Alternate Histories and other quests

One of the segments of the first arc of the Shine Cycle, my fantasy series-in-preparation, is the “Alternate Universes” subseries. It is so called because much of it will take place in various “alternate universes,” worlds different from the world of the Shine Cycle and from our own.

This subseries is somewhat open-ended and fluid by design, so that I can add more stories as they come to me, but here’s what I have so far.

  • At least three stories set in various countries in the world of the Shine Cycle.
  • A story set in Elvida, a world in our universe that (much) later becomes an important ally.
  • A story set somewhere in the New Roman Empire, an interstellar empire in our universe’s future.
  • A story set in the court of King Arthur at Camelot.
  • Perhaps a story set in the Welsh myths described in the Mabinogion.
  • Perhaps a story set in the mythic court of Charlemagne.

The rest of my ideas are Earth “alternate histories”:

  • A history in which either Alexander‘s empire hadn’t split on his death or his successors hadn’t fought. (Or perhaps in which he hadn’t died so young.)
  • A history in which the Tang dynasty of China hadn’t fallen, and thus the Turkish and Mongol westward migrations had been slowed or halted.
  • A history in which Charlemagne’s son Louis had only one son, and so the Carolignian dynasty lasted.
  • A history in which the Norman Conquest failed.
  • A history in which Byzantium didn’t fall, partly because it had a leader like Charles Martel.
  • A history in which Thermopylae had not been betrayed.
  • A history in which the Muslim conquest of North Africa was prevented.

What do you think? Are any of these unworkable? Do you have any ideas on how to make these more detailed, or for other alternate histories to pursue? Comments?

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2 thoughts on “Alternate Histories and other quests

  1. I followed your comments over at Speculative Faith here, and I’m so glad to see someone else interested in alternative history. All your possibilities are intriguing and would have huge consequences for the world.

    I loved the suggestion of Byzantium not falling, primarily because so few people realize there actually was an Eastern Empire (which split from the Roman Catholic Church long before Luther and Calvin), though I think you’d do better to have it falling later rather than not at all, although you could have a Byzantium that entered into a sort of vassal state, independent but paying tribute.

    The Tang dynasy idea, and its effect on the Romans vis a vis the Mongol/barbarian hordes, is also a great one, but again, probably should be revised to “later.” That is, depending on when a story set in this alt history timeline is set. If you’re going for 2010, have the Tangs fall later and thus the fall of Rome plays out far differently; if your story is set during the Middle Ages, perhaps the Tangs are still happily ruling. Regardless, you’d have a much smoother transition to the loose confederacy of Christiandom we see in the Medevial period, perhaps keeping technological achievements like plumbing and the sciences (hence no “Renaissance,” though that term itself is a bit of a misnomer). Indeed, this timeline may actually prevent Protestantism from occuring, at least the violent schism and wars that we know.

    Finally, the one I feel most able to comment on is the Norman Conquest failing. You’d have to define fail (William loses? Harold survives? Edward has a child? Normans return to France, leaving a native vassal in charge?) Still, what you’d accomplish is the continued development of a largely Germanic-speaking/thinking population with more ties to Northern Europe than our Britain, which became a hubrid of the Western state with a Germanic base but a largely Romantic/Roman ideal in terms of its arts, culture, and government. The Saxon kings’ line would have continued in some form (whether through Harold or Edward), which would have had far-reaching consequences for both France and England. Would the 100 yrs war have happened or not? I’d say no, which would prevent Joan of Arc’s ascendence and change the relations of the two states forever. Again, there’s a direct effect on the Reformation, since Henry VIII won’t exist, and so a huge change in the New World’s colonization.

    Fun stuff to speculate on. I’d love to assist in any alt dream-building.

    • Good points all; thank you for commenting. My primary inspiration for the “alternate universes” subseries may be H. Beam Piper’s Paratime series, especially the novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, which was set in a world in which the Aryan migration had gone east across the Bering Strait rather than west, so my intention is to have each story set in the world’s “present,” whenever that is—but it would generally be centuries after the events in question. (I also quite like the Belisarius series by David Drake and Eric Flint.)

      While the “later rather than not at all” concept could work, I find the questions of “what would have happened instead?” and “why would it have happened that way?” more compelling for at least most of the scenarios I quoted. For instance, if the Tang dynasty had continued, the Mongols (and for that matter the Turks) would have either broken themselves on it or simply gone somewhere else, perhaps even (like the Aryans in Piper’s Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen‘s distant past) north and east (though getting across the strait at that point would be far easier said than done). On the other hand, the simplest explanation I can think of for Byzantium not falling is reinforcements from the West.

      In re the Norman Conquest: My first thought was merely having William lose and Harold survive. The Normans might be able to hold on to some English land for a while, or the invasion might go badly enough to leave Normandy open to invasion. Or perhaps just have William’s fleet run into a major storm crossing the Channel and lose a significant part of their force. And one idea would be to have the Norman invasion fail because of some cause that is the real root difference, such as having the Viking invasion Harold was returning from be delayed until after he repelled the Normans.

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