Meet The Alt.Historians — Jennifer Ellis & Alex Roddie

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ALT-History-102-eBook (1)One day away from the official launch of Alt.History 102!! 

(I might be a tad excited…)

I think I said before that when I finished my story “Requiem,” I can honestly say it was one of the toughest challenges I’ve had as a writer — balancing the “real life” aspects of the story with the speculative elements I would add in by changing one or two historical events. I would say that most of the authors in Alt 102 would agree with me, especially the first of my guests today: Jennifer Ellis. Her story leads the collection and is a knock-out. She tackles the story of Hedy LaMarr in a real and emotional way. I appreciated her take on it and it fits the collection to a “T”.

Alex Roddie on the other hand is a new voice to me. I was tangentally aware of him through other work by mutual friends, but this was the first time I have been personally introduced, and I am looking forward to diving into his story later today.

If you missed them, the other interviews so far for Alt.History 102 are here —> Me, Drew Avera & Asha Bardon, J.E. Mac, Hank Garner & Therin Knite, and Rysa Walker.

And now, Jennifer Ellis…


 

Jennifer Ellis

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

I live in the mountains in Canada where where I write, hike, ski, borrow dogs, and evade bears. I also work as a climate change researcher, evaluator and strategic planner. I write mostly science fiction and fantasy. My Derivatives of Displacement series for children and adults is a time travel portal fantasy about the intersection between magic and science. The first novel in that series is A Pair of Docks and I just released the third novel A Grave Tree in November. I’ve also written several stand-alone novels including In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation set in the near future after peak oil has caused an economic collapse. I have also been lucky enough to be included in several anthologies such as Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel, Tales of Tinfoil, Tales of the Apocalypse and now Alt. History 102.

I came to Alt. History 102 in part through Synchronic, which Samuel Peralta was also part of, so we had met there, and in part because I submitted a novel to the Future Chronicles one book thread and Samuel checked out some of my other writing. I am extremely excited to be on board.

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

I have written an alternate history of Hedy Lamarr, Hitler, and World War II. Hedy Lamarr has always fascinated me. The facts of her life are in many ways stranger than fiction. Born in 1914 to wealthy Jewish parents in Vienna, she was the first woman to appear nude on screen in the controversial movie Ecstasy in 1933. She then married Austrian arms dealer who had dealings with Hitler and Mussolini and entertained both leaders at he and Hedy’s castle home. While fleeing her marriage, Hedy met Louis B. Mayer and was signed immediately to a contract with MGM studios. Dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, she became a major Hollywood star at the height of the golden age of Hollywood, but she is also credited with inventing frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology, which is the basis for Bluetooth, Wi-fi and many other modern communication methods. Upon receiving her invention, the military immediately classified it, and Hedy was dismissed to help the war effort by selling war bonds. Hedy did not receive credit for her invention until very late in her life when she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

All of these factors create so many delightful what ifs for an alternate history. What if Hedy’s invention was used in World War II? What if Hedy was a spy for the Allies, or the Axis powers, as some have speculated she might have been? What if Hedy had a relationship with Hitler, as has also been speculated? I took these threads and ran with them and had great fun as a result.

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?

So many great Chronicles to choose from, so little time. My original instinct was to say that I would love to be in The Time Travel Chronicles (which I would of course… I would like to be in any Chronicles anthology) as I write time travel fiction and it would be great cross over to my other work. I spend lots of time thinking about various models of time travel, and paradox, and multiple universes, and stuff like that. And of course I would be interested in The Dragon Chronicles as I’m always tempted to throw a dragon or two into my fantasy series. Who isn’t? There will be a dragon somewhere in my future I’m sure. But I think I would like to be part of The Galaxy Chronicles. It would push me more as I have never written a story set in space, but I like to be pushed, and I am of course a huge Star Trek, Star Wars fan. I would like to see what I could deliver in a different galaxy, and I’ve always thought it would be handy to be a Jedi.

Anything else you’d like to plug?

Well you can always buy any of my books. I promise action-packed adventures. The first novel in my Derivatives of Displacement series is only 99 cents. You can find my library here: http://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Ellis/e/B00H6V6PH8

You can also check out my website at www.jenniferellis.ca where I write about writing, and my upcoming releases and give away short stories.


Alex Roddie

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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 Alex Roddie, and I’m a freelance writer and editor. I have a background in historical fiction and have written two novels set in the mountaineering culture of 19th century Britain: The Only Genuine Jones and The Atholl Expedition. More recently, I’ve branched out into science fiction. I have written short stories for the anthologies No Way Home and Crime and Punishment, both of which include work from Chronicles authors Lucas Bale and Michael Patrick Hicks. That’s how I became involved in the Future Chronicles project.

In addition to fiction, I’m an outdoor and adventure-travel writer. Backpacking and mountaineering are my passions and I have written content for a number of UK-based outdoor magazines and websites. This year I’m planning a thru-hike of the 500-mile Arctic Trail in Scandinavia.

My day job is editorial work, and I make a living helping other self-published writers to achieve success. I also freelance as sub-editor for Sidetracked Magazine.

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

The Locked Web is really two different alternate-history concepts in one. What if the Cold War never ended? and What if the internet never developed? In my story, these two ideas are tightly interwoven. A Soviet cyber-attack in 1982 leads to the microcomputer boom of the eighties failing in the marketplace, and the web is simply never invented. By 2015, Britain is still locked in a bitter war with the USSR and electronic communications are tightly controlled. Small-scale atomic attacks have been a fact of life for twenty years.

Computers have evolved in a weird direction, too, and this is really how I first got the idea for the story. I started to wonder what the world would be like today if small British computing firms such as Acorn, Sinclair and Psion hadn’t died off early, but instead flourished after a hypothetical failure of IBM and Apple. In this alternate history, Britain is the computing powerhouse of the world – but that’s largely irrelevant, because computing has no place in the lives of most people.

In the 2015 of The Locked Web, computers are seen as suspicious and alien objects. Old mainframes and dumb terminals are used in places like national libraries and universities, but the government has access to advanced tech such as e-ink desks. The only unregulated network is the Academic Subnet, and that’s where a new freedom movement arises – the Web Supremacist movement. Mirroring true events, the effort to set information free emerges from academia.

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?

I’d probably pick The Robot Chronicles. I’ve always been interested in robots but have never written about them.

Anything else you’d like to plug?

You can follow me on Twitter at @alex_roddie.

My website is www.alexroddie.com.

 

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Reader Requests #4 — Bilbies, Donuts, and Peeps

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I put out another call for blog ideas from my Facebook friends and family tonight and they did not let me down. Most of those ideas contained a kernel of similarity – food. Let’s kick it off, shall we?


 

Easter Bunnies.

Cute, adorable, giver of chocolate and hard-boiled eggs.

Except…maybe not.

Every year, numerous well-meaning parents in the U.S. adopt rabbits around Easter as gifts for their children. According to an article on Chicago Now:

“Too many families purchase a rabbit on impulse for Easter gifts and they don’t realize how complicated rabbit care can be,” says Marcia Coburn, President of Red Door. “We get so many calls from people that see rabbits running lose that don’t appear to be wild rabbits and we end up going out and rescuing them. Domestic rabbits just aren’t cut out to survive out there.”

These rabbits end up either killed by natural predators or rescued by local humane societies. This problem with bunnies isn’t just an American problem.

Looks like there is way more chocolate to a Bilby than a Bunny.

Looks like there is way more chocolate to a Bilby than a Bunny.

In Australia, rabbits have been a problem for a couple centuries. Rabbits are not native to the continent, but when settlers came from Europe and North America a few hundred years ago, they brought rabbits, foxes, and domesticated cats – all of which are now feral species that have harmed the Australian environment. From an article by Dr. Ian Gunn, an Adjunct Senior Associate at Monash University:

Australia has a sad history of importing European animals — rabbits, foxes and cats, for example — that now pose a great threat to the survival of our native species. Feral rabbits are Australia’s greatest pests, currently costing agriculture, and hence the community, about $200 million annually, in addition to untold costs to the environment.

The article goes on to suggest that instead of Australians going for the traditional Easter Bunny, they should instead an Easter Bilby. What is a bilby? A marsupial, the bilby is a type of bandicoot that lives in the desert of Australia. With large ears that help keep it cool in the hot arid climate of the Australian mid-section, the bilby is the natural replacement to the rabbit in Australian Easter folklore.

Credit to Scott Robert Glazier for the Bunny topic.


 

On other food topics, our friend Michael Bunker had a few food topics to address and I will do so in the following bullet points:

  • Ice Cream Sandwiches. Pro or Con? What? How is this even a question? Pro of course. The sandwich part by itself could be called a cookie. Sesame Street named one of their main characters the COOKIE MONSTER. On the inside is ice cream. Wonderful, amazing, creamy ice cream. How does the saying go? “You scream, I scream, WE ALL SCREAM for Ice Cream!” Put those two together and you have magic. In your mouth.
  • Steak: Pro or Con? Pro. You can’t beat a well-cooked steak. The trick is the well-cooked part, of course and that in itself drives some people away. Even pricey restaurants don’t always cook steaks well. I went to one of those pricey restaurants a few years ago – where their steaks are graded on a separate scale than the USDA – it was heaven.
  • Donuts and donut holes. I’ll just quote the bearded master here: “How do they get away with cutting a part of the middle of your donut away and selling it as a “donut hole” to someone else? If they did that with Pizza, there would be an uprising. And shouldn’t we demand that we get the middle part for free?” Absolutely, Mr. Bunker. The middle part should be our right. This is a food slippery slope. Sometime in our past, there was a pastry. Then someone took out the middle and called it a donut, forgetting that we still deserved that middle deliciousness. That simple act has spawned an entire industry on just donut holes. It’s like when Hitler demanded Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. Neville Chamberlain thought – “we’ll just give it to him and he’ll be OK.” Except he wasn’t. We all know how that ended. We need to demand our holes back. Our HOLES!

Credit to Michael Bunker for the various food topics


 

And to close this one out, here is a brief editorial on Peeps.

Peeps. Peeps. Peeps. Just keep saying it out loud. After a while, you start sounding like 1/3 of a 90’s hip-hop group. At best.

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What do you think this is? Some kind of game?

Peeps, if you are not familiar, are pieces of marshmallow shaped into chick or bunny forms and coated with colored sugar. There is no nutritutional value. There is no spiritual value. There is no redeeming value.

If you’ve had a Peep (and if you have, you may not want to raise your hand), have you ever sat back afterwards and said, “Oh boy self, that sure was a mighty fine decision to eat that sugar-blasted, chick-shaped marshmallow?

You know what Peeps are good for? Dioramas (there are HUNDREDS of them. That is why they sell – so people can make scenes from their favorite movies with Peeps.)

In closing, pitch the Peeps. There is so many better things you could have.

Oh look – a Peep in a donut!

Thanks to Carrie Gillette for the Peeps