This on-line chat occured on October 16, 1997 with Harry Turtledove as part of the Talk City Science Fiction Author Series. Teri Liston Piedrahita produced this event.
MeriCCC: Talk City, The Chat Network and Literatzi
MeriCCC: Are pleased to welcome you to
MeriCCC: THE SCIENCE FICTION AUTHOR SERIES
MeriCCC: In celebration of Alternate History Month
MeriCCC: Our Special guest to night is
MeriCCC: author and alternate history MASTER:
MeriCCC: ~ ~ ~ ~ Harry Turtledove ~ ~ ~ ~
MeriCCC: Harry is the recipient of both the Nebula and Hugo Awards,
MeriCCC: The HOMer Award, with an honorable mention in the
MeriCCC: Sidewise Award for Alternate History.
MeriCCC: Tonight we'll be taking a particular interest in his latest book
MeriCCC: How Few Remain: A Novel of the Second War Between the States
MeriCCC: (DelRey) available in bookstores now.
MeriCCC: For those of you new to this sort of Author Talk,
MeriCCC: We run a PROTOCOL conference.
MeriCCC: If you have a question you want to ask Harry
MeriCCC: Type a "?" in the room. Your name will added to
MeriCCC: our list of questions and we will CALL YOUR NAME
MeriCCC: When it's your turn to ask.
MeriCCC: This is to allow everyone the opportunity to talk to Harry
MeriCCC: and the opportunity to see his answer.
MeriCCC: So please, be patient, have your questions ready...
MeriCCC: and most of all --- Enjoy the evening!
MeriCCC: At almost 500 pages. How Few Remain is not a "light read".
MeriCCC: We find 1880s United States of America (USA)
MeriCCC: is still coming to terms with its defeat by the
MeriCCC: Confederate States of America (CSA).
MeriCCC: A bold annexation of the Territory of Mexico
MeriCCC: by the Confederates moves the North to declare war
MeriCCC: bringing both sides into aggressive open conflict.
MeriCCC: What follows is an intricate struggle with many
MeriCCC: historical figures occupying unfamiliar roles:
MeriCCC: James Longstreet is the President of the CSA,
MeriCCC: James G. Blaine is President of the slave-free but racist USA.
MeriCCC: Stonewall Jackson is the CSA's military leader.
MeriCCC: Ulysses S. Grant is an all but forgotten drunkard.
MeriCCC: Former President Lincoln tours the country for socialism.
MeriCCC: and George Armstrong Custer is defending the border
MeriCCC: between the CSA and the USA in Kansas.
MeriCCC: Before this story ends outlaws, Apache Indians,
MeriCCC: the French and the English are all involved
MeriCCC: in this titanic struggle for the soul of a divided country.
MeriCCC: Here tonight to talk with us in depth about how this fascinating
MeriCCC: story came to be is author, Harry Turtledove.
MeriCCC: Harry, welcome back to Talk City!
MeriCCC: Harry, can you tell us how this book came about?
MeriCCC: and how it differs from your previous book
MeriCCC: Guns of the South?
HarryTurtledove: This book came about
HarryTurtledove: because the American civil war
HarryTurtledove: is probably the most crucial 4 years in American history
HarryTurtledove: Any change in what happened in the civil war
HarryTurtledove: changes the way we look, for better AND for worse
HarryTurtledove: and this book differs from Guns in two ways...
HarryTurtledove: first, the breakpoint is...late 1862 rather than 1864
HarryTurtledove: and second, there is no time travel involved
HarryTurtledove: all that's involved is some confederate orders not getting lost and falling into union hands
HarryTurtledove: as they did in real history..
MeriCCC: When doing an Alternate History like this,
MeriCCC: is there a sharply defined "jumping off point"
MeriCCC: where you go:
MeriCCC: "Hey! I've just got to go ------> thataway with that idea!"
HarryTurtledove: when you have your break point...
HarryTurtledove: and you know the changes you're going to make in that break point
HarryTurtledove: That dictates where things will go afterwards..
HarryTurtledove: what I'm doing in How Few Remain is running things forward 19 years and seeing
HarryTurtledove: how we would look if those orders hadn't gotten lost.
MeriCCC: Go ahead Linn..
Linn: ah - Harry just answered my question before I could ask, actually. :-)
MeriCCC: okay, Stephen...GA with your question..
HarryTurtledove: LOL okay..Linn
StephenRS: Harry - I missed the intro to this book . . . do you use any factual historical personas in your book?
StephenRS: And what do you do to change them GA
HarryTurtledove: Well yes I do, Stephen ;-)
HarryTurtledove: and what I do to change them is...
HarryTurtledove: what I would do if I were writing anything..
HarryTurtledove: I imagine how their lives would have gone after the world changed..
HarryTurtledove: and combine that with what I know about their personalities in real history..
HarryTurtledove: and imagine what they would have been like in this different world..
MeriCCC: If you'd like to order your own copy of
MeriCCC: How Few Remain
MeriCCC: Just go to Amazon.com at this URL:
MeriCCC: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0345416619/stevensilvershomA/ MeriCCC: *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Steven: There is also a review and excerpt at the Harry Turtledove website
MeriCCC: GA Gartrek...
Gar^^Trek: How does the slavery issue get treated in your time line?
HarryTurtledove: You know what...
HarryTurtledove: It's important enough an issue...that I'm not going to tell you ;-)
HarryTurtledove: it might spoil the whole thing for you!
Kat: ROFL... sheesh..
CCCanard: We're using full protocol, so if you have a question, type ? and if you have a comment, type !
CCCanard: and I'll let you know when it's your turn. Type GA when you're finished.
MeriCCC: GA kat;-)
Kat: I'm sure you've heard this question before.. but would you tell me... what is your fascination with history... and wanting to change it?
HarryTurtledove: hmmm...well...two things:
HarryTurtledove: first, I have a degree in Byzantine history
HarryTurtledove: so I know how to play with real history
HarryTurtledove: and second, one of the standard science fiction techniques
HarryTurtledove: is to change one thing...
HarryTurtledove: and see what happens!
HarryTurtledove: Alot of science fiction changes one thing in the present, or in the future
HarryTurtledove: I change one thing in the past...
HarryTurtledove: and see what happens!
MeriCCC: GA StephenRS
MeriCCC: Is using a time more recent in our history,
MeriCCC: compared to say...the Battle of Troy,
MeriCCC: Are there more restrictions or different guidelines
MeriCCC: you have to use to retain accuracy or plausibility
MeriCCC: in the story line?
HarryTurtledove: yes there are more restrictions..
HarryTurtledove: because we know much more about the people and the events of real history
HarryTurtledove: when we get closer to our own time
HarryTurtledove: that limits what you can do
HarryTurtledove: with real characters in an imaginary world...
HarryTurtledove: When you're dealing with real historical characters
HarryTurtledove: it's not like ordinary fiction
HarryTurtledove: because you're not creating them all together
HarryTurtledove: you're also dealing with the readers knowledge and expectations of them as they are
StephenRS: Harry, Do you stay within the technology levels of the 1800's? I've read some "fan-fictions" where they literally rip up history by "introducing" higher tech into the past . . . that doesn't happen here right?
HarryTurtledove: No stephen, that does NOT happen here! ;-)
Gar^^Trek: We were having a discussion the other night in #Literatzi...and debated where alternative history belongs...sci fi or fantasy? I wondered...should it be a category all to itself?
HarryTurtledove: I think of it as Science Fiction..
HarryTurtledove: for the reason that I mentioned earlier...
HarryTurtledove: it has a very science fictional technique to it..
HarryTurtledove: you change one thing...and you see what happens
HarryTurtledove: Fantasy usually changes more than just one thing
MeriCCC: Alternate History is emerging as a separate and
MeriCCC: distinct field of writing (Yeah!!! :-)
MeriCCC: How do you feel about this re-emerging interest in
MeriCCC: Alternate History and is it easier or harder now
MeriCCC: to get an editor or a publisher to buy a story like this
HarryTurtledove: I'm in favor of the emergence ;-) It keeps me in business!
HarryTurtledove: It's probably easier now to get a publisher to look at something like this
HarryTurtledove: then say 10 years ago..
HarryTurtledove: I don't know how long that will last...
HarryTurtledove: Techno-thrillers and horrors were easy to sell there for a while...and they aren't anymore...
MeriCCC: GA Steven
Steven: There's a rumor you're going to be doing some writing for "Sliders". Any truth?
Kat: Ohhhhhh HarryTurtledove: Ooh.....
HarryTurtledove: right now, they've contacted me...I don't know if it's going to happen..
HarryTurtledove: I don't know if I'll have time...
MeriCCC: GA StephenRS
MeriCCC: To Order Guns of the South from
MeriCCC: Talk City's Bookstore at this URL:
MeriCCC: Type a "?" in the room. CCCanard, will add you
MeriCCC: to our list of questions and she will CALL YOUR NAME
MeriCCC: When it's your turn to ask.
MeriCCC: GA Steven also.... ;-)
StephenRS: You bring up a great can of worms . . . what if certain points in history were changed? What if Kennedy didn't get assassinated? or if we lost WW2? Your comment Harry
HarryTurtledove: I have no idea what the world would look like if JFK had not been assasinated...
HarryTurtledove: If we'd lost world war II its exceedingly likely I would not have been born LOL
Kat: Hmm... me too Harry
CCCanard: GA Steven
Steven: Were you aware that Guns of the South is used in a college class at University of Vermont?
HarryTurtledove: No I didn't know that Steven, but I think that's cool! HarryTurtledove: I know it has been used at UC San Diego
MeriCCC: do you know what class Steven?
Steven: My understanding is it is a cross literature/history class.
CCCanard: Go Ahead Kat
HarryTurtledove: that's really neat..
Kat: Are there any other shows (tv) that you are involved in? or could be involved in?
Kat: Movies too
HarryTurtledove: not at present kat...
MeriCCC: In one of the reviews for this book I read:
MeriCCC: "my greatest pleasure in HOW FEW REMAIN
MeriCCC: was not the masterly historical extrapolation, but the characters themselves. "
MeriCCC: How do you manage to create such complex
MeriCCC: and compelling characters?
CCCanard: We're using full protocol, so if you have a question, type ? and if you have a comment, type !
CCCanard: and I'll let you know when it's your turn. Type GA
when you're finished.
HarryTurtledove: I'm delighted that ANYONE thinks that I do !! ;-)
HarryTurtledove: I read as much about the people that I'm dealing with as I can...
HarryTurtledove: if they were writers themselves, I read what they wrote
HarryTurtledove: hmmm...when I was playing with How Few Remain
HarryTurtledove: I was very intimidated to try to work with Samuel Clemens AND Abraham Lincoln
HarryTurtledove: because the hardest thing a writer can do
HarryTurtledove: is to try to imitate
HarryTurtledove: the style of people who write better than he does ;-)
Steven: !You succeeded with Clemens wonderfully.
HarryTurtledove: Thank you very much Steven ;-)
HarryTurtledove: ...when I first started trying to write Clemens
HarryTurtledove: I would stop every paragraph
HarryTurtledove: and show it to my wife
HarryTurtledove: because I was amazed that I could come close to doing it!
CCCanard: Go Ahead StephenRS
StephenRS: Harry, what do you recommend to up-and-aspiring writers to do if they want to write Historical Fiction? and How many books did you write?
HarryTurtledove: By now I've written about 40 books, Stephen..
HarryTurtledove: my recommendation to writers are
HarryTurtledove: to read a lot
HarryTurtledove: both generally and on what they are particularly interested in
HarryTurtledove: and...to write a lot!
HarryTurtledove: and also to be very, very patient...
HarryTurtledove: because you wont do it "right" the first time
HarryTurtledove: I have half a million words
HarryTurtledove: nobody but me has EVER seen.
HarryTurtledove: (because they aren't worth seeing!)
HarryTurtledove: most writers will tell you the same thing...
HarryTurtledove: like anything else, it takes practice.
Steven: How do you feel your writing has changed since your Two Georges collaboration?
HarryTurtledove: I would say the one thing that working with Richard Dreyfuss did
HarryTurtledove: was to make me look at dialog in a new way
HarryTurtledove: because listening to how words sounded when an actor delivered them
HarryTurtledove: is different from just seeing them on a page
HarryTurtledove: or on a computer screen...
chris2x: I loved the Krispos series
chris2x: the misplaced legion series
chris2x: the first Civil war novel
chris2x: but my favorite was probably Agent of Byzantium
chris2x: any possibility for a sequel?
HarryTurtledove: thank you!
HarryTurtledove: I have a couple of ideas in mind...I have no idea when I'll get around to writing them tho...
CCCanard: Go ahead chris
chris2x: so... what is next?
HarryTurtledove: What is my next project?
HarryTurtledove: next book out is a fantasy called Fox and Empire from Baen books
HarryTurtledove: in January of 1998
HarryTurtledove: in March is a fantasy from Tor books Between the Rivers
HarryTurtledove: in April is a fantasy from Del Rey
HarryTurtledove: Videssos Besieged
HarryTurtledove: in June (I think--it's subject to change) is an
HarryTurtledove: alternate history from Del Rey
HarryTurtledove: called Return Engagement.
chris2x: wow, you keep busy
HarryTurtledove: It's set in the same universe as How Few Remain and that's all I can say about it now...
Kat: write and write and write... he practices what he preaches...
CCCanard: Go ahead Jenna
Jenna: What do you read? And any recommendations for wonderful new history books?
HarryTurtledove: I read a LOT of history ;-) Jenna: I figured.
HarryTurtledove: and what I'm reading right now...
HarryTurtledove: is a book by a fellow named Stephen Pyne
HarryTurtledove: it's called Burning Bush a fire history of Australia
HarryTurtledove: its' very interesting...
chris2x: fire history?
HarryTurtledove: it's about the role that fire has played in shaping the development of the Australian landscape
HarryTurtledove: the plants and animals the whole shot..
Jenna: (It starts with two pieces of flint ;-)
HarryTurtledove: LOL Chris...I don't know yet...it could
Steven: How difficult (or easy) was it for you to return to Elabon and Gerin the Fox after fourteen years away?
HarryTurtledove: It felt very strange at first
HarryTurtledove: because I changed al ot in the interviening time
HarryTurtledove: and I had to see how Gerin changed too..
HarryTurtledove: It was kinda strange...
Steven: Is Gerin the character you see as most akin to you?
HarryTurtledove: he started out that way
HarryTurtledove: as main characters in first novels have a way of doing...
HarryTurtledove: we've sort of "grown apart" as time has gone on... ;-)
Gar^^Trek: Another major figure in the Civil War was the North's Secretary of War Stanton...is he mentioned in your new story?
HarryTurtledove: No Stanton isn't mentioned..He died in the late 1860s..so he isn't around anymore
MeriCCC: It seems to me that this book paints a rather bleak "reality"
MeriCCC: (pardon the pun) in this world of Confederate dominance
MeriCCC: When you create an alternate history like this do you find
MeriCCC: yourself wishing maybe this had happened...or relieved that
MeriCCC: it did not? How many "what if's" do you play in your own mind
MeriCCC: as you're writing?
HarryTurtledove: Anybody who is writing fiction plays with "what ifs" all the time..
HarryTurtledove: it's just that some are bigger than others..
HarryTurtledove: I think that North America is MUCH better off
HarryTurtledove: having the United States stay united
HarryTurtledove: then it would have been
HarryTurtledove: if the Confederate states had broken away
chris2x: I heard the story of the first civil war novel
chris2x: and where the idea came from last time you were at Talk City
chris2x: any other ideas like that for alternate histories that
chris2x: are milling inside your head?
HarryTurtledove: There had better be!!!
HarryTurtledove: a writer without ideas he hasn't written yet
HarryTurtledove: is a writer that is going to starve!! ;-)
Steven: Although I love your novels, I actually prefer your short fiction. Have you had any luck placing a third short story collection?
HarryTurtledove: If I'd had any luck placing a 3rd short story collection..it would be in print right now LOL
Steven: !If I may, Down in the Bottomlands is now available in anthology format.
chris2x: but are there any you have been think of for years and may never write?
HarryTurtledove: yes there are..
HarryTurtledove: there's one I can think of that I've been playing with for years and years
HarryTurtledove: and I don't know if it will ever go from idea to story...
HarryTurtledove: Great Steven, thanks!
RSCauso: I´d like to make a free comparison between world literature, that shows us that other cultures have a right to be themselves without being seen as inferior by Western culture. Don´t you think Alternate History does something like that for cultures in the past, i.e., gives them a kind of authony in relation to our time? I mean, we usually see past as discharged stages to get us here, and not as a real thing... GA
HarryTurtledove: RSCauso..I don't think of it that way
HarryTurtledove: because with my training as a historian..there are big chunks in the past
HarryTurtledove: that I know more about then I know about a lot of the present...
HarryTurtledove: very much a North American failure
HarryTurtledove: I think, to believe
HarryTurtledove: that the past is unimportant
HarryTurtledove: anyone who lives in Europe can tell you different
Gar^^Trek: Does your revision of post-Civil War America also revise the westward expansion? And the treatment of the Indians?
HarryTurtledove: yes Gar it does...
HarryTurtledove: we end up treating the Indians rather worse
HarryTurtledove: in this world than in real history..
HarryTurtledove: because we could kick them around
HarryTurtledove: and we couldn't kick the confederate states around
HarryTurtledove: westward expansion looks different
HarryTurtledove: because there are no big cattle drives up from Texas
HarryTurtledove: across an international border
HarryTurtledove: the west less range land and more farming country
HarryTurtledove: in the alternate world than it is in real history...
chris2x: sort of like the North invading Canada in the first book because they had to kick someone around
HarryTurtledove: yes sort of Chris ;-)
MeriCCC: What is your most favorite character from this new book, and why?
HarryTurtledove: I'd have to say there are two..
HarryTurtledove: they're Clemens and Lincoln
HarryTurtledove: for the very different challenges they presented to me as a writer
MeriCCC: Well our time is almost up!
MeriCCC: We have time for only a few more questions
MeriCCC: If there is one you're dying to ask just type
MeriCCC: . a ? in the room and CCCanard will call on you!
Steven: !Just wanted to say that after the Sam Clemens parts, the scenes with Lincoln in Hyde Park and Douglass & Jackson's meeting in Louisville are fantastic.
HarryTurtledove: Thank you Steven!
Gar^^Trek: Speaking of Lincoln, what happens to John Wilkes Booth in your version of this history?
HarryTurtledove: John Wilkes Booth stays an actor ;-)
HarryTurtledove: he's even mentioned once
HarryTurtledove: but he doesn't become as infamous..
RSCauso: ?Have you ever thought about a war between North and South America? GA
HarryTurtledove: ooh...never have before RSC
HarryTurtledove: that's not true...
HarryTurtledove: I take it back...there is some of that in the back of my beany little mind ;-)
HarryTurtledove: but I won't say "how" just now;-) You'll have to wait and see ;-)
Gar^^Trek: How about a history that would have the Spaniards NOT invading and defeating the Incas?
HarryTurtledove: Ah...actually I've done that... ;-)
HarryTurtledove: I did it in a novella
Kat: WHat book?
Gar^^Trek: ACTION listens intently
HarryTurtledove: called The Pugnacious Peace Maker
HarryTurtledove: which is a sequal to L. Sprague DeCamp's novella
HarryTurtledove: called The Wheels of If
Kat: Hmm..... gonna have to find those...
MeriCCC: oh very interesting!
Steven: Available as part of a Tor Double
RSCauso: Do you have a favorite war historian? I´m very fond of John Keegan... GA
HarryTurtledove: I was very fond of Keegan too...
HarryTurtledove: until I read his History of the Art of War
HarryTurtledove: which has enough minor errors in it
HarryTurtledove: that I spotted
HarryTurtledove: to make me wonder how many I missed
HarryTurtledove: and how much they affect his interpretation
Steven: You have a novel scheduled to appear pseudonymously. I've heard a couple of reasons given. What's the real story?
HarryTurtledove: The "real story" is...
HarryTurtledove: that one of the reasons bookstores order X number of copies
HarryTurtledove: of a book...
HarryTurtledove: is based on how many copies of your last book they sold
HarryTurtledove: I do not think a historical novel
HarryTurtledove: about the Byzantine empire
HarryTurtledove: will sell as well as my alternate history
HarryTurtledove: so I'm using a Pen name...
HarryTurtledove: it is H. N. Turteltaub
CCCanard: ACTION snickers
Steven: Clever. So both Eric Iverson and Mark Gordion are retired.
chris2x: sounds like a great book to me
HarryTurtledove: so the readers will know...but the computers wont ;-)
HarryTurtledove: for the time being Steven..
Gar^^Trek: nice to know the books will be filed next to each other....hehehe
CCCanard: ROFL Gar
HarryTurtledove: Thanks for being rash enough for listening to what I might want to say..
Jenna: A pleasure.
Gar^^Trek: ACTION thinks we were not rash...but exercised good judgement in coming tonight
Kat: Harry... thank you very much...for coming...hope to see you again... :-)
HarryTurtledove: Thanks Gar!!
Steven: And visit the Turtledove web page (that includes you, Harry)
Gar^^Trek: you're welcome, Harry
Gar^^Trek: LOL Steven
HarryTurtledove: night everyone!
CCCanard: A pleasure to be here Harry..thank you for providing some excellent answers to the questions
chris2x: Thanks, Jenna will vouche for how excited I was that you were coming tonight :-)
Gar^^Trek: good night!
MeriCCC: Did you know that Harry has
MeriCCC: his very own website?!
MeriCCC: go to: http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/turtledove.html
MeriCCC: and check it out! It's very informative and lovingly
MeriCCC: maintained by Mr. Steven Silver
MeriCCC: Well folks, our time tonight
MeriCCC: Has come to an end.
MeriCCC: We enjoyed having you this evening, Harry
MeriCCC: and I hope we'll get to see you again soon!
MeriCCC: Next Thursday night we have
MeriCCC: James Patrick Kelly, Author of
MeriCCC: Think Like A Dinosaur
MeriCCC: Goodnight and thank you again for joining us!
MeriCCC: This event has been brought to you by
MeriCCC: Talk City, The Chat Network
MeriCCC: and LiveWorld Productions, Inc.
MeriCCC: Copyright 1997, All Rights Reserved.