Take a peep at some “Best-Of Alternate History” lists floating around the internet, and you’ll quickly find out that the genre is as wide-ranging as the source material it pulls from (that is – history).
Some books opt to explore time travel with varying degrees of affect. Think Eric Flint’s 1632, about a small Virgina town that gets dropped into 17th Century Germany; or L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, which transports an American archeologist to Ancient Rome.
Others still explore the “What If?”s of history, picking one point of divergence and building out an entirely separate universe from that point forward.
These counter-factual works (more loosely known as Speculative Fiction) are tremendous fun to read, what with their tremendous feats of worldbuilding. Each book must create an entirely separate (but mirrored) universe from ours. This creates a totally unique opportunity for visual adaptation, be it through TV, movies, or (our personal favorite) book trailers.
Fascinated? So were we! We compiled a list of five great speculative fiction reads – and their visual representations — below.
1. The History Makers by Val Bodurtha
Ok – so we admit we’re a little biased with this one. We recently had a lot of fun envisioning Val Bodurtha’s History Makers and its theocracy of Azteca – a modern-day version of an Aztec Empire that prevailed over the Spaniards.
Unfortunately for this version of the universe, Azteca has chosen to keep its bloody rituals as a pillar of its society – namely, a daily human sacrifice to guarantee the rising of the sun.
2. Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Perhaps the most visible of this genre is Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle – known to many as the hit Amazon Original show, but first published in 1962 as a good ol’ fashioned, paper-on-ink novel.
Like many alternate history books, Dick’s point of divergence centers around the events of WWII – in this case, what would have happened if the Axis Powers had emerged victorious, and if Germany and Japan were caught up in the Cold War instead.
3. Fatherland by Robert Harris
Like Man in the High Castle, Robert Harris’ 1992 Fatherland has built a universe where the Axis Powers emerged victorious in WWII. The book takes place in a version of Europe which has been unified under German rule – creating a nation-state aptly known as Germania.
The years have passed and the horrors of war have been slowly eroded away. This Third Reich has managed to be more civilized and palatable than its real-life counterpart. It helps that the terrors of the Holocaust never (technically) transpired. However, as always, nothing is as it seems…
4. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
The unprecedented collapse of Israel in 1948 has lead to the creation of the Federal District of Sitka in Alaska, USA — a haven for Jewish refugees and their descendants in the wake of WWII.
Interestingly enough, the alt-history politics of Sitka and its’ precarious position within Alaskan territory are but an interesting backdrop to the true meat of the story: a gripping murder mystery, done in the stylings of 1940s noir (as seen in its beautiful book trailer below).
5. Brothers of the Head by Brian Aldiss
We’ll depart from the politicking and the detective-ing of the above titles, and leave you with this one head scratcher.
Move over, Beatles. What if the premiere Britrock band of the 1970s was a pair of conjoined twins?
Yes, we’ll leave you with that. And a clip from a truly stunning 2005 mockumentary.