Alternate history fiction (also known as alternative history, allohistory, or uchronie) is a subgenre of fiction that takes place in our world, yet has strayed from our actual history. This subgenre usually has a science fiction, literary fiction, or historical fiction emphasis and has been in use since as early as the 4th century. Considering my personal science fiction bent, I prefer to call this subgenre Parallel Earth—the story takes place on Earth, but Earth of a parallel Universe where things are not quite like the Earth we live on.
As a massive fan and writer of Magical Realism (the most popular current form of which is Urban Fantasy)—fiction that takes place in our real world but contains fantastical or magical elements—using a parallel Earth as a setting loosens up the boundaries and provides a wider range of fantasy elements for use. I have in fact created an entirely fictional Midwestern city so that I am not shackled by actual geography.
Working on a novel with characters that are centuries old has depended almost entirely on strategic divergence from the actual history of civilization in small ways. With 10 protagonists, 5 antagonists and 19 secondary characters that fill out my story, it makes for a lot of research. I have been very conscious of having these changes make sense and in many cases logically link up with actual developments in Earth’s history. I’ve done quite a bit of brushing up on ancient Roman history and culture and will have plenty more to do with several isolated times and places as referenced by the origins of my large cast of characters.
How do you readers out there feel about stories that take place on a parallel Earth? Are you distracted by historical inconsistencies? Or do you welcome a view into what might be rather than what is?