Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Sunday, October 22, 2017

New Volume Is Seeking Contributors: "Other Covenants: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People"

Having recently edited the volume, What Ifs of Jewish History, I thought "more would be merrier," and am therefore publicizing a new project being pursued by Andrea D. Lobel and Mark Shainblum, entitled Other Covenants: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People.

Potential contributors should read on!

OTHER COVENANTS: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People
Edited by Andrea D. Lobel and Mark Shainblum

Historian Thomas Cahill, author of The Gifts of the Jews (Knopf, 1999) claimed that the Jews invented the very concept of history. They were the first, he said, to perceive time not as an endless circle of life, death and rebirth, but as the flight of an arrow, on a linear path to somewhere from somewhere.
However, what if time is not one arrow, but a volley of arrows? What if there are other timelines, other histories, other Jews? Would they still have a covenant with the one God? What would have become of their triumphs? Their defeats? Their suffering and their successes?
Award-winning author/editors Andrea D. Lobel and Mark Shainblum propose to answer this question in Other Covenants, the first-ever anthology of Jewish alternate history, to be published by ChiZine Publications (CZP) in Fall 2019!

Other Covenants contributors already confirmed include Nebula Award winner 
Jack Dann, editor of the groundbreaking Wandering Stars anthologies of Jewish science fiction and author or editor of over 70 other works of science fiction and fantasy; and Harry Turtledove, the Hugo Award winning "grandmaster of alternate history" whose works include The Guns of the South, the Worldwar series and the Jewish-themed novel of Nazi victory, In the Presence of Mine Enemies.

Further Information: http://chizinepub.com/other-covenants-alternate-histories-of-the-jewish-people/

·       Submission window: August 28, 2017 at 12:01 AM Eastern Time to Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, at 11:59 PM Eastern Time.
·       Open to submissions by authors of all backgrounds, from anywhere in the world.
·       Please do not submit by email. We will accept digital submissions only via the Moksha submissions system at https://chizinepub.moksha.io/publication/other-covenants.
·       Stories must be in the alternate history genre and must be clearly relevant to the theme of the anthology.
·       Length: 500–15,000 words. There are relatively few spots for stories at the high end, so please query first if you think your story will go long.
·       Preference will be given to stories previously unpublished in English, however, we will consider previously published stories on a case-by-case basis.
·       Submissions may be made in English or French. Author is responsible for translations into English after acceptance.
·       English-language translations of stories from other languages (published or unpublished) are welcome, but we can only accept submissions in English or French.
·       Multiple submissions welcome; up to two stories maximum per author, sent under separate cover.
·       We prefer no simultaneous submissions, please (we promise to respond promptly).
·       Initial responses (rejections, holds, and rewrite requests) within 30 days of submission; final responses no later than 30 days after the deadline.
·       Payment is 8 cents per word in Canadian funds. (SFWA qualifying after exchange to US funds).
·       File formats accepted: .docx, .doc, or .rtf.
·       Formatting: indented paragraphs; italics in italics (not underlined); Canadian spelling; use # (or other unambiguous symbol) to indicate scene breaks; no headers, footers, or pagination; no outlandish formatting, please; full contact info (name, street address, email, phone number) and word count on the first page. That said, don’t fret too much about formatting; good fiction is what’s most important. (Correct spelling also counts.)
·       Please include a cover letter with a brief author bio, title of story, and full contact info, including street address.
·       Please do not summarize or describe the story in the cover letter.
·       To be published by ChiZine Publications in Fall 2019.
·       Rights: First World Rights, including audio and translation rights. (NOTE: CZP has a foreign rights agent who will be presenting the anthology in foreign markets.)
·       NOTE ON PSEUDONYMS: we will only publish one story per author, even if you write under several names; please use your real name on all correspondence and indicate your pseudonym in the cover letter and on the byline of the story itself.
·       NOTE ON SUBJECT MATTER: Any book dealing with the Jewish people, Jewish history and Israel will, by definition, be controversial. We welcome controversy and politics, but don’t forget that this is a fiction anthology. Telling good stories takes first, second and third place. Submissions that grind axes loud enough to drown out the story are unlikely to be accepted.
·       Questions or queries: othercovenants@gmail.com. Please don’t submit stories via email, as noted above.

Please don’t take these as prescriptive or proscriptive, the whole canvas of Jewish history is open to you—Biblical, historical and mythological:
What if • the Holocaust had never happened?
What if • Joseph’s brothers had not sold him into slavery in Egypt?
What if • The State of Israel had been established in Uganda? Or Germany?
What if • Jesus’ followers had not broken with Judaism?
What if • The Jews had proselytized their faith door-to-door for a thousand years?
What if • The Romans had not destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple?
What if • Judaism became the dominant Western religion, but was riven by conflicts between the Temple priesthood and reformist rabbis who put the Torah and prayer before Temple ritual and sacrifice?
What if • The Spanish Inquisition had never occurred?
What if • Napoleon had not smashed down Europe’s ghetto walls?
What if • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were reality . . . in some other universe?
Other Covenants is open to authors of every background, and for those of you who may not be familiar with alternate history, here’s a quick thumbnail sketch of the genre.
A popular sub-genre of speculative fiction, alternative history weaves fictional narratives into the “what-if”s of the past, and explores the infinite number of historical roads not taken in the past, present or future.
The Collins English Dictionary defines alternative history as “a genre of fiction in which the author speculates on how the course of history might have been altered if a particular historical event had had a different outcome.” According to Steven H. Silver, an American science fiction editor, alternate history requires three things:
1. A point of divergence from the history of our world prior to the time at which the author is writing
2. A change that would alter history as it is known
3. An examination of the ramifications of that change
Although alternate history is related to counterfactual history, it is distinct from it. The latter term is used by historians to refer to the academic, non-literary, question “what would have happened if . . .”.
Now please don’t take the above as prescriptive or proscriptive. We understand that boundaries are vague, definitions are fuzzy, and the distinction between an alternate history and a counterfactual may be entirely in the eye of the beholder. But whatever voice you write in, please keep in mind that first and foremost we are looking for stories about characters.
Also, though alternate history originated as a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy and may incorporate tropes like the many-worlds theory, parallel universes, time travel, mysticism and magic, these are not requirements. Use them if you want to, don’t use them if you don’t. The only speculative element required is the break from history as we know it, and the effect of that break on the Jewish people.

Andrea D. Lobel has been a writer and editor for over a decade, winning two awards for her work.
An ordained rabbi and university lecturer, she holds an M.A. in Religious Studies (McGill University), and a Ph.D. in Religion (Concordia University), specializing in the history of religion and science, astronomy and religion, celestial mythologies, calendars, magic, and religious authority in Judaism, as well as in the Hebrew Bible and its ancient Near Eastern context.
Her book, Under a Censored Sky: Astronomy and Rabbinic Authority in the Talmud Bavli and Related Literature, is forthcoming from Brill Publishers in 2018–19.
Mark Shainblum was born and raised in Montreal, where he and illustrator Gabriel Morrissette co-created the acclaimed comics series Northguard and Angloman with Gabriel Morrissette. Northguard has recently been revived by Chapterhouse Comics in Toronto.

In addition to writing comics, Mark has published science fiction in various magazine and anthology markets including 
On Spec and Island Dreams: Montreal Writers of the Fantastic. As an editor, he co-edited Arrowdreams: An Anthology of Alternate Canadas with John Dupuis in 1998 and Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen in 2016 with Claude Lalumière.

Mark shared an Aurora Award with John Dupuis in 1999 for 
Arrowdreams, and in 2016 he was inducted into the Joe Shuster Awards Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame.

Mark and Andrea live in Ottawa with their daughter.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Man in the High Castle: Trailer for Season Three

In our golden age of web-based streaming television programs, there’s never a shortage of new shows to watch. 

And then there are the hits that keep coming.

Amazon Prime has just released a trailer for season three of The Man in the High Castle.  Click HERE for the link.

Based on the little it reveals, it seems as if that the show may be crossing the line between alternate history and straight-up science fiction.  What with characters discussing the existence of a “multiverse” where “travelers” spend their time crossing the “astral plane” (naturally carrying film canisters of the other world in which the Nazis lost the war)

I have no doubt that many people enjoy alternate history and science fiction to an equal degree.  In fact, I can’t really imagine anyone liking one and NOT the other.  However, since commentators often conflate the two genres, it’s probably worth noting that they differ in important ways. 

Both genres can be classified as works of “speculative” fiction.  But – to make an obvious point -- science fiction tales are commonly set in the future while alternate history narratives are set in the past.  Moreover, the latter genre can comfortably exist without any science whatsoever, whereas the former is often predicated upon the existence of scientific (usually technological) innovations. 

The two genres can obviously overlap – and often do in time travelling alternate history narratives.  But they are ultimately distinct.

I’m wondering whether The Man in the High Castle may lose of some of its fans if it departs too much from alternate history for sci-fi territory.  Probably most viewers are already locked in.  But it may turn out that the show has exhausted much of its historical source material (Hitler is already dead, after all) and has nowhere to go but the, um, multiverse. 

Still, I’m looking forward to what the show has to offer come 2018. 

And, of course, we can look forward to interpreting the show’s contemporary allegorical significance.  Hopefully, 2018 will be relatively calm and there will be no need to make reference to the specter of nuclear war documented in those hard-to-find film canisters.

Friday, September 15, 2017

When Alternate History is Real History: Hillary Clinton's New Yorker Cover That Might Have Been

The New Yorker pulled an interesting stunt today.

It publicized a cover that never made the cut because the event it was meant to commemorate -- Hillary Clinton's election as President of the United States -- never came to pass.

It said the cover would have been published "If Hillary Clinton Had Won."  As such, the cover is portrayed as a work of artistic alternate history.

Strictly speaking, however I don't think it is an example of alternate history. It is an example of a future history that never realized its potential. It is a historical artifact -- the expression of a hope that never panned out.  

The cover was produced -- shall we say -- on "spec."  On the assumption that history would transpire as most Americans (at least democrats) expected it would.

Because it never happened, though, the cover was never published.  It thereby joined all the celebratory t-shirts and baseball hats commemorating championships never won by sports teams (but that were manufactured in advance for the hoped-for champagne spraying festivities in the post-game locker room).

In light of its future orientation, the New Yorker cover reminds us that works of alternate history can only qualify as such if they refer to historical events that attained some kind of closure -- at least in terms of their immediate result.

What If the Cold War Never Ended? Netflix's Upcoming Polish Alternate History

In the wake of the all the controversy surrounding HBO's Confederate (and its Amazon competitor, "Black America"), it's exciting to see Netflix getting involved with a project set in an alternate 1980s Poland where the Solidarity movement was crushed and the cold war never came to an end.

Here's the description from Netflix:

"Warsaw, Poland -- Sept. 13, 2017 - Netflix, the world’s leading entertainment service, continues its investment in European productions with the announcement of its first original series in Polish language. Academy Award-nominee Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik will direct the eight-episode season, which will be shot in various cities and regions in Poland. The show is expected to launch to Netflix members around the world in 2018."

"Following in the great tradition of Cold War spy thrillers, this alternative history series takes place in a world where the Iron Curtain never fell. Now, in 2002, twenty years after a devastating terrorist attack in 1982 that halted the course of Poland’s liberation and the subsequent downfall of the Soviet Union, an idealistic law student and a disgraced police investigator stumble upon a conspiracy that has kept the Iron Curtain standing and Poland living under a repressive police state. After two decades of peace and prosperity, the leaders of the regime enact a secret plan that was made with an unlikely adversary in the 1980s that will radically transform Poland and affect the lives of every citizen in the nation — and the world. What these two men discover has the potential to ignite a popular revolution and those in power will stop at nothing to keep it a secret."

At first glance, this nightmare scenario -- like all nightmare scenarios -- seems primed to justify the reality of the present, specifically the belief of Poles that the way history actually turned out was for the best.  Yet it surely will also be seen as containing a not-so-thinly-veiled, presentist admonition for Poles to make sure that the Soviet domination portrayed in the series is never again repeated courtesy of Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Like "The Man in the High Castle's" contemporary function as a warning against resurgent fascism, Amazon's Polish series will warn against resurgent Russian domination.   

The question is whether the series will receive the same kind of criticism from Putin's media lapdogs as HBO's "Confederate" received from American critics.

If so, it will once more confirm alternate history's capacity to foster controversy.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

In Defense of HBO's Counterfactual "Confederates"

Building on some of the blog posts that I've written on HBO's controversial alternate history series, Confederate, here is a new set of thoughts about the show that I wrote for The Conversation (published today):

In it, I try to allay the fear of critics that the premise of the South winning the Civil War is inherently apologetic and plead for the show to be judged in the free marketplace of ideas.

Here is the LINK, if you'd like to read further.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Adam Rovner Wins Sidewise Award for "What if the Jewish State Had Been Established in East Africa?"

Congratulations to Adam Rovner for winning this year's prestigious Sidewise Award in the category of Short Form Aternate History for his brilliant essay, "What if the Jewish State Had Been Established in East Africa? The Tough Planet Guide to New Judea."

As many of you know, Adam's essay appeared in my recent edited anthology, What Ifs of Jewish History: From Abraham to Zionism. 

If you haven't yet gotten your copy, do so today! 

Click HERE to purchase

Otherwise, you'll always wonder "what if?"

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

After 'Confederate' and Charlottesville: Theses on Counterfactual History

I've been taking a bit of a break from posting on the CHR this summer, as I've been completing my new book on the Fourth Reich and continuing work on my study of the history of counterfactual history.

Unfortunately, however, world events have not taken a break -- especially events in the world of "what if?"

Especially in the U. S., the intensifying public debate about the legacy of the American Civil War unleashed by the HBO series, Confederate, and the growing radicalization of the right-wing, white supremacist movement -- as seen in the horrible events in Charlottesville, Virginia -- has placed counterfactual history once again in the spotlight.  

And not in a good way.  

I am busy collecting critical op-eds about Confederate for a longer essay down the line, but I thought that the genre of counterfactual history deserved something of a defense in the court of public opinion, lest its perennially fraught reputation be further damaged by misunderstandings about its origins and character.

Theses on Counterfactual History

 Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

1. Counterfactual history imagines events that never happened in order to determine how history might have been different.  The imagination is an inherent part of human nature. To imagine how history might have been different is thus an inherently human activity.

2. Counterfactual history is as old as history itself.   It originated in Antiquity, continued through the Middle Ages, and became increasingly pronounced during the modern era. It is a global phenomenon that has been visible not only in western but also non-western culture. 

3. Counterfactual history typically imagines historical events turning out differently in three ways: as better or worse than -- or no different from – how historical events turned out in reality.  Counterfactual history thus takes the form of fantasynightmare, and stasis scenarios.

4. Counterfactual history expresses deep-seated psychological feelings and emotions. The two most important are regret and relief.  When we ask “what if?”, we either express discontent or satisfaction with how history actually turned out.

5. Counterfactual history is inherently presentist.  In commenting on how the past might have been different, counterfactuals reveal how people believe it really was.  Counterfactual history thus provides an important means of analyzing contemporary views of history and memory.

6. Counterfactual history sheds light on the dynamics of historical causality.  We can only really understand what happened in history by examining it in the context of what might have happened.

7. Counterfactual history is essential for drawing moral judgments about the past.  If we want to judge how people in the past behaved, we can only truly evaluate their actions if we know what alternatives were available to them and how they might have acted differently.

8. Counterfactual history is politically ecumenical.  It is neither left nor right.  Imagining “what if” scenarios can be used for any kind of political purposes: liberal or conservative; moderate or extreme; progressive or reactionary.  “What if” questions have been posed in every form of polity: monarchy, oligarchy, democracy.  They have been asked in religious as well as secular societies.  Counterfactuals should not be viewed as possessing any inherent political valence.

9. Counterfactual history is a form of narrative representation that possesses the same claim to legitimacy as any other.  Counterfactual questions have long appeared not only in the form of historiography, but in literature, film, television, theater, and poetry.  When it appears in these diverse genres, counterfactual history is usually called “alternate history.”

10. Counterfactual history has frequently been misinterpreted and sparked controversy.  Because it plays with, and reinvents, the facticity of the past, it has often been viewed with suspicion as “revisionist” or “denialist.”  This is especially true when counterfactual questions have been applied to “unmastered” pasts that remain contested within a given society.

11. Counterfactual history nonetheless should be accepted as a genre of narrative representation that embodies contemporary society’s commitment to the free expression of ideas.   Where ideas about the past are in conflict, where consensus about the past is absent, works of counterfactual history – and the popular reception of those works -- will reflect deeper social and cultural divisions.    

12. Counterfactual history is ultimately one method among others for understanding the past.  It is not merely a supplementary method, however, but an integral method, of historical analysis.  By challenging us to think unconventionally about the past, counterfactual history can prompt us to think more deeply about important historical questions.