Friday, October 9, 2015

Editorial: A Look Back at My First AH Timeline, "French Trafalgar, British Waterloo"

Way, way, way back when I started in Alternate history back in High School (okay, it was only seven years ago, but still!), I started a timeline at the Alternate History Wikia called French Trafalgar, British Waterloo (also known as FTBW), which since then has had over 230 pages in the category that fleshes out the world that I created. It also is a featured alternate history on the Wikia, and won several Sterling Awards, and is still considered my pride and joy.

That said, looking back on it now, having finished a Bachelor of Arts in History and English, I realize that there are some problems with it, mostly due to it being my first alternate history, and some things that I didn't realize when I started. So, I decided to go over it, and pick out a few things...

Because if there is something I like doing, it's going over my old stuff to see all the bugs and terrible things I did back then,

1. Better POD

As the title suggests, the Battle of Trafalgar is the major tipping point, where the French Navy defeats the Royal Navy under Admiral Horatio Nelson. Trafalgar is such a big part of British lore, and the fact that from 1805 until 1945, the British Navy was recognized to rule the waves of the world, and built a massive empire based on that control of the seas. So, if Trafalgar turned out different, it should have been a huge blow to the British, right?

After a few years of research on the Napoleonic Wars, I'm starting to think that no, it most likely wouldn't have been the point when Napoleon could have won the war. For one thing, when Trafalgar was taking place in October 1805, Napoleon had already turned his army to Central Europe, defeating the Austrians at the Battle of Ulm. So it wasn't possible for Napoleon to take advantage of the temporary set back of the Royal Navy to invade England. Not to mention that the fleet Nelson had was only a small part of the larger navy, and there would be more than enough ships to still prevent the French from invading.

Even though, really, you could wipe out all those ships with a match.

The problem is that I don't know if there would have been many better chances for the Napoleonic Wars to change. Maybe if the Treaty of Amiens had lasted longer, allowed Napoleon a chance to build up a navy or ensure that the rest of Europe wouldn't rise up, then possibly Trafalgar could have been decisive. Possibly the only way that Napoleon could have won the war was just keep winning battles of whatever coalition the British paid to rise up, and keep his attention focused on Western Europe. No occupation of Spain (leading to the Peninsular War), no invasion of Russia in 1812, no trying to replace every monarch in Europe with a Bonaparte. Maybe then the British could tire from the war, and eventually make peace. But knowing the British, that would be a tall order. They hadn't let a little thing like Hitler taking all of Europe to stop them from giving in (though that was more Churchill's speech making and bull dog will than anything else), so could enough costly defeats convince the British to give in? That's a good question, and possibly a better POD in the long run.

2. Too Much Focus on Big Name People

At the very beginning of the TL, the name Marshal Micheal Ney pops up. A lot. Back then, that name was one of the first besides Napoleon that I knew on the French side of the war, so I basically made him the man that would make the world change to what I wanted it to be: a large, stable French Empire surviving to the modern day. I did that a lot, and it's quite clear throughout the entire TL, in all the lists I made of major Presidents, Prime Ministers, famous people. Always big names in our history, just with a different job title. President Tom Hanks anyone?

"Life is like the US Presidency... you just never know what you are going to get. HANKS 2016!"

There is only one "major" fictional person I added, and it was the third Emperor of the Napoleonic Empire, the son of Napoleon II, who in OTL died at the age of 18, having never married, had kids, or even spoken French. So I made a new one, but then killed him off when he was younger to then go back to "real" people, namely the IRL Napoleon III, the nephew of the first. However, I did use the Butterfly effect to a degree, as I usually changed the years when born and died from their IRL dates. I'm not a lazy alternate historian. Just... a bit distracted.

I know why I didn't do that much: I wanted pictures of people to put beside the names, espeically of Emperors and Kings and Presidents. But I really should have been more willing to make more fictional people. I went half way to this later when I started digging deep into the lists of MPs in Britain to pick the man who would be the Dictator of a National Socialist UK in my alternate World War 2, in this case John Beckett, a British Labor and Fascist leader. Most important to me: he had a picture. In future alternate histories on the Wikia (if I get around to working on them...) I'd be more willing to try to use more fictional people, if at least based on IRL people.

But there are people you just have to mention. Like this guy.. uhh... what's his name again?

3. Short and Sweet Country/People/Event Profiles

The thing that pains me the most when I look at FTBW is all the red links that still exist. I want to go back and flesh out all those points that at the time I thought would be important: battles, treaties, big names, etc. etc. And I've done alright at some of them, especially the wars, but there are also so many articles I started that consist of an infobox I copy-pasted from the previous nation, with a few edits, and a "WIP" notice on top, if I even remembered that. Oh, and categories. If I didn't do them, the chief admin and editor Lordganon would swoop in and do it for me. I still think he mutters "Oh God damnit" every time I forget a category. Oops. Sorry.

However, after I did that, I moved on to the next one, and then never came back to flesh it out. Many of those pages have been WIPs for years at this point, mostly just waiting for me to come back to fill it out. But I wanted to make each one a big, definitive history of that nation in my universe. Every. Single. One. Now I realize it makes sense to do it for the French Empire, the United States, and Russia, but not for Switzerland, Hispaniola, or Mozambique. So if and when I do go back, that is most likely what I will do. Just make a short, sweet, and simple history of each nation.

Because everyone wants to know the history of the country with the AK-47 on the flag.

The same goes for the people. Every US President on my list has an article, just no information besides the infobox. I should try to at least work on a brief synopsis of their life.

4. Trying to Get Other People to Help

This is perhaps one of the more recent problems I've had. I go on the chat for the Wikia, I get a few people go "OMG, TB SHOWED UP!" and then some people say "I really liked your FTBW timeline." At that point I'm both proud and excited. Then I ask if they would be interested in helping out. Usually it's a yes, especially when they know more of a certain subject than I know, like sports, movies, Asian and African history. But then nothing ever happens. And I get sad.

I should know better by now. FTBW is not 1983: Doomsday, a collaborative timeline that has been worked on by hundreds of people over the years. FTBW is my timeline, the one that helped develop me as an alternate historian. I shouldn't be looking or begging for help. I should just work on it, and stop trying to get other people to help me. I won't turn down anyone asking if they can submit something, but I shouldn't be soliciting people to help me.

Yes, I should listen to the actor that everyone thinks ruined Indiana Jones and Transformers!

5. Actually Go Back And Work On It

The previous point leads into this one: the fact that since 2012, I really haven't done more than add an article here, add a picture there. The timeline kind of stops dead in 2011, so there is over four years I need to add on to make it current.

The problem is that my interests seem to change on a dime. For a while I was working on other projects on the Wikia like my Choose Your Own Alternate History, projects off the Wikia like my Fallout Fanfic, school, family, work, video games... so many things that want my attention. So things like FTBW, which I still really enjoy, just get's shunted down the list. I have notes everywhere in books of ideas I wanted to add into FTBW, but most of them are still there, waiting for me to do something.

Someday, I plan to go back. Maybe not a full time thing like when I was in High School, but maybe something where I add a post a day. Edit the first pages to make it sound better. Standardize the maps. Flesh out the culture and the world I created. Someday, maybe in the future, I might even go and write short stories based on the universe I created. It's an idea I've toyed with for a long time now, and something that I may eventually do. But I want to finish FTBW. Someday.

I'll think of a funny caption tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the insights on your timeline's creation: not being a real member of the community, I didn't know about it. I'll be sure to look it up and read about Napoleon's further exploits.