Friday, 11 December 2015
I'm sure nobody wants a reading list for the weekend. Oh, you do? Well, you're in luck. Below I've listed some of the top alternate history stories of the last decade or two.
In a nutshell, alt-fic is about that Sliding Doors moment when a choice turns out to be a keystone event: making a new friend or losing an old one, a betrayal that can't be forgiven or a good deed that will never be forgotten. Or apes taking over the planet. (Well, of course, they did that either way. But that's a detail.)
In a sense all these stories are about time travel, but time is just the setting for the stuff that really matters, which are those moments where "two roads diverge in a yellow wood". It could be Roman legions in airships, astronauts flipping up their visors to reveal lizard snouts - cool stuff like that. But those foreground alt-realities won't bite unless they resonate with the deeper character themes. Brian Cox (no, not that one) says it best in this rant from Adaptation. Ignore the book links below if you must, but you have to watch that. Trust me. It's less than two minutes.
As Cox/McKee says, all stories are about that. In a TV show that works, the central theme is seamlessly woven through the story world: Buffy, Elementary, The Shield, The Sopranos. Other shows (naming no names), it feels like they picked the setting because it was cool and then nailed the themes on afterwards.
And then there's Doctor Who. Is there a single theme running through the whole thing, or is the strength of the show not in the fact that they can rejuvenate the lead every few years, but in being able to refocus and tell a completely fresh story every time they bring in a new companion?
Food for thought. And while mulling that over, if you really really want, here are those alt-reality sources. Lots of "if the Nazis had won" stories here, strangely enough. I suppose in a hundred years it will be ISIS: