This is what the ‘Alternate History’ genre is all about. Alternate History looks at history – this is applicable in any country of the world – and asks the question: ‘What If?’ What if British India hadn’t occurred? What would have happened if the British capital city had been built elsewhere – say, where Newcastle-upon-Tyne is today? Would that have altered the course of history? Alternate history can ask and answer so many questions – and sets your thoughts chasing off on all sorts of trails!
Alternate history is often alluded to as allohistory. To those aficionados of alternate history, it is frequently referred to as uchronia or uchronie which is what the French call alternate history; as parallel worlds; or even as abwegige geschichten. Regardless of which name alternate history is known by, it involves past events with their outcomes ultimately altered – and then subsequent events evolving from the altered perspective. Robert Sobel used alternate history as the primary plot in his book ‘For Want of a Nail…If Burgoyne had Won at Saratoga’. Similarly, Peter G Tsouras wrote ‘Gettysburg: An Alternate History’.
Alternate history has also been referred to as ‘counterfactuals’ which is not completely accurate: counterfactuals really relates more to academic historical research than it does to the genre of science fiction. You will find a good selection of these kinds of books in our alternate history section: One book I would particularly recommend is that written by Professor David Krasner, entitled ‘Unmaking the West: What-if?’ I am not going to say a word about this book – you will have to read it yourself!
Magic, the supernatural and Middle Earth: stories such as ‘The Middle Kingdom’ and the series of ‘Lord of the Rings’. Fantasy as a genre avoids the nasty and macabre – it also avoids the scientific. Fantasy is – well, pure fantasy! It’s what dreams are made of. Tolkien’s books follow the fantasy theme perfectly. Add parallel kingdoms and you have ‘The 10th Kingdom’ which is now available on DVD – and well worth watching! Add magic and you have John W. Campbell Jr and the stories he wrote for ‘Unknown’ magazine. Add destiny and you have ‘A Storm of Swords’ by George RR Martin: you will find this book on Page 5 of the Fantasy section under the Science Fiction tab on our website. It’s a good read and the 3rd volume of the six-part epic novels, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.
Gaming has really come into its own since the advent of multimedia and the internet. In fact, gaming software must be one of the products being sold more and more, even during these times of recession. Believe me, once you start gaming properly, you will become hooked! It is probably one of the safer addictions to have, anyway! Today, the Games Workshop Group plc is one of the most prestigious war-games companies, listed on the London Stock Exchange. It sells war-games software and games around the world from their base in the UK. A completely different company, Game Designers’ Workshop, was also in the business of selling role-playing games and war-games from 1973 until it closed in 1996.
The vast majority of this gaming software is based on science fiction of one sort or another – time travelling, myths and legends, magic – and any other slant incorporating one or other mix of groups. In 1977 ‘Traveller’ was first introduced by the Game Designers’ Workshop: this game is now carried forward by Mongoose Publishing. In nearly all cases the games are drawn from imaginary events occurring in the far future. Rules are drawn up for the players to follow and players progress through the different levels, buying and selling equipment and weapons to progress further into the imaginary realms of the games. As a player myself, I can understand the magnetism that keeps players totally engrossed but, unless you are a games’ devotee, you wouldn’t really understand the draw gaming can have on you.
Arguably, one of the more respected science fiction films has to be ‘Contact’, starring Jodie Foster as Dr Ellie Arroway, directed by Robert Zemeckis. This film, released in 1997, was taken from the book ‘Contact’ written by Carl Sagan which you will find on our website, along with a variety of his other books: ‘Cosmos’; ‘Pale Blue Dot: a Vision of the Human Future in Space’; ‘The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark’; and ‘The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence’ – all of these books, and more, can be found on our website, under the Science Fiction banner.
Amongst the Media section you will find ‘Doctor Who: The Taking of Chelsea 426’ by David Llewellyn – plus Babylon 5, Batman, Blake’s 7, other Doctor Who vignettes, Lensman, Red Dwarf, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Crow, X-Files, and Xena
Filed under the umbrella of Science Fiction you will find anthologies; classic science fiction; cyberpunk; science fiction encyclopaedias; graphic novels; high tech science fiction; adventure; history and criticism; science fiction series; and short stories. There are some delightful books within this section: here, you will find ‘Orbus’ by Neal Asher. This book has echoes of ‘Star Wars’ crossed with ‘Deep Space 9’although the story it tells is all its own. Another charming book is ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ by Philippa Pearce – a ‘garden that shouldn’t exist’. Do you find this as intriguing as I did? If so, you will love this read – a true and classic science fiction novel to lose yourself from reality in.