Sideways in Time is an Alternate History Conference to be held at the University of Liverpool - in association with Lancaster University. This interdisciplinary conferences will bring together scholarship in science fiction, fantasy, historical and literary fictions, as well as historians and counterfactual thought-experiments, to discuss those fictional narratives that deals with alternate histories and parallel worlds. We are pleased to announce Karen Hellekson, Adam Roberts, and Stephen Baxter as our keynote speakers. Karen Hellekson is a leading authority on alternate history fiction (The Alternate History: Refiguring Historical Time, 2001). Professor Adam Roberts is a leading science fiction critic and also an award-winning author who employs alternate history elements into some of his fiction (most notably Swiftly, shortlisted for the 2009 Sidewise Award). Stephen Baxter is currently a judge of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, as well as being one of the former winners (“Brigantia’s Angels”, Voyage).
Why Alternate History?Alternate history has a long and international pedigree. Whilst most cultures and literary traditions can trace their own heritage of alternate history, alternate history arguments in the Western Canon can be traced into antiquity with Livy’s meditations on Alexander the Great. In their modern form, they emerged in France in the early 19th century before crossing into English at the latter half of the century. The form also become popular with historians and essayists, a notable early history collection being If It Had Happened Otherwise (1931) edited by John Squire which included counterfactual essays by, among others, Hilaire Belloc, Andre Maurois and Winston Churchill. It was not until H.G. Wells's late novel Men Like Gods (1923) that the form crossed into the territory of science fiction, and was not truly popularised until Murray Leinster's crucial story "Sidewise in Time" published in Astounding in 1934. Since 1934, the form has become a staple of science fiction and fantasy story-telling, sometimes including time travel or magic as a means of explaining the cause of the alternate history. However, the form has also been adopted by the literary mainstream with writers who chose not to relate their alternate world to our own, instead taking the lead from conventions of historical fiction. As such, alternate history has attracted such non-genre writers as Nabakov, Kingsley Amis, Robert Harris, Philip Roth, Michael Chabon and many more.
Despite a long and diverse history, alternate history has attracted surprisingly little scholarship. This conference will attempt to establish lines of communication which will rectify this deficit. It is hoped a selection of the essays presented at the conference will be made available as part of a published collection.
We are interested in papers analysing specific alternate history texts from all mediums including novels, cinema, comics and beyond. We also welcome broader papers on the various periods, subgenres, movements and modes of alternate history including steampunk, retro-futurism and more. Papers can be based on, amongst other things, theory, texts, cultural surveys, philosophy, and media studies.
Please submit a 300 word abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a 50 word bionote by December 15, 2014.