Friday, January 11, 2013

What if the Confederacy won the Civil War?

I overheard my coworkers commenting on the rekindled interest in Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War that seems to be occurring in pop culture, with the release of the Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln. The movie is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  Of course there is also Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever strumming up interest in history.

Regarding the Civil War books, one of my coworkers joked "do not spoil the ending for me!" It is interesting that a lot of historical fiction tells stories we might already know the ending to. But it is the storytelling itself that draws an audience, along with discovering new details or perspectives on a historical event. 

But what about if history deviated from its course? Then you get a delicious genre of books known as alternative/alternate history. 

Image courtesy of altrapoint.com

For example, what if Abraham Lincoln balanced political duties with hunting down vampires? Then you get Seth Grahame-Smith's quirky horror/action combo Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Or what if the Confederates won the U.S. Civil War? Harry Turtledove's Southern Victory series traces the reasons for the victory and consequences through the the 1940's. The books begin with How Few Remain

In Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, Charles Lindbergh defeats FDR in the 1940 election, and brings about an era of extreme anti-Semitic sentiment in the United States as he decides not to oppose Hitler in World War II.

An Axis victory in World War II is a large subdivision in the alternative history genre.

British comedian Stephen Fry's Making History is a time-travel book where a student and teacher manage to ensure Hitler is never born, but accidentally pave the way for a superior Nazi leader to come into power and subsequently win WWII. 

In Philip K. Dick's award-winning The Man in the High Castle, the United States loses WWII and becomes a Fascist state where Germany, Italy, and Japan conspire against one another.

Of course, the science fiction television show Sliders explored the idea of time-traveling through parallel universes which featured plenty of alternative history to keep things exciting.  

If you are interested in exploring what could have been, click here: "Alternative History" to see a list of library materials that fall under the genre. Also check out the winners of the "Sidewise Award for Alternate History" for great reading ideas.

1 comment:

Penny Farthing said...

There's actually a great mockumentary about that exact scenario, the Confederacy winning the war called "The Confederate States of America" that I saw on IFC a while back. It's a pretty fair look at what might have been.

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