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Struggling with alternative history

Lemony16

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Jul 17, 2019
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Hello everyone,

I am currently writing a fantasy novel about an alternative earth based on some of knowledge we already have, and I am struggling a little bit in this subject.

For example, I need the ( music, dancing style, the nationality of people, religion and famous writers ) to be the same as we know in our world, yet history is different.

For example a world where roman empire still exists in the time of technology. Does it sounds realistic? If I want to go step by step with historical events it will be nearly immposible, and even if it can happen still what about other countries in the world? Can roman empire excite with Latin America union!? Any thing is possible in fantasy I believe but it seems that I can't hit a solid base yet !

P.s : the events take place in an island that I created, not even exist in our earth.

Btw, I couldn't find the right classification for this kind of fantasy, historical or high fantasy or other!

Any ideas will be appreciated ☺☺
 

Vladd67

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Vladd67

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I did read a book set in the present day, well started a book, and at the start was a revised timeline. I believe the author had an emperor survive an assassination attempt rather than dying as in history and took it from there.
Edit: this is the book Romanitas (novel) - Wikipedia, maybe I’ll search round and see if I still have it.
 

Toby Frost

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Was it Romanitas by Sophia McDougall?

Whoops, you got there before me!

To be honest, the real Roman Empire ended a very long time ago. Had it survived, it probably would have changed so much in the meantime that almost anything would be possible. The British Empire of 1700 and the British Empire of 1900 were very different things, both in size and attitude, so a huge amount might have happened since the real Roman Empire broke up and now.
 

sknox

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You may be trying to solve problems that don't need solving.

You said your story starts on an island that is outside the general historical context. Great! We meet your characters, learn about the main conflicts, and it's all in an invented land. We can *hear* about the Empire, which exists somewhere over there, across the sea, but it's distant. Maybe what the characters think they know about it is wrong in various ways. You have tons of room there to fudge the facts.

But why does it need to be the Roman Empire, specifically? Why not just an empire that has many of the same attributes? No need to call it Roman. Guy Gavriel Kay has made a whole career out of doing that sort of thing.
 

Juliana

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What sknox said.

Also, you'll find you need very little of all that created culture etc to actually appear in the book. A brief mention here or there of something cultural, or a scene or two. Lots of broad background strokes with a few detailed pictures, if you get what I mean. So don't get too hung up on creating a massively intricate world; just write in and add details as needed.

If you want a good example of how to pull off a fantasy world that has magic etc but still feels very modern, have a look at Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence books. From his website: "I write the Craft Sequence series of books and games, set in a postindustrial (and post-war) fantasyland, where black magic is big business, wizards wear pinstriped suits and conduct necromantic procedures on dead gods, and day-to-day commerce rests on people trading pieces of their souls for goods and services. The Craft Sequence books are legal thrillers about faith, or religious thrillers about law and finance. Plus there are hive-mind police forces, poet gargoyles, brainwashing golems, nightmare telegraphs, surprisingly pleasant demons, worldshattering magic, environmental devastation, and that deepest and darkest evil: student loans."
 
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IAmTR

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The great thing about alternate history is that it didn't actually happen so people would have a tough time refuting your version of events. I think as long as you have fairly solid reasoning for why things are the way they are in your setting then you'll be just fine. It will actually be a lot of fun I think to go through history and rewrite it yourself.
 

MikeAnderson

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Alternate history is so much fun to write. I fell in love with that concept ever since I read Watchmen as a kid. (Though, a 1980's dominated by a Nixon administration is a frightening thought.) You have a lot of leeway, as long as you do it in a manner that makes sense.
 

sknox

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Alternative history is tougher than it looks. Events rarely happen at a novel's pace. You start compressing and stretching and moving people around, and eventually you wonder what with all this moving of furniture and repainting, maybe it'd be easier just to buy a new house. Write fiction. I mean, why change this fact but not that fact? Which ones are immovable?

These questions are relevant to me because I write alternate (fantasy) history. I dodged around much of it in my first three novels, but my current project involves much more "history" than the others did, and I'm finding a great many inconvenient facts. They are all lined up like jerks at a bar, grinning, as if to say "yeah, and whaddya gonna do about _me_?"
 

Steve Harrison

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My latest novel is set in our familiar contemporary world, but with an aspect of history that is very different to what we believe.

It's a kind of reverse engineering approach I found to be very interesting when tackling alternative history. Because the 'now' is unchanged, I could easily dismiss anything that I thought might change the present day.
 

KiraAnn

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Alternate history is fine when kept within reason. Leaving an empire that fell 1,500+ years ago creates huge problems though. How does Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain and a host of other nations get started? How does the lack of the Renaissance affect scientific development? How do the American continent s develop?

A host of issues....
 

sknox

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>How does Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain and a host of other nations get started?
They were kingdoms through most of those centuries, so why let allow them to continue to be kingdoms?
The role of the Renaissance in scientific development is overrated, but there's plenty of room for Renaissance and magic. That was, after all, the heyday of alchemy and astrology.
Leaving the Empire in place doesn't mean leaving it unchanged.
If the aim is to leave the Empire in place and yet somehow end up with modern society as it is today, then yeah there are a host of issue. But if I'm going to change how things were, say, eight hundred years ago, then I'm going to have no hesitation changing how things are today (if the story comes to that).
 

mistri

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As already mention Guy Gavriel Kay is excellent at writing alternate histories on non-earth worlds, so he might write a world in which there is a religion akin to Judaism, but it isn't called that. It enables him to be more flexible with time, place and indeed magic, but it still has a strong historical background to it.

Personally I lack the knowledge and brain power to draw on so much knowledge and then turn it into something new and yet still recognisable, but it is doable.
 

Vince W

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If you could eliminate Morris dancing from English history you'll be a hero.
 

sknox

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If we eliminated Morris dancing, then what would Morris do on weekends?
 
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