ALTERNATE AUSTRALIAS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Alexander Wallace discovers an alternate land down under.

For most of us in the Anglosphere, Australia is reduced to something akin to a cross between Britain and America, a ‘British Texas,’ to quote one of the common internet memes. It is stereotyped as a land of murderous wildlife and eccentric people who love shrimp and danger. I will admit that some of my own interest in the country is in how it parallels America, my own homeland, as so much of its historical development is in the same vein. Robert Hughes’ magnificent book The Fatal Shore: the Epic of Australia’s Founding is one of my favorite history books ever written.

In alternate history, and indeed most speculative fiction, Australia is forgotten. In military fiction, the Australian armed forces join their American, Canadian, and European allies in fighting whatever threat has reared its ugly head. In Harry Turtledove’s WorldWar series, it is left as one of the vast tracts of land occupied by alien invaders, and in Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past series, it is left as the sole redoubt of a decimated humanity. It has produced some actors, like Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and some writers, like John Birmingham and Greg Egan. But for international audiences, we often don’t see them as Australian, but merely parts of the American-dominated media landscape.

Not so with Alternate Australias. This anthology from Sea Lion Press (full disclosure: I’m working on editing an anthology for them as of writing, I post regularly on their forum, and I write for their blog) seeks to bring Australia to the forefront of alternate history writing. In doing so, its editor Jared Kavanagh has given the reader a glimpse into many ways that continent’s history could have gone differently.

A lot of these stories are about war, as a lot of alternate history is about war. You have ones where the country fights the Japanese in New Guinea, as envisioned by Wm. Garrett Cothran, or in a savage war of peace in Kenya, as described by Colin Salt. But of all the war stories here, my favorite is the one by Natasja Rose, about a world in which those that inflicted the greatest defeat Australia has ever known are even more successful: a world where the emus are on the gates of the last few cities on the continent as the urban population struggles to survive.

But not all of the stories are about war. Some of them reimagine the colonial history of the country. There is one where the Chinese establish a city there, in an antipodean twist on The Years of Rice and Salt, and one where the French have a much stronger presence. You have Liam Connell’s fantastic take on the Rum Rebellion, and Jared Kavanagh’s take on Ned Kelly’s rebellion.

You have other stories, too, like David Flin’s look on an alternate sports history of the country, and one by Warped Factor’s own Matthew Kresal about a world where a British-Australian joint effort sends a mission into space intending to land the first men on the moon. This story is one brimming with tension as a bold venture into the cosmos goes awry, one whose electrifying danger leads to a satisfying conclusion. I give a hearty congratulations to my fellow Warped Factor writer, and I hope regular readers of this site give this anthology a read for him, if for no other reason.

But there is plenty of other reason to read the Alternate Australias anthology. Jared Kavanagh has assembled a collection of engrossing and diverse short stories that are well worth the time of any alternate history reader. Kavanagh himself is a fantastic writer, as I have seen in other Sea Lion Press anthologies, and he was fortunate to have come into contact with many other fantastic writers. I recommend you give this little book a look post-haste.

Alternate Australias is available to purchase from the Sea Lion Press website.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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