It's time to put on glad rags and view The Sammies.
1000? What sort of a title is that? What on earth is he talking about? Has he completely lost his marbles?
Well, maybe. But there’s a reason for 1000.
This is the 1000th article on the SLP blog.
That’s right. The SLP blog has reached 4 figures. Which, with an average article length of 2000 words, represents 2 million words of erudition and delight.
Normally, this would be the signal for the Editor to do a retrospective and repeat some of the highlights so far. The trouble is, I’ve only been Editor for a short period, so I can’t reasonably do that.
However, it’s a milestone that I can’t just ignore.
And, most importantly, this has to be a celebration of the wonderful articles that have appeared.
Those of you who know me will be aware that modesty is not my strongest trait. Indeed, I am told that I have the modesty of a prima donna – a truly modest amount of modesty. So when I thought about how we could celebrate the many wonderful articles that have been published, my mind went instantly to red carpets and formal wear and the adulation of the multitude.
So, don your glad rags, your flamboyant formal wear, walk the red carpet, and prepare yourself for the adulation of the multitudes. It’s not the Oscars, but it is their AH cousin, the Sammies.
If you are ready, it’s time to play the music and it’s time to light the lights. It’s time to put on make-up and it’s time to dress up right.
It's time to dress up right.
Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
I welcome you to the Sammies.
A job lot of awards. I think that's everything...
I’ve no intention of picking outright winners. I’m not stupid enough to offend those brilliant article writers who don’t quite win an award. I need to encourage people to keep writing so that we reach 2000, 3000, 10,000, possibly more articles and subsequent Sammy Ceremonies. I'm not stupid enough to please 1 person by declaring them the winner while simultaneously upsetting everyone who didn't win.
What I will do is present nominations for the different categories. If you want to try and pick winners from them, that’s up to you. I said when I became editor that I intended to try and follow the Reithian Principles of: Educate; Entertain; Inform. As a result, that's how I decided on the categories for award.
The first category of awards is for Series That Educate:
Andy Cooke’s series on Airships.
Is there anything more iconic to AH than airships? This series tells you, part by part, how airships work, how they operate, and how they could have become a dominant force if history had been a little different.
Alex Richards’ epic series on the Thirty Years War
A transformative war that devastated much of Germany. It’s also a war that has received shamefully little coverage in fiction. This series of 50 articles solves the issue of awareness of the details.
Gary Oswald’s series on Africa.
Big place, Africa. With a lot of history. And all too frequently, when it is covered in AH (or historical fiction, for that matter), it is covered extremely badly and with no nuance or even understanding that it’s a big place with a lot of variety.
Paul Hynes’ series on Barbarossa.
This is a well-known event in history; the sort of thing that “everyone knows”. Only, as Paul shows in his in-depth analysis, what we think we know and what actually was aren’t necessarily the same thing.
Stalin, Hitler's foe once Barbarossa started.
The second category is for Single Articles that Educate.
Bonniecanuck’s article on Unit 731.
Not for the faint of heart, this looks at the infamous Unit 731, the Japanese research unit that looked into biological warfare during WW2.
Andy Cooke on Alternate History and Pandemics.
Andy’s usual prescient look at issues (I am convinced he has a crystal ball; his musings on the future have been so often confirmed when reality catches up with his predictions) surrounding pandemics. Published right at the start of the Covid crisis.
Gary Oswald on what a vignette is.
On the SLP forum, we run a monthly Vignette Challenge for Alternate History fiction. This article explains exactly what a vignette is, allowing more budding writers to try their hand at one. If that’s not educational, I’m a green koala. (Note: I am not a green koala).
Eoin Mulligan on the Vocabulary of Soldiers.
Discreet communities tend to develop there own language and jargon. Soldiers are no exception to this, and this is a wonderful little primer indicating how such might develop.
The third category is for Interesting Interviews.
Among the articles are several that are interviews with famous and influential people within AH. Authors, publishers, artists, academics, and all sorts. Choosing four from amongst them was difficult, and everyone will have a different selection. Still, I’m the Blog Editor, and this is my selection, based on significance and interest.
One of the biggest names in Alternate History. A giant in the community.
Harry Turtledove. Such a magnificent beard.
He’s the owner and found of SLP. He’s a prolific author. He’s involved in AH interactive theatre. Is there anything he can’t do?
Author of the strongly selling Drake’s Drum series. I think I am right in saying that Drake’s Drum is currently SLP’s best and most consistent seller.
Steampunk detective fiction writer. One of the more interesting combinations of genre.
The fourth category, and one of my favourites in the field of entertainment here, are the Vignettes.
The Bulgu, by Lena Worwood.
Written for the 55th Vignette Challenge, on the subject of Specialist Interests.
A fine display of Alternate History and Horror.
Nonsuch, by Jason Sharp.
Written for the 54th Vignette Challenge on the subject of Broadcasting.
Now this paints a remarkably clear vision of a world with a deftness of touch. I don’t think it’s a place I would like to live, but the depiction of individual and societal attitudes is excellent.
Parliamentary Procedure, by Liam Connell
Written for the 6th Challenge, on the subject of Cliché.
This is, quite simply, a lot of fun. A tour de force of the art of pastiche writing.
El Salvadaor Salvadoreño by Alex Langer
Written for the 16th Challenge, on the subject of Revolutions.
Chosen because it is a deftly drawn word picture. One of my personal favourites.
The fifth category is on those articles that inform our ability to write, to create future Sammy winners.
Articles on the art of writing.
(You really don’t want to know how long I spent reviewing articles for this. As soon as I found an article, I had to read it in detail).
Now, this was what I call informative.
Tom Anderson (who else) discusses Time Travel in Fiction.
Ah, the Fiction Friction series. Every one a winner.
Gary Oswald looks at the question of War in AH, and how necessary it is.
To be honest, the title of the article tells you exactly what it will discuss: Can you write an historical story ignoring war?
Images from the Vietnam War.
Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Colin Salt, on The Promise and the Peril of the Timeline format.
This looks into how the choice of format for the AH – narrative, media snippets, strict TL, other – will impact how the AH develops and what its focus will be. A brief and insightful piece.
For the sixth category, informing the reader what to expect from a book.
Monroe Templeton on Guns of the South, by Harry Turtledove
Whatever else one say about the review, one is left in no doubt regarding the reviewer’s opinion.
Matthew Kresal reviews the comic Batman ’89.
Let’s not forget that not all AH is in books. Or films. Or TV shows. Or radio.
Adam Selby-Martin reviews The Moscow Option by David Downing.
OK. While I have problems with the premise of the book, which follows a number of handwavium elements, Adam gives a very interesting and informative review of the book.
Gary Oswald: Alternate History as a Political Tract
The final piece in this category is not so much a review as an essay, but a thought provoking one that I had to include in the nominations somewhere. I’m bending the rules that I invented myself. Sue me if you like, but do read the article.
We turn our attention now to Books. SLP publishes books, so I’m putting books up as Nominees for Sammies.
The seventh Sammy category is for SLP Books.
The four nominees are:
Drake’s Drum, by Nicholas Sumner.
Probably SLP’s best-selling book. It’s got Big Ships, WW2, and a stonking good writing style. Of course it’s going to be a best-selling book.
Fourth Lectern, by Andy Cooke.
And this is arguably SLP’s most politically prescient book. It’s spooky just how accurately Andy caught the political trends well ahead of their becoming reality. Have you ever thought of becoming a political pundit, Andy?
Fight Them On the Beaches, Anthology edited by Katherine Foy.
This is Sealion Press. This anthology is about Operation Sealion. It’s a match made in Publisher’s Heaven.
Agent Lavender, by Tom Black and Jack Tindale.
Arguably the iconic SLP book, and certainly one of the first. A fun romp set in the 1970s, with the premise being that the rumours that Harold Wilson was a Soviet asset were accurate. (Cue muttered comment from Editor that most intelligence assets don’t realise that they are assets). Pretty much anyone and everyone from the UK of the era plays a role.
The second book category, and the eighth Sammy award category, is SFP books.
SFP: Sergeant Frosty Publications. Owner, one David Flin.
I admit it. This sector is pure self-indulgence. I think I deserve it. And if I don't, well, the books are stand-out enough that I forgive myself.
More seriously, the books highlighted here are, in their various ways, AH, and are well worth a look. Yeah, I’m totally shameless.
Ten Years Later. Anthology edited by David Flin
Written to support Ukraine reconstruction. This contains 13 short stories looking at the theme of Ten Years after a war (possibly the ongoing war in Ukraine), and how things might develop.
Skyborn, by Andy Cooke.
This was possibly my favourite book of all those I read in 2022. A tale set in a post-apocolytic world, with airships, nuclear reactors, laundry rooms, and a cute dog. What’s not to like?
Building Jerusalem series (6 books), by David Flin
Set in 1920 in a world in which WWI never quite started (yet, anyway. The tensions are still there), this book follows the fortunes and misfortunes of four young British soldiers. Described as a mixture of Barrack Room Ballads meets Beau Geste, which is fair enough as that was the feel I was going for.
Alternate Tastes of London, by Andrew and Kat Flin
Set in the format of a series of travel guides to contemporary versions of London, although in worlds with a different history (for example, there’s one where Harald Hardrede won the race to be King of England in 1066), and imagines how history develops and how this impacts London.
The book covers culture, sport, economics, and culinary aspects. And yes, it does include usable recipes.
The ninth and final category is AH classics, by which I mean books that have withstood the test of time.
Lest Darkness Fall, by L Sprague de Camp
This has been reviewed on the blog before.
Set in the late Roman period, it is a classic of the Time Travelling Hero who changes the course of history. It is said to have sparked Harry Turtledove's interest in Byzantine history.
War of the Worlds, by HG Wells.
Both science fiction and social commentary. The book is frequently misunderstood; the role-playing game Space 1899 made great play about its Victorian Colonialism amongst the inner planets of the solar system being inspired by this work, among others. All one can say is that they obviously hadn’t actually read the book, because it’s a fairly obvious: “This is what colonialism looks like from the side of those colonised.”
See also the ongoing War of the Worlds in Real Time.
1984, by George Orwell
A dystopia that introduced many new words and concepts to the English language. Big Brother, proles, and all the rest. Control the language, and you control how people think.
For Want of a Nail, by Robert Sobel.
For better or worse, this provided the template of the faux history text with footnotes and imagined commentary. It is, I have to admit, a style that isn’t to my taste, but there’s no doing its influence on the genre.
For the final category, we have four people who have, over the years, contributed massively to the Blog. In alphabetical order:
Tom Anderson: For a constant stream of well-written and well-researched articles on a huge range of subjects: Terry Pratchett, Star Trek, Fiction Friction... The list goes on and on. I remain in awe at just how prolific he has been for how long.
Andy Cooke: The first editor, and the person who created the framework and the ethos of professionalism for the articles. It's fair to say that without him, there would be no blog. It certainly wouldn't be of such high quality.
Ryan Fleming: Another prolific contributor, with a depth of knowledge and a breadth of knowledge that are awe-inspiring.
Gary Oswald: The second editor, who took Andy's creation and developed it further, introducing new ideas and concepts, taking the blog to another level of quality.
And there you have it. Nominations for ten categories. Doubtless you can debate what I have missed, and what extra categories there should be.
Comment on these awards HERE.