Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G102.5

Available in: The Mammoth Book Of Alternate Histories

The trick to writing good AltHist is making the world-that-never-was relatable to the reader without getting bogged down by too many scholarly details. Cadigan succeeds with this dystopic tale of 1960’s radicalism that sees the war in Viet Nam won, Kennedy alive and things still in the toilet. This story has a Watchmen-esque feel to it that will unnerve anyone with an ounce of left-leaning blood in their veins.

Advertisements

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: F0.1

Available in: Alternate Warriors

A chock-full-o’-chuckles alternate history story that transforms pacifist, man-on-a-mission-of-peace missionary Albert Schweitzer into a Tarzan-type archetype who fights enemies in darkest Africa. The biggest problem missionaries faced in darkest Africa was the shocking realization that, despite what the lyrics to Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ promised, the jungle had neither fun nor games. The second biggest problem they faced in darkest Africa was stubbed toes. Cuz it was dark, y’see.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A102.5

Available in: Robert Adams’ Book Of Alternate Worlds

So many alternate history tales go wrong because they posit realities which differ from ours in ways only appreciated by historical scholars (‘Imagine if Jacob van Arteveld had aligned against Bruges and Ypres in 1337; what a deliciously topsy-turvy world we’d live in now!’). In Earth II of ‘One Way Street’, Toulouse-Lautrec was of average height. Awesome.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G0.5

Available in: Alternate Outlaws

A charming little alt-hist tale about a friendly bartender who helps a customer go back in time to meet ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson and change the history of baseball. It’s kinda like Cheers, Quantum Leap, and, uh, what’s another show I watched in the 80’s?….let’s say, Night Court, all rolled into one. Interesting footnote: between the two of them, ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson and White Sox teammate ‘Shirtless John’ Jefferson couldn’t get service in most convenience stores.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G/K10

Available in: The Twilight Zone – The Original Stories

A guy with the ability to see all possible future timelines provides people with everyday items they’ll need to better themselves in those timelines – non-slip shoes, scissors, a dildo, a comb (just checking to see if you’re paying attention [he never gives anyone a comb]). This story was made into a classic episode of The Twilight Zone, so if it would help you for me to type like Rod Serling spoke, I’ll try: “THIS IS A story ABOUT A MAN WITH A gift. A GIFT THAT, WHEN opened, ALSO OPENS THE door TO A strange AND OMINOUS place, KNOWN as……LINE?” Pretty good, huh?

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A/F1

Available in: Alternating Currents

After a nuclear holocaust, a dude goes back in time to prehistoric days to try and change history, but returns to find ants ruling the world. And said ants fuckin’ kill him. D’jever notice that, post WWII, everyone was terrified of ants? If I had a nickel for every mid-20th century scifi story that posits a future where ants rule the world, I’d have thousands of sugar-standard-based ant dollars I could use to buy a 20,000-room anthill right beside a picnic basket. I’d just sit on my thorax all day while my centipede butler brought me cookie crumbs. That’d be the life.