Discussion:
[META] The ethics of AH
(too old to reply)
Alan Lothian
2004-05-21 09:44:59 UTC
Permalink
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]

Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?

Let me start from a particular case.

I'm going to oversimplify certain people's arguments, not to traduce
them but to try to make the issues clear. That's why I won't mention
names: the responsibility for the half-arsed ideas that follow is
entirely mine.

We've had a genuinely interesting thread on the state of the world, 42
years after a nuclear war that was utterly disastrous for almost
everyone except the USA, for which it was only moderately disastrous.
The thread is historically plausible, to put it mildly. Indeed, it's
quite arguably the most probable outcome of the events of October,
1962; the fact that it didn't happen required the active intervention
of Lady Luck.

But it involved killing off about 500 million people, including a fair
proportion of shwi posters, either directly or via incineration of
parents. In the course of the thread, several people expressed at least
discomfort at the casual way that megadeaths were being chucked around
"Yeah, we'll write down the population of Germany by 95%". Note,
please, that the thread did not degenerate into some kind of murderous
wankfest. In at least one case, the discomfort amounted to something
close to ethical revulsion: we shouldn't be talking about this sort of
thing. Omen est nomen, and all that. On the other hand, it's
fascinating -- not only in a macabre sort of way, although to deny a
macabre fascination would be dishonest, I believe -- and it's quite
clearly genuine AH.

Hmm. I can see both sides of the argument, here, and am in some danger
of impaling myself on an intellectual fence; not the most comfortable
of positions. On the one hand: do novelists have any sort of moral
responsibility for their characters? "You killed Little Nell, you
bastard!" Of course not, although they most assuredly have a
responsibility for the novel as a whole. On the other: the
investigation of historical possibilities is the raison-d'etre of the
group, and nothing human is alien to us. And, despite the close
approach made by certain multi-part AHs, we're not writing novels.
(Although some of us should get off our arses and do just that, but
that's another question entirely.)

Suppose we were running an AH on the Mongol invasion of the Kwarizm;
"Given the Mongol targeting strategy, if X had done Y, we could be
looking at no more than a few kiloskull mountains, and only in the
valley of Z." Would anyone be morally squeamish about that?

Does distance lend enchantment to the view? Does the whole "ethical"
business simply relate to the intimacy of the near past? Or, as one
poster in the nukefest thread seemed to think, would
carefully-researched accuracy (not "write down Germany by 95%" but
"best studies indicate 430,000 die within 24 hours of a strike on
Mannheim") somehow resolve the dilemma?

Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
--
"The past resembles the future as water resembles water" Ibn Khaldun

My .mac.com address is a spam sink.
If you wish to email me, try atlothian at blueyonder dot co dot uk
cernunnos
2004-05-21 12:04:14 UTC
Permalink
no not particularly
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Let me start from a particular case.
I'm going to oversimplify certain people's arguments, not to traduce
them but to try to make the issues clear. That's why I won't mention
names: the responsibility for the half-arsed ideas that follow is
entirely mine.
We've had a genuinely interesting thread on the state of the world, 42
years after a nuclear war that was utterly disastrous for almost
everyone except the USA, for which it was only moderately disastrous.
The thread is historically plausible, to put it mildly. Indeed, it's
quite arguably the most probable outcome of the events of October,
1962; the fact that it didn't happen required the active intervention
of Lady Luck.
But it involved killing off about 500 million people, including a fair
proportion of shwi posters, either directly or via incineration of
parents. In the course of the thread, several people expressed at least
discomfort at the casual way that megadeaths were being chucked around
"Yeah, we'll write down the population of Germany by 95%". Note,
please, that the thread did not degenerate into some kind of murderous
wankfest. In at least one case, the discomfort amounted to something
close to ethical revulsion: we shouldn't be talking about this sort of
thing. Omen est nomen, and all that. On the other hand, it's
fascinating -- not only in a macabre sort of way, although to deny a
macabre fascination would be dishonest, I believe -- and it's quite
clearly genuine AH.
Hmm. I can see both sides of the argument, here, and am in some danger
of impaling myself on an intellectual fence; not the most comfortable
of positions. On the one hand: do novelists have any sort of moral
responsibility for their characters? "You killed Little Nell, you
bastard!" Of course not, although they most assuredly have a
responsibility for the novel as a whole. On the other: the
investigation of historical possibilities is the raison-d'etre of the
group, and nothing human is alien to us. And, despite the close
approach made by certain multi-part AHs, we're not writing novels.
(Although some of us should get off our arses and do just that, but
that's another question entirely.)
Suppose we were running an AH on the Mongol invasion of the Kwarizm;
"Given the Mongol targeting strategy, if X had done Y, we could be
looking at no more than a few kiloskull mountains, and only in the
valley of Z." Would anyone be morally squeamish about that?
Does distance lend enchantment to the view? Does the whole "ethical"
business simply relate to the intimacy of the near past? Or, as one
poster in the nukefest thread seemed to think, would
carefully-researched accuracy (not "write down Germany by 95%" but
"best studies indicate 430,000 die within 24 hours of a strike on
Mannheim") somehow resolve the dilemma?
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
--
"The past resembles the future as water resembles water" Ibn Khaldun
My .mac.com address is a spam sink.
If you wish to email me, try atlothian at blueyonder dot co dot uk
Alan Lothian
2004-05-21 12:34:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by cernunnos
no not particularly
Snide top-posting followed by idle regurgitation. A more slovenly,
churlish and ill-mannered post I have not seen here for a long time.

*plonk*
--
"The past resembles the future as water resembles water" Ibn Khaldun

My .mac.com address is a spam sink.
If you wish to email me, try atlothian at blueyonder dot co dot uk
Jack Linthicum
2004-05-21 17:29:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by cernunnos
no not particularly
Snide top-posting followed by idle regurgitation. A more slovenly,
churlish and ill-mannered post I have not seen here for a long time.
*plonk*
Repeated the full text of your original too.
cernunnos
2004-05-21 22:53:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jack Linthicum
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by cernunnos
no not particularly
Snide top-posting followed by idle regurgitation. A more slovenly,
churlish and ill-mannered post I have not seen here for a long time.
*plonk*
Repeated the full text of your original too.
gee, thats kinda extreme.

I don't particularly feel that we "owe" any consideration to fictional
events, times, and places. Of course we owe it to the real people not to
malign them. Having (insert historical figure here) suddenly develop a
taste for the flesh of newborn infants is a tad unethical, and usually a
sign of wanking, or of silliness.

Basically, what we do is historical extrapolation. If A had happened
differently might B not be different as a result? And if B involves the
death of a few million ~fictional~ people. Is there really a need to beat
your chest and cry at the fate of poor little timmy who got irradiated in a
fictional story? Does Stephen King cry himself to sleep every night
bemoaning the Billions of people hes slaughtered fictionally?

The reason my answer was offhand and dismissive was that the question shows
a serious lack of seperation between reality and fiction.
Faeelin
2004-05-21 18:56:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Not at all. We're dealing with imaginary people in what are essentially
imaginary circumstances. What responsibilities are there to be people who
never were?
Post by Alan Lothian
In at least one case, the discomfort amounted to something
close to ethical revulsion: we shouldn't be talking about this sort of
thing. Omen est nomen, and all that.
This is quite simply absurd. Bad things happen in history. If you want to
include realism in alternate history, then bad things must happen in it as
well. Refusing to discuss it because you find it is one thing, but to demand
others not discuss it because you find it uncomfortable is silly. Just don't
read.
Post by Alan Lothian
Suppose we were running an AH on the Mongol invasion of the Kwarizm;
"Given the Mongol targeting strategy, if X had done Y, we could be
looking at no more than a few kiloskull mountains, and only in the
valley of Z." Would anyone be morally squeamish about that?
Of course not. It's distance in the past.
Post by Alan Lothian
Does distance lend enchantment to the view? Does the whole "ethical"
business simply relate to the intimacy of the near past?
Absolutely. People don't demand we not discuss the Khans or the fall of the
roman empire, despite being unpleasant events. The sack of constantinople
was horrific, destroying libaries that "made those of alexandria look like a
7-11 magazine rack", to paraphrase some one, but we discuss those.
Post by Alan Lothian
Or, as one
poster in the nukefest thread seemed to think, would
carefully-researched accuracy (not "write down Germany by 95%" but
"best studies indicate 430,000 die within 24 hours of a strike on
Mannheim") somehow resolve the dilemma?
Not at all. If the issue is finding it morally repulsive, more realistic
atrocities won't solve it.
Post by Alan Lothian
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
Are there any ethics in real history?
cernunnos
2004-05-21 22:57:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by Faeelin
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Not at all. We're dealing with imaginary people in what are essentially
imaginary circumstances. What responsibilities are there to be people who
never were?
Post by Alan Lothian
In at least one case, the discomfort amounted to something
close to ethical revulsion: we shouldn't be talking about this sort of
thing. Omen est nomen, and all that.
This is quite simply absurd. Bad things happen in history. If you want to
include realism in alternate history, then bad things must happen in it as
well. Refusing to discuss it because you find it is one thing, but to demand
others not discuss it because you find it uncomfortable is silly. Just don't
read.
Post by Alan Lothian
Suppose we were running an AH on the Mongol invasion of the Kwarizm;
"Given the Mongol targeting strategy, if X had done Y, we could be
looking at no more than a few kiloskull mountains, and only in the
valley of Z." Would anyone be morally squeamish about that?
Of course not. It's distance in the past.
Post by Alan Lothian
Does distance lend enchantment to the view? Does the whole "ethical"
business simply relate to the intimacy of the near past?
Absolutely. People don't demand we not discuss the Khans or the fall of the
roman empire, despite being unpleasant events. The sack of constantinople
was horrific, destroying libaries that "made those of alexandria look like a
7-11 magazine rack", to paraphrase some one, but we discuss those.
Quite true. History is a bloody, brutal heart rending affair. A certain
clinical detachment is necesary for its study.

If we were to beat our chest, and gnash our teeth over every horror, and
every atrocity in history there would be no way we could ever study it in
any real way.
Sydney Webb
2004-05-22 02:38:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by Faeelin
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Not at all. We're dealing with imaginary people in what are essentially
imaginary circumstances. What responsibilities are there to be people who
never were?
I respectfully disagree.

In the most part we are writing fiction about people who were and are.
We are writing fiction, true, but it is largely constrained by 'what
might have been'. Unless we are writing about characters born after the
PoD there are, by and large, no out-and-out fictitious Little Nells of
which we write. When we take liberties with real life personages - such
as Caroline Benn née Middleton de Camp, now sadly departed - our more
sensitive readers will take issue and rightly so.

As Doug Hoff writes elsewhere on this thread, there is a responsibility
to taste. _How_ and author writes a passage tells a great deal about
her. (Or, as it may be, him.) When writing OHMMSS, which involves
wholesale slaughter, I took great care that no death should go unmourned
and unmarked. The deaths were necessary for the narrative but that did
not mean they could be described lightly. If we believe that in the
real world no-one is an island and anyone's death diminishes us then
this belief should be reflected in our AH.

- Syd
Faeelin
2004-05-22 15:43:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sydney Webb
Post by Faeelin
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Not at all. We're dealing with imaginary people in what are essentially
imaginary circumstances. What responsibilities are there to be people who
never were?
I respectfully disagree.
In the most part we are writing fiction about people who were and are.
We are writing fiction, true, but it is largely constrained by 'what
might have been'. Unless we are writing about characters born after the
PoD there are, by and large, no out-and-out fictitious Little Nells of
which we write. When we take liberties with real life personages - such
as Caroline Benn née Middleton de Camp, now sadly departed - our more
sensitive readers will take issue and rightly so.
Hmm. I agree with you on this. But this is an obligation to people who
really existed, to have them act as they would have rationally acted. Curtis
Le May for instance, isn't likely to have launched a coup against the
government, and it would be wrong to have him do such.

This is an obligation to the person's character.

However, we are under no such obligation to avoid having this person avoid
pain and suffering.
Post by Sydney Webb
As Doug Hoff writes elsewhere on this thread, there is a responsibility
to taste. _How_ and author writes a passage tells a great deal about
her. (Or, as it may be, him.) When writing OHMMSS, which involves
wholesale slaughter, I took great care that no death should go unmourned
and unmarked. The deaths were necessary for the narrative but that did
not mean they could be described lightly. If we believe that in the
real world no-one is an island and anyone's death diminishes us then
this belief should be reflected in our AH.
Certainly. But by the same token, if we acknowledge that bad things happen
in the real world, we must be able to discuss these in AH. Shying away from
the effects of a nazi conquest of europe to the urals because it's
depressing and horrific is a bad reason to do so, because the nazis were
horrific. Shying away from discussing it because it's implausible to have
the nazis win, however, is acceptable.

I hope I clarified my position.
Mike Ralls
2004-05-24 01:10:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sydney Webb
As Doug Hoff writes elsewhere on this thread, there is a responsibility
to taste. _How_ and author writes a passage tells a great deal about
her. (Or, as it may be, him.) When writing OHMMSS, which involves
wholesale slaughter, I took great care that no death should go unmourned
and unmarked.
But does that apply to the hashing out phase? When you are just
trying to get a grip on the basics and don't yet _know_ what they are
and are trying too seek others opinions on them?
Sydney Webb
2004-05-25 13:22:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Sydney Webb
As Doug Hoff writes elsewhere on this thread, there is a responsibility
to taste. _How_ and author writes a passage tells a great deal about
her. (Or, as it may be, him.) When writing OHMMSS, which involves
wholesale slaughter, I took great care that no death should go unmourned
and unmarked.
But does that apply to the hashing out phase? When you are just
trying to get a grip on the basics and don't yet _know_ what they are
and are trying too seek others opinions on them?
You've lost me here, Mike.

I'm imagining two posts to s.h.w-i:

* * * *

Hashing out phase:
==================

Tender readers, I'm imagining a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, die horribly.
Mwa-ha-ha! What do you guys think?

* * * *

Final phase:
============

Tender readers, I've imagined a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Thousands die. It's all very sad. Any person's
death diminishes me.

* * * *

The first post doesn't seem like a style for which many of us would want
to aim. Just because we are 'hashing out' doesn't mean we have to
abandon style or tone.

- Syd
President Chester A. Arthur
2004-05-25 17:21:52 UTC
Permalink
Subject: Re: [META] The ethics of AH
Date: 5/25/2004 9:22 AM Eastern Standard Time
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Sydney Webb
As Doug Hoff writes elsewhere on this thread, there is a responsibility
to taste. _How_ and author writes a passage tells a great deal about
her. (Or, as it may be, him.) When writing OHMMSS, which involves
wholesale slaughter, I took great care that no death should go unmourned
and unmarked.
But does that apply to the hashing out phase? When you are just
trying to get a grip on the basics and don't yet _know_ what they are
and are trying too seek others opinions on them?
You've lost me here, Mike.
* * * *
==================
Tender readers, I'm imagining a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, die horribly.
Mwa-ha-ha! What do you guys think?
* * * *
============
Tender readers, I've imagined a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Thousands die. It's all very sad. Any person's
death diminishes me.
* * * *
The first post doesn't seem like a style for which many of us would want
to aim. Just because we are 'hashing out' doesn't mean we have to
abandon style or tone.
Aww. But what if you're aiming for a style of malignant wickedness?


----

"Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."
Abraham Lincoln, 1862
Alan Lothian
2004-05-26 11:58:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by President Chester A. Arthur
Aww. But what if you're aiming for a style of malignant wickedness?
Hmm. As opposed to benign wickedness?
--
"The past resembles the future as water resembles water" Ibn Khaldun

My .mac.com address is a spam sink.
If you wish to email me, try atlothian at blueyonder dot co dot uk
President Chester A. Arthur
2004-05-26 19:54:47 UTC
Permalink
Subject: Re: [META] The ethics of AH
Date: 5/26/2004 7:58 AM Eastern Standard Time
Post by President Chester A. Arthur
Aww. But what if you're aiming for a style of malignant wickedness?
Hmm. As opposed to benign wickedness?
Redundancy makes me sound smrt.


----

"Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."
Abraham Lincoln, 1862
James Nicoll
2004-05-25 15:37:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sydney Webb
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Sydney Webb
As Doug Hoff writes elsewhere on this thread, there is a responsibility
to taste. _How_ and author writes a passage tells a great deal about
her. (Or, as it may be, him.) When writing OHMMSS, which involves
wholesale slaughter, I took great care that no death should go unmourned
and unmarked.
But does that apply to the hashing out phase? When you are just
trying to get a grip on the basics and don't yet _know_ what they are
and are trying too seek others opinions on them?
You've lost me here, Mike.
* * * *
==================
Tender readers, I'm imagining a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, die horribly.
Mwa-ha-ha! What do you guys think?
It seems to me I've seen that one here. Can't recall who from,
though.

ObWI: Martin Luther, Pope.
--
"The keywords for tonight are Caution and Flammability."
JFK, _Bubba Ho Tep_
cernunnos
2004-05-25 22:53:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sydney Webb
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Sydney Webb
As Doug Hoff writes elsewhere on this thread, there is a
responsibility
Post by Sydney Webb
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Sydney Webb
to taste. _How_ and author writes a passage tells a great deal about
her. (Or, as it may be, him.) When writing OHMMSS, which involves
wholesale slaughter, I took great care that no death should go unmourned
and unmarked.
But does that apply to the hashing out phase? When you are just
trying to get a grip on the basics and don't yet _know_ what they are
and are trying too seek others opinions on them?
You've lost me here, Mike.
* * * *
==================
Tender readers, I'm imagining a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, die horribly.
Mwa-ha-ha! What do you guys think?
* * * *
============
Tender readers, I've imagined a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Thousands die. It's all very sad. Any person's
death diminishes me.
* * * *
The first post doesn't seem like a style for which many of us would want
to aim. Just because we are 'hashing out' doesn't mean we have to
abandon style or tone.
But whats more likely, especially in this group...

Tender readers, I've imagined a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Thousands die. Now, how does this effect the
population distribution of european settlement in north america?

There is a tender place between teh gnashing of teeth and the twiddle of
mustache.
Mike Ralls
2004-05-27 01:24:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by cernunnos
Post by Sydney Webb
You've lost me here, Mike.
<
Post by Sydney Webb
The first post doesn't seem like a style for which many of us would want
to aim. Just because we are 'hashing out' doesn't mean we have to
abandon style or tone.
Not abandon but I would argue that most people here take a less
serious style and tone when they are hashing things out.
Post by cernunnos
But whats more likely, especially in this group...
Tender readers, I've imagined a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Thousands die. Now, how does this effect the
population distribution of european settlement in north america?
I'd be fine with that renditioning myself.

--
Mike Ralls
cernunnos
2004-05-27 03:12:34 UTC
Permalink
news:<H7Qsc.47772
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by cernunnos
Post by Sydney Webb
You've lost me here, Mike.
<
Post by Sydney Webb
The first post doesn't seem like a style for which many of us would want
to aim. Just because we are 'hashing out' doesn't mean we have to
abandon style or tone.
Not abandon but I would argue that most people here take a less
serious style and tone when they are hashing things out.
Post by cernunnos
But whats more likely, especially in this group...
Tender readers, I've imagined a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Thousands die. Now, how does this effect the
population distribution of european settlement in north america?
I'd be fine with that renditioning myself.
Yes, the point i was making was that due to varying interests on this group
sometimes the "big"
PODs are examined from the bottom up. The small effects as opposed to the
big effects. Such as "sure its bad all those people died, but how does this
affect shoes production in france!" people have different interests.
david
2004-05-26 19:28:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sydney Webb
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Sydney Webb
As Doug Hoff writes elsewhere on this thread, there is a responsibility
to taste. _How_ and author writes a passage tells a great deal about
her. (Or, as it may be, him.) When writing OHMMSS, which involves
wholesale slaughter, I took great care that no death should go unmourned
and unmarked.
But does that apply to the hashing out phase? When you are just
trying to get a grip on the basics and don't yet _know_ what they are
and are trying too seek others opinions on them?
You've lost me here, Mike.
* * * *
==================
Tender readers, I'm imagining a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, die horribly.
Mwa-ha-ha! What do you guys think?
* * * *
============
Tender readers, I've imagined a PoD that causes Martin Luther to be
burnt at the stake. Thousands die. It's all very sad. Any person's
death diminishes me.
* * * *
The first post doesn't seem like a style for which many of us would want
to aim. Just because we are 'hashing out' doesn't mean we have to
abandon style or tone.
How about: I'm proposing a timeline in which this PoD causes Martin
Luther to be burnt at the stake. The immediate consequences I see as
arising are plagues of locusts sweeping across the land, and the
religious wars kicking off ahead of schedule, and with greater outside
interferences. Are these likely or possible consequences?
--
David Flin
Rich Trouton
2004-05-21 21:12:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Let me start from a particular case.
I'm going to oversimplify certain people's arguments, not to traduce
them but to try to make the issues clear. That's why I won't mention
names: the responsibility for the half-arsed ideas that follow is
entirely mine.
We've had a genuinely interesting thread on the state of the world, 42
years after a nuclear war that was utterly disastrous for almost
everyone except the USA, for which it was only moderately disastrous.
The thread is historically plausible, to put it mildly. Indeed, it's
quite arguably the most probable outcome of the events of October,
1962; the fact that it didn't happen required the active intervention
of Lady Luck.
But it involved killing off about 500 million people, including a fair
proportion of shwi posters, either directly or via incineration of
parents. In the course of the thread, several people expressed at least
discomfort at the casual way that megadeaths were being chucked around
"Yeah, we'll write down the population of Germany by 95%". Note,
please, that the thread did not degenerate into some kind of murderous
wankfest. In at least one case, the discomfort amounted to something
close to ethical revulsion: we shouldn't be talking about this sort of
thing. Omen est nomen, and all that. On the other hand, it's
fascinating -- not only in a macabre sort of way, although to deny a
macabre fascination would be dishonest, I believe -- and it's quite
clearly genuine AH.
Hmm. I can see both sides of the argument, here, and am in some danger
of impaling myself on an intellectual fence; not the most comfortable
of positions. On the one hand: do novelists have any sort of moral
responsibility for their characters? "You killed Little Nell, you
bastard!" Of course not, although they most assuredly have a
responsibility for the novel as a whole. On the other: the
investigation of historical possibilities is the raison-d'etre of the
group, and nothing human is alien to us. And, despite the close
approach made by certain multi-part AHs, we're not writing novels.
(Although some of us should get off our arses and do just that, but
that's another question entirely.)
Suppose we were running an AH on the Mongol invasion of the Kwarizm;
"Given the Mongol targeting strategy, if X had done Y, we could be
looking at no more than a few kiloskull mountains, and only in the
valley of Z." Would anyone be morally squeamish about that?
Does distance lend enchantment to the view? Does the whole "ethical"
business simply relate to the intimacy of the near past? Or, as one
poster in the nukefest thread seemed to think, would
carefully-researched accuracy (not "write down Germany by 95%" but
"best studies indicate 430,000 die within 24 hours of a strike on
Mannheim") somehow resolve the dilemma?
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
I'd argue that the answer is no, beyond the individual ethical mores
of the individual poster. The reason I say this, is that we cannot
affect the past, no matter how much we write, post, dream, whatever.
The past is gone. We can affect the future with our actions in the
present, but that's where ethics would come in.

A case in point is the above example cited about the megadeaths in
Germany. There's no way to actually kill those people in the past, or
even make them stub their toe. You can form societies about killing
all those Germans in the past, post manifestoes on the internet, and
pose for television draped with firearms and ammunition that you
publicly boast will be used to kill all those "past Germans." Doesn't
matter. Can't be done. At that point, I see it as a matter of bad
taste and worse idiocy, not ethics.

The actions you take in the present are, of course, an entirely
separate matter.
cernunnos
2004-05-21 22:59:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rich Trouton
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
A case in point is the above example cited about the megadeaths in
Germany. There's no way to actually kill those people in the past, or
even make them stub their toe. You can form societies about killing
all those Germans in the past, post manifestoes on the internet, and
pose for television draped with firearms and ammunition that you
publicly boast will be used to kill all those "past Germans." Doesn't
matter. Can't be done. At that point, I see it as a matter of bad
taste and worse idiocy, not ethics.
excellent example.
Post by Rich Trouton
The actions you take in the present are, of course, an entirely
separate matter.
Exactly, the way a crime is formed is by mens rea, and actus rea (pardon
the spelling)

Basically, a thought of commiting a crime, and the activitiy of commiting
the crime. What that means is, writing a post that involves say a plague
wiping out a more significant amount of northern europe does not make me a
mass murder.
Doug Hoff
2004-05-21 22:05:06 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
Suppose we were running an AH on the Mongol invasion of the Kwarizm;
"Given the Mongol targeting strategy, if X had done Y, we could be
looking at no more than a few kiloskull mountains, and only in the
valley of Z." Would anyone be morally squeamish about that?
Does distance lend enchantment to the view? Does the whole "ethical"
business simply relate to the intimacy of the near past? Or, as one
poster in the nukefest thread seemed to think, would
carefully-researched accuracy (not "write down Germany by 95%" but
"best studies indicate 430,000 die within 24 hours of a strike on
Mannheim") somehow resolve the dilemma?
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
I spent a good amount of time today noodling this over without coming up
with any definitive answer on the ethics question. I did, however, come to
the conclusion that there is definitely a responsibility towards taste. If
the author is dealing with megadeath in a serious context, I think it should
be conveyed in a serious fashion. In a non-serious context, one can be as
flip as one wants, I think. After all, it is fiction and Douglas Adams blew
up the whole world for larfs in 'Hitchhiker's Guide.'

Some evil part of me wants to do EA 19 in the tone of 'A Knight's Tale,' but
the context is serious, so the tone should be, also.
--
----------

Doug

I like the Fourth of July. It breathes the spirit of revolution.

Eugene Debs

***@dhoff5767.eiomail.com
(replace the 2 with a 3 and you have my shwi e-mail address)

www.althist.com
Tony Bailey
2004-05-21 23:05:46 UTC
Permalink
"Doug Hoff" <***@dhoff5767.eiormail.com> wrote in message
news:40ae7d13$0$3162
Post by Doug Hoff
I spent a good amount of time today noodling this over without coming up
with any definitive answer on the ethics question. I did, however, come to
the conclusion that there is definitely a responsibility towards taste.
If
Post by Doug Hoff
the author is dealing with megadeath in a serious context, I think it should
be conveyed in a serious fashion. In a non-serious context, one can be as
flip as one wants, I think. After all, it is fiction and Douglas Adams blew
up the whole world for larfs in 'Hitchhiker's Guide.'
And some SF authors have "destroyed" whole inhabited galaxies in a few
seconds of reading time.
--
Tony Bailey
Mercury Travel Books
cernunnos
2004-05-22 00:30:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tony Bailey
news:40ae7d13$0$3162
Post by Doug Hoff
I spent a good amount of time today noodling this over without coming up
with any definitive answer on the ethics question. I did, however, come
to
Post by Doug Hoff
the conclusion that there is definitely a responsibility towards taste.
If
Post by Doug Hoff
the author is dealing with megadeath in a serious context, I think it
should
Post by Doug Hoff
be conveyed in a serious fashion. In a non-serious context, one can be as
flip as one wants, I think. After all, it is fiction and Douglas Adams
blew
Post by Doug Hoff
up the whole world for larfs in 'Hitchhiker's Guide.'
And some SF authors have "destroyed" whole inhabited galaxies in a few
seconds of reading time.
Some have ended all things, whole universes collapsing into nothingness...
rosignol
2004-05-21 22:30:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
[zap]
Post by Alan Lothian
Does distance lend enchantment to the view? Does the whole "ethical"
business simply relate to the intimacy of the near past?
IMO, yes. It is far easier to be detached about things that happened
over a century ago than something that happened a year ago.
Post by Alan Lothian
Or, as one
poster in the nukefest thread seemed to think, would
carefully-researched accuracy (not "write down Germany by 95%" but
"best studies indicate 430,000 die within 24 hours of a strike on
Mannheim") somehow resolve the dilemma?
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
I don't think 'ethics' is the correct word to describe what you are
referring to. There are some matters that are not discussed, but I think
that is more related to a desire to maintain civility in this forum than
what you call ethics.
--
al Qaeda delenda est
cernunnos
2004-05-21 23:02:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by rosignol
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
[zap]
Post by Alan Lothian
Does distance lend enchantment to the view? Does the whole "ethical"
business simply relate to the intimacy of the near past?
IMO, yes. It is far easier to be detached about things that happened
over a century ago than something that happened a year ago.
It all depends on relationships. Sure the things that happened in rwanda
were horrendous, but what happened in Cape Breton in the 20s during the
labour disputes makes me more naseous.
Post by rosignol
Post by Alan Lothian
Or, as one
poster in the nukefest thread seemed to think, would
carefully-researched accuracy (not "write down Germany by 95%" but
"best studies indicate 430,000 die within 24 hours of a strike on
Mannheim") somehow resolve the dilemma?
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
I don't think 'ethics' is the correct word to describe what you are
referring to. There are some matters that are not discussed, but I think
that is more related to a desire to maintain civility in this forum than
what you call ethics.
Yes, eithics is the wrong word. Sensativity, or taste could be appropiate,
but ethics makes it seem like by extrapolating what would happens makes you
somehow responsible for the outcome.
a***@pacific.net.au
2004-05-22 00:16:14 UTC
Permalink
On Fri, 21 May 2004 23:02:23 GMT, "cernunnos"
Post by cernunnos
It all depends on relationships. Sure the things that happened in rwanda
were horrendous, but what happened in Cape Breton in the 20s during the
labour disputes makes me more naseous.
??? Never heard of this ??? Any websites covering it?

Phil

Author, Space Opera (FGU), RBB #1 (FASA), Road to Armageddon (PGD).
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Email: ***@pacific.net.au (not the munged address vs spambots)
cernunnos
2004-05-22 00:29:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
On Fri, 21 May 2004 23:02:23 GMT, "cernunnos"
Post by cernunnos
It all depends on relationships. Sure the things that happened in rwanda
were horrendous, but what happened in Cape Breton in the 20s during the
labour disputes makes me more naseous.
??? Never heard of this ??? Any websites covering it?
Phil
It isnt as bad as rwanda, many leagues less bad. Of course thats a relative
term. Basically it boils down to a mining company making people live so far
below the poverty level that their children were starving. and the resulting
strikes.

http://www.civilization.ca/hist/labour/labh24e.html

http://collections.ic.gc.ca/coal/history/2tunions.html

http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/history30/u3tent.html

It makes me naseous because my grandfather, the man who raised me as my
father was born with rickets becasue of it. He didnt even walk until he was
seven. See, it hits home more because its closer, i can physically see the
playground where the children were beaten by men riding horses, i can
imagine the harbour with navy ships in it guns trained on the town. rwanda,
while horrifying, and grotesque in the extreme is not as horrifying as what
happened to my family.
a***@pacific.net.au
2004-05-22 10:04:30 UTC
Permalink
On Sat, 22 May 2004 00:29:32 GMT, "cernunnos"
Post by cernunnos
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
On Fri, 21 May 2004 23:02:23 GMT, "cernunnos"
Post by cernunnos
It all depends on relationships. Sure the things that happened in
rwanda
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
Post by cernunnos
were horrendous, but what happened in Cape Breton in the 20s during the
labour disputes makes me more naseous.
??? Never heard of this ??? Any websites covering it?
Phil
It isnt as bad as rwanda, many leagues less bad. Of course thats a relative
term. Basically it boils down to a mining company making people live so far
below the poverty level that their children were starving. and the resulting
strikes.
http://www.civilization.ca/hist/labour/labh24e.html
http://collections.ic.gc.ca/coal/history/2tunions.html
http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/history30/u3tent.html
Thanks. Interesting ... my Grandad was a miner, too ... worked all
over NSW and ended up on the Cessnock coalfields during the 1920s and
remained there the rest of his life.

He, and my dad, would occasionally talk of what happened there during
the 20s and 30s ... and even during the 2nd war ... and how even
so-called Labor governments worked to crush the unions.

Suffice it to say that on one occasion at least the government shipped
in hundreds of "Special Constables" from Sydney, forced the Publican
at the Aberdare (IIRC) Hotel to open out of hours so they could all
get good and pissed, and then set them loose on the striking miners.
At least one Miner was killed, and up until the 1960s and 70s the
older generation did not trust the police in the area as a general
rule.

Dad worked, IIRC, a day or so in the mines and then gave up and
started his own milk run, on credit from one of the local farmers (and
using a bicycle, aged about 16), during the Depression because when he
went to the Police Station to register for the Dole the "fat bastard
of a Police Sergeant" (quote) called him a lazy little bludger, less
politely. Dad called him a "fat bastard" to his face and left the
Police Station a step ahead of a police boot.

Never worked in the Mines after that.
Post by cernunnos
It makes me naseous because my grandfather, the man who raised me as my
father was born with rickets becasue of it. He didnt even walk until he was
seven. See, it hits home more because its closer, i can physically see the
playground where the children were beaten by men riding horses, i can
imagine the harbour with navy ships in it guns trained on the town. rwanda,
while horrifying, and grotesque in the extreme is not as horrifying as what
happened to my family.
I can appreciate the feeling.

(The websites were interesting and informative ... strange how similar
government bastards are all over the world).

Phil

Author, Space Opera (FGU), RBB #1 (FASA), Road to Armageddon (PGD).
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Email: ***@pacific.net.au (not the munged address vs spambots)
cernunnos
2004-05-22 15:24:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
On Sat, 22 May 2004 00:29:32 GMT, "cernunnos"
Post by cernunnos
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
On Fri, 21 May 2004 23:02:23 GMT, "cernunnos"
Post by cernunnos
It all depends on relationships. Sure the things that happened in
rwanda
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
Post by cernunnos
were horrendous, but what happened in Cape Breton in the 20s during the
labour disputes makes me more naseous.
??? Never heard of this ??? Any websites covering it?
Phil
It isnt as bad as rwanda, many leagues less bad. Of course thats a relative
term. Basically it boils down to a mining company making people live so far
below the poverty level that their children were starving. and the resulting
strikes.
http://www.civilization.ca/hist/labour/labh24e.html
http://collections.ic.gc.ca/coal/history/2tunions.html
http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/history30/u3tent.html
Thanks. Interesting ... my Grandad was a miner, too ... worked all
over NSW and ended up on the Cessnock coalfields during the 1920s and
remained there the rest of his life.
you know, its a funny but unrelated anecdote.. I used to work as a DJ at
the college radio station. We were always getting pre release stuff, things
from new artists, junk like that. One thing that plagued us tho was New
South Wales. the address for the college was Sydney N.S. and the mail
routinely got misrouted to Sydney N.S.W. It led to a tad of a delay in
processing new artists.
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
He, and my dad, would occasionally talk of what happened there during
the 20s and 30s ... and even during the 2nd war ... and how even
so-called Labor governments worked to crush the unions.
Suffice it to say that on one occasion at least the government shipped
in hundreds of "Special Constables" from Sydney, forced the Publican
at the Aberdare (IIRC) Hotel to open out of hours so they could all
get good and pissed, and then set them loose on the striking miners.
At least one Miner was killed, and up until the 1960s and 70s the
older generation did not trust the police in the area as a general
rule.
Its had a definite affect on local voting turnout, Cape Breton routinely
votes totally opposite the rest of the country...

The police around here suffered for years. As my grandfather said "you dont
see nothing, you dont hear nothing, you dont know nothing." Trust in the
police force was in short supply.
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
Dad worked, IIRC, a day or so in the mines and then gave up and
started his own milk run, on credit from one of the local farmers (and
using a bicycle, aged about 16), during the Depression because when he
went to the Police Station to register for the Dole the "fat bastard
of a Police Sergeant" (quote) called him a lazy little bludger, less
politely. Dad called him a "fat bastard" to his face and left the
Police Station a step ahead of a police boot.
Never worked in the Mines after that.
My father tried to work in the mines, when my grandfather found out he
flattened him. Same wiht the army. LOL, my father never really had a
chance at those professions.
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
Post by cernunnos
It makes me naseous because my grandfather, the man who raised me as my
father was born with rickets becasue of it. He didnt even walk until he was
seven. See, it hits home more because its closer, i can physically see the
playground where the children were beaten by men riding horses, i can
imagine the harbour with navy ships in it guns trained on the town.
rwanda,
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
Post by cernunnos
while horrifying, and grotesque in the extreme is not as horrifying as what
happened to my family.
I can appreciate the feeling.
(The websites were interesting and informative ... strange how similar
government bastards are all over the world)
It wasnt so much similar governments, it was fundamentally the same
government. Or same coal companies.

Either way, you wont find many cape bretoners that will cross a picket line.
Tony Bailey
2004-05-22 19:14:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by cernunnos
you know, its a funny but unrelated anecdote.. I used to work as a DJ at
the college radio station. We were always getting pre release stuff, things
from new artists, junk like that. One thing that plagued us tho was New
South Wales. the address for the college was Sydney N.S. and the mail
routinely got misrouted to Sydney N.S.W. It led to a tad of a delay in
processing new artists.
And the mail addressed to Sidney?
--
Tony Bailey
Mercury Travel Books
cernunnos
2004-05-23 01:02:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by Faeelin
Post by cernunnos
you know, its a funny but unrelated anecdote.. I used to work as a DJ at
the college radio station. We were always getting pre release stuff,
things
Post by cernunnos
from new artists, junk like that. One thing that plagued us tho was New
South Wales. the address for the college was Sydney N.S. and the mail
routinely got misrouted to Sydney N.S.W. It led to a tad of a delay in
processing new artists.
And the mail addressed to Sidney?
No, we rarely got any mail misrouted from NSW. The mail we got was sent to
Australia, checked as a non existing addresss, and returned to us. Took a
fair amount of time and we often got parcels with "wrong country" written in
pen across the top of them. It was fairly amusing.... Now i say rarely
because, yes we did occasionally get shipments meant for Austria. We of
course popped them back in the mail. Is there anything in sydney australia
with the initials UCCB? or perhaps a street called Grand Lake road?
a***@pacific.net.au
2004-05-23 02:39:37 UTC
Permalink
On Sun, 23 May 2004 01:02:04 GMT, "cernunnos"
Post by cernunnos
Post by Faeelin
Post by cernunnos
you know, its a funny but unrelated anecdote.. I used to work as a DJ
at
Post by Faeelin
Post by cernunnos
the college radio station. We were always getting pre release stuff,
things
Post by cernunnos
from new artists, junk like that. One thing that plagued us tho was New
South Wales. the address for the college was Sydney N.S. and the mail
routinely got misrouted to Sydney N.S.W. It led to a tad of a delay in
processing new artists.
And the mail addressed to Sidney?
No, we rarely got any mail misrouted from NSW. The mail we got was sent to
Australia, checked as a non existing addresss, and returned to us. Took a
fair amount of time and we often got parcels with "wrong country" written in
pen across the top of them. It was fairly amusing.... Now i say rarely
because, yes we did occasionally get shipments meant for Austria. We of
course popped them back in the mail. Is there anything in sydney australia
with the initials UCCB? or perhaps a street called Grand Lake road?
UCCB? Nothing I can think of offhand.

Grand Lake Road? Probably something close enough ... Column 8 in the
Sydney Morning Herald (basically a column for weirdness and "life's
little mysteries") often has snippets about mail from assorted weird
places turning up at Sydney addresses.

Phil

Author, Space Opera (FGU), RBB #1 (FASA), Road to Armageddon (PGD).
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Email: ***@pacific.net.au (not the munged address vs spambots)
cernunnos
2004-05-23 15:17:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
On Sun, 23 May 2004 01:02:04 GMT, "cernunnos"
Post by cernunnos
Post by Faeelin
Post by cernunnos
you know, its a funny but unrelated anecdote.. I used to work as a DJ
at
Post by Faeelin
Post by cernunnos
the college radio station. We were always getting pre release stuff,
things
Post by cernunnos
from new artists, junk like that. One thing that plagued us tho was New
South Wales. the address for the college was Sydney N.S. and the mail
routinely got misrouted to Sydney N.S.W. It led to a tad of a delay in
processing new artists.
And the mail addressed to Sidney?
No, we rarely got any mail misrouted from NSW. The mail we got was sent to
Australia, checked as a non existing addresss, and returned to us. Took a
fair amount of time and we often got parcels with "wrong country" written in
pen across the top of them. It was fairly amusing.... Now i say rarely
because, yes we did occasionally get shipments meant for Austria. We of
course popped them back in the mail. Is there anything in sydney australia
with the initials UCCB? or perhaps a street called Grand Lake road?
UCCB? Nothing I can think of offhand.
Grand Lake Road? Probably something close enough ... Column 8 in the
Sydney Morning Herald (basically a column for weirdness and "life's
little mysteries") often has snippets about mail from assorted weird
places turning up at Sydney addresses.
Hmm, id be oddly interested to see that. Im imagining the mix up we are
discussing is fairly common.
Tony Bailey
2004-05-23 18:24:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by cernunnos
Hmm, id be oddly interested to see that. Im imagining the mix up we are
discussing is fairly common.
You did hear about the English couple last year who found a really cheap
Internet fare to Sydney for holidays and never even blinked when they had to
change into a fairly small aircraft in Halifax? They were a bit curious that
it didn't seem as warm at their destination as they had expected, until the
facts finally sank in to them.
--
Tony Bailey
Mercury Travel Books
cernunnos
2004-05-23 18:34:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tony Bailey
Post by cernunnos
Hmm, id be oddly interested to see that. Im imagining the mix up we are
discussing is fairly common.
You did hear about the English couple last year who found a really cheap
Internet fare to Sydney for holidays and never even blinked when they had to
change into a fairly small aircraft in Halifax? They were a bit curious that
it didn't seem as warm at their destination as they had expected, until the
facts finally sank in to them
Yes, not only do i remember that. I know some people that met them. They
were total jerks about the whole situation. it was their own fault. they
didnt get a clue when the first stop was canada? isnt that the entirely
wrong way?

also they didnt check the country involved? thats just stupidity.
rosignol
2004-05-24 00:57:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by cernunnos
Post by Tony Bailey
Post by cernunnos
Hmm, id be oddly interested to see that. Im imagining the mix up we are
discussing is fairly common.
You did hear about the English couple last year who found a really cheap
Internet fare to Sydney for holidays and never even blinked when they had
to
Post by Tony Bailey
change into a fairly small aircraft in Halifax? They were a bit curious
that
Post by Tony Bailey
it didn't seem as warm at their destination as they had expected, until
the
Post by Tony Bailey
facts finally sank in to them
Yes, not only do i remember that. I know some people that met them. They
were total jerks about the whole situation. it was their own fault. they
didnt get a clue when the first stop was canada? isnt that the entirely
wrong way?
No.

What direction would you expect a flight from Chicago, Ill, USA to Hong
Kong, China go?

http://gc.kls2.com/cgi-bin/gc?PATH=ORD-HKG
--
al Qaeda delenda est
cernunnos
2004-05-24 03:35:13 UTC
Permalink
Post by rosignol
Post by cernunnos
Post by Tony Bailey
Post by cernunnos
Hmm, id be oddly interested to see that. Im imagining the mix up we are
discussing is fairly common.
You did hear about the English couple last year who found a really cheap
Internet fare to Sydney for holidays and never even blinked when they had
to
Post by Tony Bailey
change into a fairly small aircraft in Halifax? They were a bit curious
that
Post by Tony Bailey
it didn't seem as warm at their destination as they had expected, until
the
Post by Tony Bailey
facts finally sank in to them
Yes, not only do i remember that. I know some people that met them.
They
Post by rosignol
Post by cernunnos
were total jerks about the whole situation. it was their own fault.
they
Post by rosignol
Post by cernunnos
didnt get a clue when the first stop was canada? isnt that the entirely
wrong way?
No.
What direction would you expect a flight from Chicago, Ill, USA to Hong
Kong, China go?
http://gc.kls2.com/cgi-bin/gc?PATH=ORD-HKG
thats Chi town, the map for london is thus

http://gc.kls2.com/cgi-bin/gc?PATH=lon-syd%0D%0A&RANGE=&PATH-COLOR=&PATH-UNI
TS=mi&SPEED-GROUND=&SPEED-UNITS=kts&RANGE-STYLE=best&RANGE-COLOR=&MAP-STYLE=

still doesnt give em the right to be jerks.
Tony Bailey
2004-05-24 06:26:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by cernunnos
thats Chi town, the map for london is thus
http://gc.kls2.com/cgi-bin/gc?PATH=lon-syd%0D%0A&RANGE=&PATH-COLOR=&PATH-UNI
TS=mi&SPEED-GROUND=&SPEED-UNITS=kts&RANGE-STYLE=best&RANGE-COLOR=&MAP-STYLE=

Actually, you have to put in a stop at BKK, SIN or HKG (although several
aircraft arriving soon may eliminate that.)

Because of the distances to AU and NZ from Europe, many fares (but usually
not the cheapest) allow an Asian (EH) routing in one direction and a Pacific
(AP) routing in the other - another very likely combination is EH in one a
direction and Africa (AF) in the other. The cheapest fares are nearly always
EH/EH.
--
Tony Bailey
Mercury Travel Books
rosignol
2004-05-22 00:30:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by a***@pacific.net.au
On Fri, 21 May 2004 23:02:23 GMT, "cernunnos"
Post by cernunnos
It all depends on relationships. Sure the things that happened in rwanda
were horrendous, but what happened in Cape Breton in the 20s during the
labour disputes makes me more naseous.
??? Never heard of this ??? Any websites covering it?
IIRC, the time shortly after the Soviets came to power in Russia was a
rather active time for labor organizers, socialists, communists,
anarchists, and various law enforcement and private security
organizations. As might be expected, there were excesses on both sides
in the US. From what I've heard of Canada, I wouldn't be at all
surprised if the brutality was a notch or two higher up there, and the
publicity a notch or two lower.
--
al Qaeda delenda est
a***@pacific.net.au
2004-05-22 00:13:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Does watching TV cause violent behaviour in kids?

It's really a meaningless question.

And, no, I don't see any ethical responsibilities in discussions on
AH.

Phil

Author, Space Opera (FGU), RBB #1 (FASA), Road to Armageddon (PGD).
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Email: ***@pacific.net.au (not the munged address vs spambots)
David Johnston
2004-05-22 06:33:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Getting the history you are diverging from as right as possible.
Post by Alan Lothian
But it involved killing off about 500 million people, including a fair
proportion of shwi posters, either directly or via incineration of
parents. In the course of the thread, several people expressed at least
discomfort at the casual way that megadeaths were being chucked around
Yeah, well, they were just being silly.
Jussi Jalonen
2004-05-22 07:44:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history?
Yes, but I think that you're asking the wrong questions.

The ethical responsibilities do not - or should not, at least in my
opinion - include an obligation to abstain from those issues which
might somehow offend the sensitivities of the other people.

As long as the subject matter is history and the alternate
possibilities which it offers, and as long as it is discussed in a
balanced and serious fashion... well, it's fair game, no matter even
if the topic happens to be genocide.

(In fact, the sensitive topics are the ones which _should_ be
discussed.)
Post by Alan Lothian
And, if so, what might these be?
Commitment to the truth and realism.

Obligation to base all claims on the critical study of existing
sources and/or convincing and plausible extrapolation.

Responsibility to provide the people with means of understanding what
was and what could have been.

It should be no different from the actual ethics of historical
science, really. That's how I see it.



Cheers,
Jalonen
Alan Lothian
2004-05-22 11:23:29 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Post by Alan Lothian
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history?
Yes, but I think that you're asking the wrong questions.
You may well be right, Jussi. [1] Your thoughtful response is as good a
place as any to reply to some of the other thoughtful responses I seem
to have provoked.
Post by Jussi Jalonen
The ethical responsibilities do not - or should not, at least in my
opinion - include an obligation to abstain from those issues which
might somehow offend the sensitivities of the other people.
Otherwise we degenerate into political correctness. Agreed.
Post by Jussi Jalonen
As long as the subject matter is history and the alternate
possibilities which it offers, and as long as it is discussed in a
balanced and serious fashion... well, it's fair game, no matter even
if the topic happens to be genocide.
(In fact, the sensitive topics are the ones which _should_ be
discussed.)
But, as you imply, with sensitivity.
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Post by Alan Lothian
And, if so, what might these be?
Commitment to the truth and realism.
The specific case I brought up here was A versus B, where A was
"Write down the German population by 95%"
and B was
"Studies have shown that a 1.5 Mt hit on Mannheim would kill X number
of people..." etc. Does that "realism" difference make a difference?
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Obligation to base all claims on the critical study of existing
sources and/or convincing and plausible extrapolation.
Essentially you're asking for some kind of integrity. I'd go along with
that, up to and including 100%.
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Responsibility to provide the people with means of understanding what
was and what could have been.
"Don't just make things up." Yes, I think that is certainly a
responsibility of any decent alt-historian. But at the same time, it is
*essential* to make things up. There certainly seems to be a
requirement for some sort of rigour, else we end up with daft
wankfests.
Post by Jussi Jalonen
It should be no different from the actual ethics of historical
science, really. That's how I see it.
Not a bad "mission statement:, Jussi, not bad at all. Other posters,
and posters whom I respect, too, have brought in the concept of
"taste", which I can certainly understand but find difficulty in
explicating. I know this wasn't a point you made yourself, but since
this is by way of being a general reply, perhaps you can help:
is there a sensible way of defining or at least "explicating" taste
without the support of some sort of ethical, er, infrastructure?

It's also true, I believe, that the best stuff here amounts to a
"school of history"; with a substantial critical apparatus always on
hand.



[1] I confess that for years I have wondered whether "Jussi" or
"Jalonen" was your first name. A very little googling tells me that
"Jussi" is roughly Finnish for "John". I may have it wrong, and you
have recently (and rightly) chided me for West-European-centrism. So I
beg forgiveness if I am mistaken.
--
"The past resembles the future as water resembles water" Ibn Khaldun

My .mac.com address is a spam sink.
If you wish to email me, try atlothian at blueyonder dot co dot uk
Sydney Webb
2004-05-22 11:47:12 UTC
Permalink
<snip>
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Responsibility to provide the people with means of understanding what
was and what could have been.
"Don't just make things up." Yes, I think that is certainly a
responsibility of any decent alt-historian. But at the same time, it is
*essential* to make things up. There certainly seems to be a
requirement for some sort of rigour, else we end up with daft
wankfests.
With Jussi and Alan here. When talking about OTL we must not make
things up. We have to be rigorous and fact-based about what has
happened.

Once we are talking about an ATL we are, obviously, making things up.
But again our watchwords are caution and plausibility. We are departing
from OTL but using patterns of behaviour and facts drawn from OTL to
show that our imaginings "might have been". What we make up must be
logical consequences of a realistic PoD.

- Syd
Jack Linthicum
2004-05-22 17:49:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sydney Webb
<snip>
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Responsibility to provide the people with means of understanding what
was and what could have been.
"Don't just make things up." Yes, I think that is certainly a
responsibility of any decent alt-historian. But at the same time, it is
*essential* to make things up. There certainly seems to be a
requirement for some sort of rigour, else we end up with daft
wankfests.
With Jussi and Alan here. When talking about OTL we must not make
things up. We have to be rigorous and fact-based about what has
happened.
Once we are talking about an ATL we are, obviously, making things up.
But again our watchwords are caution and plausibility. We are departing
from OTL but using patterns of behaviour and facts drawn from OTL to
show that our imaginings "might have been". What we make up must be
logical consequences of a realistic PoD.
One of the most off-putting features of some AH is that sudden jar of
an event or movement that seems out of place with OTL and the society
portrayed. An example is the existence of Israel, unexplained, in The
Children's War, the population figures in For Want of a Nail, and the
strained fantasy of In the Presence of Mine Enemies trying to sound
like the end of the Soviet Union. They jar without revealing anything.
The Shiloh Project has the usual South winning the Civil War, but
later undergoes a social revolution, called Dixie Socialism IIRC, and
the story tracks as logic. Something which the Wade Hampton VII tales
do not.
Noel
2004-05-22 18:54:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Commitment to the truth and realism.
The specific case I brought up here was A versus B, where A was
"Write down the German population by 95%"
and B was
"Studies have shown that a 1.5 Mt hit on Mannheim would kill X number
of people..." etc. Does that "realism" difference make a difference?
---I guess it's my turn.

There is a difference. The second says two things. First,
"I put in some effort to find out that 95 percent of Germans
would probably die. I cared enough about taking the scenario
seriously to do the research."

Second, "Since I put in some research, you can be fairly sure
that my scenario falls well-within the bounds of plausibility,
and may, in fact, be the most probable outcome given the in-
formation we have."

I would contend that neither of these messages is minor.

Best,

Noel
Mike Ralls
2004-05-24 01:22:05 UTC
Permalink
bit of respect would be good, though. When uppercaseMike writes
Italy: 70%
S. Italy wont be hit two hard, but Sicily may be.
30% sound good then?
I agree with Noel that something's going wrong - killing 30% of the
population of Italy can't 'sound good' in any context, <

I think you are being deliberatly abtuse here. It can "sound good"
in that it "sounds like it's an acurate percentage" which is the
obvious conotation from the text.

How closly do we have to watch our words when we are dealing with such
subjects?

--
Mike ralls
Phil Edwards
2004-05-24 10:46:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mike Ralls
bit of respect would be good, though. When uppercaseMike writes
Italy: 70%
S. Italy wont be hit two hard, but Sicily may be.
30% sound good then?
I agree with Noel that something's going wrong - killing 30% of the
population of Italy can't 'sound good' in any context, <
I think you are being deliberatly abtuse here. It can "sound good"
in that it "sounds like it's an acurate percentage" which is the
obvious conotation from the text.
I understood what you were saying. It's still a revolting form of
words to use in the context, and suggests that you were getting a bit
too disengaged from the subject matter.
Post by Mike Ralls
How closly do we have to watch our words when we are dealing with such
subjects?
It's not about watching your words, it's about keeping your eye on
what you're actually talking about.

Phil
--
Phil Edwards ***@amroth.zetnet.co.uk
"The Japanese are so sentimental that they liken dead soldiers
to cherry blossoms falling from trees" - Jack Linthicum
Mike Ralls
2004-05-24 23:15:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil Edwards
I understood what you were saying. It's still a revolting form of
words to use in the context, and suggests that you were getting a bit
too disengaged from the subject matter.
Why is that a bad thing? I don't see any negative consequences from
being disengaged from the subject matter, other than that it makes
some people uncomfortable.

Because I like SHWI, and want it to be a civil place, I am willing to
check myself for etiquette's sake. But I don't see, and no one has
explained to me why, being disengaged from the subject matter is by
itself a bad thing. To me, it is a possitive good in that it should
allow one to be more objective in analisis and thinking about the
subject matter.

--
Mike Ralls
Phil Edwards
2004-05-24 23:44:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Phil Edwards
I understood what you were saying. It's still a revolting form of
words to use in the context, and suggests that you were getting a bit
too disengaged from the subject matter.
Why is that a bad thing?
Because what you were getting disengaged from was the deaths of large
numbers of people. As I wrote elsewhere in this thread, "it's in poor
taste - and ethically dubious, for most useful values of 'ethics' - to
write about deaths as if they weren't a bad thing."

And no, this doesn't mean pausing every so often for a brief sermon on
man's inhumanity to man. If you don't know what it does mean, I'm not
sure I can explain. But I haven't (as far as I can remember) made this
type of objection to any other TL, however dystopian.

Phil
--
Phil Edwards ***@amroth.zetnet.co.uk
"The Japanese are so sentimental that they liken dead soldiers
to cherry blossoms falling from trees" - Jack Linthicum
rosignol
2004-05-25 02:33:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil Edwards
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Phil Edwards
I understood what you were saying. It's still a revolting form of
words to use in the context, and suggests that you were getting a bit
too disengaged from the subject matter.
Why is that a bad thing?
Because what you were getting disengaged from was the deaths of large
numbers of people. As I wrote elsewhere in this thread, "it's in poor
taste - and ethically dubious, for most useful values of 'ethics' - to
write about deaths as if they weren't a bad thing."
There are people on this planet who could best improve the situation for
the rest of us by dying, be it a heroic death or a deserved one.

Death is not an inherently bad thing, the _why_ is what makes a
difference.


[zap]
--
al Qaeda delenda est
Sydney Webb
2004-05-25 13:23:42 UTC
Permalink
rosignol wrote:

<snip>
Post by rosignol
There are people on this planet who could best improve the situation for
the rest of us by dying, be it a heroic death or a deserved one.
While I am not one of them, there are many people who would agree with
this statement of yours, ros. Some of them want _you_ dead. It still
doesn't make them right.

<Invokes BoP on self>

ObWI: What PoD sees Isaac Asimov, rather than JEP, as the progenitor of
mil-sf? Tertiary syphilis seems unnecessarily cruel - are there any
other non-OSW alternatives?

- Syd
Noel
2004-05-26 03:30:44 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil Edwards
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Phil Edwards
I understood what you were saying. It's still a revolting form of
words to use in the context, and suggests that you were getting a bit
too disengaged from the subject matter.
Why is that a bad thing?
Because what you were getting disengaged from was the deaths of large
numbers of people. As I wrote elsewhere in this thread, "it's in poor
taste - and ethically dubious, for most useful values of 'ethics' - to
write about deaths as if they weren't a bad thing."
And no, this doesn't mean pausing every so often for a brief sermon on
man's inhumanity to man. If you don't know what it does mean, I'm not
sure I can explain. But I haven't (as far as I can remember) made this
type of objection to any other TL, however dystopian.
---I think a point on which Phil and I would fully
agree is that there is a difference between "dispas-
sionate" and "flippant." You were beginning to ---
unintentionally --- sound flip.

A discussion of megadeaths, unless one is deliberately
attempting irony of some sort, requires a certain level
of seriousness.

Might that have been what you were getting at, Phil?

Best,

Noel
Phil Edwards
2004-05-26 09:04:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by Noel
I think a point on which Phil and I would fully
agree is that there is a difference between "dispas-
sionate" and "flippant." You were beginning to ---
unintentionally --- sound flip.
A discussion of megadeaths, unless one is deliberately
attempting irony of some sort, requires a certain level
of seriousness.
Yes. In Cernunnos's words, "there is a tender place between the
gnashing of teeth and the twiddle of moustache."

Having said that - and addressing Ivan's point about FaT - there's a
place for out-and-out moustache-twiddling, as long as we all know
where we're coming from. Alan's Soviets-lash-out posts could have been
written flippantly ("Whoops, there goes another city! Starbuck's,
Nirvana and now this - the Pacific Northwest gets all the luck!") or
even in a spirit of open celebration, rejoicing in the people's
democracies getting one back on the decadent West. (All right, that's
a stretch, but it's certainly not hard to imagine posters who could be
flippant or celebratory about the reverse scenario.) Alan's tone was
both light and deeply ironic - I mean, he emphatically wasn't
describing a gung-ho heroic mission - but his posts brought home the
horror of the situation more effectively than a dispassionate
this-then-that account would have done.
Post by Noel
As Oblovski tries to lift his shit-shot Bear to altitude; just can't do
it. Starboard inner, its oil tank pre-shredded, gives out. Well, as he
always told his crew, at least it won't hurt. "Just drop the fucker,
Yura. Fuck the safeties. We're not going home whatever."
"No more coats and no more home", as someone said.

Phil
--
Phil Edwards ***@amroth.zetnet.co.uk
"The Japanese are so sentimental that they liken dead soldiers
to cherry blossoms falling from trees" - Jack Linthicum
Anthony Mayer
2004-05-26 09:44:25 UTC
Permalink
Yes. In Cernunnos's words, "there is a tender place between the gnashing
of teeth and the twiddle of moustache."
If I did .sigs, that would be it. Nice one Cernunnos!
Having said that - and addressing Ivan's point about FaT - there's a
place for out-and-out moustache-twiddling, as long as we all know where
we're coming from. Alan's Soviets-lash-out posts could have been written
flippantly ("Whoops, there goes another city! Starbuck's, Nirvana and
now this - the Pacific Northwest gets all the luck!")
This, I think, is what the fuss started with. Not the lack of teeth
gnashing, nor an excess of unironic moustache twiddling, but the slightly
strange "Eurasia has gone in 62. Now, what happens to the hippie
movement?". Which is equivalent to "US has gone in 92. So how is UK hip
hop altered?" It's a fair question - but one might say things like the
total disappearance of atlantic trade, collapse of the economy and the
greatest disaster humanity has ever faced might come higher up the agenda.

Alan mentioned the Mongols in the First Post. There is a strange
intellectual tendancy that Coyu once characterised as

"Mongols-installed-the-slave-soul-in-<insert society here>"

which is used reductively to explain the whole of Middle Eastern or
Russian history. What we saw at the beginning of the hot CMC debate
wasn't, in my mind, ethically wrong, nor was it off topic or impolite in
any way. It was just assuming the inverse of the "slave-soul" doctrine.
That after kiloskull mountains and systematic ravishing everyone just gets
back to business as usual before the year is out. This is equally absurd -
the Mongols may not change human nature, but Mike Ralls uses capitals for
the MONGOL HORDE on the Empty America thread and he's right to do so. So
it is with NUCLEAR WAR.

And to be fair, the chaps on the hot CMC thread have corrected this error,
and managed to continue with a very thoroughly researched TL. IMHO they
are doing what shwi is all about, even if its not to everyone's taste.
--
Anthony Mayer
http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~aem3
cernunnos
2004-05-26 11:47:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Anthony Mayer
Yes. In Cernunnos's words, "there is a tender place between the gnashing
of teeth and the twiddle of moustache."
If I did .sigs, that would be it. Nice one Cernunnos!
Thanks.
Alan Lothian
2004-05-26 12:10:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Anthony Mayer
Yes. In Cernunnos's words, "there is a tender place between the gnashing
of teeth and the twiddle of moustache."
I'll get onto google and reply to Phil directly. God knows what's
happening to his posts, and *this is a good German newsserver*.
Post by Anthony Mayer
If I did .sigs, that would be it. Nice one Cernunnos!
Agreed. For that alone, never mind several intelligent contributions to
the thread, as viewed on Google, I hereby unplonk him. It may be that I
was over-hasty (me?) but I wasn't entirely unprovoked. So Cernunnos
may have a partial but open apology.
Post by Anthony Mayer
Having said that - and addressing Ivan's point about FaT - there's a
place for out-and-out moustache-twiddling, as long as we all know where
we're coming from. Alan's Soviets-lash-out posts could have been written
flippantly ("Whoops, there goes another city! Starbuck's, Nirvana and
now this - the Pacific Northwest gets all the luck!")
This, I think, is what the fuss started with. Not the lack of teeth
gnashing, nor an excess of unironic moustache twiddling, but the slightly
strange "Eurasia has gone in 62. Now, what happens to the hippie
movement?". Which is equivalent to "US has gone in 92. So how is UK hip
hop altered?"
It's certainly what wound me up. Though Mike Ralls has bent over
backwards (mind you, there's that Thurber thing about as well to fall
flat on your face as bend too far backwards) to appease ethical or
quasi-ethical objectors. Thanks, Mike.
Post by Anthony Mayer
It's a fair question - but one might say things like the
total disappearance of atlantic trade, collapse of the economy and the
greatest disaster humanity has ever faced might come higher up the agenda.
Alan mentioned the Mongols in the First Post. There is a strange
intellectual tendancy that Coyu once characterised as
Not so much to install Mongol software as to make the point that, if I
may repeat myself, distance does lend enchantment to the view.

<snippaggio>
Post by Anthony Mayer
And to be fair, the chaps on the hot CMC thread have corrected this error,
and managed to continue with a very thoroughly researched TL. IMHO they
are doing what shwi is all about, even if its not to everyone's taste.
Indeed. And perhaps we should congratulate our newcomer, Tom Mazanec,
for starting it. He's a self-declared "slight" Asperger's syndrome
chap. Well, here on shwi we are all into that.
--
"The past resembles the future as water resembles water" Ibn Khaldun

My .mac.com address is a spam sink.
If you wish to email me, try atlothian at blueyonder dot co dot uk
Anthony Mayer
2004-05-26 12:50:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Anthony Mayer
Alan mentioned the Mongols in the First Post. There is a strange
intellectual tendancy that Coyu once characterised as
Not so much to install Mongol software as to make the point that, if I
may repeat myself, distance does lend enchantment to the view.
Sure. And I'm not suggesting you're using the Mongols inappropriately, nor
claiming that you have a reductivist historical perspective. Far from it.
I was just glad you mentioned the Mongols. It was a nice historical
example of a similar catastrophic destruction of society through war. And
at the risk of repeating myself, ignoring the short term impact is just as
reductivist as overstating the long term impact.
--
Anthony Mayer
http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~aem3
cernunnos
2004-05-26 22:07:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Anthony Mayer
Yes. In Cernunnos's words, "there is a tender place between the gnashing
of teeth and the twiddle of moustache."
I'll get onto google and reply to Phil directly. God knows what's
happening to his posts, and *this is a good German newsserver*.
the only good newsserver is a dead newsserver.
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Anthony Mayer
If I did .sigs, that would be it. Nice one Cernunnos!
Agreed. For that alone, never mind several intelligent contributions to
the thread, as viewed on Google, I hereby unplonk him. It may be that I
was over-hasty (me?) but I wasn't entirely unprovoked. So Cernunnos
may have a partial but open apology.
Well, thans. I do admit my answer was a tad flippant, especially given the
heat of the subject matter.
So, I in return, offer a half mumbled shamed apology.
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Anthony Mayer
Having said that - and addressing Ivan's point about FaT - there's a
place for out-and-out moustache-twiddling, as long as we all know where
we're coming from. Alan's Soviets-lash-out posts could have been written
flippantly ("Whoops, there goes another city! Starbuck's, Nirvana and
now this - the Pacific Northwest gets all the luck!")
This, I think, is what the fuss started with. Not the lack of teeth
gnashing, nor an excess of unironic moustache twiddling, but the slightly
strange "Eurasia has gone in 62. Now, what happens to the hippie
movement?". Which is equivalent to "US has gone in 92. So how is UK hip
hop altered?"
It's certainly what wound me up. Though Mike Ralls has bent over
backwards (mind you, there's that Thurber thing about as well to fall
flat on your face as bend too far backwards) to appease ethical or
quasi-ethical objectors. Thanks, Mike.
Post by Anthony Mayer
It's a fair question - but one might say things like the
total disappearance of atlantic trade, collapse of the economy and the
greatest disaster humanity has ever faced might come higher up the agenda.
Alan mentioned the Mongols in the First Post. There is a strange
intellectual tendancy that Coyu once characterised as
Not so much to install Mongol software as to make the point that, if I
may repeat myself, distance does lend enchantment to the view.
Yes, I can see that point of view. Although enchantment (tm) is not what we
were thinking of. Its more a clinical detachment.
of course sometimes what happens is that posters slide into the role of
blockbuster film watchers and gleefully enjoy mass violence..
Post by Alan Lothian
<snippaggio>
Post by Anthony Mayer
And to be fair, the chaps on the hot CMC thread have corrected this error,
and managed to continue with a very thoroughly researched TL. IMHO they
are doing what shwi is all about, even if its not to everyone's taste.
Indeed. And perhaps we should congratulate our newcomer, Tom Mazanec,
for starting it. He's a self-declared "slight" Asperger's syndrome
chap. Well, here on shwi we are all into that.
We should go through the group and do a poll on antisocial tendencies, and
social dysfunctions... i imagine the results would be shocking.
Jack Linthicum
2004-05-26 17:09:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by Anthony Mayer
Yes. In Cernunnos's words, "there is a tender place between the gnashing
of teeth and the twiddle of moustache."
If I did .sigs, that would be it. Nice one Cernunnos!
Having said that - and addressing Ivan's point about FaT - there's a
place for out-and-out moustache-twiddling, as long as we all know where
we're coming from. Alan's Soviets-lash-out posts could have been written
flippantly ("Whoops, there goes another city! Starbuck's, Nirvana and
now this - the Pacific Northwest gets all the luck!")
This, I think, is what the fuss started with. Not the lack of teeth
gnashing, nor an excess of unironic moustache twiddling, but the slightly
strange "Eurasia has gone in 62. Now, what happens to the hippie
movement?". Which is equivalent to "US has gone in 92. So how is UK hip
hop altered?" It's a fair question - but one might say things like the
total disappearance of atlantic trade, collapse of the economy and the
greatest disaster humanity has ever faced might come higher up the agenda.
Alan mentioned the Mongols in the First Post. There is a strange
intellectual tendancy that Coyu once characterised as
"Mongols-installed-the-slave-soul-in-<insert society here>"
which is used reductively to explain the whole of Middle Eastern or
Russian history. What we saw at the beginning of the hot CMC debate
wasn't, in my mind, ethically wrong, nor was it off topic or impolite in
any way. It was just assuming the inverse of the "slave-soul" doctrine.
That after kiloskull mountains and systematic ravishing everyone just gets
back to business as usual before the year is out. This is equally absurd -
the Mongols may not change human nature, but Mike Ralls uses capitals for
the MONGOL HORDE on the Empty America thread and he's right to do so. So
it is with NUCLEAR WAR.
And to be fair, the chaps on the hot CMC thread have corrected this error,
and managed to continue with a very thoroughly researched TL. IMHO they
are doing what shwi is all about, even if its not to everyone's taste.
Note: Ghenghiz Khan, like Warren Harding and others, left no personal
account of his aims, his dreams, his methods, so that his enemies
wrote his history.

http://www.macalester.edu/anthropology/warticle.htm
Mike Ralls
2004-05-27 01:14:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Anthony Mayer
the Mongols may not change human nature, but Mike Ralls uses capitals for
the MONGOL HORDE on the Empty America thread and he's right to do so. So
it is with NUCLEAR WAR.
Yes, you'll note that it was also used in a humorous and flippant
manner, but that no one objected, despite the arguable case that a
Mongol invassion could wreck as much damage as a nuclear war.
Distance and time makes it less sensitive to us. The point is this is
an issue of not uppsetting your fellow posters, rather than one of
applying standards to all of alt-history. And there is nothing wrong
with that. Etiquette does matter for SHWI to be an enjoyable palce
and I'm willing to work to make it so.

--
Mike Ralls
Anthony Mayer
2004-05-27 11:44:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Anthony Mayer
the Mongols may not change human nature, but Mike Ralls uses capitals
for the MONGOL HORDE on the Empty America thread and he's right to do
so. So it is with NUCLEAR WAR.
Yes, you'll note that it was also used in a humorous and flippant
manner, but that no one objected, despite the arguable case that a
Mongol invassion could wreck as much damage as a nuclear war.
I agree. I'm not saying your style is wrong. What I'm saying it that if
you talk about the Mongols, you shouldn't resort to the reductivist
slave-soul view of the surviving societies. Equally, one shouldn't assume
the destruction of half the world will have only minor social impacts on
the surviving half, during an era with an enormous social and cultural
connection between the two halves.
Post by Mike Ralls
Etiquette does matter for SHWI to be an enjoyable palce and I'm willing
to work to make it so.
And I really liked your attempt to even the score. The US destroyed thread
was not only the contraposition of the initial hot CMC thread, but with a
PoD based on the same event! A good move IMHO.

And had I posted a reply to the US destroyed thread discussing UK Garage,
you'd be equally likely to think "hang on... isn't that kind of missing
the point?" and posting a reply attacking my position. Which is all the
other chaps have done, as far as I can see. I don't think anyone's
attacking you personally, and I think the whole thing has been blown a
little out of proportion.

The broad subject, destruction of half the world, is very much on topic.
And while some make take umbrage at the style, I think the warm feeling
that good manners have prevailed on shwi should outway any queasiness.
--
Anthony Mayer
http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~aem3
Alan Lothian
2004-05-27 07:14:08 UTC
Permalink
Replying via google, where I can at least see your posts. Maybe you
should email
Post by Phil Edwards
Post by Noel
I think a point on which Phil and I would fully
agree is that there is a difference between "dispas-
sionate" and "flippant." You were beginning to ---
unintentionally --- sound flip.
A discussion of megadeaths, unless one is deliberately
attempting irony of some sort, requires a certain level
of seriousness.
You (Phil) mentioned a certain queasiness reading Kahn; that's it,
really.
Post by Phil Edwards
Yes. In Cernunnos's words, "there is a tender place between the
gnashing of teeth and the twiddle of moustache."
Having said that - and addressing Ivan's point about FaT - there's a
place for out-and-out moustache-twiddling, as long as we all know
where we're coming from. Alan's Soviets-lash-out posts could have been
written flippantly ("Whoops, there goes another city! Starbuck's,
Nirvana and now this - the Pacific Northwest gets all the luck!") or
even in a spirit of open celebration, rejoicing in the people's
democracies getting one back on the decadent West.
I was trying to make a convincing show of Soviet determination,
however doomed and incompetent.

(All right, that's
Post by Phil Edwards
a stretch, but it's certainly not hard to imagine posters who could be
flippant or celebratory about the reverse scenario.) Alan's tone was
both light and deeply ironic - I mean, he emphatically wasn't
describing a gung-ho heroic mission - but his posts brought home the
horror of the situation more effectively than a dispassionate
this-then-that account would have done.
Thanks for the compliment. "The horror, the horror," as a certain
Polish anglophone wrote. Irony is one way of groping for it, and as I
of all people must admit, it can be overused. And easily
misunderstood.
Post by Phil Edwards
Post by Noel
As Oblovski tries to lift his shit-shot Bear to altitude; just can't do
it. Starboard inner, its oil tank pre-shredded, gives out. Well, as he
always told his crew, at least it won't hurt. "Just drop the fucker,
Yura. Fuck the safeties. We're not going home whatever."
"No more coats and no more home", as someone said.
That's it exactly. The posters who tried to make a Dr Strangelove
reference (not, IMHO, an ironic film at all, albeit a deeply satirical
one) missed the point.
Mike Ralls
2004-05-27 01:22:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by Noel
---I think a point on which Phil and I would fully
agree is that there is a difference between "dispas-
sionate" and "flippant." You were beginning to ---
unintentionally --- sound flip.
I can see that now. My apologies and I have tried to fix it.

--
Mike Ralls
Mike Ralls
2004-05-27 01:43:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil Edwards
As I wrote elsewhere in this thread, "it's in poor
taste - and ethically dubious, for most useful values of 'ethics' - to
write about deaths as if they weren't a bad thing."
I can understand what that means and I would agree if you said "to
write about deaths as if they were a good thing" but I see nothing
wrong in taking a value neutral terminology when disusing it.

Military plans, reports, and estimates, for instance, are frequently
bloodless and value-neutral (in the result X, the amount expected
loses will be Y). I don't regard that as ethically dubious.
Post by Phil Edwards
sure I can explain. But I haven't (as far as I can remember) made this
type of objection to any other TL, however dystopian.
Well than by that can't we asume that your opinions are reflecting
matters of your own personal feelings? And hence it is a question of
etiquette for our fellow posters, rather than one about ethics for all
alt-history?

--
Mike Ralls
Phil Edwards
2004-05-27 08:26:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Phil Edwards
As I wrote elsewhere in this thread, "it's in poor
taste - and ethically dubious, for most useful values of 'ethics' - to
write about deaths as if they weren't a bad thing."
I can understand what that means and I would agree if you said "to
write about deaths as if they were a good thing" but I see nothing
wrong in taking a value neutral terminology when disusing it.
Note that I said 'dubious'. Writing about deaths as if they were a
good thing would be in bad taste and ethically wrong.
Post by Mike Ralls
Military plans, reports, and estimates, for instance, are frequently
bloodless and value-neutral (in the result X, the amount expected
loses will be Y). I don't regard that as ethically dubious.
Maybe not, but this isn't the War Room (which is why we're allowed to
fight in here). If your business is maximising the damage your people
can do to their people while minimising the damage they can do to
yours, a cerain bloodlessness is bound to creep in; it would be
intolerable otherwise. But that's bloodlessness as a necessity. (And
I'm sure many real war planners did find what they were doing
intolerable; I think we'd expect them to find it troubling, at least.
Certainly the image of the cheerful general isn't a flattering one.
(Unless it's Montgomery, of course.)) It's also bloodlessness in
private; I think we expect public pronouncements to have a bit more
solemnity. (Unless it's Montgomery, of course.) We're not planning a
war here; we're not even playing at planning a war, or not in private.
(If you were posting to a war-gamers' mailing list you'd be fine.)
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Phil Edwards
I haven't (as far as I can remember) made this
type of objection to any other TL, however dystopian.
Well than by that can't we asume that your opinions are reflecting
matters of your own personal feelings?
You can assume that if you like, but wouldn't it be more productive to
consider the possibility that there might be something different about
this TL and the way it's been written?

Pardon the personal comment, but you do seem a bit obtuse on this one.
Post by Mike Ralls
This, I think, is what the fuss started with. Not the lack of teeth
gnashing, nor an excess of unironic moustache twiddling, but the slightly
strange "Eurasia has gone in 62. Now, what happens to the hippie
movement?". Which is equivalent to "US has gone in 92. So how is UK hip
hop altered?" It's a fair question - but one might say things like the
total disappearance of atlantic trade, collapse of the economy and the
greatest disaster humanity has ever faced might come higher up the agenda.
Some thoughts on what the Consciousness Revolution in the US would be
The generation gap would be even wider. Boomer rage against there
parents and all they created and stood for would be attacked even
worse than in OTL.
<and so on>

If you're really serious about this - and I admit I find the scenario
ghoulish beyond belief, but I guess it might make good fiction; people
rave about _The Stand_, after all - you need to take a few steps back
and think hard about What It Would Be Like. What it would be like the
day after, the month after, the month after that. What it would be
like in New York, in California, in Seattle, in Portland itself
(assuming for the moment that it really is just the one hit). What it
would be like in Canada, what it would be like in Mexico, what it
would be like in the SAm states receiving aid from the US...

I know you've read Anthony's post, as you replied to it, but really -
that post of yours exemplifies what Anthony called the inverse of the
Post by Mike Ralls
That after kiloskull mountains and systematic ravishing everyone just gets
back to business as usual before the year is out. This is equally absurd -
the Mongols may not change human nature, but Mike Ralls uses capitals for
the MONGOL HORDE on the Empty America thread and he's right to do so. So
it is with NUCLEAR WAR.
I don't believe anything would ever be the same again, even in a
relatively unscathed America. You seem to be working on the basis that
everything would be a bit like OTL, only different.

I know, I started by criticising your style and now I'm talking about
the substance of the WI. But I think it's fundamentally the same
objection: the tone Noel objected to, and the approach Anthony
described as 'slightly strange', would both be appropriate to a TL in
which nothing important has changed very much. Not to a TL beginning
after the biggest single tragedy in human history.

Phil
--
Phil Edwards ***@amroth.zetnet.co.uk
"The Japanese are so sentimental that they liken dead soldiers
to cherry blossoms falling from trees" - Jack Linthicum
rosignol
2004-05-27 21:12:18 UTC
Permalink
In article <***@4ax.com>,
Phil Edwards <***@amroth.zetnet.co.uk> wrote:

[zap]
Post by Phil Edwards
Post by Anthony Mayer
That after kiloskull mountains and systematic ravishing everyone just gets
back to business as usual before the year is out. This is equally absurd -
the Mongols may not change human nature, but Mike Ralls uses capitals for
the MONGOL HORDE on the Empty America thread and he's right to do so. So
it is with NUCLEAR WAR.
I don't believe anything would ever be the same again, even in a
relatively unscathed America. You seem to be working on the basis that
everything would be a bit like OTL, only different.
He's right. Water would still be wet, fire would still be hot, people
would still be people. The details would change somewhat, but the
fundamentals aren't going to change much.
Post by Phil Edwards
I know, I started by criticising your style and now I'm talking about
the substance of the WI. But I think it's fundamentally the same
objection: the tone Noel objected to, and the approach Anthony
described as 'slightly strange', would both be appropriate to a TL in
which nothing important has changed very much. Not to a TL beginning
after the biggest single tragedy in human history.
A lot depends on what you consider to be important, and that seems to be
somewhat subjective.
--
al Qaeda delenda est
Ivan Hodes
2004-05-28 02:23:38 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil Edwards
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Phil Edwards
As I wrote elsewhere in this thread, "it's in poor
taste - and ethically dubious, for most useful values of 'ethics' - to
write about deaths as if they weren't a bad thing."
I can understand what that means and I would agree if you said "to
write about deaths as if they were a good thing" but I see nothing
wrong in taking a value neutral terminology when disusing it.
Note that I said 'dubious'. Writing about deaths as if they were a
good thing would be in bad taste and ethically wrong.
"POD, 1923[1]: The German Army guns down the Beer Hall putschists and
stacks their bodies ilke cordwood. This is a good thing." Bad taste?
Etically wrong? Or am I fudging the issue?


[1] I may be misremembering the date of the BHP

Ivan Hodes
Phil Edwards
2004-05-28 16:55:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ivan Hodes
Post by Phil Edwards
Note that I said 'dubious'. Writing about deaths as if they were a
good thing would be in bad taste and ethically wrong.
"POD, 1923[1]: The German Army guns down the Beer Hall putschists and
stacks their bodies ilke cordwood. This is a good thing." Bad taste?
Etically wrong? Or am I fudging the issue?
Bad taste, definitely. I don't much like being around anyone who
relishes the thought of their enemies' death, even if their enemies
are my enemies; I can't get away from the suspicion that it's the
death they're getting off on rather than the absence-of-enemies.
Ethically wrong: maybe, on the same grounds. But this is, of course,
an extreme scenario. I tend to think that most general rules have
difficult cases in their margins; if I rewrote the 'ethically wrong'
argument above to read "violent death is a ghastly and tragic
occurrence and should not be written about neutrally or positively,
with the possible exception of cases where a small number of violent
deaths can prevent a much larger number later on" I don't think it
would weaken the point I'm making significantly.

Phil
--
Phil Edwards ***@amroth.zetnet.co.uk
"The Japanese are so sentimental that they liken dead soldiers
to cherry blossoms falling from trees" - Jack Linthicum
rosignol
2004-05-29 00:22:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Phil Edwards
Post by Ivan Hodes
Post by Phil Edwards
Note that I said 'dubious'. Writing about deaths as if they were a
good thing would be in bad taste and ethically wrong.
"POD, 1923[1]: The German Army guns down the Beer Hall putschists and
stacks their bodies ilke cordwood. This is a good thing." Bad taste?
Etically wrong? Or am I fudging the issue?
Bad taste, definitely. I don't much like being around anyone who
relishes the thought of their enemies' death, even if their enemies
are my enemies; I can't get away from the suspicion that it's the
death they're getting off on rather than the absence-of-enemies.
Ethically wrong: maybe, on the same grounds.
It might be helpful if you would elaborate a bit. I'm certainly not
comfortable with a definition of 'ethically wrong' that is based on who
you would be comfortable being around.
Post by Phil Edwards
But this is, of course,
an extreme scenario. I tend to think that most general rules have
difficult cases in their margins; if I rewrote the 'ethically wrong'
argument above to read "violent death is a ghastly and tragic
occurrence and should not be written about neutrally or positively,
with the possible exception of cases where a small number of violent
deaths can prevent a much larger number later on" I don't think it
would weaken the point I'm making significantly.
IMO, it does. Writing about such things should (very much IMO) be done
neutrally, as a dispassionate approach is less likely to inflame
passions and result in uncivil discourse than either a celebratory style
or a condemnation.
--
al Qaeda delenda est
Mike Ralls
2004-05-24 02:08:12 UTC
Permalink
So unless you are satisfied with a comic-book "Lotsa
Europeans dead, whatever, sound good?" approach, you
need to do the research.
We've had plenty of wars happen that are just brushed over, and the
reason they won are explained in a sentance or two. "And the Germans
beat the French due to their higher production and training." We
don't go through every battle and every bit of the war, and make
meticulous calculations on who died. Frequently a number is just
guessed at and people are OK with it. I don't think of it as a
comic-book approach, just having limits to what one can expect in an
AH.
Problem here is, he can be as serious as he likes (and what's been
outlined for being "serious" is basically a five or six year major
research project), but there's so much unknowable (fer instance, what
_was_ Soviet targeting then - no one seems to be able to find anything on
it, at least, not easily), and so much up to random chance (missile
failures, bomb failures, targeting errors, which way the wind was
blowing, whether people in village "A" were all outside at the town
picnic or not) that, even after years of research, the answer is _still_
going to boil down to being a guess. Oh, it may be a more _educated_
guess - but a guess it will still be.
At a certain point any AH author just has to throw up their hands and
guess. The question of at what point is it OK to do that is something
that everyone decides for themselves.

I'm not sure where mine is. It tends to very on scenerios, but I
think that's true for everyone.
One can imagine the desensitization required for *anybody* working
on any facet of nuclear warfare, be it in targeting, recovery, or
whatever it might be. Eventually, to do the job, you have to forget
there are people behind the numbers, and start just accepting that
certain losses will be incurred.
This is what I was doing when I was slinging percentages back and
forth. They were just numbers and I really think it's OK to use them
as such.

--
Mike ralls
Alan Lothian
2004-05-24 16:25:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by Noel
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Commitment to the truth and realism.
The specific case I brought up here was A versus B, where A was
"Write down the German population by 95%"
and B was
"Studies have shown that a 1.5 Mt hit on Mannheim would kill X number
of people..." etc. Does that "realism" difference make a difference?
---I guess it's my turn.
There is a difference. The second says two things. First,
"I put in some effort to find out that 95 percent of Germans
would probably die. I cared enough about taking the scenario
seriously to do the research."
I can see where you're leading us here, Noel, and I am by no means out
of sympathy with your idea. But do you want to go so far as to say
that "research=ethical responsibility"? I am not at all sure about that
one. Casual, thoughtless AHs are simply bad AHs; no need to bring in
the Ethical Engine to castigate them.
Post by Noel
Second, "Since I put in some research, you can be fairly sure
that my scenario falls well-within the bounds of plausibility,
and may, in fact, be the most probable outcome given the in-
formation we have."
Yet again, a post homing into Jussi's idea of responsibility.
Post by Noel
I would contend that neither of these messages is minor.
No, they're not.
--
"The past resembles the future as water resembles water" Ibn Khaldun

My .mac.com address is a spam sink.
If you wish to email me, try atlothian at blueyonder dot co dot uk
Kristian J?rventaus
2004-05-22 20:22:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
[1] I confess that for years I have wondered whether "Jussi" or
"Jalonen" was your first name. A very little googling tells me that
"Jussi" is roughly Finnish for "John". I may have it wrong, and you
have recently (and rightly) chided me for West-European-centrism. So I
beg forgiveness if I am mistaken.
At last, something I can contribute to! With glee and some mischievous
joy I shall dissect and examine the name of Jussi Jalonen in public.
Haven't posted anything here for a while, anyhow.

Jussi is the first name, pretty down-to-earth, used as a omnonym (I
made that up just now) for, oh, farmers. It's a pretty farmy name, and
I should know, I live on one. Jalonen is a rather more obscure
surname, with the very widespread -nen ending that denotes name in
Häme (contrast with -la from Savo), which means "diminuitive", that
is, "small something". The root, jalo, means: a cut above the rest,
noble, stuff like that. You find it in words like "jalokivi" (noble
stone: jewel) and the verb (and all the derivations of it), jalostaa,
which means "unnatural selection", as in farmer's genetics. "Small
Noble", that's a, oh, we'll call it a knight - John Knight. Or maybe
John Baron.

On ethics in AH, well, I think all that needs to be said is, or will
be, said already.

On a side-note, the name is pronounced /'jus:i 'jalonen/, I'd say, in
ascii-ipa, which is Yous-sy Yah-law-...nen in englisc.

Have nice day!
- Krisse

PS: You can also put your surname in colloquial Finnish BEFORE your
first name, provided that it is in the genetive (possessive) case.
This means that:

Jussi Jalonen = "Jalonen, Jussi" = Jalosen Jussi. I kid you not, the
genetive of "Jalonen" is "Jalosen". My surname is much more simple,
you just turn the s into ks and add -en, Kristian Järventaus =
Järventauksen Krisse. Night!
Alan Lothian
2004-05-23 09:35:19 UTC
Permalink
In article <***@posting.google.com>, Kristian
J?rventaus <***@hotmail.com> wrote:

<snippaggio totale of a fascinating post>

I believe I may say, without any real fear of contradiction, that the
world would be a much, much poorer place without the Finns.
--
"The past resembles the future as water resembles water" Ibn Khaldun

My .mac.com address is a spam sink.
If you wish to email me, try atlothian at blueyonder dot co dot uk
Jussi Jalonen
2004-05-23 14:21:48 UTC
Permalink
I know this wasn't a point you made yourself, but since this is by way of
being a general reply, perhaps you can help: is there a sensible way of
defining or at least "explicating" taste without the support of some sort of > ethical, er, infrastructure?
Well, as they say, there's no disputing about taste...

I'd think that as long as all potential writers adhere to general
rigour and the other principles already presented, they'll also, by
definition, reach the point where even a certain degree of "bad taste"
would be allowed. Sometimes, history can be very sick and twisted
indeed, and there's just no way of making it look better - or more
"acceptable" to the general public.

Moreover, some people also like kitsch, and I'm among them. I'm also
fond of black humour. So, I guess that as far as this particular
matter is considered, it's all a matter of personal styles and
preferences.

[The subject of true names:]
A very little googling tells me that "Jussi" is roughly Finnish for "John".
"Jack", to be accurate. "Jussi" is a diminutive, similar to German
"Schani" or Italian "Gianni". It's after my late father's second name,
"Johannes".

However, I must stress that "Jussi", even though originally a
diminutive, is also my _actual_, given name, the one in my passport.
Other than that, Kristian seems to have covered this issue pretty
well.
I may have it wrong, and you have recently (and rightly) chided me for West-
European-centrism.
I'm not always serious.




Cheers,
Jalonen
Dennis Brennan
2004-05-24 21:44:44 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jussi Jalonen
[The subject of true names:]
..."Jussi", ... is also my _actual_, given name, the one in my passport.
Then I got it exactly wrong here:
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=lang_en&ie=UTF-8&c2coff=1&selm=f69e1396.0310170536.213e407f%40posting.google.com

(but in my defense, you did used to sign posts with "Cheers, Jalonen":
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=lang_en&ie=UTF-8&c2coff=1&selm=d1a4595a.0204110059.3c95aa16%40posting.google.com

Cheers,

Brennan
Phil Edwards
2004-05-24 10:42:47 UTC
Permalink
[posted and mailed]
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Jussi Jalonen
The ethical responsibilities do not - or should not, at least in my
opinion - include an obligation to abstain from those issues which
might somehow offend the sensitivities of the other people.
Otherwise we degenerate into political correctness. Agreed.
Agreed, actually. I don't have any problem with howling dystopias -
extended TLs, in particular, only really interest me if they tend
towards dystopia (or utopia). It's all in the handling.
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Jussi Jalonen
(In fact, the sensitive topics are the ones which _should_ be
discussed.)
But, as you imply, with sensitivity.
Agreed, again.
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Commitment to the truth and realism.
The specific case I brought up here was A versus B, where A was
"Write down the German population by 95%"
and B was
"Studies have shown that a 1.5 Mt hit on Mannheim would kill X number
of people..." etc. Does that "realism" difference make a difference?
It's covered by Jussi's second point, below, but I think realism is
also relevant here. What makes this a history group - and rules out
stories about Luke and the Death Star - is that we're writing about
the real world (hush my postmodern mouth), which means that even the
most arbitrary PoD must have believable - realistic - consequences.
"Let's say everyone over the age of 20 dies" - what, everyone in the
world? Everyone in a specific region? What region, and why only there?
Is every 20-year-old affected and every 19-year-old immune? What
happens when the survivors turn 20? And so on - and that's without
even getting into the 'realism' of the PoD itself.
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Obligation to base all claims on the critical study of existing
sources and/or convincing and plausible extrapolation.
Essentially you're asking for some kind of integrity. I'd go along with
that, up to and including 100%.
Post by Jussi Jalonen
Responsibility to provide the people with means of understanding what
was and what could have been.
"Don't just make things up." Yes, I think that is certainly a
responsibility of any decent alt-historian. But at the same time, it is
*essential* to make things up. There certainly seems to be a
requirement for some sort of rigour, else we end up with daft
wankfests.
Post by Jussi Jalonen
It should be no different from the actual ethics of historical
science, really. That's how I see it.
Not a bad "mission statement:, Jussi, not bad at all.
No disagreement with any of this. Now for the hard bit.
Post by Alan Lothian
Other posters,
and posters whom I respect, too, have brought in the concept of
"taste", which I can certainly understand but find difficulty in
explicating. I know this wasn't a point you made yourself, but since
is there a sensible way of defining or at least "explicating" taste
without the support of some sort of ethical, er, infrastructure?
On reflection, I think what I've been calling taste is actually
ethics, at quite a basic level. One of the main things that divides
the civilised posters on this group from the brutish minority is that
we think of the death of a person as a bad thing, and large numbers of
deaths as a very bad thing. In practice there may be exceptions to the
first point - there may even be exceptions to the second - but they're
difficult, troubling exceptions; they go against the grain.

So it's in poor taste - and ethically dubious, for most useful values
of 'ethics' - to write about deaths as if they weren't a bad thing. If
we imagine (as a couple of posters have done) a society whose leaders
cause vast numbers of deaths but whose citizens aren't burdened by the
thought that this was a bad thing to have done, something's gone badly
wrong - either with the AH or with the imagined society, which would
have to be horribly warped at best, actually evil at worst. Writing
about such a society as if it were only a couple of probability-nudges
different from our own is just wrong. I should say that I'm not
accusing Mike or Ivan (say) of b*ss**rian tendencies; I just think a
few posts have shown an odd failure of imagination on this front.

Phil
--
Phil Edwards ***@amroth.zetnet.co.uk
"The Japanese are so sentimental that they liken dead soldiers
to cherry blossoms falling from trees" - Jack Linthicum
Charles Talleyrand
2004-05-23 05:24:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
There are ethical considerations in almost everything we do.

There are alternative histories one might write that show the suffering and
exploitation of particular ethnic and religious groups. Virginia slavery and
Nazi genocide are two obvious examples. Writing of these things might
reasonably hurt some people. This hurt can be real even if the histories
are not.

Of course, following this road takes one down the path to "political
correctness". That might be good or bad ... let each author judge for themselves.
Charles Talleyrand
2004-05-23 05:28:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Let me start from a particular case.
Here is a particular case that got me riled up. A different poster
was arguing that slavery in the American South should have continued
longer than it did, and been slowly withdrawn to reduce the
disruption. He seemed to me to be forgetting the fact that the
slaves in question were people who were underervedly suffering.

Often in alternative history we don't argue what might have been,
but instead we argue what should have been. In these cases it's
important to remember that we are arguing about actual people,
and not just numbers and economic forces.

I'm completely away that a professional logician (or trained monkey)
could shred the agrument above. But somewhere in these ill-expressed
words is a valid point.
stanislaus boleslawski
2004-05-23 18:31:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Charles Talleyrand
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Let me start from a particular case.
Here is a particular case that got me riled up. A different poster
was arguing that slavery in the American South should have continued
longer than it did, and been slowly withdrawn to reduce the
disruption. He seemed to me to be forgetting the fact that the
slaves in question were people who were underervedly suffering.
There is a difference between writing a WI and approving of the
situation put forth. Dystopia is perfectly legitimate.

Where I have a problem is in the WIs of posters who approve of
genocide, i.e. Stirling, Giwer, Kolker, etc. or consider some sort
of nasty result to be desirable, i.e. slavery lasting
longer, a more thorough genocide of Native Americans/Congolese/
Armenians/Jews/Bosniaks, or a nastier Cultural Revolution -
although so far there do not seem to be too many Mao apologists
in SHWI. Putting forth these TLs is acceptable, but I would consider
it unethical to resort to open advocacy of those TLs as the Best
Possible Result.

Censorship, however, should be avoided in SHWI at all costs.
Post by Charles Talleyrand
Often in alternative history we don't argue what might have been,
but instead we argue what should have been. In these cases it's
important to remember that we are arguing about actual people,
and not just numbers and economic forces.
This bears some merit. Then again, sometimes there may be a
fine line. I am reminded of Neil Strauss' statement about De Sade
that one is not sure whether his works are in the vein of " A
Modest Proposal" or that of "Mein Kampf", and a good case
could be made for either.

ObWI: " A Modest Proposal" as "Mein Kampf". Swift's intent is not satirical....
Tom Mazanec
2004-05-23 16:59:53 UTC
Permalink
As the oddball who started this whole thing in the first place, let me
offer a few observations:
Yes this is my favorite PoD, probably for the reasons I gave on the
earlier thred. If God said "I will give you encyclopedic knowlege of
any nonexistant TL you want." this is the one I would pick. However,
if He said "I will bring a timeline in which the Cuban Missile Crisis
became an atomic World War 3 and grant you encyclopedic knowledge of
it if you wish." I would ask "Is Your Halo on too tight?". I would not
wish such a death on Adolph Hitler, much less half a billion
innocents.
As for characters, it does bother me to have such real people doing
things they did not do, but we are kinda stuck with it by the nature
of the genre. Branch Point and The World Next Door imply Kennedy
authorizing the deaths of millions, it was either that, use a
fictional president in 1962, or do a number on another historic figure
(although I prefer to pretend Ramsey "The Rammer" Curtis of
Resurrection Day is not Curtis LeMay but a fictional general who held
his job at the time as the PoD).
Mike Ralls
2004-05-24 00:07:14 UTC
Permalink
Noel:

I'm moving this from the WWIII thread because I think it is better
---I am having a conversion. I see Phil's point. There
is something ... icky ... about seeing the numbers tossed
around in this sort of way.
Well this seems to be an internal reaction that some people have and
that some people don't. Therefore it is not just a matter of ethics,
but also one of politeness. I like to think of myself as a nice guy
and I certainly don't intentionally intend to offend people, and I am
sorry if I have. On the other hand, I'm only willing to limit my SHWI
discourse to a level I feel comfortable. This is a hobby after all,
and if I don't enjoy doing it, well then I just won't do it.

I seem to be able to deal with these numbers and other horrible events
(even those in my own life) in a distanced perspective that others
find strange. I've had a number of people be amazed at when I do this
and they say something like, "How can you examine it so
dispassionately like that?" I honestly don't know. It's just the way
I am, and I am yet to be convinced that it's morally wrong to be this
way.
Instead, take the time and effort to do the necrometrics
(Christ almighty, what a word)
See, right here my natural reaction is: "Wow! That's a cool word, I
want to try and remember it." not, "Oh, jeeze I can't believe we have
to use that word." I recognize the repugnancy of the concept behind,
but the word itself, and use of it, just seems like an interesting
verbal play to me and doesn't bring up any feelings like the ones it
appears to bring up in you.
---I find this repugnant. I really do see Phil's point,
now. Please, work it through.
SNIP
---I am going to repeat myself: there is something
faintly repugnant about your answer. The question
is worth asking, but it deserves a real answer.
SNIP
---Aaagh!
SNIP
---Ick! Work it out!
SNIP
---I am feeling ill.
You know Noel, considering that this is an e-mail conversation, and
that I can't reply right away, by repeatedly telling me over and over
again the thing you disagree with, acting like I'm purposely repeating
myself despite your repeated statements of disgust, doesn't exactly
seem like good netiquette to me. It's seems like you're haranguing or
yelling at me.

The library is closing I will try to explain my thoughts on the issue
of respect for AH dead later.

--
Mike Ralls
Arthur Rimbaud
2004-05-24 03:02:07 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mike Ralls
I'm moving this from the WWIII thread because I think it is better
---I am having a conversion. I see Phil's point. There
is something ... icky ... about seeing the numbers tossed
around in this sort of way.
Well this seems to be an internal reaction that some people have and
that some people don't. Therefore it is not just a matter of ethics,
but also one of politeness. I like to think of myself as a nice guy
and I certainly don't intentionally intend to offend people, and I am
sorry if I have. On the other hand, I'm only willing to limit my SHWI
discourse to a level I feel comfortable. This is a hobby after all,
and if I don't enjoy doing it, well then I just won't do it.
Being a person who tends to have a fiery temper and often displays
lack of tact online, I often find myself offending others. However, it
is important to realize that if another person has a negative reaction
to one's own behavior, it reflects a two way situation.
For example, in retrospect, my post to you on the religion thread was
very rude for public discourse, for which I apologize. I have
difficulty controlling my tongue (or typing fingers if you will) when
I get my blood up. I wasn't the only person to get my blood up on the
way you handled the necrometrics of nuclear war, and in looking back,
Noel was able to see how a goodly number of posters were offended. I'm
afraid that reflects on you. You can either take that as a sign that
maybe you need to work on the way you communicate, or maybe just leave
since it's not enjoyable. It's your choice.
Post by Mike Ralls
I seem to be able to deal with these numbers and other horrible events
(even those in my own life) in a distanced perspective that others
find strange. I've had a number of people be amazed at when I do this
and they say something like, "How can you examine it so
dispassionately like that?" I honestly don't know. It's just the way
I am, and I am yet to be convinced that it's morally wrong to be this
way.
That you're able to look at horrid and disturbing things without any
visceral reaction might be the reason why you can't see anything
morally wrong with doing so. Nothing morally wrong with that. However,
don't be surprised when people are shocked and/or disgusted by what
appears to be a lack of empathy. It's a natural human reaction to get
worked up without even realizing it. Despite having a "pox on all your
houses" rational reaction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a
personal example, I still get disturbed when I see footage of bodies
of women and children of either side being taken away.
If someone started making light of it, I would probably rip them a new
one, and if someone started talking about it dispassionately while the
footage was still rolling, I'd probably tell them to shut the hell up.
Post by Mike Ralls
Instead, take the time and effort to do the necrometrics
(Christ almighty, what a word)
See, right here my natural reaction is: "Wow! That's a cool word, I
want to try and remember it." not, "Oh, jeeze I can't believe we have
to use that word." I recognize the repugnancy of the concept behind,
but the word itself, and use of it, just seems like an interesting
verbal play to me and doesn't bring up any feelings like the ones it
appears to bring up in you.
If you intend to ever be taken seriously as a writer, you have to
realize the connotational power of words as well as the denotational.
That's one of the basic standards of writing. Writing not only for
meaning, but for feeling. One can get away with not having any idea of
it in non-fiction, though it leads to dry flat writing, but in fiction
one can't survive without being able to master both.
Post by Mike Ralls
---I find this repugnant. I really do see Phil's point,
now. Please, work it through.
SNIP
---I am going to repeat myself: there is something
faintly repugnant about your answer. The question
is worth asking, but it deserves a real answer.
SNIP
---Aaagh!
SNIP
---Ick! Work it out!
SNIP
---I am feeling ill.
You know Noel, considering that this is an e-mail conversation, and
that I can't reply right away, by repeatedly telling me over and over
again the thing you disagree with, acting like I'm purposely repeating
myself despite your repeated statements of disgust, doesn't exactly
seem like good netiquette to me. It's seems like you're haranguing or
yelling at me.
That you're getting offended at this shows how badly you're
misconstruing meaning. What Noel is doing is pointing out the areas
where your language is rather callous and/or tactless, mostly for the
benefit of yourself, and not to repeatedly kick you when you're down.
Look at what he's pointing out and see what's triggering the visceral
reaction on the parts of some readers here and you'll get a better
understanding of how to handle talking about the subject.
Had Alexandria triumphed and not Rome, the extravagant and muddled stories that I have summarized here would be coherent, majestic, and perfectly ordinary.
-Jorge Luis Borges
Mike Ralls
2004-05-24 23:09:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
For example, in retrospect, my post to you on the religion thread was
very rude for public discourse, for which I apologize.
Thank you.
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
afraid that reflects on you. You can either take that as a sign that
maybe you need to work on the way you communicate,
As I've mentioned in other posts I'm now making more of conscious
effort to discuss this in such a way as to not offend people.
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
one, and if someone started talking about it dispassionately while the
footage was still rolling, I'd probably tell them to shut the hell up.
But if you were on a panel who's purpose was to examine the footage
and figure out the ramifications of it, and someone started doing
that, it would be a completly different situation than if it happened
in your living room.

I view us as in that panel rather than the living room. In a thread
is on nuclear war, I think people should expect to have nasty topics
come up and if others choose to talk about them dispassionately, I
think that is a perfectly valid form of communication.
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
If you intend to ever be taken seriously as a writer, you have to
realize the connotational power of words as well as the denotational.
I'm qutie aware of this.
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
misconstruing meaning. What Noel is doing is pointing out the areas
where your language is rather callous and/or tactless, mostly for the
benefit of yourself,
I'm quite aware of that too. Repeating it seemed needless to me.

--
Mike Ralls
Arthur Rimbaud
2004-05-25 04:09:07 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
For example, in retrospect, my post to you on the religion thread was
very rude for public discourse, for which I apologize.
Thank you.
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
afraid that reflects on you. You can either take that as a sign that
maybe you need to work on the way you communicate,
As I've mentioned in other posts I'm now making more of conscious
effort to discuss this in such a way as to not offend people.
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
one, and if someone started talking about it dispassionately while the
footage was still rolling, I'd probably tell them to shut the hell up.
But if you were on a panel who's purpose was to examine the footage
and figure out the ramifications of it, and someone started doing
that, it would be a completly different situation than if it happened
in your living room.
I view us as in that panel rather than the living room. In a thread
is on nuclear war, I think people should expect to have nasty topics
come up and if others choose to talk about them dispassionately, I
think that is a perfectly valid form of communication.
Frankly, I don't see this as a panel. I can't take that mindset to the
tenor of the Usenet. The intellectual content, yes, but the tenor to
me is remniscent of a college bull session, involving a bunch of folks
who happen to love history and knowledge. This place isn't and
shouldn't be an academic forum in tenor. If it did, it would stop
being fun, and become just another interminable grad presentation
about some crap that would be more coherent if they just gave us the
paper to read.
I realize this of course is my opinion, and does not apply to anyone
but myself.
You must realize that there is a correct way to go about
dispassionately and an incorrect way. If you were discussing say the
rice yeilds of Meiji Japan, any sort of dispassionate tone would do.
Rice yeilds don't get most people worked up. However, how you were
handling the necrometrics wasn't just dispassionate. It was
dispassionate to the point of bluntness, and perhaps unconcious
tactlessness.
I realize there's great difficulty in reigning in the natural flow of
language and writing. Let me give you an example from my own
experiences. A lot of the work I do is in New Religious Movements, a
lot of which in public parlance passes under than name "cults". Not
only must I stay far away from that word, I must stay away from any
sort of language that could be even slightly mistook for cynical or
personally critical of a group or personage. This, as you can expect,
is very hard to do when discussing anything that deals with
Scientology. Also tricky, but in a different sense, are groups
springing out of the Evangelical Christian movement. Still, even with
great care taken, I was once accused of insulting followers of
Scientology.
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
If you intend to ever be taken seriously as a writer, you have to
realize the connotational power of words as well as the denotational.
I'm qutie aware of this.
True, you may be aware of it rationally, but in exercise? For example,
with the curt tone taken and your choice of words in replying to that
particular point, you're conveying a sense of offense at what seems to
you to be someone talking down to you. That's how I'm reading it. I
could be wrong. Hell, I might probably be wrong. I can't help but do
it though. It's something you cultivate to write fiction. To read
inbetween and behind words. It goes into a long beef I have with alot
of alternate history and science fiction in general. "Show, don't
tell." That's the second thing my creative writing coach told me. So
much writing could be better if emotion and tenor were conveyed by
physical description and dialogue instead of just telling what a
person feels.
In any case, I'm digressing and completely lost the point of what I
was actually going to say.
Post by Mike Ralls
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
misconstruing meaning. What Noel is doing is pointing out the areas
where your language is rather callous and/or tactless, mostly for the
benefit of yourself,
I'm quite aware of that too. Repeating it seemed needless to me.
Again, how you're replying to this message, which was delivered in a
helpful tone, speaks more than what you actually say, which goes back
to the original beef with necrometrics.

Then again, I'm being quite blunt and dispassionate right now, but it
still feels like I'm being a gigantic ass to you, right? I could have
perhaps gotten a more positive response perhaps if I displayed empathy
in my criticisms, instead of talking like it was an academic exercise.
That's why I believe that this place should be done as if among
friends in a pub instead of a symposium.

Had Alexandria triumphed and not Rome, the extravagant and muddled stories that I have summarized here would be coherent, majestic, and perfectly ordinary.
-Jorge Luis Borges
Mike Ralls
2004-05-27 01:34:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
tenor of the Usenet. The intellectual content, yes, but the tenor to
me is remniscent of a college bull session, involving a bunch of folks
who happen to love history and knowledge. This place isn't and
shouldn't be an academic forum in tenor.
And yet we use footnotes and site sources and get quite academic
numerous times, much more so than most college bull sessions I went
to.

"Perhaps the elephant is like a snake . . ."
"Perhaps the elephant is like a wall . . ."

I'm willing to go with part-Pub part-Academic myself.
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
dispassionate to the point of bluntness, and perhaps unconcious
tactlessness.
In retrospect I agree and have tried to fix it.
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
Still, even with
great care taken, I was once accused of insulting followers of
Scientology.
Shocking sir, shocking.
Post by Arthur Rimbaud
True, you may be aware of it rationally, but in exercise? For example,
with the curt tone taken and your choice of words in replying to that
particular point, you're conveying a sense of offense at what seems to
you to be someone talking down to you. That's how I'm reading it.
You were reading it exactly correct and that was the meaning I
intended to convery. I DID feel you were talking down to me and I was
a bit cheezed off. I've cooled off now.

Peace?

--
Mike Ralls
Anthony Mayer
2004-05-24 08:59:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
There may well be. And my feeling is that Jussi is right - the ethics of
AH may well be the same as those of real history.

But there is a more fundamental issue: the ethics of posting to a public
forum. If everyone posts with politeness and consideration, sensitivity to
the feelings of other posters and so forth, the problem of whether the
content itself is ethical is a small one. And this is true regardless of
the ethics or even the subject of the post.

The hot CMC is one of the few threads where all parties were polite, but
some found the thread offensive or disturbing at the same time. It really
doesn't happen very often, and it looks like the matter has been cleared
up.

The manners thing comes first - when we're among friends, we can quickly
sort out the other stuff as and when.
--
Anthony Mayer
http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~aem3
Alan Lothian
2004-05-24 16:13:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Anthony Mayer
Post by Alan Lothian
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
There may well be. And my feeling is that Jussi is right - the ethics of
AH may well be the same as those of real history.
I'm coming round to this belief myself. Not that I started all that far
away from it. All thanks to Jussi for expressing it so concisely.
Post by Anthony Mayer
But there is a more fundamental issue: the ethics of posting to a public
forum. If everyone posts with politeness and consideration, sensitivity to
the feelings of other posters and so forth, the problem of whether the
content itself is ethical is a small one. And this is true regardless of
the ethics or even the subject of the post.
Manners maketh man; indeed. If you take a wander around the wilds of
UseNet, you will see (this a theoretical "you", not "you, Anthony")
that shwi is, by and large, notably well-mannered. Not invariably, but
certainly way, way above the average.
Post by Anthony Mayer
The hot CMC is one of the few threads where all parties were polite, but
some found the thread offensive or disturbing at the same time. It really
doesn't happen very often, and it looks like the matter has been cleared
up.
Anywhere other than here it would have been instant flamewar, I
strongly suspect. If by starting this thread I have got people even to
think about the concept of "ethics in AH" then I have not wasted my
time.

Thanks to many thoughtful posters, by the way. I'm still digesting
comments.
Post by Anthony Mayer
The manners thing comes first - when we're among friends, we can quickly
sort out the other stuff as and when.
Quite so. There will always be a few oafs in the far corner of the shwi
pub, but I'm not going to buy them a drink and neither are you.
--
"The past resembles the future as water resembles water" Ibn Khaldun

My .mac.com address is a spam sink.
If you wish to email me, try atlothian at blueyonder dot co dot uk
Anthony Mayer
2004-05-24 16:47:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
Manners maketh man; indeed. If you take a wander around the wilds of
UseNet, you will see (this a theoretical "you", not "you, Anthony") that
shwi is, by and large, notably well-mannered. Not invariably, but
certainly way, way above the average.
I agree wholeheartedly, which is why we shwi'ers may occasionally seem
over rigid and spoilsportish with regard to the BoP. But the manners of
shwi are one of it's greatest assets, and must be defended vigorously lest
shwi suffer the fate of soc.history.medieval.
Post by Alan Lothian
Post by Anthony Mayer
The hot CMC is one of the few threads where all parties were polite,
but some found the thread offensive or disturbing at the same time. It
really doesn't happen very often, and it looks like the matter has been
cleared up.
Anywhere other than here it would have been instant flamewar, I strongly
suspect. If by starting this thread I have got people even to think
about the concept of "ethics in AH" then I have not wasted my time.
Agreement on both points. If we can deal with distastful threads posted by
others in a polite way, the unpleasantness of the TL, AH style, ethical
concerns, or simply "missing the point in a way that causes umbridge" can
be overcome - witness "hot CMC" and "The Dirty War". Guilty as charged,
m'lud!
--
Anthony Mayer
http://www.doc.ic.ac.uk/~aem3
Charles Talleyrand
2004-05-25 05:30:13 UTC
Permalink
Post by Anthony Mayer
Post by Alan Lothian
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
There may well be. And my feeling is that Jussi is right - the ethics of
AH may well be the same as those of real history.
Are there ethics in history?

I always thought of history of being a science in that there are right and
wrong answers. Or perhaps a better analogy is that arguing history is
like arguing about the existance of God. There is a correct answer, we gather
such facts as we can and then take our best guess. But regardless of our
facts and opinions, there is a (possibly unknowable) correct answer.

Someone is going to say that history is not like science because history
is all shades of grey. But I'm not sure that's true.

Suppose you claim the Trojan War was over a woman and I claim it was over
economics. We can argue untill we're blue in the face but if someone had
interviewed the actual participants they could have simply told us. The fact
that we have no such videotape means that the answer is not available to
us. There still exists a right and a wrong answer. And if the participants
actually went to war for a variety of reasons, then both our simplistic
answers are wrong. But in any case, there remains a "right answer".

So what are the ethics of this? Just to be honest and not falify data?
To treat other historians with respect? Or is there more to the ethics of
history?
Jussi Jalonen
2004-05-25 10:03:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by Charles Talleyrand
Are there ethics in history?
Um, yes. For references, you may wish to familiarize yourself with
this page:

http://www.research.uiuc.edu/ethics/history.asp

Personally, I like the Code of Ethics endorsed by the Australian
Council of Professional Historians Association:

http://www.historians.org.au/Code.pdf

Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to include some of these links in
the FAQ?



Cheers,
Jalonen
Dave Knudson
2004-05-24 21:31:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
SNIP
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
Fascinating question.

I guess you have to define "ethics". SHWI is an international group,
but run through with common themes. Consider the statement:

"A nuclear war arising in 1962 would have been bad."

I would hazard that 99% of SHWI would agree with that statement.
However, that statement is not historical or even allo-historical
fact; it is merely a personal value statement devoid of the usual
benchmark for AH - plausibility: in my opinion the vast number of
casualties, detrimental environmental impacts, destroyed
infrastructure, etc, resulting from a nuc exchange in 1962 would have
been bad.

Ethics are sticky, but they are also personal. To expose myself a bit
consider this:

Kaiser Wilhelm's "Decades of Darkness" is brilliantly written,
well-thought-out, well-researched, well formatted, strategic in scope,
has beautiful maps to go with it, and overall, exactly the kind of
thing I like to see here.

And I can barely force myself to read it.

Why? Because it is just so depressing. Oh, I know that because I
find it depressing doesn't mean anyone else does. The problem is
strictly personal. But, as a US member of SHWI, I can see things
working out that way (more kudos to Kaiser Wilhelm - he passed the
plausibility test IMO), and I hate the version of the US that results.
Ugh. So, I read it, but I get depressed.

The same with FaT, or the Draka series. I read FaT, found it
brilliant, well-researched, with maps, etc, and wanted to cry at the
end. I never plowed completely through the Draka series - I knew the
bad guys (bad in my opinion) won in the end, and just didn't want to
watch it happen.

The TLs - which normally I would love - I by and large can appreciate
intellectually (well, DoD and FaT at least). But I don't "enjoy" them
because of the ethical response they invoke. Ugh. This could have
happened, and man would I hate it if it had. I have a job, a
mortgage, and a host of other real-world issues (as everyone does). I
get enough depression in real life. SHWI is recreation, and, as such
I use it for happiness not depression.

I strayed, I know. I apologize.

Dave Knudson
Charles Talleyrand
2004-05-25 05:47:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Dave Knudson
I would hazard that 99% of SHWI would agree with that statement.
There is no way that 99% of the SHWIs can agree on almost anything.
Or weirdo rate is much higher than that.

BTW. I used to put these two questions on tests, just to see how many
people got it wrong.

1) Choose 'a'.
a) a
b) b
c) c
d) d

2) How many moons does the Earth have.
a) one
b) some other number

You cannot get 99% on even these questions. And my students are by and large
of reasonable intelligence.

-Charles Talleyrand
-Who knows you were just using a figure of speach, but thought this stuff was interesting
anyway
Kaiser Wilhelm III
2004-05-25 11:14:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by Dave Knudson
Post by Alan Lothian
SNIP
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
Fascinating question.
I guess you have to define "ethics". SHWI is an international group,
"A nuclear war arising in 1962 would have been bad."
I would hazard that 99% of SHWI would agree with that statement.
However, that statement is not historical or even allo-historical
fact; it is merely a personal value statement devoid of the usual
benchmark for AH - plausibility: in my opinion the vast number of
casualties, detrimental environmental impacts, destroyed
infrastructure, etc, resulting from a nuc exchange in 1962 would have
been bad.
Ethics are sticky, but they are also personal. To expose myself a bit
Kaiser Wilhelm's "Decades of Darkness" is brilliantly written,
well-thought-out, well-researched, well formatted, strategic in scope,
has beautiful maps to go with it, and overall, exactly the kind of
thing I like to see here.
Gracias.
Post by Dave Knudson
And I can barely force myself to read it.
Why? Because it is just so depressing. Oh, I know that because I
find it depressing doesn't mean anyone else does. The problem is
strictly personal. But, as a US member of SHWI, I can see things
working out that way (more kudos to Kaiser Wilhelm - he passed the
plausibility test IMO), and I hate the version of the US that results.
Ugh. So, I read it, but I get depressed.
Oh, I understand that reaction all too well. Just as an aside, there
are some bright moments in the TL, some of which have happened, and
more to come. But precious few of these happen within the United
States. This TL has a dystopic United States, but not a dystopic
entire world. So, things look up for some nations.

And rather less of an aside, _I_ sometimes feel physically
uncomfortable with some of the events depitcted in the TL.
Particularly the recent Cuban posts... it was an effort to finish
those. To a degree, I can "switch off". (I have to. Given the
things I deal with in my real-world employment, I would literally go
insane if I couldn't find some way to do that). But not everyone can
do that. And even then, I have to make sure there are some elements
of brightness. Some of the nations in the DoD TL will turn out
considerably better than I had originally been anticipating, and
that's largely because I wanted more bright spots.
Post by Dave Knudson
The same with FaT, or the Draka series. I read FaT, found it
brilliant, well-researched, with maps, etc, and wanted to cry at the
end. I never plowed completely through the Draka series - I knew the
bad guys (bad in my opinion) won in the end, and just didn't want to
watch it happen.
The TLs - which normally I would love - I by and large can appreciate
intellectually (well, DoD and FaT at least). But I don't "enjoy" them
because of the ethical response they invoke. Ugh. This could have
happened, and man would I hate it if it had. I have a job, a
mortgage, and a host of other real-world issues (as everyone does). I
get enough depression in real life. SHWI is recreation, and, as such
I use it for happiness not depression.
Everyone reacts to things differently. I look at the DoD TL partly as
an intellectual exercise, and partly out of a sense of "there but for
the grace of God go we", but there are also some themes there which I
think are worth exploring. Particularly about how nationalism may
have turned out if it was defined as cultural rather than racial. Is
it better, for example, to have a nation which does not _force_ people
to lose their old cultural identity, but encourages them to do so,
until they gradually dissolve? Is it better to be free but starving
or slave but well-treated and well-fed? These are difficult
questions, and I wouldn't even suggest to have the answers, but I like
to create situations which show how things might have turned out if
people had different answers to these questions than were settled in
OTL.

And before anyone needs to ask, I abhor slavery in all of its
manifestations. But in a world where slavery was ongoing and
established and (in some places), _relatively_ benevolent, people
would have different choices? Live of destitute poverty or life of
slavery? How much is freedom worth?
Post by Dave Knudson
I strayed, I know. I apologize.
No apology needed.

Cheers,
Kaiser Wilhelm III
david
2004-05-24 05:24:46 UTC
Permalink
In message <210520041044599468%***@mac.com>, Alan Lothian
<***@mac.com> writes

(Assorted snips after great delay)
Post by Alan Lothian
Hmm. I can see both sides of the argument, here, and am in some danger
of impaling myself on an intellectual fence; not the most comfortable
of positions. On the one hand: do novelists have any sort of moral
responsibility for their characters? "You killed Little Nell, you
bastard!" Of course not, although they most assuredly have a
responsibility for the novel as a whole. On the other: the
investigation of historical possibilities is the raison-d'etre of the
group, and nothing human is alien to us. And, despite the close
approach made by certain multi-part AHs, we're not writing novels.
(Although some of us should get off our arses and do just that, but
that's another question entirely.)
Suppose we were running an AH on the Mongol invasion of the Kwarizm;
"Given the Mongol targeting strategy, if X had done Y, we could be
looking at no more than a few kiloskull mountains, and only in the
valley of Z." Would anyone be morally squeamish about that?
Does distance lend enchantment to the view? Does the whole "ethical"
business simply relate to the intimacy of the near past? Or, as one
poster in the nukefest thread seemed to think, would
carefully-researched accuracy (not "write down Germany by 95%" but
"best studies indicate 430,000 die within 24 hours of a strike on
Mannheim") somehow resolve the dilemma?
Indeed, is it even a dilemma? *Are* there any ethics in alternate
history?
The first responsibility that we have, I would suggest, is to be
historically consistent. One can't quite use the word plausible, because
a significant amount of real history is quite implausible. However, we
can and should aim for consistency. This ensures that historical figures
behave consistently with their known behaviour patterns. For example, it
wouldn't be consistent to have a timeline in which the Germans attempt
Operation Sealion, with Churchill deciding to abstain from alcohol so as
to ensure he always had a clear head for decision making.

One can reasonably debate an individuals response to any given change in
circumstance. For example, in a timeline in which the Trent crisis
develops into something rather more than it did, one can debate
Lincoln's response. Clearly, his primary concern was to maintain the
Union; from this it is easy to extrapolate his desire for One War At A
Time, and that the Confederates were the Main Threat to the Union.
However, one can debate the extent to which he would go to end the
dispute with Britain, and the consequences of such decisions.

The trouble is, if one asks for a detailed historical knowledge of an
extensive period, then it is likely that very few timelines would get
started. Alison started the Flashman Option specifically as a way of
learning about the WW1 period and its immediate aftermath. She took a
period in which she had a little interest but limited knowledge, and
unashamedly used the combined knowledge of the newsgroup to help her
learn more about the period.

When writing, one has to be aware that one is writing for an audience,
some of whom may have a very different perspective on things. The
scenario which sparked this discussion is a good example of that; the
views of someone who, had the events taken place, would have been little
piles of dust blowing in a radioactive wind are likely to come from a
different perspective to the views of someone who would probably come
through the events without much immediate direct impact. One may
disagree with the views of someone with a different perspective, but one
has a responsibility to try and understand where they are coming from.
--
David Flin
Ivan Hodes
2004-05-26 01:54:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Lothian
[Provoked by the comments of several respected posters on the Cuban
Missile War thread.]
Are there any ethical responsibilities involved in the creation of an
alternate history? And, if so, what might these be?
Let me start from a particular case.
Let me raise another particular case: For All Time. Often--and, for a
time, almost universally--considered the greatest multipart TL of All
Time, the FATL itself, and its fans, rather revelled in its
gruesomeness: the challenge for state-sponsored cannibalism is only
the most notorious. Towards the end events seemed deliberately set up
to result in the most bloody or catastrophic outcome possible (well,
not the MOST catastrophic outcome possible, which would have been
global nuclear war, but YKWIM). This was occasionally objected to.
but on the grounds of craftsmanship and plausibility, never (AFAICT)
for ethical/moral reasons. Which makes sense to me; it was manifestly
clear that Chet was and is not pro-state-sponsored cannibalism, racial
violence, etc. etc. etc.

So that's why this business seems puzzling to me. Everyone's been
pretty clear pointing out that, no, of course a nuclear holocaust in
1962 wouldn't be a nifty outcome. Why is this thread any more
objectionable than FAT? I really don't get it.

Ivan Hodes
Arthur Rimbaud
2004-05-26 02:40:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ivan Hodes
So that's why this business seems puzzling to me. Everyone's been
pretty clear pointing out that, no, of course a nuclear holocaust in
1962 wouldn't be a nifty outcome. Why is this thread any more
objectionable than FAT? I really don't get it.
Ivan Hodes
I had my own theory about it. Chet had a rather negative reaction to
the Hot Cuban Missle Crisis as well. Why not ask the Chet himself what
he sees as the difference betwix the two?
Had Alexandria triumphed and not Rome, the extravagant and muddled stories that I have summarized here would be coherent, majestic, and perfectly ordinary.
-Jorge Luis Borges
President Chester A. Arthur
2004-05-26 03:36:46 UTC
Permalink
Subject: Re: [META] The ethics of AH
Date: 5/25/2004 10:40 PM Eastern Standard Time
Post by Ivan Hodes
So that's why this business seems puzzling to me. Everyone's been
pretty clear pointing out that, no, of course a nuclear holocaust in
1962 wouldn't be a nifty outcome. Why is this thread any more
objectionable than FAT? I really don't get it.
Ivan Hodes
I had my own theory about it. Chet had a rather negative reaction to
the Hot Cuban Missle Crisis as well. Why not ask the Chet himself what
he sees as the difference betwix the two?
As is so often the case, Noel downthread has stated my argument more clearly
than I could.


----

"Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."
Abraham Lincoln, 1862
Ivan Hodes
2004-05-26 09:33:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by President Chester A. Arthur
Subject: Re: [META] The ethics of AH
Date: 5/25/2004 10:40 PM Eastern Standard Time
Post by Ivan Hodes
So that's why this business seems puzzling to me. Everyone's been
pretty clear pointing out that, no, of course a nuclear holocaust in
1962 wouldn't be a nifty outcome. Why is this thread any more
objectionable than FAT? I really don't get it.
Ivan Hodes
I had my own theory about it. Chet had a rather negative reaction to
the Hot Cuban Missle Crisis as well. Why not ask the Chet himself what
he sees as the difference betwix the two?
As is so often the case, Noel downthread has stated my argument more clearly
than I could.
In which post in particular? The only Noel post downthread at this
time is:

http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=3ac469c0.0405241027.424b3196%40posting.google.com

which doesn't make sense, because FAT *does* involve a large amount of
death.

Ivan Hodes
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