Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Progress and history

Progress, or just a fluke? Well, you decide: Ista did not attempt to gnaw the monkey underwear that was lying well within her reach on the bathroom floor. Did not even bite it once. Just sniffed the laundry about to go into the hamper from a comparative distance and then let it be.

Ohhh, the things we consider notable with small mammals in the house.

Someone wanted me to talk about Flying Squirrel Divas of the Jovian Moons. Someone is scottjames and has found the Flying Squirrel Divas of the Jovian Moons a source of endless amusement for years now. timprov suggested that Flying Squirrel Diva of the Jovian Moons might be the next award to give to people who have already been Hero of the Revolution several times. I am dubious: we haven't even gotten our caramel-filled, foil-wrapped chocolate Hero of the Revolution medals. I should think that it would be even harder to find chocolate flying squirrels in spacesuits.

This is the internet, so I could be wrong.

Someone asked me if I wrote alternate history, what country or countries would I pick, and what would the story be. Umm. Some would say that I already do write alternate history, since Thermionic Night is set in Finland in 1950, and to the best of my knowledge there was not magic in Finland in 1950. However, I try not to contradict recorded history (just recorded science), so some people would categorize these books as secret history, not alternate history.

Anyway, my big problem with alternate history is that if the story isn't really, really close to the change -- and even most of the time when it is -- I don't think the author changes enough. (To compound this problem, stories further from the change may well be more interesting. Much, much, much harder. But more interesting.) A major historical change two hundred years ago means that most of the people who are currently alive might well not have been. Very minor policy changes in the US in history would result in vastly different immigration and settling patterns. If different people settled here -- or if population pressures in the Old Country for all sorts of values of "the Old Country" were not relieved -- the world goes very different directions very quickly. And I'm supposed to believe that the author's favorite historical figures exist anyway? That's a much more major suspension of disbelief for me than it seems to be for most people, and the story has to be a corresponding lot of fun to make it worth my energy. Any appearance of John Dee or Benjamin Franklin requires a lot of effort for me not to just close the book and walk away quietly.

The alternate history ideas I get rely heavily on the kind of history I read. This means that they tend to be the sorts of ideas that would make it difficult for most people to spot the turning point, and as such I think it would be harder for them to care about the result. "What if something you didn't know happened had never happened? Wouldn't that be weird and interesting?" Umm, gosh. How fascinating. I know that the right story can be fascinating that way -- I'm certainly hoping that people manage to find themselves interested in mid-20th century Finland in ways they had not expected to be -- but it takes a lot more work from the author to establish why anyone should care about this obscure historical change, and often it seems less worth my time than other, equally shiny ideas.
Tags: full of theories, magical finnish computers, poodular supervision, pure silliness

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