Horribly implausible alternate history

I, being the history dork that I am, love alternate history. I love the infinite possibilities, the looking at history from different angles etc.

But what gives the genre a bad name is when an author writes something so insanely implausible that it completely takes you out of the story.

The biggest example I can think if is David McCullough’s 1776.

I mean seriously, c’mon. We have the strongest empire on the planet get defeated by a bunch of colonialists. There are so many little things that would have to go right in order for that to happen. So many that it’s not realistic in the least bit. It goes from being a mental exercise to anti-British wankery.

Another one: The Battle of Thermopylae. On one hand we have the Persian army. Some historians say at least a million strong, and they were held off by what? A thousand Greeks at best? Heck, that entire war is so cliche redden. There is no way the Greeks could have beat the Persians, in that battle or any that followed.

Any other examples of writers forgoing logic and giving this genre a bad name?

Alternate history is one of my favorite genres in speculative fiction. But I have to ask, is the OP whooshing?

Of course, there’s also the siege of Lucknow during the Sepoy Mutiny. I mean how plausible was it that they happened to miscount their supplies in the beginning and discovered they had enough for several weeks instead of being almost out? Completely implausible.

Then there’s the Battle of Midway. Are we expected to believe that the US planes attacked at precisely the moment the Japanese planes were on the carriers instead of in the air, and changing their ammunition, so the decks were littered with high explosives? Completely implausible.

I’m assuming he is joking.

I thought it was going to be about movies like J.F.K. that bring up wild conspiracy theories and what-ifs. I’m guessing not.

Exactly. That’s just lazy writing. Oh, and it ‘just so happens’ to turn out to be one of the turning points of the war in the pacific for the U.S.

I hear there’s an alternative timeline of the Hundred Years War in which King John II of France, upon being paroled from captivity in England after his capture in the Battle of Poitiers, could not raise the agreed-upon ransom, and so returned to captivity in Britain voluntarily. NO ONE would really do that.

Similarly, there’s a modern novel purporting to tell the tale of a modern Europe. When the French were building out their toll-road system, Brittany was excepted due to a several-hundred-year old law that forbids toll roads in Brittany. Since when were laws made several radical changes of government and centuries ago ever enforced?

It’s actually sorta true the way you phrase it here, but in the usually known details, it’s wrong. For example, there were virtually no Japanese planes on the flight decks of the carriers, there was very little ammunition lying around, and to say that there was a “moment” when the Japanese planes were on their carriers is fatally misleading, because U.S. attacks spanned a long, long time during which some planes were at all times aboard the Japanese carriers. There’s more.

I personally can’t stand the “Sinking of the Bismarck”.

I can’t buy that the British knew where it would be in the Denmark Strait. They just “happened” to have destroyers equipped with radar monitoring that specific part of the GIUK gap. So they call up the Hood. And the Bismarck blows her sky high. Which is exactly as it should be. But come on, just because the Prinz Eugen and the Bismarck were new vessels, doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have sent the Prince of Wales to the bottom of the sea. She hadn’t even done a full shakedown cruise. The Bismarck had guns as large as steers and her shells were as big as trees, for cryin’ out loud!

And the Bismark is hit and starts leaking fuel oil. Preposterous. She’s followed by the British fleet and the Prinz Eugen doesn’t escort her to Brest. And then there’s the “jammed rudder” torpedo hit by planes from the Ark Royal. I don’t think anyone could recreate that. They were BIPLANES for God’s sake! So the ship is stuck in a huge circle, just out of range of air cover. Very convenient.

However, one thing that the story did get right is that the British couldn’t have actually sunk the Bismarck, she was scuttled in the face of overwhelming odds. But seriously, can’t you put a little more thought into your “Churchill and his lapdogs winning the war” stories. Aliens invading from outer space in the middle of the war is more plausible than that!

Taking the thread title at face value and, not being familiar with the book in question, I initially thought that someone had written a story where the colonists, flush with victory, take their war onto English soil and overthrow the British Crown.

Quick! Someone get on it!

You forgot the worst part: when a British squadron mistook the Sheffield for the Bismarck and started attacking it, not only did the crewmen recognize the planes as their own and not return fire, but the torpedoes malfunctioned and detonated upon hitting the water, not only sparing the Sheffield but preventing a pointless and potentially costly run against the Bismarck!

[Wayne]Shyeaah! And monkeys might fly out of my butt![/Wayne]

They might as well say we landed on the moon back in the 60s or something.

And the whole idea that a country’s diplomatic traffic to another country would fall into the hands of a third country that they were trying to conspire against? Good grief! Can you please be more original. The whole Zimmerman Telegram just stinks of lazy writing.

And there’s the whole sub-genre of “Military Adventurism” that’s completely FUBAR. I don’t care how charismatic, or lucky people are, or how corrupt and screwed up the original government might be, but I’m not going to buy that small bands of Europeans could take over Latin American countries with pipsqueek armies. It’s just not reasonable.

Yeah, like Pizarro and his band of 200 Spaniards - taking on the entire Incan Empire and subjugating it to the Spanish crown?

I bet the author just couldn’t think of anything better than superstition and plague and internal intrigue to give Pizarro the ability to capture the Emperor. What kind of shoddy writing is this?

ETA: And what kind of a bizarre name is Pizarro anyway? This isn’t even remotely believeable.

wevets - And they keep writing similar crap, too! It’s not just Pizzaro!.

There was a sort of sequel, set in the same universe where this asshole from the ahem former colonies, by the name of William Walker took over another country! (Twice, IIRC)

On a more serious mntoe, with actual implausible alternative history, I once read a story about an alternative droping the atmoic bomb scenario. Specifically, it was a ludicrously pacifistic wank-fest, where the callous American govenrment executes the poor, honest, decent kind, brave soul who dropped the bomb over water. And the Emperor, naturally, decides to call the whole war off, and everyone was happy, and peace societies flourish throughout the land, and no one evermore ever wants to use those naughty awful nuclear weapons ever againsies!

I swear, it was like someone made an entire World of Mary Sue.

Well, there is always the example of If Lee Had Not Won The Battle of Gettysburg by Winston Churchill. Lee not win at Gettysburg? How preposterous!!

Zev Steinhardt

Then there’s the one where a system of Soviet satellites indicated that the US had launched a nuclear attack, at a time when US-Soviet relations were very tense and some people in the USSR were just about expecting a nuclear attack, and some guy figured out that it was a false alarm. Nobody could really do that in that kind of situation.

Let’s not forget the idiocy a few years back with the story by Chet Nimitz: “The Monitor and the Merrimac.” First off, I was highly disappointed that a reputable author like Nimitz would forget that when she was in service as an ironclad she was the CSS Virginia. The USS Merrimac was scuttled at Norfolk, and only through the unstinting work of our engineers, working on a shoestring with improvised tools made serviceable again.

No, that wasn’t enough of an insult.

Nimitz had those damned Yankees get wind of the plans to put an iron shell around the Virginia, and so they speed constructed not one but three from-scratch ironclad ships. Anyone with half a brain could see that the New Ironsides was the only plausible ship of the group, and she took forever to get finished, even in Nimitz’ ideal world. But that’s not the biggest insult - he had some damned foreign johnny show up with “award-winning” plans for a coastal defense craft that would be ideal to fight the Virginia.

And building a completely new class of ship, all iron construction, nothing like what they were doing with the New Ironsides, Nimitz had them finish construction of that stupid Monitor thing in just over 100 days! And it got to Hampton Roads in time to meet the Virginia, the day after the Virginia began her first war cruise! What a coincidence.


After the way the author played with probabilities like that, I’m shocked he didn’t just have his supership sink the Viriginia. I guess even he couldn’t piss on the memory of one of the finest ships of our Navy like that.

I read this completely awesome juvie about a man who lead an expedition to the South Pole. His ship got trapped in ice, and after a time he realized that they weren’t going to be rescued. So he gets a couple of really thin kayak-type things and travels a thousand miles or so until he finds civilization - whereupon he leads the men back to his ship and rescues everybody. And I mean everybody, because despite all the hardship not a single person died (IIRC)!

Then it gets even more juvenile. The poor man goes to New Zealand, realizes his supply ship is in trouble, then goes back to Antarctica to rescue them!

Yeah, it’s unbelievable as all hell and completely snort-with-derision-worth, but the true genius of this book (and why I remember it after all these years) is that it was written in the form of an autobiography. What really added verisimilitude were the appendixes - sort of like in Dune, but with more detail. If you can stand fantastically-implausible adventure stories written by a man who knows how to honestly write in the voice a turn-of-the-century scientist/explorer, this book is for you.

JohnT, didn’t they have some clever chap fake up some photographs to go with that book?

I mean, not only are they trying to survive a disaster of unprecedented proportions in the most inhospitable land known to man, but they’ve still got people taking photographs while they do that? And managed to save them?

Photoshop has a lot to answer for, if you ask me.

Hell, even I could see that it was fake snow on a set. But even if the “photos” were real (assuming the story was real), I’ve seen enough movies to know that you dump all your shit prior to being rescued (unless its some big blue diamond that you idiotically want to throw back in the sea 70 years later, or something). Why didn’t they bother to rescue clothes while they were at it? :rolleyes:

It kind of reminded me of that Simpson’s episode where the baseball player has to rescue everything in the burning house. With worse imagery.