Hugo Award-Winning Author Harry Turtledove Presents at McPherson College About Innovative Work in ‘Alternate History’ Fiction Genre

By McPherson College
December 19, 2013

Hugo Award-winning writer Harry Turtledove - broadly christened as the “Master of Alternate History” - will present about his work at McPherson College on Jan. 16.

The special McPherson College Lecture is entitled “What if? What Alternate History Fiction Tells Us About Our Past, Present and Future” and will start at 7 p.m. in Miller Library on the west side of the McPherson College campus - 1600 E. Euclid. The public is invited and encouraged to attend this free lecture.

“We’re incredibly excited to welcome Dr. Turtledove to campus,” said Adam Pracht, public relations coordinator, who helped contact the California-based writer. “His lecture will appeal to a broad and varied audience - history buffs; science fiction and fantasy aficionados; writers and other creative people; and basically anyone who appreciates a good story, well-told.”

Dr. Harry Turtledove is a master author in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. But he’s best known for his work in alternative history - which takes elements of historical fact and blends them with alternate scenarios both realistic and fantastic. Sometimes Dr. Turtledove’s worlds differ from our reality in only one respect, and the entire plot grows and branches from that one change.

Some of his most famous works are “Guns of the South,” which starts from a Southern victory in the Civil War; the “Worldwar” series, which assumes an alien invasion at the beginning of World War II; and the “Atlantis” series, which places a hypothetical continent in the Atlantic between North America and Europe.

Dr. Turtledove essentially stumbled into becoming the defining author of the Alternate History genre, he said. He earned his degree from UCLA in Byzantine history and has written more than 100 books since his first novel in 1979, making him one of the most prolific science fiction and fantasy authors in history. His credits include the 1994 Hugo Award for Best Novella with “Down in the Bottomlands.”

“I’ve always wanted to write science fiction,” he said. “I have a degree in Byzantine history mostly because I flunked out of Caltech and read Sprague de Camp’s “Lest Darkness Fall” at an impressionable age. So I’m an SF writer who’s also a trained historian. What am I likely to do?”

“Lest Darkness Fall” - written by L. Sprague de Camp in 1939 - was one of the most influential early works of alternate history and tells the story of a modern archaeologist transported to sixth century Rome.

At McPherson College, Dr. Turtledove will talk about the implications of Alternate History and how it can help us understand our own past, present and future.

“It makes you look at the world you actually live in, in a funhouse mirror that you can’t get any other way,” he said.

He also plans to speak on the writing process and offer advice to young creative students.

“I read a lot.  I write a lot. I apply my behind to the chair and my pen to the paper,” he said. “Writing is inspiration. Writing is joy. Writing is also work. They just aren't making elves with a decent prose style these days.”