Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.
Panellists: Dana Cameron, Jennie Goloboy, Jack McDevitt, Robert J. Sawyer, Renee Collins (moderator)
Joined in progress …
RJS: Alternate history does what science fiction does, but takes a step back in time rather than looking to the future. Jean Auel’s novels and Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle are examples.
RC: What are we mining history for?
JG: History is a great way to see how things could have been, “if only.” What if Shakespeare lived in Native North America?
DC: There’s a hashtag: #whatshouldhavehappened It gives us a great opportunity to look at our tropes and culture through the lens of the other.
RJS: History teaches us the rate at which events happen. You can see the cause and effect in retrospect.
JG: The thing about historians is that they’re always looking at what’s different between then and now. There’s something inspirational about the possibilities of change.
DC: The rate of change is faster now, though.
RC: The contrast and comparison is fascinating.
JM: Another approach is that we are the past. What do people in the far future think of us?
RJS: Science fiction is the literature of human contingency—Robert Charles Wilson. We engage in thought experiments. How could things have gone differently?
RC: What are the advantages of using history as the basis for science fiction?
JG: Usually science fiction and fantasy writers get the details right.
RJS: In my Neanderthal Parallax series, I researched heavily in paleoanthropology texts and journals. I looked for the more interesting theories. One of them was that Neanderthals didn’t have religion. My Neanderthals did.
DC: Coming from my background, I had a difficult time writing alternate history.
JG: It’s worldbuilding, not a mistake.
JM: Science fiction writers have an advantage. We can manipulate time. We value history.
And that was time.
Next week, I’ll be transcribing my notes on generation starships.
Be well and stay strong until then!