Blog #24

The arrival of a new year seems to be the time when we are most inclined to talk about what’s coming, what we need to do to make our lives better, and how to get our acts together. But the best known piece of music associated with this date, and possibly the most familiar piece of music on the planet, looks in the opposite direction: Should auld acquaintance be forgot And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot And auld lang syne? This time of year seems primarily devoted to things lost, to friends and loved ones gone, to recollections of persons whose significance, somehow, we never understood until they had drifted beyond reach. Why else would we ask whether we should for

Blog #23

One of the more entertaining historical games we can play is what SF people call alternate reality, or history enthusiasts refer to as ‘What Ifs?’ I recently picked up a copy of What Ifs? Of American History, edited by Robert Cowley, who has done a series of excellent books on the topic. It packages ruminations by historians who look at events that might easily have gone in a different direction, and how results might have changed. What would the world look like today, for example, had the British shown a little more empathy and sidestepped the American Revolution? It wouldn’t have been that difficult for them. And what if the Lincoln assassination had gone as planned and they’d taken out t