Harry Turtledove

Click here for Harry Turtledove's biographical details

His PhD is in Byzantium History and has informed a number of his fantasy novels. Most notable of those are those in his Videssos Cycle. Initially these followed a Roman Legion snatched from the forests of Gaul to a far distant planet where they take service in an Empire not so loosely based on the Byzantium Era of the Roman Empire. The initial series consist of a quartet but Doctor Turtledove has added several series worth of back-story. Dr Turtledove has written at least one novel that is pure Science Fiction - Non-Interference that nicely demonstrates just why a Prime Directive is not just for the protection of the so called primitives..

Dr Turtledove has as good a right to the title of King of Alternate History as anyone and has written many stories and series set in alternate versions of Earth and the Solar System:

Byzantium itself takes centre stage in the collection Agent of Byzantium, which posits a history where Mohammed has become a Christian Saint and not created the Islam that would finally destroy Byzantium. Instead there is a relatively gentle contention between Byzantium and a Zoroastrarian Persia.

This fascination with Alternate History has become Doctor Turtledove's major theme. Apart from Agent of Byzantium, Doctor Turtledove has set stories in a timeline where aliens attempting to invade an Earth they thought was still locked in the Dark Ages most regrettably interrupted World War 2 (and I do mean this!). There were two quadrologies based in this timeline. In this series, we also see a regrettable tendency of the doctor: multiple Point of View characters with no, or very little, connecting them leading to a very disjointed narrative as each persons story is told.

He has written a stand-alone novel in Guns of the South, in which the Confederate States are able to win their freedom from the North thanks to the intervention of a group of time travelling Afrikaners intent on creating a State where slavery is openly sanctioned.

However, his most powerful series (in my opinion of course!) is his Alternate History series, also based on a Civil War won by the Confederate States. Rather than being the result of outside interference the point of departure is the successful conclusion of General Lee's campaign against McClellan's slothful forces, leaving Lee in occupation of Washington and acknowledged by the Great Powers of the day.

The first trilogy takes up the story to continue it through the Great War. This has much the same causes as our history, and starts about the same time, but with a new set of enemies! The Allied Powers consist of the CSA, Great Britain, France and Russia while the Central Powers consist of Imperial Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the United States of America (the enemy of my enemy is my friend).

The second set of books deal with the consequences of victory and defeat. This takes conquerors and conquered all the way through to the outbreak of another round of hostilities. Neither group had it particularly easy.

The survival of slavery for so much longer in the CSA has made this reality a much harsher place. The CSA under the influence of the British (who had declared slavery illegal throughout its empire 30 years before the American Civil War) had sort of emancipated its slaves but this had lead to little practical difference to the lives of the Negroes and in Czarist Russia, the serfs were still being ground under the heels of their owners.

These books are not quite as sprawling in terms of characters as Turtledove's WW2 books, or geographically as he keeps a relatively tight focus on the North American fronts with few views of what are happening on the European Fronts. A British sailor gets to make a sozzled comment that its rather odd to be fighting on the same side as Czarist Russia or the CSA when Britain's natural inclinations should see it allied with the US.

But even the US as seen in these books is a far more authoritarian place than is the case in our timeline. There are two main parties; the Democrats who have held the presidency and Senate virtually ever since the catastrophe of the secession, and the Socialist Party that had been formed out of the Republicans who had been so discredited by Lincoln's handling of the war (at least, there would be no assassins bullet for him here!) and the rather unsuccessful Socialist party that had formed amongst the European immigrants. There was also a rump Republican party that remained as an ineffective third party languishing at the back of the senate. Although nominally still the capital of the United States, Washington was the border between the two hostile neighbours so a de facto capital was re-established up in Philadelphia.

The books

How Few Remain - the Time Lines split...

The Great War: American Front The war starts in a frenzy of great expectation. On all sides

The Great War: Walk in Hell As the war continues, it looks less likely that it will ever end!

The Great War: Breakthroughs - US technical skills and output give an advantage.

American Empire: Blood and Iron - Now the fighting's stopped, can everyone be friends once more? Don't be silly!

American Empire: The Center Cannot Hold - Victory brings its own problems.

American Empire: The Victorious Opposition - No Peace in Our Time, and "Goodbye" to some old friends...

Settling Accounts: Return Engagement - You thought it was bad the first time round?!

Settling Accounts: Drive to the East - Just how much worse can it get? Do we want to know? Of course we do!

Settling Accounts: The Grapple - Whose economic power is able to maintain the pressure the best?!

Settling Accounts: In at the Death - As the fighting in America continues, the US and CSA race to develop the weapons that will enable them to come out on top. We get to meet the British Ambassador to the the CSA and the outside world is mentioned too...

Don't forget these books are available through Amazon.

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