Alternate timelines and you…
By David Kowalski
I’ve noticed a number of websites, devoted to discussing alternate histories, examining the veracity of my timeline in Company of the Dead. I’m interested that a large number of expressed views come from people working off the timeline that I (now bravely, in retrospect) placed on my website. Understandable as the book is only now freshly available on the world market.
Clearly it got me thinking, and moreover, it surprised me. I never thought of Company as an alternate history when I was writing it. I’ll go a step further and say that I never thought of it as sci-fi, though I am proud of that label. I won’t go into what I thought I was writing here, not to be mysterious, but because it’s kind of personal and the fact is, it’s what the reader thinks it is. I freely admit that.
But I would like to vaguely address the timeline issue if I may. I read a lot of history as a pastime. It’s a little hard to justify. I like to know why things happened the way they happened. The thing is, the more history I read, the more I feel we have very little understanding as to what has happened in the world.
Actual, reasonably well documented events, specifically those that have occurred in living memory, are up for grabs. There are historians that state the Holocaust never happened. How’s that for alternate history? When history itself is so open to debate, alternate timelines become grist for the mill.
Easy to say this would never happen, that would never transpire, but who, in 1814, saw the Hundred Days of Napoleon? And in 1914, most people were certain, on both sides of the trenches, that the boys would be home for Christmas. A fan of the rule of threes, I’ll toss this in instead. Who, in April 1912, imagined the world’s largest ocean liner would strike an iceberg in the mid-Atlantic, and sink like a stone?
Hindsight is sensational. Remarkably accurate, at least subjectively, but hardly a template for the future.
So if anybody out there is contemplating writing a novel, play or film, where Carthage rules supreme, Troy still stands as a thriving metropolis (hey, I don’t mind that idea) or there are no prequels to Star Wars, I say go for it. Open any history book. Stranger things have happened.
On a final note, Company of the Dead is not an alternate history, it’s a true story. Trust me, I’m a doctor.