AHF Interviews Alexander Wallace
Alexander Wallace is an alternate history writer, whose oevre includes the works:-
'Scorpions In A Bottle' , 'The Rise of the Tri-State World Order' , and 'Emancipation and Exodus'. Going by the username 'Spanish Spy' a fuller list of his works can be found at http://wiki.alternatehistory.com/doku.php/offtopic/spanishspy.
Thank You Alexander Wallace for your interest in being interviewed. There follows below, the questions and answers:-
You have Germany invading the UK in the 1970s in 'Scorpions In A Bottle'. I am always fascinated by alternate invasions at different times, in completely different timelines:
a) Was the invasion a natural part of the narrative to the timeline, or was it a "Hey, let's step out of the box!" moment?
It was something that I was considering for a while, but its origin was to be counter to the revulsion to Sealion.
b) How aware were you of the plethora of alternate history German invasions of Britain, both Sealion and other, before and after? Some examples are Chris Nuttall's Invasion 1950 and Grey Wolf's Eleventh Hour. But there are many published examples too.
I was very much aware; it's intended to be a sort of meta-irony in regards to the general consensus that Sealion is impossible. Considering Scorpions in a Bottle is so different from OTL I figured I could get away with it.
c) How difficult was it to do this realistically, or had you developed the alternate timeline to the point where the usual complaints as to how hard it would be to invade had been overcome or made irrelevant?
The original book that the timeline is based off of had France, Russia, Poland, and the Low Countries under German domination. It was my reasoning that the German Navy would have been much larger than the Kriegsmarine in WWII would have been, as well as having better bases and cooperative access to France (at least in the beginning of the Second Global War) that would have made an invasion possible.
Your Magnum Opus 'The Rise of the Tri-State World Order' was written as an assignment for school - how did that come about, and how well received was it?
We were reading Orwell's 1984 and the teacher said that we could pick from a preset list of different projects, or propose one of our own. I had recently joined AH.com at the time and was looking to write something new. I knew that the AH community looked up to the Orwell novel as something of a predecessor to the genre, as well as the success of Will Ritson's Images of 1984. I figured that it would be a fun way to demonstrate knowledge of the book's themes. It most certainly was; I wrote fifty-five pages double-spaced and would stay up very late working on it. I legitimately enjoyed this work.
When I brought it to class I had with me a thick stack of papers that was larger than anyone else's. Some of them opted to present; when I walked up to the front of the class with that stack they were stunned. My teacher maintained that she read the whole thing; she gave me the highest grade possible, so that was vindicating to a degree.
Would you do anything differently with it if you were to write/edit it now, or prepare it for publication?
When I posted it to AH.com one fellow had the question of why I didn't involve the Business Plot in the creation of Oceania. If I ever rewrite this I would most definitely incorporate that; it continues with that feeling of cynicism that permeates throughout the timeline. It fits the mood.
If I were to rewrite it I would also make the writing less clunky; it is guilty of padding to make it seem longer for the assignment (granted by one point it was no longer necessary).
I read 'A Timeline Author's Plea' on Alternate History Weekly Update. Do you think the lack of commenting on works in progress has become more marked with the passage of time? Do you think authors of unpublished works that reside upon discussion boards, and internal Wikia, could make good use of social media to bring readers to their work?
I can't say it's gotten better or worse since I got started writing in early 2013. Several of my works since then have gone for months without comments and I have still trudged through hoping for an audience. I think more than anything else that there is a window early in a timeline's development when commenters and readers have to be snagged; otherwise it will just putter on with only the occasional comments. I have a hard time gaining interest after those critical first few updates and as such mine tend to suffer.
Internal logic can lead to strange places. Have you written works where you never intended to end up with a situation, but the internal logic of the piece led you there, much to your surprise? Which examples stand out most strongly to you?
A lot of early Emancipation and Exodus was made extending the logic of interstellar colonization that I was using; there are a few bizarre worlds that were made with said logic. More so comes with in a generally thematic sense; the big underpinning idea of that work is that people in the future are still human, and that humans are bastards. Some of the most disturbing and horrifying things that I have ever written have been from this timeline; one update made my stomach churn as I wrote it.
The same came in Scorpions in a Bottle; how the CNA reacted to the attack on the Grand Council and the course of the subsequent wars, were mostly improvised. It eventually brought me to this timeline's version of revolutionary France, and the ensuing Cold War after its victory against Germany.
Emancipation and Exodus was written as a collaboration between yourself and a friend. How did you find working with someone else to create such a major work? Were there occasions when you thought one thing was going to happen but he thought another? Was each piece written collaboratively, or did you tend to alternate?
The two of us would discuss the plot together but would write separately; if one were to look at our different updates one would find a distinct difference in style. Now and then I would do something he hadn't expected and we'd have to talk about how to mesh our two conceptions of the future of the timeline; one of the more notable ones was when with the ongoing plague crisis. I pepper my updates with references to his updates, and he does the same with mine.
Working with someone else really broadens the scope of the ideas present in the timeline; there are now multiple heads being put together to create one thing. It now feels more developed, and his style of writing enhances t whole work and complements my own.
When writing Science Fiction elements do you tend to try to remain true to the existing state of Science, or do you work on the basis that the current understanding of Science will be superseded by a new paradigm? How do you make it internally consistent, regardless of which approach you use? Does it ever run away with you?
I freely admit that I am no scientist; I go with more general science fiction stuff and then with the occasional speculation. Generally I shy away from anything too science-based on the basis that I would inevitably do something wrong and be chewed out on it by somebody more knowledgeable on the subject. My cowriter for Emancipation and Exodus is a more science-minded fellow than myself and so I usually defer to his judgment on such issues.
Do you find yourself consciously mimicking real world events, just in a different setting, at a different time with different characters? If you see what I mean!
I have actually occasionally done so for inspiration. The August 2nd bombings and the subsequent occupation of India took more than a few cues from what happened after the September 11th attacks in OTL; the actual occupation was more like Iraq with shades of Vietnam, with airdropped napalm being the most obvious.
Another big example is the plague crisis in Emancipation and Exodus; in many ways it is a futuristic version of the ongoing European migrant crisis. You have massive amounts of affected people, in my universe sick, whose government cannot care for them (this is after the collapse of the premier galactic power) going to poorer worlds who don't have the resources either. This leads to riots and confused reactions by the dominant states in the galaxy, who are only starting to figure things out.
Have you had any of your work published? Have you submitted anything to magazines with or without success? How are your plans in this area?
I have published no fiction; I have however published two nonfiction articles about alternate history as a genre on Matt Mitrovich's Alternate History Weekly Update.
Eventually, I'll consider publishing fiction but my main concern is that what I write is just too weird for a general audience. Alternate history is already incredibly niche and the stuff I write goes even more into science fiction and fantasy; I'm afraid that the reward would be little.
Do you have any names or surnames that tend to crop up and repeat themselves throughout stories, without the intention being there to make them related in any way? How about the names of ships, and so on, do you find favourites invading your new work?
None intentionally; I tend to use online name generators for a lot of my characters so I wouldn't be surprised at all if I've accidentally reused some. Otherwise I try to remain original.
One such incident was the beginning of a small arc in Emancipation and Exodus. Two subsequent updates accidentally had two separate characters named Driggs in them; I decided to turn them into a Driggs Family that was an important political family on Mars from the early years until the fall of the Union.
When writing science fiction elements do you feel that some of what you write is deliberately archaic, in a sort of reverse anachronistic fashion? For example, do you use current terms for something which would have similarities but be much different in a future time period? Have you ever found yourself wondering if you were doing an EE Doc Smith in space, with the equivalent of your astronauts smoking cigars and using paperclips?
When I have been in Emancipation and Exodus, it was on Earth, which was subjugated by Mars for a longtime and kept isolated from interstellar society. The few scenes I have set on Earth try to show the world as not unfamiliar to those who read it.
And on other worlds, I update the technology but try to keep the fundamental humanity inherent in human culture. There is still sexuality, still desire, still commercialism and thrift, still a sense that there is a meaning behind what people do. I try to keep in mind that these are still people, with their various needs and wants, and that this will not change.
What is the longest period you have written the same piece of ongoing work over? Do you feel that the style changed at all during this period, or that you managed to retain a consistent and coherent approach?
Longest as of now is Scorpions in a Bottle, which has been going for over two years and is still ongoing. I have maintained the same fundamental format throughout that time, and what I believe to be a similar writing style. Updates are shorter, however, mostly due to more obligations and more writing projects that I have going.
If you were preparing it for publication would you agree a different style guideline, so as to unify the parts written months apart?
I would most definitely revise the original parts to make a more stylistically coherent timeline, and combine some of the shorter updates to make longer chapters in their place. If anything, besides the fact that the Sobel estate would never let me publish it, the big problem to publication is the length of it.
Have you ever done something weird, wild and wonderful just for the lulz, so to speak?
I've written multiple silly vignettes based on implausible premises for the sake of being silly, such as Never Forget Your Wars, Marching Through the Wrong Georgia, The Chief That Now Commands: or, the Reign of Emperor Norton I, and My Words are Backed by Nuclear Weapons. Additionally, I wrote Things that Happen: a Satirical Timeline, which was intended to be a satire of both American politics and the various election timelines about the 2016 presidential elections that happened quite a bit in AH.com's Future History board. It ended up becoming an interesting exercise in humorous metafiction, and the reboot promises much the same.
Alexander Wallace, Thank You very much!
Alexander Wallace is a prolific writer on genre discussion boards, and his profile at Alternate History Weekly Update can be found at
He also has started a blog http://thingthatexists.blogspot.com/ , for as he puts it 'random crap...that probably isn't relevant to anything' but given the quality of the first main post, 'Evil vs. Wrong: a Problem of Language' this is under-selling his power with words.