No! No! They Were Monsters, I Tell You, MONSTERS!

From The Man in the High Castle to SS-GB, alternative histories fascinate us. Again, what are we asked to believe in and – more importantly – why? Hitler won the war: thank God it never happened. Exploring this particular possibility at a safe distance allows us to be grateful we did not have to experience it. Characters in such danger are a thrill to watch.

Yes, it’s a favourite genre of mine. the lure of ‘What if…?’ is hard to deny. So it’s a good thing there’s a brand new one coming up, yes?

In Confederate we are to be presented with a possible world in which slavery is still a legal institution on US soil. Why are we to believe this, and to what purpose?

Errr….entertainment? Because characters in danger are ‘a thrill to watch’?

Confederate’s creators gave us Game of Thrones: they are past masters at tempering evil with flashes of stunning humanity. In a world where a black man, woman or child can be shot dead in the street and the killers are not even charged with a crime, let alone punished, will we be asked to believe in fictional slave-owning characters who are not so bad after all?

Well, yes. Because that’s the world as it was then. It wasn’t illegal. Isn’t that the whole point? Examining just how the institution of slavery would have turned out – or faded away – had things been different?

Writers of alternative history have a moral responsibility: we should always examine our motives. I hope that Confederate will not use a lie to hide the wider truth, yet my fear is that it will offer excuses for one of the most appalling episodes in our own history, and that it will give the neo-Nazis of Charlottesville and beyond another Confederate flag to bear – as if they needed more.

*sighs* Of course…

• False Lights by KJ Whittaker is published in hardback by Head of Zeus on 7 September

Gosh! I wonder why you felt a need to ride the coat-tails of this particular controversy?

9 comments for “No! No! They Were Monsters, I Tell You, MONSTERS!

  1. September 15, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    What ifs are all very good, but if this drama tells us slavery would have progressed into the modern era, it’s not a very good one. I can’t see that happening under any turn of circumstance

    It will probably just be an excuse to remind us all how racist and horrible we’re supposed to think the Confederacy was

    • JS
      September 15, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Agreed. The whole drift of western culture since before the American civil war has been against slavery and it’s inconceivable that the USA would still practice slavery in the modern world whatever the outcome of that war. Even without ethical considerations it would have become completely impractical and financially unsustainable many decades ago.

      Other cultures however, cultures which won’t get a major TV series criticizing them…

    • September 24, 2017 at 8:19 am

      Yup. It can’t really be anything else, these days.

  2. Dr Evil
    September 15, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    ‘Ang on. You shoot my expensive property on the street and there is no redress? What about my compensation regarding their value?

  3. September 15, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    “cultures which won’t get a major TV series criticizing them…”

    Yet deserve to be criticized good and hard every day

  4. September 17, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    uchronia dot net is a good site for finding alternate history novels.

    • September 24, 2017 at 8:20 am

      I do love these. It’s a shame ‘Man In The High Castle’ was such a poorly acted disappointment.

      • September 24, 2017 at 11:57 am

        First or second?

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