loaded question: what is your favorite alternate / revisionist history lately?

This week’s question comes via reader stucifer, who suggested it in response to a recent question*:

What is your favorite alternate / revisionist history lately? What about how this show/movie/etc reimagines, or ignores, the known historical record is compelling to you?

“What if the Nazis won World War II?” is a perennial favorite for those creating parallel timelines (hence my choice of illustration, from Prime Video’s The Man in the High Castle, which I’ve enjoyed in the past but am a season or two behind on). I haven’t seen it yet — it’s high on my to-watch list — but one of the reasons I’m intrigued by the premise of the Apple TV+ series For All Mankind is that it appears to explore an alternate history that is more positive than the one we live in: one in which the human adventure in space exploration, rather than one robots have gotten to have, continued on after the first moon landing.

As a big science-fiction geek, I love alt-history stories. But most of them seem to posit parallel timelines that are worse than ours. Much as I’m starting to wonder why we seem more drawn to dystopian storytelling rather than tales of a brighter future for ourselves, I despair that too many people, including those who trade in imagination, feel that it’s easier to envisage a worst past and present, too.

Anyway, your turn…

(You can also discuss this at Substack or Patreon, if you prefer. You don’t need to be a paying subscriber to comment, but you will need to register with either site to do so.)

*In that question, I asked you what question (about movies, TV, pop culture in general) you would like to put to Flick Filosopher readers. Please keep dropping your questions here!

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Wed, Sep 21, 2022 10:31pm

thrilled that you used my question!

I find I have been drawn to histories that don’t necessarily consciously buck against historical fact (i.e. “what if the Nazis won WWII?”), but rather decide that the historical record is just a foundational sandbox in which to play. My favorite show of late to do this is Our Flag Means Death, which takes the “aristocrat with a midlife crisis” pirate Stede Bonnet’s meeting and shared time with Blackbeard as a starting point for an irreverently anachronistic workplace comedy crossed with a truly tender and loving queer romance. I love seeing explicit queerness in period pieces, especially when its not focused on oppression and trauma, but celebrates that queer love and identity has been around as long as people have. This show is delightfully queer, as well as just delightful.

The Favourite and The Great are also beloved, and I kind of count them together because they share a writer in Tony McNamara. They upend typical period stuffiness with a present-day satirical tone. They are also gorgeous to look at. And especially in the case of The Favourite, more queerness!

Hank Graham
Hank Graham
Wed, Sep 28, 2022 8:26pm

Laura Frankos’s wonderful book, BROADWAY REVIVAL.

It’s interesting because it looks at the idea of an alternative history from a perspective I’ve never seen anyone else use before, putting forth, indirectly, the idea that maybe our ideas about how to change history are wrong.

It’s all just a whole hell of a lot of fun, as her hero travels to the past to save the life of George Gershwin, who died way too early at the age of 38.

I’m being vague, because this is a book of great jokes and great spirit, and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.