Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Friday, March 15, 2019

It's Officially Out! "The Fourth Reich: The Specter of Nazism since World War II"

I'm happy to announce that my new book, The Fourth Reich, is now officially published and available for purchase!

It has lots of counterfactual aspects, especially regarding the possibility that unrepentant Nazis could have come back to power at different moments in the early history of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Here is a LINK to a podcast, where I discuss the book with Cambridge University Press editor, Michael Watson.

I'm also posting links to reviews of the book in The Times of London, The New Statesman, and Standpoint.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My New Washington Post Piece on the "New Golden Age of Alternate History"

I am posting a link HERE to my new Washington Post piece on the reasons why alternate history has assumed an increasing presence in contemporary culture. 

I call it a "new Golden Age" for the genre and offer several possible explanations for why we are currently experiencing it, the most relevant being that counterfactual speculation thrives in periods of crisis.  

I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm currently writing a massive study surveying the origins and evolution of counterfactual thought from Antiquity to Modernity.  Well, this piece draws a bit on my findings so far.  

For those of you who are interested, I am currently writing about the Early Modern Period and dealing with "what ifs" explored by writers during the Renaissance, Reformation, and Age of Discovery.  They include Petrarch, Villani, Bruni, Salutati, Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Vasari, Luther, Cortest, and many more....

I'm not sure how long it will be before I actually complete this study, but I'm hoping that once it appears, it will help put to rest the longstanding canard that historians (at least good ones) don't employ counterfactuals.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Apples to Apples: Good and Bad Counterfactuals

How many bad apples are needed to spoil the bunch? 

When it comes to counterfactuals, perhaps not that many.  There is evidence that Gresham’s Law applies to the public perception of counterfactual history, in the sense that bad counterfactuals can drive out good ones – at least in the minds of outside observers who are eager to dismiss the entire genre based on its weakest examples.

A good example of a bad counterfactual appeared last week, when President Trump – building on an earlier howler about Andrew Jackson living well past his prime and preventing the Civil War – declared in his State of the Union address that:

If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.

The Washington Post went on to report that "his prepared remarks added that he thought "potentially millions of people" would have been killed if that war had broken out, but Trump didn't say those words as he spoke."

In fact, Trump may actually have brought us closer to nuclear war with North Korea, at least according to many observers.  (See, for example, the Vox essay, “How Trump Made the North Korea Crisis Worse,” LINK).

While people’s political views will shape whether or not they accept Trump’s counterfactual, there is no question that it is a comparatively crude, inordinately speculative, and blatantly self-serving example of “what if” thinking.

A bad apple in other words.

But let's not forget about the good ones.

In an essay in today’s Washington Post, Megan McArdle offers an instructive counterfactual insight that shows how we can learn from the past and apply the lessons to the present and future.

She writes:

Trump never commanded a majority of Republican primary voters. He commanded a plurality only because too many candidates were splitting the major Republican constituencies.

If the field had winnowed earlier, Trump would have lost. Instead, through arrogance, through narcissism and through disbelief, the party’s leaders dallied until Trump’s momentum was unstoppable, and a hapless outsider at the head of a minority faction had somehow taken over their party.

After the cease-fire, most of those Republican leaders would end up cravenly capitulating to Trump, to the lies, the incompetence, the vulgarity…Terrified of his voters but not quite able to bring themselves to endorse his behavior, Republicans have mostly settled on pretending it’s not happening. Thus, the GOP is both a victim of Trump’s gaslighting and its guiltiest accomplice.

Do Democrats face a similar threat from far left presidential hopefuls?  

McArdle’s answer comes from an unlikely source, former Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker. She argues that he was onto something in 2015 when he begged “his fellow no-hopers to “clear the field” so that “the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive…alternative to the current front-runner.”

This is a mathematical problem the Democrats would be well advised to solve.

Thanks for the warning, counterfactual history!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New Dickheads Podcast on "The Man in the High Castle" Featuring Krajewski and Rosenfeld

One of the pleasures of writing about counterfactual history is the opportunity to come into contact with fellow “what if” aficionados. 

I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with David Agranoff, a fellow Bloomingtonian (“Hoosier” even), who together with Anthony Trevino, and Langhorne J. Tweed, runs a great podcast, brilliantly called Dickheads, on the fictional writings of Philip K. Dick. 

A few weeks back, David invited me to appear on the latest episode of the podcast, which featured a discussion on The Man in the High Castle, together with Bruce Krajewski, the editor of the wonderful volume, The Man in the High Castle and Philosophy.  

The podcast has just been made available, so if you’re interested in checking out the freewheeling discussion, click HERE.

Also, by all means check out the other Dickheads podcasts as well as Bruce’s blog, The Fourth Policeman.

Happy listening!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A New German Study on Nazi Counterfactuals: Johannes Rhein, et al, eds., Schlechtes Ged├Ąchtnis"

Yesterday I received my two complimentary copies (thanks!) of a great new anthology to which I was pleased to make a minor contribution:

Johannes Rhein, Julia Schumacher, and Lea Wohl von Haselberg's collection of essays, Schlechtes Ged├Ąchtnis?  Kontrafaktische Darstellungen des Nationalsozialismus in alten und neuen Medien.

I merely contributed a short preface, but the rest of the volume is well worth a look, for those of you who read German.

The volume includes essays on film, video games, and comic books -- and, of course, plenty of discussion of how Hitler is represented in diverse media.  The book (paperback) also includes lots of rare and intriguing photos, many in full color.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Friday, January 4, 2019

Advance Publicity for The Fourth Reich: The Specter of Nazism from World War II to the Present

I'm getting excited for the release of my new book, The Fourth Reich: The Specter of Nazism from World War II to the Present, next month.  And so in the effort to spread the word about its forthcoming publication, I'm posting some links to sites that have given advance publicity to it.

Two sites that have featured the book are Book Riot and Goodreads.

If you are interested click HERE and HERE.

I will be posting more about The Fourth Reich and its counterfactual dimensions in the coming weeks.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Ongoing Alternate History Onslaught: Philip Roth’s "The Plot Against America" to be an HBO Miniseries

The news that HBO has decided to produce Philip Roth’s novel, The Plot Against America, as a miniseries confirms that alternate history has never been more popular in American popular culture.

As I’ve chronicled on this blog, there have been numerous novels, films, television programs, and streaming web series that have appeared to public acclaim in the last several years.

They include:

·      Ben Winters, Underground Airlines
·      David Means, Hystopia
·      Kate Atkinson, Life After Life
·      Nava Semel, Isra Isle
·      Steven King, 11.22.63 (also a Hulu series)
·      Timeless (NBC)
·      Making History (Fox)
·      Confederate (announced by HBO and still pending)
·      1983 (forthcoming on Netflix)

Within this larger body of work, alternate histories of Nazism have been especially popular.

They include:

·      Lavie Tidhar, A Man Lies Dreaming
·      Simone Zelitch, Judenstaat
·      Timur Vermes, Look Who’s Back (Netflix)
·      The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel)
·      SS-GB (BBC2’s adaptation of Len Deighton’s novel)
·      The Hunt (Amazon’s upcoming Jordan Peele-produced show, about Nazi hunters in 1970s America.  it’s unclear whether this will be a secret history or alternate history, but let’s keep our options open for now).

And now comes The Plot Against America.

The reason for the genre’s popularity is obvious.  The surge of right-wing political activity in today’s America has made many of us fear for our future and prompted us to seek guidance from narratives that describe how events might have unfolded differently in the past.  

Some critics have recently argued that such dystopian narratives have become too much of an emotional burden in an era of heightened anxiety.  See “Dear Television, I Can’t Handle Another Prestige Drama About a Fascist Dystopia”).  

Yet, based on the success of The Handmaids Tale, The Leftovers, and other likeminded dystopian series, they speak to the national mood.  Alternate histories of Nazism are the most politically explicit expressions of this mood and I am excited that they are getting the big budget treatment by the Amazons, Netflixes, and HBO’s of the world.

I am convinced that they serve a salutary function by prompting us to think more deeply about the origins and consequences of historical events.

As for The Plot Against America, I am confident that HBO will remain faithful to the novel’s narrative, but I am curious to see how the network will handle the novel’s final section, where Roth ran out of gas and provided a rough outline – instead of a fleshed-out account – of how America ultimately avoids a dystopian fate.  

HBO will have a lot of flexibility in deciding how to pursue this climactic section.  In fact, it has a great opportunity to improve on the original.