I understand that the alternate history genre appears complex to people who aren’t, well, steeped in its little ways and assumptions. That’s fine; those of us who are fans of alternate history are used to folks who – through no fault of their own – don’t really groove to such things. Even fellow science fiction readers.
But for the love of everything that’s holy: if you’re trying to sell a particular book in the genre, compare it to something that fits.
Books That You Should Claim That Your Alternate History Book Is Like (in no particular order, and there are others):
- Bring the Jubilee
- The Man in the High Castle
- The Guns of the South
- Lest Darkness Fall
- Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen
- The Difference Engine
- The Iron Dream
- Seventh Son
- Anno Dracula
Books That You Should Not Claim That Your Alternate History Book Is Like:
- The Plot Against America
Now, this is not because Philip Roth is a tedious writer, although that was the conclusion that I came to after reading the first twenty pages of Plot*. It’s because the people who did read Philip Roth’s book mostly read it because it was Philip Roth’s book; they’re going to want to read books written in Philip Roth’s style. Try to give those people a book that merely has a similar (including similarly silly) plot and they’ll look at you funny. And as for alternate history enthusiasts? …Don’t get me started on the need to explain your historical change points. Believable and understandable historical change points are sometimes the only thing that separates an interesting extrapolation of possibilities onto a new canvas of history from let me tell you just how much I hated the Bush administration. Which I didn’t, but Roth certainly did – which is his privilege, but it’s a topic that’s not going to sell many books from here on out.
PS: On the other hand? Telling the community that a book is just like The Plot Against America serves as a wonderful warning, so never mind.
*To give you an idea: I flipped through the book to the end at that point, noted that Roth did the equivalent of And it was all a dream, wondered aloud at the ability of some people to get other people to read anything, and reread The Peshawar Lancers. Which, by the way, has always been able to keep my interest past page 20.