In the case of this story, the break point is simple and surprisingly modest. In the fifth chapter, as Sam Houston scales the Creek barricade at the Battle of the Horseshoe Bend, his foot slips. As a result, the arrow which in real history caused a terrible wound to his groin simply produces a minor flesh wound.
Naturally, I find this fascinating. I usually don't subscribe to the "great man" theory of history, where everything turns on the actions of a few individuals. But what if Christopher Columbus, George Washington, or Andrew Jackson had died prematurely? Would the history of Native America have turned out differently?
For more on the subject, see Was Native Defeat Inevitable?
I am looking for T. Dan Hopkins, actor. We were in a movie together in 1978 and I have a copy for him.
Writerfella here --
Hello, Rufus. I am Russell Bates and Trilby Dan Hopkins is my paternal uncle. I don't have a phone or an e-mail for him but his snail mail addy is:
T. Dan Hopkins
360 Stanley Lane
Lakeside OR 97449
I am sure you are speaking of REVENGE OF BIGFOOT or RUFUS PICKLE AND THE INDIAN. And I know he always has been looking for a copy. He has a one-sheet and a couple of lobby cards. Let him know you found him through Newspaper Rock and his nephew Russ.
Writerfella here --
To the topic: what the author is after is known as the Kurt Vonnegut Effect, to have written science fiction that he does not wish to be considered science fiction. Witness that Robert Coover, Joseph Heller, and Thomas Pynchon are subscribers. Too bad, but alternate history is SF, period. One of the finest examples of alternate history SF relevant to this blog is "Custer's Last Jump" by Howard Waldrop, wherein WWI aviation technology occurs during the Civil War and then later US Air Cav is sent after the Sioux in the Black Hills, with Custer and his men as paratroopers. "Custer's Last Jump" then is the battle between Crazy Horse and his fleet of aircraft, with the defeat of Custer immortalized by the phrase, "They died with their 'chutes on..." The story will be a featured inclusion (along with Waldrop's "Green Brother, also about the Sioux) in writerfella's anthology, HORSEMAN, STARMAN.
It's not that good. The Indians are sideline players and personalities as varied as JOhn Ross and Major Ridge are presented generically. The Trial of Tears occurs between chapters and appears to have been a carefree stroll through the woods. Plus, and especially in the sequel 1824, Andrew Jackson is inexplicably transformed into a hero of racial tolerance. A better what if for the War of 1812 would be What If Tecumseh's strategy had succeeded? A general coordinated Indian uprising from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico would have virtually guaranteed an American defeat.
I presume you're still talking about 1812, Local Crank.
True, the Indians are secondary characters, but that doesn't seriously harm the quality of the storytelling. Besides, Major Ridge is only the sixth most prominent Cherokee in 1812 (after John Ross; Tiana, James, and John Rogers; and Sequoyah), so it's not surprising that his character isn't well-developed.
Anglos pretty much have to be the main characters in this particular story. The Cherokees wouldn't have volunteered to leave their homeland without being coaxed. And they couldn't have affected US Indian policy without the intervention of Anglos.
The Trail of Tears doesn't happen at all in 1812, since the novel ends right after the War of 1812. Perhaps you meant between books, not between chapters.
I agree that Tecumseh's pan-Indian movement was a more likely turning point for US-Indian relations. I wrote about that in Was Native Defeat Inevitable?
But Flint wasn't writing about the most likely turning point. He set himself the task of preventing the Trail of Tears through the actions of the principals: Andrew Jackson, Major Ridge, Sam Houston, John Ross, et al. Rewriting Tecumseh's history might've achieved the same outcome, but it wouldn't have involved the Cherokees helping themselves.
Flint wasn't trying to avoid the "science fiction" label, Russ. I'm sure he has no qualms about 1812's being filed in the SF section.
He mentioned the lack of a "science-fictional element," meaning a fictional element involving science. As he went on to explain, he wasn't writing an alternate history that required changes in the era's science or technology. E.g., a history in which someone invented the internal combustion engine a century earlier or time travelers gave the Cherokees machine guns.
Instead, he was writing the type of alternate history that involves a single turning point: a small, finite change in events. In this case, the turning point was whether Sam Houston was wounded or not.
Writerfella here --
Single event alternate histories are far from uncommon in SF.
One of the best and most awarded SF stories of the 60s was in ANALOG, "For Want Of A Nail,..." In it, a budget cut causes a government weather station to lay off a North Dakota weather analyst. He goes to an appliance dealer and cancels his order for a washing machine. The dealer then is forced to fire three of his employees, and events domino-cascade over time and again until a full-fledged worldwide economic depression is raking every nation that exists. US government researchers frantically track all the economic data they can uncover, and computers find the very basis of it all: the weather analyst in North Dakota. The research department takes up a collection, sends the money to the weather station, and says the budget cut was a mistake. The analyst is re-hired, he goes to buy the washing machine after all, the dealer calls his employees back to work, and the economic depression slowly begins to heal itself. From then on, the research department keeps an office slush fund on hand and at the ready, just in case.
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