A Rambling Review of Assembled Allred

Allred, Lee. Assembled Allred: 7 Tales by the Master Sergeant of Alternate History. Lincoln City, OR: Rookhouse Books, 2012. 171 pages. $14.99 in trade paperback, $8.99 Kindle. Reviewed by Jonathan Langford.

Much of science fiction is written in the spirit of What if? What if humans could fly? What if there were aliens among us? What if you could go back in time and marry your own grandmother? (Thanks for that one, Heinlein!)

The best of these questions are never just about science or technology. They invite us, instead, to consider what is real and constant — and what changes — in human hearts and minds and spirits, and societies. They prod us to reflect on our values and challenge our own easy answers about what is right and wrong. For all the conflict many readers and writers see between science fiction and religion, there’s a surprisingly large shared space (in my opinion, and that of many Mormon sf&f readers) between the kind of imagination needed to explore the stars, if only mentally, and a cosmology that sees the bounds of current mortality as merely a proscenium on eternity. Or maybe it’s mortality that’s the strictly bounded stage, and religion — and imaginative fiction — a mental transition space between where we are and the boundless limits of possibility?

Allred’s stories explore that space. They ask not only what if history had been a little bit different, what if the Mormons had repeating rifles during the Utah War, but also what if (for example) a magical implement could remove the signs of cowardice, at the price of blood? Or T. H. Huxley wound up after death in a Hell he didn’t believe in during life? The answers tickle the imagination; at their best, they engage the heart as well.

Continue reading “A Rambling Review of Assembled Allred”

Interview with D.J. Butler on The City of the Saints

William interviews D.J. Butler on his self-published serialized novel The City of the Saints, an alt-history, Mormon steampunk story featuring Sam Clemens, Poe, etc.

Several weeks ago friend of AMV Nathan Shumate posted an ebook cover he had made. When I saw it, I knew that I needed to interview the author. The cover was for Liahona, the first volume in D.J. Butler’s The City of the Saints series. The second volume — Deseret — was just released last week.

D.J. Butler (Dave) is a novelist living in the Rocky Mountain northwest. His training is in law, and he worked as a securities lawyer at a major international firm and inhouse at two multinational semiconductor manufacturers before taking up writing fiction. He is a lover of language and languages, a guitarist and self-recorder, and a serious reader. He is married to a powerful and clever woman and together they have three devious children.

For more on the series like the City of the Saints Facebook page; read more about D.J. Butler’s writing at his author website: davidjohnbutler.com

What was the genesis of The City of the Saints series/long novel (both in terms of the idea and the writing process)?

The genesis lies in the real world. In the real world, in 1860, Captain Richard Burton, famous explorer, linguist, and soldier, arguably discoverer of the source of the Nile, and anthropologist who had successfully completed the pilgrimage to Mecca in disguise, came to Salt Lake City. He wrote a book about his experiences, called The City of the Saints, in which he gives us a thumbnail portrait of Brigham Young, talks about going shot for shot with Porter Rockwell while talking about the dangers of the road to Carson City, and otherwise reports a lot of wonderful detail with a clear and experienced eye. It’s a great book, and you should read it. I stole Burton’s title (dropped the article), and his experience: City of the Saints is a gonzo action over the top steampunk version of his real journey. Continue reading “Interview with D.J. Butler on The City of the Saints”

The irresistibility of the Joseph Smith story: Crown Colonies edition

I recently finished At the Queen’s Command by Michael A. Stackpole. It was okay to pretty good. It’s American colonial alternate history with (limited) magic. There were things I liked, and things that bugged me. But what I found interesting for this audience was Stackpole’s mention of the Joseph Smith story. Of course, if it was analogous to U.S. history, the timing of this book would be 50-75 years prior to Joseph Smith even being born, but that’s neither here nor there since it’s alternate history.

On page 146, a couple of the main characters are speaking about the frontier of Mystria (aka America) and about an encounter they have just had with a young man who was preaching democratic/republican ideas from a Thomas Paine-style book but adding in some of his own extra radical revolutionary fervor, and one of them says:

“Makes a man wonder why a man would be saying them sort of things.”

And the other replies:

“Oh, I don’t know, Magehawk, seems obvious. Men, they come out here, they cut a town from the wilderness, they have an edge to them. The ones that come after, though, ain’t leaders. They’re followers. Sheep. Every now and again comes a wolf looking for sheep. If it weren’t Qunice, it would be some minister or a messiah. Down Oakland I hear a man dug up his own Bible and has been preaching it. Says Mysteria is the promised land and that the Good Lord wants us to make a Celestial City in the hear of the Continent. He says every man should have a dozen wives and they should bear a dozen children and God will come again to bless them all.”

Nathaniel [Wm notes: Nathaniel = Magehawk] smiled. “You going?”

“Cain’t find me one wife, so I don’t reckon there’s a point to it.” (146)

I found the reference amusing. Reductive and not flattering, I suppose, but it works well enough for the scene, and I found it amusing because it was both obvious and very almost inevitable. This is the first in the series so I wonder if it will come up again in the story (although I don’t know if that curiosity is enough for me to read the next book), but even if not, it suggests, yet again, how irresistible the Joseph Smith story is to fiction writers (and even just Mormonism as a movement [cf. all the Mormon references in science fiction]).