Sunday, July 14, 2013

Podcast about counter-factual history

Together with my colleague in the field of academic historical research, Steven Attewell, the author behind the brillant blog "Race for the Iron Trone", I talk about counterfactual history and its impacts on our culture. We discuss the tripping wires that surround this field and why it is so attractive to Science Fiction authors as well as some examples of where counterfactual history is applied with a real gain and where it simply delivers nonsense. You can download the podcast here as an MP3. If you speak German, make also sure to check out my blog about history.

 Be sure to uncheck the "Sendspace Accelerator" box to avoid downloading useless software.


  1. Just got this on google alerts, as I recently did my dissertation on Counterfactual History. :) Will check it out as soon as I find the time.

  2. Good podcast, hope you make more in the future. The differing views and historical perspectives that come from being German or American makes for an interesting combination.

  3. It was interesting to hear this podcast from a historians point of view. Being a creative writer it's interesting to see that side of the equation. Part of the reason I'm sure writers stick to the great man of history theory is it gives stories a narrative and shape. And in truth if a significant event was changed probably there'd be a whole new set of famous people who'd either invent, legislate, or rule instead of those we know. But it'd be odd to have a book that just puts in President John Morse and famous inventor Thomas Greene. And then have a whole story of completely new people. I mean in truth if an event was changed a lot of people wouldn't be born of any of that. But one has to decide if they are creating counter factual history for literary reasons or for really examining issues inside of history. The hardest would be honestly melding the two and creating a book that is satisfying on both ends. Of course opinion has to play into it as well. Because we can't know what random events or happenstances would occur. If a weather event would come into play or crops dying or just some random crazy person doing something crazy. Even though single people generally don't affect history at times they can. If a lucky bullet hits a target or if a train derails or if someone dies or doesn't die. It's part of the fun of figuring out how much would be business as usual and how much would really shift.

  4. Thanks for the input! You said it yourself: doing this stuff is hard, but in my view, there's a certain responsibilty to it because it is so easily abused.

  5. I really enjoyed this podcast and second Steven's suggestion of The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's well-written, if nothing else and he uses the concept of reincarnation in an interesting way.

    If you think Turtledove is bad, Harry Harrison's Civil War series is horrid. Or, I should say, the first one is.

    I'd love to hear more from you guys on this and other historical subjects. Hearing about the currents in German academic history circles was especially interesting to me.

    The connection to golden age thinking was really, really insightful. It really is the same thing, or comes from the same place.