Just another counterfactual Monday
December 1, 2010 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Hite's Law: "All alternate histories produce zeppelins." Kenneth Hite has been featuring alternate Mondays on his livejournal.What if Tewodros II hadn't unified Ethiopia? What if Bonnie Prince Charlie had been worth the powder it would take to blow him out of a cannon barrel? How could Carthage have won the Punic Wars? What if King Kalakaua of Hawai'i had succeeded in forging a Union and Federation of Asiatic Nations and Sovereigns with Japan? How could 20th century North America have ended up ruled by rival warlords? How could things have gone not quite so badly for the Huguenots? What if the Suez Crisis and the invasion of Hungary hadn't been contemporaneous?

For any unfamiliar alternate history acronyms therein, see this glossary.

Hite has written and contributed to Alternate History material to many RPG books Alternate Earths, Alternate Earths II, Infinite Worlds, GURPS Cabal, and his Suppressed Transmission columns (like Six Flags Over Roswell) have been collected in two volumes (many others have yet to be collected.) Tim Powers said of them: "I love Kenneth Hite’s books -- I know they’re for gamers, but they seem to have been written for me."

Hite's also the writer of The Complete Idiot's Guide to US History, Graphic Illustrated (excerpt 1, 2.) He notes the eleven most important things he omitted.

His own word for his area of interest is eliptony, a "word that encompasses the occult, the fringe, the pseudoscientific, the New Age, the magickal, the Fortean, and so forth." He has previously presented a eliptony core sample of books. Eliptony fans might also be interested in his books' bibliographies and Hite's personal old reliable standby resources for research (or the index to all the GURPS books' bibliographies that are on-line.)

Hite's also well known for writing Lovecraftian essays and gaming material; these have been discussed previously and previously.
posted by Zed (29 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
Oh hey free time, see you in a week.
posted by The Whelk at 12:06 PM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Indeed, Whelk. I could sit and read those GURPS books like regular novels for hours on end.
posted by AugieAugustus at 12:14 PM on December 1, 2010

All alternate histories produce zeppelins.

Oh, yeah? What if Paul Samwell-Smith hadn't quit the Yardbirds?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:16 PM on December 1, 2010 [12 favorites]

This looks cool.
posted by nola at 12:30 PM on December 1, 2010

Charlie Stross would agree, if you throw in a cigar and a top hat
posted by aeshnid at 12:38 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fuck, reading about history is the ultimate rabbit's hole. Hyperlinks make it particularly deadly for productivity!

I clicked on the link about the stuff he left out of the Idiot's Guide, got warmed up on a few, and then was all set to totally tumble down the rabbit's hole reading about the Treaty of Washington (especially...as a Canadian...its implications for nation-builidng in Canada), until I forced myself to remember that I'm at work, still owe my employer 1.5 hours worth of productivity, and closed the links until I get home.

Love it.
posted by dry white toast at 12:42 PM on December 1, 2010

And this is only Day 1!
posted by wheelieman at 12:45 PM on December 1, 2010

Oooo...I've got one: what if Earl Magnus had brought sufficient forces his meeting with Haakon to prevent his own martyrdom? Then, what if he had consolidated his hold over the Orkneys, creating a base from which his nephew Rognvald was able to successfully challenge Olaf the Unlucky for the throne of Norway, ultimately leading to the establishment of a greater Norwegian principality across the North Sea Islands, Scotland, Newfoundland and the Baltic?

Answer: Scottish-Viking Berserkers Parachuting from Zeppelins!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:49 PM on December 1, 2010

Thanks alot , like this !!
posted by mel001 at 12:54 PM on December 1, 2010

Great megapost, and on an unexpected and welcome subject - Kenneth Hite is flat out awesome.

His alt-history RPG setting The Day After Ragnarok looks like all kinds of fun as well.
posted by Artw at 1:11 PM on December 1, 2010

Isn't the zeppelin trope because lighter-than-air travel lost out by a pretty thin margin and a series of rather improbable events? So if anything had changed, lighter-than-air aircraft would be dominant, because they are easier to build, operate, and maintain than heavier-than-air vehicles?
posted by Electrius at 1:53 PM on December 1, 2010

Love it to death.

(No zepplins in The Dragon Waiting, tho that's an ah/fantasy mix so maybe it doesn't count)
posted by lumpenprole at 1:54 PM on December 1, 2010

Electrius - Well, the Hindenburg and the R101 probably put the stake in the heart of the hydrogen airship, and Helium is an altogether more expensive game and, after decades of people trying seems to be a non-starter commercially. Neville Shute makes a good case for the viability of hydrogen airships in his Slide Rule: Autobiography of an Engineer, where he details his work on the more successful R100, but in the end that came to nothing.
posted by Artw at 2:05 PM on December 1, 2010

I do not think Pan-Mediterranean Empire was an inevitability, and I don't think Carthage would have become one just because they knocked out Rome.

Good stuff.
posted by absalom at 2:27 PM on December 1, 2010

Can't believe I've never heard of Hite, especially as I am a fan of alternate history (although I mostly read stuff online due to chronic brokeness). I think this will keep me busy for quite some time, thanks!
posted by Hargrimm at 2:39 PM on December 1, 2010

Damn it, Zed!

I'm such a sucker for parallel universes/alternate histories.
posted by MikeKD at 3:07 PM on December 1, 2010

And for even more Hite, here's a year and a half of game reviews. His game review column ran for a long time on gamingreport.com but if there are archives online, I haven't found them.

Can't believe I've never heard of Hite

I hadn't heard of him until that Powers interview, myself. He definitely warrants a wider audience among alternate history fans and readers of Powers, Robert Anton Wilson, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, etc.

Damn it, Zed!

Dude, I know. Composing this made me fall prey to my own Hite fanboyism and I ordered Trail of Cthulhu.
posted by Zed at 3:34 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ken is not only a fantastic writer, he also has fantastic taste in other people's writing. These days I only see him every year or two, but Monday evening was one of those times and we had a splendid and memorable dinner. One of my great regrets is that I never got him to write a New Style RPG for me back in the day.
posted by Hogshead at 5:07 PM on December 1, 2010

Hey, no fair, I came up with that theory last week! Also after watching Fringe.

TVTropes has a page, of course.

These links will be the death of me. An alternate history of LoTR!
posted by BungaDunga at 5:34 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sauron was a reformer for oppressed races.
posted by The Whelk at 5:53 PM on December 1, 2010

"Can't believe I've never heard of Hite"

I was his editor at our university newspaper. He was awesome even then.
posted by jscalzi at 6:04 PM on December 1, 2010

I was going to link to The Hite Report, but griphus beat me to it.
posted by ovvl at 7:25 PM on December 1, 2010

That alternate Tolkien is just crushing it this evening; my LoTR period came before the bulk of my alternate history period, so this is a nice combination.
posted by Earthtopus at 9:20 PM on December 1, 2010

Oswald Bastable, you have much to answer for.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:35 AM on December 2, 2010

I think I don't know enough about real actual history to get these. I really, really need to start reading more history.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:24 AM on December 7, 2010

I really, really need to start reading more history.

History is the trade secret of science fiction.

"The more you know, the more jokes you get" -- longtime email signature of a guy I know whose name I'm sure I'll recall after I hit post.

A desire to get these (and be able to make them) really has prompted me to read a lot more history. And the big bonus there is that the history you don't get in school is chock full of crazy, weird stuff.
posted by Zed at 8:05 AM on December 7, 2010

Not email sig. Former blog tagline.

3 days that took.
posted by Zed at 1:17 PM on December 10, 2010

Meanwhile, in this reality: Giant airship powered by algae
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on December 13, 2010

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