By Jill Williamson
Alternate history is defined as a genre of fiction in which the author speculates on how the course of history might have been altered if a particular historical event had had a different outcome or purpose than it really had.
Take Doc Brown’s explanation from Back to the Future II. When they were in the future, old Biff had stolen the Sports Almanac, taken the time machine back to 1955, given it to his teenage self, the act which created an alternate reality in where Bill used the Almanac to become a billionaire, kill Marty’s father, and marry Marty’s mother. Eww.
Have you ever read an alternate history novels? Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld is a great one the uses an alternate World War I story. I highly recommend it and its sequels. It’s also steampunk, which is so cool, but that’s beside the point.
Probably the most famous alternate history story—in my opinion—is It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey gets to see, for a short time, a world without himself in it, to see what a difference one life can have on the world.
Sliding Doors, a movie starring Gweneth Paltrow, tells how a young woman's love life and career both hinge—unknown to her—on whether or not she catches a morning train.
And many movies and books have used history as a plot device, to infer than things that happened throughout history happened in a different way that meets the need of the story. The Percy Jackson books are a great example of this.
In movies, X-men: First Class presented the Cuban Missile Crisis as being part of a top secret feud between mutant factions.
In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the only reason America sought to land on the moon was not to be the first, but to investigate the crash landing of spaceship, which held Transformers.
And the BBC show Doctor Who does a ton of alternate history as the Doctor and his companions come into contact with various historical figures. There were writers like Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, and William Shakespeare, political leaders like Queen Victoria, Adolf Hitler, Madame De Pompadour, Richard Nixon, and the Doctor’s pals Winston Churchill, the former prime minister of Britain during World War two. Also, the doctor and Amy did all they could to keep Vincent Van Gogh from committing suicide.
So, just for fun today, if you had an assignment to write an alternate history story, which era would you choose and how would you alter history to create your new, alternate world?