alternate history n.

a timeline that is different from that of our own world, usually extrapolated from the changing of a single event; the subgenre featuring such a timeline; (also) a story featuring this

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism


  • 1954 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Feb. 40 page image

    We had thought that Mr. Reynolds had pretty well covered the subject of time travel and alternate continua in such deft exercises as The Business, As Usual (F&SF, June, 1952) and The Adventure of the Snitch in Time (F&SF, July, 1953); but here is yet another adroit variant…with a startling footnote to the alternate history of our own Old West.

  • 1967 S. L. Miesel Letter in Worlds of If June 162/1 page image Sandra Miesel bibliography

    May I submit a long-cherished premise? Why doesn’t someone base an alternate history series on the absence of Mohammed? This single difference could have drastically changed our world.

  • 1967 A. Norton Operation Time Search i. 6 Andre Norton bibliography

    You have heard of the alternate history theory—that from each major historical decision two alternate worlds come into being.

  • 1984 B. Stableford The SF Sub-genres in D. Wingrove Science Fiction Source Book (1984) 51 Brian Stableford

    Essays in alternate history have long been a favorite game among historians, but as respectable intellectuals the historians have been timid in their ventures. SF writers, by contrast, are anything but timid—what they often lack is a sense of historical coherency.

  • 1991 Locus Nov. 21/2

    Allen Steele’s ‘Goddard’s People’ is more substantial as alternate history.

  • 1992 M. Resnick Alternate Presidents Introd. p. ix Mike Resnick bibliography

    Contrary to popular belief, science fiction does not necessarily have to look to the future to ask the question. A growing sub-genre of the field is the Alternate History story: what if Jesus had never lived, what if the Spanish Armada had destroyed the British fleet, what if the South had won the Civil War?

  • 1992 Locus June 58/1

    ‘In the Stone House’ is by far the best, an alternate history tale in which Joe Kennedy…survives to become President.

  • 1997 Science-Fiction Studies Mar. 145

    Even though he writes passionately against the genre of alternate histories being included among sf subgenres, two of his most expansive ruminations are on steampunk books, Tim Powers’s Anubis Gates and Gibson-Sterling’s Difference Engine, which became occasions for passionate lectures on Dickens’s contribution to urban fantasy.

  • 1998 Interzone Feb. 4/3

    This continuum is one of the fascinating things about alternate history: it runs from the borders of elfland fantasy to the common rooms of academia.

  • 2002 G. K. Wolfe in Locus Jan. 19/1 Gary K. Wolfe

    Few alternate history tales really concern themselves with alternate history at all, in the sense of tracing large patterns of historical change; instead they tend to focus on alternate presents, with the evolutionary processes that lead to such presents sketched in with a few paragraphs of backstory.

  • 2002 G. K. Wolfe in Locus Jan. 19/1 Gary K. Wolfe

    From the beginning, though, Robinson’s interest in the alternate-history motif was far more complex than what the subgenre has since turned into, with alterations in history viewed as little more story machines and setting generators.

  • 2002 Asimov’s Science Fiction Sept. 137/1

    Here’s an alternate history based on the assumption that a series of comet impacts in the mid-nineteenth century forced the British empire to relocate the center of its government to India.

Research requirements

antedating 1954

Earliest cite

Editorial matter in Fantasy & Science Fiction

Research History
Alexx Kay submitted a 1990 cite from an essay by Gardner Dozois in Dozois' "The Year's Best SF Seventh Annual Collection".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1989 cite from Ian Watson, from an essay in "Nebula Awards 23".
Matthew Hoyt submitted a 1984 cite from Brian Stableford, in David Wingrove's "Science Fiction Source Book".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2002 cite from Gary Wolfe's Locus review column.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1997 cite from SF Studies.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2002 cite from Peter Heck's book review column in Asimov's.
Jeff Prucher submitted a cite from the entry on Howard Waldrop, by Peter Nicholls, in the 1995 edition of the Nicholls/Clute "Encyclopedia of SF"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1993 edition.
Douglas Winston submitted a 1967 cite from Andre Norton's "Operation Time Search".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1954 cite from editorial material in F&SF.

Last modified 2022-05-19 20:01:13
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.