt from the upcoming Vendetta here.
Purchase Iron & Blood on Amazon.
Get yourself some book swag here (before Nov. 1).