Alternate History is a an interesting novel genre. Basically, this genre explores the potentials of what might have happened if a particular event had gone in a different direction- the great "What ifs" of history.
So what would cause an event to be a "what if"? In a simple answer, and event we know of in our history goes differently. Because this particular X event goes differently- creating a point of divergence leading to a different timeline (even more than one separate timeline)- the history known in that timeline can be very minor to oven greatly varied from what we know in our history. It can be a very minor event that leads to a big change in history- a big change in history can lead to even bigger changes.
What inspired this journal entry is the Southern Victory Series (or Timeline-191) by Harry Turtledove. This series' point of divergence is centered around Robert E. Lee's Special Order 191, known in our history as "The Lost Dispatch"/"The Lost Order." In our history, SO191 is recovered by Union forces after its lost by Confederate forces, thus leading to the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam. In the TL-191 universe, Confederate scouts taking the orders to the needed forces lose the orders, but other scouts recover them, thus preventing the capture of SO191 by Union forces.
The result is that the CSA is recognized as a nation by France and Great Britain, and ultimately gains independence from the USA. The Civil War is officially known as "The War of Secession" in the TL-191 universe, and this starts a series of different events compared to what we know. As I have continued to read the series, there are a number events that are same or similar, and based on what I've read, I expect to find more similar events in the series.
So, what about writing in the Alternate History genre? As I have said in prior entries, you must know your history, locations and people. In the Alternate History genre, you really must know your history (and the material associated with it) if you are going to create a point of divergence to an alternate timeline. The people, the events- especially the causalities and results pertaining to the events, the various nations and any related alliances, cultures, etc. The writer must be aware of the general situation of the event to be changed. But also having the courage and willingness to have the imagination to see that one little thing that would set up an alternate history from what we know is also important. So take a chance as well.
For next month, we'll talk about memoirs.