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AltHist No. 1

01/11/2010. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy AltHist # 1 in the USA - or Buy AltHist # 1 in the UK

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pub: Alt Hist Fiction. 72 page paperback or e-book. Price: paperback: GBP 6.99 (UK), e-book; various formats: $6.99.

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It’s always a pleasure to see a new UK-based genre magazine being launched. ‘AltHist’ is, as the name suggests, a magazine specialising in alternate history and historical fiction. There are very few markets that deal specifically with this sub-genre, so it will be interesting to see how the magazine fares. Are there enough people writing this kind of story and are there enough people reading it? I would think the answer to both is yes.

The magazine is available in POD print edition or in various e-book formats. This is the low-risk way to launch a magazine and in the majority of cases is probably the only practical way to get a new publication off the ground. This inaugural issue presents six short stories along with an interview.

First up is ‘The Silent Judge’ by David W, Landrum, story set around that perennial favourite, the Jack the Ripper murders. A client of one of the murdered prostitutes takes it upon himself to look into the gruesome case, using his contacts among the murdered girl’s friends to look for the truth. The identity of the killer is dealt with in an original way and the tone and writing of the story are well presented. I don’t think I would have opened the magazine with such a familiar setting though, as it gives the initial impression of being a clichéd subject.

Rob McClure Smith’s ‘Easter Parade, 1930’ is a straight-forward historical tale, set during the Glasgow gang wars of the 1930s, an all-too-familiar episode of sectarian violence. The story is written in Scots, which may catch some readers out if you’re not familiar with the language. Coincidentally, one of my short stories has been translated and published in Scots and I’m attempting to write Scots dialogue for a character in my current novel, so I had a bit of an advantage. My tip is that if you read the story with a Scottish accent then it makes sense even if you don’t understand the words or recognise the spellings. Just to make things slightly more difficult to understand, none of the dialogue is enclosed in speech marks, which made parts of it harder to follow. It’s an interesting portrait of senseless violence cushioned within a series of quaint anecdotes.

Andrew Knighton takes us back to the middle ages in ‘Holy Water’. Two men are given the seemingly pointless task of executing a statue that killed a lady by falling on her, an odd but true occurrence from those days. The story is told with an air of authenticity without being bogged down in detail and the medieval mentality is illuminated without overtly using modern sensibilities. It’s an entertaining and enlightening little story.

Veteran author Arlan Andrews Sr. gives us ‘Lament For Lost Atlanta’, an alternate view of America that envisions a different outcome for the civil war without falling into the overdone cliché of simply swapping which side won. In this version of America, things are much more complicated. A thirteen year-old boy is forced to grow up suddenly when his oppressed family becomes involved with revolutionaries and his whole world starts to fall apart. Some of the references were lost on me, but would probably be more meaningful to Americans or those with a better knowledge of US history. Nonetheless, it’s an effective and powerful tale.

‘The Bitterness Of Apples’ is Priya Sharma’s re-working and extension of the Adam and Eve account. Told from two viewpoints, it recounts their relationship through the ages, blending seamlessly into modern times with a fairytale feel.

The story that inspire the cover art is ‘Travelling By Air’, Ian Sales’ triptych of sketches recounting a young business woman’s trip to the States under three different circumstances, depending on the outcome of Chuck Yaeger’s pioneering mach 1 flight. What makes this especially effective is that, whatever the state of technology, human nature remains the same.

So it’s an interesting selection of stories and a successful debut issue. I wouldn’t necessarily choose to read historical fiction, but the mixture of historical tales among the alternate history were pleasantly enjoyable. With some relatively well-known authors for issues #1, editor Mark Lord has made an auspicious start.

Gareth D. Jones

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