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The Alternate Lavender Island.

Marooned guest: Andrew J Harvey.

You know the form by now.

Another day, another guest marooned, replacing the previous victim. Guest. I must say guest. This time, we welcome Andrew J Harvey, who is the author of 1827: Napoleon in Australia, shortlisted for the International 2021 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History, which also won the 2020 award for the best Western Australian Professional SF Short Work. He was also the leading figure behind War of the Worlds in Real Time, a month-long look at the book by HG Wells in a contemporary format, as reviewed on this blog .

Welcome to the isolation of Lavender Island, Andrew. What’s the first AH book you’ve chosen?

It has to be one of Illona Andrew’s Hidden Legacy books. Probably one of Catalina’s stories, and I’d chose Diamond Fire. It’s only a novella (40,000 words), but the characters are just so well-crafted, delightful, and larger than life that I’ve reread the story multiple times.

And yes, the series has magic. Lots and lots of magic, and it probably only qualifies as ASB (Alien Space Bats ) AH, but it does have a clear point of divergence. To quote the book’s opening:

In 1863, in a world much like our own, European scientists discovered the Osiris serum, a concoction which brought out one’s magic talent...

And it goes from there.

Picture courtesy Amazon.

And the second AH book you’ve selected?

Eric Flint’s 1632, the book that launched the whole Ring of Fire universe. Although I’ve read it at least five times, and have a number of its sequels, I haven’t opened it for over ten years, so it’s probably time to dust it off again. In hindsight, it was probably 1632 that introduced me to the fact that characters could be “fun”.

Moving on to your third book. What is it?

I definitely need a Harry Turtledove book, so World War – Tilting the Balance. I chose this one from the series as it’s the one where humanity starts to get its act together.

Can you talk about your fourth book?

I was initially thinking of Grant Comes East, the last book in Newt Gingrich and William R Forstchen’s alternate history trilogy, but I think to really appreciate it, I’d need to re-read the first two books in the series to be reminded of everything that happened before it.

I have therefore chosen SM Stirling’s Conquistador, which is a stand-alone, unfortunately. It’s a fun read, the characters are well-drafted, and the heroine has more than a passing resemblance to Mary, Richard Hannay’s love interest in the series written by John Buchan, and who was my first romantic love when I was a teenager.

SM Stirling's Conquistador. It says so on the cover.

Picture courtesy Amazon.

What’s the fifth and final AH book you’ve chosen?

It’s one of my own books, currently unpublished. For the Honor of the Agency is a follow up to my Clemhorn Trilogy. I’ve recently re-read it as an e-book and I’m really pleased with it, despite the two main characters deciding to throw the carefully contrived plot I’d written for them out of the window and just barrel through the obstacles I kept throwing at them. As they do it with such style and enthusiasm, however, I can’t do anythong other than admire them for it.

You’re also allowed one history book of OTL history. What will you be taking?

The Second World War, by Antony Beevor. Beevor is a singularly brilliant writer with the ability to make history interesting. That’s a task that is more difficult than most people realise. In addition, at 783 pages it will fill in a lot of time.

Those are your books. Music. What AH music would you like to have with you?

I’m considering two. The first would be the live recording of Hawkwind’s Australian tour in 1978 AH. Unfortunately, despite extensive touring in 1974 of the UK, Europe, and North America in OTL, Hawkwind never got to Australia due to their drug offences presenting visa issues. I was 17 when their Warrior on the Edge of Time album (lyrics by Michael Moorcock) came out and I fell in love with it. If they’d toured Australia in 1978, I’d have been at their concert, so this is actually just a bit of a cheat to have seen them live.

The other option is Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. I played a lot of it while I was uploading The War of the Worlds in Real Time to Twitter in June, and it’s still as good as I remember it.

After thinking about it, I’ll go with Jeff Wayne’s album. I’m happy with my life and there’s too much chance of screwing up the timeline if Hawkwind toured Australia.

The final item you are allowed is a luxury item taken from Alternate History. What have you chosen?

We need a bit of context before I answer this one. I am fascinated by Christian religious relics, and when we’re on holiday in Europe, I always take the opportunity to check out the local cathedral.

Reliquaries are interesting from two perspectives: the stories they tell about the saint, and the historical background of the item itself.

One of my biggest thrills was standing next to the purported Holy Chalice, believed by many to be the true Holy Grail, in Valencia. The chapel was under renovation at the time, so the Chalice was on display in a temporary facility outside the cathedral which allowed visitors to get within centimetres of it.

No Monty Python jokes, please.

Picture courtesy Very Valencia.

The chalice is made of plain stone and bears Arabic inscriptions dating from the 1st Century and certainly has the best provenance of any competitors for the title.

The chalice was originally in the possession of King Alfonso V of Aragon, who was short of cash at the time due to the war he was involved in. He approached the Church for a loan, offering the “Holy Grail” as security. However, the loan proved insufficient for his needs and he approached the Church for more cash, agreeing to transfer ownership of the chalice to the cathedral in 1436. I’m not sure that the Church could have refused his request given who was asking, that it was for a one-of-a-kind, and that they were already holding the item as security for a loan they obviously had no chance of recovering.

So, long story short, I’d like to have the crossbow bolt that killed Jesus Christ in The Last Starship from Earth, a 1968 science fiction novel by John Boyd. In Boyd’s world, instead of preaching peace and forgiveness and being crucified, Jesus became a revolutionary agitator and assembled an army to overthrow the Roman Empire, establishing a theocracy before being killed by a crossbow, which becomes a religious symbol similar to the cross in our timeline. The regime established by Jesus continues to the present day, having dominated the entire world and mingled with scientific ideas and advanced technology, including a Church led by an AI Pope.

From memory, the bolt is not mentioned as such in the story, but I’d love to possess it. If the worst came to the worst, it might prove useful with the fishing.

Those are all your items. How well do you think you will cope on Lavender Isle?

So long as the stay is only for a week, I think I’d enjoy myself. But if it’s any longer, unless you let me take my tablet and charger, or a pen and notebook, I’d start getting itching fingers. I’ve got several books on the go at the moment and none of the protagonists are the type of character who will simply sit back and wait their turn.

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