Dale Cozort's Alternate History Newsletter 

Volume 7: Number 4 --- August  2004


What if France Had Fought On From North Africa? Part V

Scenario Seeds

The Brazilian Gold Rush of 1930

The Siberian Connection

Best of the Comment Section

Main Alternate History Page

POD is an amateur press magazine and also a forum for discussing AH and AH-related ideas.  A lot of the comments don't make sense unless you've following the dialogue, but a whole lot of AH ideas get thrown around.  




So What Have I Been Up To?

Most of this issue was actually written in July and August of 2004.  Unfortunately, as I discussed in the June 2004 issue, for a variety of reasons the on-line version is actually going on-line at the end of January 2005.  Sorry about the delay.  Fortunately this isn't a current events zine and history tends not to go stale in four or five months.  Enjoy this issue and expect the February 2005 issue in late February or early March of 2005.  What follows are the original issue notes from August 2004.

Writing time versus the day job and the dreaded “honey do” list.  I’ve noticed something.  The more I enjoy my day job and the rest of my life the less I write.  Anyone else notice that about their writing?  I’ve been enjoying life quite a bit lately, and that has cut into to my writing productivity somewhat.  I still haven’t finished the rough draft of Mars Looks Different, something I hoped to have finished about a month and a half ago.  I did write another five or ten thousand words on it in early June, but then the day job started demanding more time, and the “Honey do” list kicked in (lots of repairing and painting around the house that my wife—correctly—thinks need to get done before the end of the summer).  As a result I wrote less than two thousand words total for a period of five weeks or so in late June and the first three weeks of July.  My writing tempo is picking up again now, and I have a vacation and a week-long writers’ conference coming up in a couple of weeks, so hopefully I will get Mars done before the end of August.

I did manage to get a brief new short story written, along with a couple of scenarios and a set of scenario seeds for this issue.

Beyond MEGO

Let’s face it.  As hobbies/interests/obsessions go, alternate history doesn’t rank up there with football (American, Australian, or the rest of the world’s versions), baseball, basketball, or even dodgeball in popularity.  Most people have a MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) reaction to any kind of history, and speculations about what might have happened if the other side had won some battle that most people forgot about right after the test if they heard about it in the first place leaves them more bewildered than anything else.  Even within this unpopular hobby of ours there are levels of unpopularity though.  Certain eras are much more popular than others, of course.  World War II scenarios, especially about the high profile battles, always get the most hits and comments on my website even though they’ve already been done to death.  After that, I would say that the US Civil War, the Napoleonic era and the American Revolution, in approximately that order, show some degree of popularity.  Anything else drops a long ways.

Unfortunately, the more I understand about history the less interesting or important I find the big battles and clever stratagems of the big name leaders.  As I search for causes of victory and defeat I find myself doing a gradual progression away from the battlefields that I initially found fascinating.  That progression started with the classic move from tactics to logistics (the well-worn but still true “Amateurs study tactics.  Professionals study logistics.”)  While a particularly brilliant leader or a particularly well-trained army can rise above logistic constraints in the short-term, in the longer term the side that does the better job of getting men where they need to be with the weapons and supplies they need will almost always win.  Logistics is usually the key to understanding who wins or loses, but it’s always boring—even to most of the tiny minority of people who like history.  Logistics equals double MEGO for most people.

The progression goes beyond logistics though, and into even less flashy but probably more important territory.  The question becomes not just how the weapons got to the battlefield but also how those weapons came to be.  Part of that is the design of the weapons.  Most of the people reading this know about Winston Churchill.  Can anybody name any of the major members of the design team that came up with the Spitfire?  Were those designers really that much less important than Churchill in determining how the early stages of the war went?  What about the design team behind one of the early British cruiser tanks that remained unusable in battle after years of development and unfortunately production of several thousand of them?

The progression to root cause ultimately leads to economics.  That’s worth at least a triple MEGO for most people, but if you’re going to understand any modern war at more than a superficial level economics has to play a role.  Why were the French and especially the British so slow to rearm in the leadup to World War II?  Economics.  They couldn’t afford an arms race.  Why was Poland hopelessly ill equipped to stand up to the Germans?  Economics.  Why did the British empire collapse after the war?  Economics.  Why did the Soviet Union collapse?  Economics.  If you can’t pay for the military power you have, you have two choices.  You can use it to get loot to pay for it (Hitler’s path), or you can let it fade away.  A third possibility is using it and trying to avoid paying for it, but that’s very risky.  Unpaid armies tend to bite the hand that didn’t feed them.  At the height of the Hapsburg empire one of their emperors won a smashing victory and then had to flee because he couldn’t pay his troops.

Powerful militaries are very expensive on an ongoing basis. The Soviet Union demonstrates what can happen when a Great Power ceases to be capable of paying for its military.  Most of the tanks, planes, ships and missiles that had threatened the world in the 1980s rusted away or were sold off in the 1990s to pay for some residual military capacity.  How much of the rest of it still works after nearly fifteen years of neglect?  Think about what would happen if you stored a car or a lawn mower for fifteen years with little or no maintenance and then got it out and tried to run it.  With enough time and money you could probably get it running again, but not easily and not immediately.

So ultimately I find myself in a dilemma.  The closer I get to root causes the more of my potential audience goes into MEGO.  I’m not quite sure how to deal with that.  Any ideas?   

Commentary Section: The comment section is pretty good again this time, so I will put it on-line. As I've mentioned in previous issues, I don't usually put those on-line because they are more like an off-the-cuff bull session than the stuff I normally put in the on-line version of these zines. The last few have had quite a bit of general interest stuff, so I've included them, but do understand that my comments there are not necessarily going to be fact-checked as well as the rest of the zine.




This page has had hits since I posted it on January 30, 2005.


More Stuff For POD Members Only

What you see here is a truncated on-line version of a larger zine that I contribute to POD, the alternate history APA.  POD members get to look forward to more fun stuff.