Alternate history  

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This page Alternate history is part of the fantasy series.Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès
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This page Alternate history is part of the fantasy series.
Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Alternate history or alternative history is a subgenre of speculative fiction (or science fiction) and historical fiction that is set in a world in which history has diverged from the actual history of the world. Alternate history literature asks the question, "What if history had developed differently?" Most works in this genre are based on real historical events, yet feature social, geopolitical, or industrial circumstances that developed differently than our own. While to some extent all fiction can be described as "alternate history," the subgenre proper comprises fiction in which a change or point of divergence occurs in the past that causes human society to develop in a way that is distinct from our own.

Since the 1950s, this type of fiction has to a large extent merged with science fictional tropes involving (a) cross-time, or paratime, travel between alternate histories/universes or psychic awareness of the existence of "our" universe by the people in another; or (b) ordinary voyaging uptime or downtime that results in history splitting into two or more timelines. Cross-time, time-splitting and alternate history themes have become so closely interwoven that it is impossible to discuss them fully apart from one another.

In French, alternate history novels are called uchronie. This neologism is based on the prefix u- (as in the word utopia, a place that does not exist) and the Greek for time, chronos. An uchronie, then, is defined as a time that does not exist, a "non-time". Another occasionally-used term for the genre is "allohistory" (lit. "other history").

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Alternate history" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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