What if France Had
Fought On From North Africa? Part V
The Brazilian Gold Rush of
The Siberian Connection
Best of the Comment Section
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.
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
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
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
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.