Posts Tagged 'Alternative Histories'

With the passing of remembrance Sunday here in the UK, and welcome arrival of Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime, it seems like an opportune time to have a quick, and wry, Sci-Fi rummage through the alternative histories of the Third Reich.

As advocated by Spike Milligan, the best antidote to fascism – and the insanity of war for that matter – is pastiche and comedy. Such was the motivation behind Norman Spinrad’s 1972 Nebular Award winning novel, the Iron Dream. In this we find Hitler as an immigrant to America who has become successful through writing low-brow, right-wing science fiction.

If, however, you’d prefer the serious approach then there’s Robert Harris’ Fatherland (1992). In this a Nazi World War 2 victory acts as the backdrop for a party investigator uncovering the ‘hidden’ history of the Holocaust.

On a personal, and literary level, Achtung! Cthulhu offers a weird and wonderful hybrid between H.P. Lovecraft’s horror mythos and the allied and axis conflicts of WW2. A complex and fertile backdrop to write against and, with the advent of the Dark Tales compilation launching at this year’s Dragon Meet, an opportunity to play a part in this creative heritage.

Finally, we return to the ridiculous and a shift to film and game interpretations. While the former only really offers the Time Out segment from Twilight Zone the Movie, the risible Iron Sky, Hell Boy and maybe – at a stretch – Kung Fury, the latter is chock full of Hitler’s minions. Games remain the perfect medium for alternative histories involving the use of mecha instead of tanks, a plethora of Nazi zombies and, of course, Wolfenstein.

The bigger questions behind all of this, though, is whether it’s okay to use WW2 as such a creative well-spring. Hollywood continued to make war movies throughout the 1950s and hundreds of novelists have researched and written in this milieu before. Perhaps, due to the lack of appreciation of Sci-Fi, there’s an inherent fear that we may be belittling all of the atrocities, all of the loss of life. For me personally, I return to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House 5, and realise that he made the apposite choice of turning his war memoir into a story about time travel.

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