Alternate history is a fairly common element of today’s science fiction scene. It’s not unusual to read about a novel or encounter a short story that takes some key aspect of history as we know it and flips it on its head. From the lack of the Black Plague in Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt to Michael Chabon’s Jewish habitation of Alaska in The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s exploration of a 21-st century Ottoman empire in the Arabesk trilogy to Adam Roberts’ wild, lilliputian Swiftly, the past decade or so has seen a significant number of such stories. But there was a vanguard—at least if the scattering of stories over several decades can be described as such. (‘First wave’ sounds just as equivocal…) One of the key, initial forays into history through an imaginary lens is Ward Moore’s 1953 Bring the Jubilee, which is being released in ebook form by Open Road Media in 2017.
Its Jonbar point the American Civil War, Bring the Jubilee looks into the idea ‘what if the South won’? The story of Hodge Backmaker, son of a poor farmer in what’s left of the United States of America (essentially the Union), the young man breaks free of his rural home at an early age and heads to New York City—an impoverished metro compared to the grand, lavish cities of the Confederate States of America. Getting lucky and finding work with a book printer, Hodge spends the next few years of his life learning the trade. And he learns much more. The book printer’s essentially a front, namely that of printing propaganda and counterfeiting money, Hodge learns of ongoing secret operations to build a Grand Army and restore the United States to its former glory.