When reading Alternate History, it seems not unlike hard scifi in that the authors take painstaking care to make everything technically (historically) correct. Alt History then does a “what if this happened instead? How would it change everything?” But they hew to history for every other detail in culture as well as technology as they work out the unfolding consequences.
When reading most scifi, though, it’s far less concerned with keeping to a factually correct probable future, instead of taking a single “if this goes on, how would it shape a world and society?” Even hard scifi, which I like, tends to focus on either making sure the physics is correct, or the hardware is within the current limits of extrapolation, but often fails to consider the change of cultures and how they’d be affected.
(Despite allegations, space opera can be much harder sci-fi on culture and biology affecting culture than the, ah, rivet-counting end of the spectrum. Lois Bujold and Monalisa Foster are both very good at building cultures off biology.)
But you know what’s really hewing closely to culture, politics, and technology with only a little speculation? Thrillers. The line between near-future thriller and science fiction is invisible to absent… consider Jurassic Park, or Peter Nealen’s Escalation.
Jim Curtis and James Young have just come out with a near-future thriller and an alternate-history thriller respectively, with two radically different, but extremely faithful takes on people, culture, and what if.
Sean ‘Mac’ McCampbell just wants to keep his head down, avoid the riots, and finish his Linguistics PhD before his GI Bill runs out. But when the professors are promoting insurrection and the cops won’t contain the violence, Mac finds trouble won’t leave the people and places he loves alone.
There’s only so much hurt you can inflict on a man before he decides to do something about it.
The Long March is about to get a real surprise on April first!
July 1943. When the United Kingdom was torn asunder under a hail of German firebombs and nerve gas, the distant outpost of Ceylon was an afterthought for both Allies and Axis. Now, one year after King George VI’s death, the small island off of India becomes center stage for a titanic confrontation…
For Vice Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, the Commonwealth forces on the island sit astride Japan’s sole reliable source of oil. With the Dutch East Indies’ refineries damaged during the Imperial Japanese conquest, Axis crude from the Persian Gulf and rubber from Ceylon’s plantations will be critical to the Japanese Navy’s ability to continue the war into 1944. Yamaguchi knows challenging Vice Admiral Andrew Cunningham may end poorly. Still, the Kido Butai is undefeated, and with good planning the Commonwealth’s Far East Fleet will have to face Yamaguchi’s carriers alone. With the Empire’s lifeblood on the line, the Japanese must roll the dice!