Meet The Alt.Historians — Will Swardstrom

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The next anthology up in the Future Chronicles line steps back in time — Alt.History 102.

 

ALT-History-102-eBook (1)Samuel Peralta, the curator of these anthologies, put out Alt.History 101 last summer to critical acclaim (including my own), but he always had a plan to continue the series with 102 and 103. I love the covers with an almost textbook feel to them, almost as if readers are being “re-educated” on past events if they had gone just a little differently. The next in the Alt.History series is being released on January 31, 2016 — less than a week away.

To introduce readers to the authors of this collection, I’m rolling out a short interview series with many, if not all, of the authors. To give everyone a brief taste, I figured I would start with myself. It’s always tricky interviewing yourself, but I powered through. I’m super proud of my story and I really hope people enjoy the entire collection like I have as I’ve gone over an early edition.

Some phenomenal authors in this one as you can see from the cover over there — Drew Avera, Asha Bardon, J.J. Brown, Artie Cabrera, Jennifer Ellis, Hank Garner, Therin Knite, J.E. Mac, Alex Roddie, Adam Venezia, and Rysa Walker. I can’t forget the amazing job Sam did in putting it together along with co-editor Nolie Wilson.

Enough from me…let’s hear from me!


 

Give us a brief introduction to you. Who are you? What else have you written? What brings you to Alt.History 102?

My name is Will Swardstrom, the son of Paul D. and Eileene Swardstrom, of the North Dakota Swardstroms.

I’ve written a few things. My Amazon page hasn’t gone on to three pages…yet. I have a suspicion that once this volume goes live, I will. I’ve written three novels (one currently unpublished), and a couple handfuls of short stories and novellas. I got my first crack at a Future Chronicles story with Uncle Allen in The Alien Chronicles, then I published Z Ball in The Z Chronicles, and then The Control in The Immortality Chronicles. Samuel Peralta, curator of the Future Chronicles anthologies knew I was a history teacher during the day, so I suppose it was only a matter of time until he asked me about doing some alternative history. I pitched him three stories, but I knew he was going to pick the one he did.

What’s your story about? What gave you the idea for your story? 

My story is entitled Requiem and centers around Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. One of those quirky facts of history is that Mozart and his family gave some performances for the Austrian Royal family as part of a European tour. Mozart was just six years old and the young Austrian princess — the future Marie Antoinette — was a few months older at the time. The two were smitten with each other; a confirmed case of puppy love.

That’s where the story ends in the history books, but suppose Wolfgang harbored feelings for his childhood crush. That their lives continued on, but in the end…when the French Revolution is just in its bloody, violent beginnings, he seeks out that first love of his life in a quest to rescue her?

If you could pick a previous Chronicles anthology that you could alter history to go back and be included in, which one would it be and why?

There have been so many great anthologies, but I think I would love to go back and get a spot in The Galaxy Chronicles. I’ve dabbled a little in space opera, so getting my feet wet alongside the other ridiculously talented authors there would have been a hoot.

Anything else you’d like to plug?

As a matter of fact, yes! My latest novel is just a few days away from publication. It’s entitled Blink, and it was co-written by me and my brother, Paul. It is the first full novel in our Utility Company series about a government agency that specializes in the strange and unique. We had a blast writing it and I think readers will have as good of a time reading it. Look for it soon!

the party

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John Marshall — a career birthed from mistakes

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So as I was talking to my government kids about Marbury v. Madison today, and I really started thinking about John Marshall.

Marshall has long been considered to be the “Greatest Chief Justice” of the U.S. Supreme Court, but he was almost an afterthought to be on the court to begin with. While his tenure on the highest court in the land was the most profound in our history, it almost didn’t happen.

Marshall had been involved in politics in the years leading up to 1801, serving, in fact, as John Adams’ Secretary of State in 1800-1801, all the way up until Adams left office on March 4. That’s when perhaps the most dramatic shift in U.S. politics took place, the handing over of power from one political party to another for the first time ever – from the Federalist Adams to the Democrat-Republican Thomas Jefferson.

With that changeover looming, Adams and the lameduck Congress saw one opportunity to retain any power – judges. Since judges are appointed, not elected, the Federalists viewed the judicial branch as a safe spot to place a whole bunch of Federalists as the Democrat-Republicans lead the government for the next few years. Hence, the Judiciary Act of 1801 – otherwise known as the Midnight Judges Act, which added 39 new federal judgeships – all of which would be Federalist appointments.

Incumbent Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth was in poor health and leaving the bench. Adams initially tried to offer the spot to former Chief Justice John Jay, but Jay refused, leaving Adams little choice but to go with his most trusted advisor – John Marshall.

Back really quick to Marshall’s old job as Secretary of State. Marshall was responsible for getting those judicial appointments to Congress for approval, but three were left undelivered by the time Jefferson and his Secretary of State, James Madison took charge of the administration.

Do you really think Madison was going to deliver those appointments, allowing Federalist judges to exert their authority while the Democrat-Republicans started a new regime in Washington? No way.

One of those prospective judges was William Marbury, who sued Madison, insisting the appointment should have been made official. Eventually the case makes its way to the Supreme Court, where John Marshall comes back into play.

Looking at Marshall’s failure to submit the judgeships in the first place, it would be natural to assume he could just say, “Oops – you’re right, Marbury. Let me fix that for you.”

But, while he was the one who screwed up, Marshall establishes the most important legal precedent in our nation’s history.

Judicial Review.

Marshall points out that the ability the court supposedly has to force someone (Madison in this case) to perform a certain act (push through the appointment), was Unconstitutional. Congress had given the court this power to issue what were called Writs of Mandamus in the Judiciary Act of 1787, and Marbury notes that that power was not listed in our nation’s Constitution, and was therefore not valid.

And so Marshall sets up perhaps the greatest judicial career of anyone who sat on the bench, all on a whim of a President, based on a mistake that he himself had made.

As we live our lives and make mistakes, do we make the best out of those situations? John Marshall did.  

WOOL, SHIFT, & DUST as Historical Allegory

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So…earlier today, I was talking back and forth with new WOOLwriter, Logan Thomas Snyder. We’re doing a back-and-forth interview that I’ll post probably later this week. Some really great stuff from an up-and-coming author. While we were tossing questions back and forth at one another, he threw this at me: “As someone who also has a background in history, do you think your background as a history teacher gave you a different perspective or insight into the (WOOL) series as a whole, or possibly even the way you approached your own history?”

As soon as I read it, I had an epiphany. I had thought about the historical context in some ways and hadn’t really even realized it until I gave it deeper thought today. Here was my answer about Hugh Howey’s books: 

(Warning — THEMATIC SPOILERS for WOOL, SHIFT, and DUST Ahead)

ImageInitially, that was one of the things I was really skeptical about in Hugh’s stories. How can a group of people so easily forget their own history? Obviously, he takes care of that with the medication dosed to the people of the silo, but it still has a ring of implausibility to it. 

That is, until you look at history itself. The Middle Ages — sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages — was a period just like this. The Roman Empire existed and was the dominant force in the world. They ruled with an iron fist and provoked all their enemies in every direction, eventually suffering at the hands of the Visigoths and Vandals because of it. In WOOL and SHIFT, you can see a similar thing happening. The United States has so much power that it is very much like the Roman Empire in the latter stages. While the Romans had the Germanic tribes to worry about, the U.S. has foreign powers like Islamic extremists and Russians. 

After Rome fell, the knowledge they had built up virtually vanished within a generation. All the Greek philosophers — Aristotle and Plato, Archimedes and Pythagoras — all the learning just went away. The world was “controlled” by the church and the bubble it established over the entirety of Europe, but eventually knowledge was re-discovered and Europe emerged stronger than ever. Obviously some stayed behind in the ignorance of the Catholic Church, but for the most part, Europe and the rest of the world were able to break free of the silos — I mean the “darkness” of the age. 😉

To build on that, I’ll toss this out there — that the WOOL books were in some ways a re-telling of the transition from the fall of Rome (SHIFT) to the Dark Ages where Europe is run by the church under the leadership of one man, the pope (WOOL) to the Renaissance, Reformation and the Enlightenment, when people across Europe began to realize the oppression they were under from Monarchical regimes and the rule of the Catholic Church (DUST). 

What do you think?