One of the biggest and most intriguing literary trends in recent decades is that of alternate history – the what if – changes in a past event creating a whole new timeline. There have even been games based on the concept. One such computer videogame, Europa Universalis IV, has resulted in a book anthology, featuring work by the king of the what if, Harry Turtledove, and others, including sometimes contributor to Biff Bam Pop!, Janice Gable Bashman. Meet me after the jump for more on Europa Universalis IV: What If? The Anthology of Alternate History.
What If has always been the seed of much great literature as well as science fiction and fantasy, and even into the world of gaming and back again. As writers, readers, and dreamers, we are always asking “What if…?” and imagining how things could or would be different. It’s a common tool in the world of comics from the beginning – whether it’s imaginary stories of what if Superman married Lana Lang to Elseworlds where Batman stalks the streets of Victorian London or has become a vampire. Marvel Comics even produced a long-running series called What If? that took those crucial moments in their characters’ histories and flipped them, changed the outcome. We are always intrigued by the What If.
Europa Universalis IV
With the grand strategy videogame Europa Universalis IV, Paradox Interactive takes the idea of the What If? and places it solidly in the hands of the players. Starting with a European power between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, you lead your nation by finding a balance of military, diplomacy, and economy. Interacting with multiple players doing the same thing, you are effectively building a massive What If? world every time you play. This is something Paradox Interactive calls ‘counterfactual history,’ and with that it takes the concept from books to game, and now back to books again.
In Europa Universalis IV: What If? The Anthology of Alternate History, we are presented with stories of ‘counterfactual history’ inspired by Paradox Interactive’s highly successful videogame. Thirteen authors, including Janice Gable Bashman and Harry Turtledove, spin tales of alternate timelines flowing out of points of divergence from the Europa Universalis IV videogame. Other authors in the anthology include Lee Battersby, Luke Bean, Raymond Benson, Felix Cook, Aidan Darnell Hailes, Jordan Ellinger, David Parish-Whittaker, Rod Rees, Aaron Rosenberg, James Erwin, and Anders Fager.
The Importance of Research
At the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference a couple weeks back, Janice Gable Bashman gave a terrific presentation on the importance of research for writers. She talked about how to do it, and how to find out about just about anything. As an example, she brought up her tale from this anthology “Defeat of the Invincible,” which took place in nineteenth century St. Petersburg. In her search for information on how things were done at that time and place, she found apparently the world’s only Russian military expert of that moment. Getting it right when you’re writing history, even counterfactual history, is important. Janice’s session on Guidelines for Researching was one of the highlights of the Conference.
Janice Gable Bashman
Not only has Janice Gable Bashman written for Biff Bam Pop! in the past, a great piece on Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, but she also co-wrote Wanted Undead or Alive with Jonathan Maberry, which also includes research by BBP editor-in-chief Andy Burns and myself. Please check out her new novel Predator, as well as her story in Europa Universalis IV: What If? The Anthology of Alternate History.