Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld


Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

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.

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