AMERICAN INDIAN VICTORIES
by Dale R. Cozort
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Dale R. Cozort’s American Indian Victories is an intriguing examination not only of a variety of alternative historical scenarios but also a look at how alternate history is constructed. Cozort provides the reader with some of the historical background needed to make sense of his alternate historical scenarios, pointing out areas which are ripe for counterfactual musings. He then creates scenarios of varying plausibility based on the information he has provided. These scenarios are basic backgrounds, not full-fledged narratives by any means.
Cozort’s speculations range over the entire American continental masses, with discussions of South, Central and North American Indian culture. Similarly, he feels comfortable with a range of periods, whether the pre-Columbian Incas or the Susquehanna of the seventeenth century. Not all scenarios are dealt with in the same depth, but Cozort has clearly done research into the cultures and political histories involved.
However, one of the weakness with American Indian Victories is that although Cozort sounds like an expert, he fails to identify his source material throughout, which weakens many of his arguments and calls some of his facts into question. He further weakens his arguments by the inclusion of comments such as “I seem to recall.” While this level of factual checking may be appropriate for a Usenet discussion or cocktail conversation, in a book, it appears to indicate sloppiness.
Despite these questions of source material, Cozort does seem to have a strong and thorough understanding of the period, geography, and historical theory concerning the Indians who ranged throughout the Americas both before and after Columbus’s expeditions. He is able to put his finger on what makes for good alternate history not just from an historical perspective but also by asking what departure points could be used to create an interesting narrative speculation. While some of his ideas appear rather far-fetched, such as a Carthage influenced Mexico, however Cozort acknowledges the shortcomings of such musings.
While Cozort is versed in alternate history, American Indian Victories stands in a vacuum within the genre. He makes no references to other works of alternate history or speculative fiction either to use as examples or to critique. The field is rife with them, from Robert Silverberg’s The Gate of Worlds to Pamela Sargent’s Climb the Wind and Suzanne Allés Blom’s Inca. While the crux of Cozort’s book is creation of realistic alternate histories, these and other works could have been used to demonstrate what authors do right or wrong.
One of the things which sets Cozort’s scenarios apart from many full-fledged alternate histories is his complete repudiation of the Great Man theory of history. Many, perhaps most, alternate histories tie themselves to an individual as the focal point of history. Without requiring a narrative hook, Cozort is able to speculate on the macrohistorical events and trends which are a major force in establishing our history as we know it.
American Indian Victories is interesting not just for its examination of counterfactual scenarios, but also, perhaps moreso, for its examination of the techniques of history which are used in creating believable allohistories. Too often, authors create alternate history backgrounds with only the minimum ideas behind them, ignoring some of the larger issues, or even completely changing history for no reason.Readers looking for either a story or an historical document will be let down by American Indian Victories, however those who are trying to get a feel for possibilities and, more importantly, the methodology of alternate history will find the book to be a treasure trove of information as Cozort explains what must be done and lays the foundation of his alternate histories, even if he doesn’t completely build the societies he describes.
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