Twenty Core Alternate Histories Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Alternate Histories, chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field1. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty works you should consider2.

Persons unfamiliar with one or two of the works, congratulations! You’re one of today’s Ten Thousand!

1: There are two filtering rules:

  • Only one work per author per list

  • Any given work by a particular author can appear on only one list. A given author may, however, have works on various lists but each instance of their work will be unique.



  • Niall Shapero

    How about: GUNS OF THE SOUTH (Harry Turtledove) and ALL THE MYRIAD WAYS (Larry Niven)?

    • John Gamble

      ATMW isn't really an alternate history in itself, it just has alternate timelines (yes, it's not set in our timeline, but since the story is set in a police station, we don't see any difference). Also it's a short story, which I think is disqualifying by implication. Otherwise I'd be lobbying for a Howard Waldrop story to replace one of the books that I personally feel isn't very good.

      • Steven Silver

        Several of the works on the list are short stories.

  • Nickpheas

    Not entirely convinced that The Magicians of Caprona belongs there. It's a lovely book, of course it it, it's by DWJ, but it's not really Alternate History save that there is working Magic and it's set in the vague past. Unless I missed something. Historical Fantasy might be a valid sub-sub-genre. If we do just regard it as part of AH then Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell should be on a list somewhere. Not sure if it's been on another.

  • Piet Nel

    Which reminds me that I really must get around to reading Ward Moore's "Bring the Jubilee", a long novella, soon. It is very often mentioned in discussions like this.

  • Jetamors

    I'm not sure I'd count de Bodard's Xuya novels as alternate history... was there some indication that their past was significantly different than our present?

    Ōoku is an interesting case, since (at least up to the point that I've read it), as written it could smoothly transition into a non-alternate present if the virus stopped killing male infants. Are there other alternate histories with a similar device?

  • Rachel Neumeier

    The criteria for the list above seem startlingly broad. Historical Fantasy doesn't seem to me to be quite the same thing as Alternate History. For a definite choice in recent Alternate History, I nominate Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale -- Rome never fell, and now Romans meet Cahokians in the New World.

  • Evelyn Leper

    The panel report of mine cited (not an alternate history per se) may be found at .

    (Also, note the correct spelling of my first name.)

    • James Nicoll

      Fixed. Do I have the spelling of your surname correct?

  • Evelyn Leeper

    It's right on the original post, but I apparently typo'ed it in my comment!

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