I finally did it. I actually accomplished my goal of reading and reviewing all of the nominees of the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History of the year…it only took me actually becoming a Sidewise judge to accomplish this feat, but who cares about that? If you want to see my opinion on the long form nominees, check out my reviews of The Big Lie, Joe Steele and The British Lion.
Now all I need to do is review the remaining short form nominees. You can already read my thoughts on “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” by Bill Crider and “The Hero of Deadwood” by James Reasoner over on my review of Tales From The Otherverse; below are my opinions regarding the remaining nominees:
“Red Legacy” by Eneasz Brodski: Set in a secret Soviet laboratory in the middle of the Cold War, our protagonist is a female scientist researching cloning and other weird science. The crux of the story are her Sisyphean attempts to save her dying daughter by constantly recloning her every time she dies in an effort to cure whatever defect ends her young life. All of this happens while British spies, American special forces and Russian bureaucrats try to stop her.
“Red Legacy” is a good, if sad, story. I certainly can empathize with our main character’s desire to do anything to save her child. The pain of losing your daughter again and again and again would drive anyone off the deep end.
I’m just not convinced this is actually an alternate history. Except for references to a different theory of evolution that Soviets have adopted instead of the Darwinist theory we all know, the setting doesn’t seem all that different from our own timeline. So this is more secret history than alternate history, but you still might like it if you want to step into the mind of a tragic, mad scientist.
“Elizabethtown” by Eric Cline: In this story, George Armstrong Custer is sent to Kentucky to intimidate the KKK, but when his unit’s black servant is kidnapped and set to be hanged, he leads his cavalry to rescue him. Things don’t go well as Custer’s desire for more glory causes him to make several tactical errors that puts him and his men into a hopeless situation.
Changing the location of Custer’s last stand is kind of cliche. My first encounter with it was Chris Bunch’s “Tarnished Glory: Custer and the Waffen SS“, where Custer is born much later and fights in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Nevertheless, in my opinion the ending of “Elizabethtown” made this story shine and allowed for some interesting commentary on race relations. Definitely check it out for a believable look at how the rise of the KKK, Jim Crow and segregation could have been avoided by one man’s blunder.
“Losing Amelia” by Rev Dicerto: Amelia Earhart is set to become the first woman to circle the Moon, thanks to a rocket plane built by Robert Goddard and Wernher von Braun. All they need is a way to communicate with and track it during the trip. Thankfully the Second Polish Republic’s Nikola Tesla has the technology and freely gives it to the Americans for their momentous journey…but there may be a catch.
When it comes to the historical punk genre, I always prefer dieselpunk over steampunk. Still I found the setting of “Losing Amelia” to be confusing at best. It was hard to pin down the point of divergence. The story suggests that Tesla immigrated to Poland instead of America and helped them gain their independence around 1905 (after references to using a “Peace Ray” to incinerate German cavalry), although there are a lot of anachronisms scattered throughout the story that wouldn’t make sense given how history would have been changed. Still I did like the references to an America where Edison won the War of Currents, I just wished the rest of the timeline made sense.
If you like dieselpunk, go check out “Losing Amelia”. Just don’t expect much plausibility.
“The Last of Time” by Ken Poyner: This is the last, and shortest, story I have to review today. We listen to a janitor who has to clean seconds, minutes and maybe even a day or two out of time machines complain about his job. It seems like it’s a pretty important job really, one you should take very seriously. You wouldn’t want to inadvertently change time, right?
I won’t say more than that since this story really is super short and its hard not to ruin the ending even with that vague plot summary. It’s also the only story on this list that is free, so go check it out here if you have a mind to. Although it lacks substance due to its length, its still an amusing story.
Well, everyone, that is all I have to say on this year’s Sidewise nominees. If you want to know who the winners are, follow the Sidewise Awards twitter account to catch their announcement at the upcoming Worldcon. If you want to learn more about the Sidewise Awards and how they came to be, check out my video on the awards for more information.