counterfactual n.

a work of alternate history n.

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism

  • 1991 R. Schmunk Alternate History List (v7) in rec.arts.sf.written (Usenet newsgroup) 30 Oct. page image

    This is a list of (nominally) SF stories involving Alternate Histories, also known as What If? stories, Allohistory and Counterfactuals.

  • 1997 Interzone July 58/1

    Instead, we are plunged into densely-reasoned arguments against historical determinism, examining familiar…‘counterfactuals’.

  • 2000 JEyers The End in alt.cult-movies.alien (Usenet newsgroup) 6 Dec. page image

    I don’t like it when people call Fatherland a Counterfactual instead of a science fiction thriller.

  • 2006 G. Dozois Counterfactual in Year’s Best SF 12 (2007) 92 page image Gardner Dozois bibliography

    Counterfactuals had become increasingly popular in recent years—perhaps because the public had been denied the opportunity to play soldier during the Great War—until they were now almost respectable as pulp stories went, and you could make decent money selling them. But in writing Counterfactuals, you had to provide some kind of tipping-point, some event that would have changed everything that came after—and it had to be at least superficially plausible, or the fans, armchair historians all, would tear you to pieces.

  • 2007 C. McGrath A Prince of Pulp, Legit at Last in N.Y. Times 6 May

    The main exception is ‘The Man in the High Castle,’ his most sustained and most assured attempt at mainstream respectability, and it’s barely a sci-fi book at all but, rather, what we would now call a ‘counterfactual’; its premise is that the Allies lost World War II and the United States is ruled by the Japanese in the west and the Nazis in the east.

  • 2016 SFX (#279) Nov. 84/2 page image

    It had a troubled route towards publication because ‘a young editor’ about whom Priest is less than polite wanted to make the book into a ‘counterfactual’ akin to Robert Harris’s Fatherland (1992). This entirely missed the point because Priest was more interested in why things turn out how they do than in why they might have turned out differently.

Research requirements

antedating 1991

Earliest cite

on Usenet

Research History
Jacek Dobrzyniecki submitted a number of cites.
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2006 cite from Gardner Dozois.
David Lewis published a book of philosophy in 1973 called "Counterfactuals" in which he discusses the possibility of alternate worlds. We would be interested in obtaining any cites from this book that indicate he used "counterfactual" to mean an alternate world or history.

We would like cites of any date from other sources.

Last modified 2021-10-05 11:15:29
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.