Pick your alternate history starting point and construct your histalt and a historical timeline for that alternate history, perhaps on one of several (linked) alternate earths. What if:
several of these departures figure in Rick Sutcliffe's alternate history
- Adam and Eve had not sinned, (see C.S. Lewis)
- Cain had repented,
- The people of Noah's day had repented,
- Terah had not left Ur, or had himself continued on to the promised land,
- David had not murdered Uriah,
- Babylon (or a version of her) had never fallen,
- The Persians had won at Marathon,
- Alexander had not died of the flu at Babylon,
- Pilate had not washed his hands,
- Herod's temple had not been destroyed,
- Rome had not fallen,
- Brian Boru had survived the battle of Clontarf,
- England won at Hastings (linked to previous alternate),
- Ireland hadn't been conquered by England,
- Ireland had conquered England instead,
- The scientific revolution had started in the early fourteenth century,
- The industrial revolution had begun in Ireland (c1340-1500),
- Tall ships were developed in the fourteenth century,,
- Trafalgar and Waterloo were fought in the fifteenth century,
- Nuclear war had destroyed Europe in the seventeenth century,
- Spain's armada had succeeded,
- Napoleon won at Waterloo,
- North America had never been "colonized" by Europeans,
- England had held on to the thirteen colonies,
- The South had won the Civil War, (a favourite)
- Hitler had defeated Britain in 1940, (stereotypical alternate history)
- The United States had never entered the WWI; WW2,
- JFK had lived,
- All the terrorist obectives of 911 had been achieved.
Quantum physics toys with the idea that every alternate pathway down to the subatomic level generates two different parallel universes (alternate histories). Numerous SF authors have crafted stories involving travel among "adjacent" timelines, or among worlds with an alternate history differing from our own after some nexus point. Major authors such as C.S. Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra) have explored a specific histalt or alternate history, in his case those rooted in the fall of humankind from grace. His Narnia series posits a very different world, but accessible through a special "place between the worlds" one that potentially gives access to many alternate timelines or worlds, which share much in common.
Modern alternate history specialists such as Harry Turtledove focus on military history and how the outcome of a single battle, campaign, or wartime decision could have produced an alternate timeline or timelines. This is a favourite for alternate history buffs, for there have been many history-changing events that hinged on the outcome of a single battle improbably won. (Second World War alterations provide numerous alternate history scenarios.) Such alternate histories are more of the "what if" type, with no interchange or direct comparison between two co-existing alternative timelines.
Rick Sutcliffe's alternate history fiction has elements of both (a specific alternate history but that also interacts with our own universe). Focused on moral decision making throughout, from the initial nexus decisions through to the daily lives of its "current" characters on the various alternate earths, it also features alternate military history. The alternate worlds are only partially independent, and there is some interaction between them. especially at major events, where some convergence can be observed. Not all choices lead to a nexus, but some, including those related to both morality and critical technologies, definitely lead to one path taken and another not--one history before, two alternates after. This alternate history, like some others, is also Science Fiction, in the sense that scientific and technological choices shape the alternate societies he posits, and in turn are shaped by them. After all, it was in exploring the interaction among ethics, society, and technology that these stories were born. What if we as a society, made different technological choices? How would those choices shape us? What can Christians say about such issues?
So, what if there are several alternate earths, other worlds with a differing (alternate) history than our own (Tirdia) beyond some critical nexus points such as those described above? What if some could go there, meet the people, live their adventures, describe them for the rest of us? What if a few people knew of the alternate timelines and could travel among them? What if...
Summary: Alternate history fiction posits a world where some key decision(s) or battle(s) went a different way than in our familiar history (a "nexus" or "point of departure"). However, the histalt of an alternate world encompasses the resulting differences in culture, technology, national boundaries, the economy, and the people themselves. (Picture Hitler as a used car salesman, a rabbi, or a best-selling author.) The alternate history author must to some extent account for the alternate history in a comprehensive way, hence a "histalt". In some alternate history timeline scenarios, there are several co-existing earths, with occasional leakage or travel between them.
Rick Sutcliffe's Alternate History SF
Rick Sutcliffe's alternate history fiction takes place on several such worlds joined via a medium called the Timestream, each alternate earth distinguished from the others by a decision or group of decisions (nexus triggers) that radically altered subsequent history. Moreover, "adjacent" alternate worlds in the timestream tend to affect each other's history, so that major events may be similar on, say, Tirdia and Hibernia (see the links to the Timestream and The Interregnum). At some times during their respective histories, some adjacent worlds may influence each other so strongly that their alternate histories converge back to a common stream after a time (Prime and Meta by 1500 A.C.) In Rick Sutcliffe's AH, the focus is on ethical decision making, particularly with respect to the appropriate technology, so this alternate history fiction is also science fiction, though that is not necessarily always the case with alternate history. (Fiction can be AH without being AH-SF, despite its being sold in SF sections of the bookstore.)
In Rick Sutcliffe's various alternate histories, the key nexus or decision points that generate two alternate worlds (really, entire universes), with their differing subsequent histories where only one existed before, are mostly rooted in Biblical events, such as the crucifixion of Christ, which is known about on all the worlds, but took place on only one. Detailed descriptions of the way in which the alternate earths came into existence will given after the nexus of 2000 is described in detail. (which it was in Volume 5, The Nexus) How many earths there are, and where some of the alternate earths are "located" in the timestream becomes a puzzle the characters must solve, for good and evil clash on all the worlds, a very old wickedness indeed lurks in the timestream, and not everyone is who they seem to be. Two shadowy characters are very old enemies who have clashed many times on various of the alternate earths, becoming part of the history and legends of several.
The early books take place primarily on the first two of:
- Tirdia (Terra, or Prime to some scholars) - our familiar earth;
- Hibernia (Ortho to some scholars) - where the Irish rule, but are as fractious as on Tirdia. Hibernia split from Tirdia in the "long nexus" that began with Pilate's decision to release Christ on one world and the crucifixion on the other (therefore they had the same history before this point). The long nexus culminated with the survival of Brian Boru on Hibernia following the 1014 battle of Clontarf. North European history then divided slowly into two streams, one seeing England become ascendant, in the other Ireland. Hibernia's Tara is also capital of the Federation of Worlds which includes Para or Babylon;
- Meta - whose mysterious Builder tries to guide events on the other worlds for good;
- Para - in Federation with Ortho; local capital city is Babylon;
- Desert - much of which is a radioactive waste;
- Waterworld - where there are no continents, just thousands of islands.
- Other alternate worlds exist too, or so Metan and Hibernian scholars believed, but their locations in the timestream were unknown before 2001. The histalt and timeline of each world is radically different from familiar Tirdia. Even the geology of some of the worlds (such as Meta and Waterworld) are very different from that of Tirdia. All the histories are radically different. Tirdia and Hibernia are the most similar up to 1014, and still affect each other after that to some extent, but the other alternate earths are strange places indeed.
Because science, technology, and Christian ethics are an integral part of the scene and plot of this alternate history fiction, this can also be termed Christian science fiction.
The first series, The Interregnum, takes place largely on Ortho Earth, also called Greater Hibernia, and covers the period 1941-2001, during which there was a ban on the throne and the High King's family, and a corrupt oligarchy of nobles ruled.
Volume I, The Peace, published as an electronic book, won an award nomination, was a best seller with its first publisher and received very positive reviews, particularly from Analog magazine's Tom Easton. It was republished by Writers Exchange ePublishing in December 2002.
Volume II, The Friends, is also available in electronic book form and in paper from Booksurge. It was published by Writers Exchange ePublishing in June 2003 and was named the best Science Fiction novel of the year with an EPPIE 2004 award.
Volume III, The Exile was published by Writers Exchange ePublishing in July 2003, and was an EPPIE 2004 finalist for Science Fiction. It is available in both electronic book and paper form.
Volume IV, The General, was published by Writers Exchange ePublishing in March 2006 and is available from them and their retailers in a variety of formats.
Volume V, The Nexus, was published by Writers Exchange ePublishing in April 2006 and is available from them and their retailers in a variety of formats.
Volume VI, The Builder, was published by Writers Exchange ePublishing in March 2012.
Volume VII, The Throne, which may occupy more than one book, will be the final installment in the series.
All of Rick Sutcliffe's books can be purchased via links here and of course from the Publisher and other fine retailers in many formats..