Even a conquering bastard has a weak spot...

Or maybe that should be soft spot. Or maybe it shouldn't be either, because Matilda of Flanders does not come across as being particularly weak or soft. Women of her status weren't expected to be - they were educated to be fully capable of administering their husband's domains while hubby was off doing other things, like rapaciously grabbing another man's crown... In Matilda's case, this meant that while William set out to claim that English crown, she was kept busy managing his duchy. And their children.

Read more about Matilda here! 

Time and its alternative

Time, ah, that strange thing. Past time, which could be yesterday or fifty years ago, present time which we bumble through, and future time which fascinates and scares us. But what if time wasn’t quite what we think it is? What if we had made different choices at various points in our lives and our personal timeline had gone off in quite a different one from the one we’re in now?
On a grander scale, what if William the Conqueror hadn’t beaten Harold in 1066? Or Elizabeth I had married and had children? What if a piece of the Roman Empire had survived into the modern age?
Exploring ‘what ifs’ of history lies at the core of alternate history. Its two parents, history and science fiction, give a fiction writer the opportunity to take established history and speculate. Robert Harris did it in Fatherland, Kingsley Amis in The Alteration, Michael Chabon in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.

Neil Gaiman looks at the cultural role of speculative fiction

Speculative fiction, including alternative fiction, isn't just fun but has a cultural impact. I'll leave it to Neil Gaiman to explain...

There are three phrases that make possible the world of writing about the world of not-yet (you can call it science fiction or speculative fiction; you can call it anything you wish) and they are simple phrases:

What if … ?
If only …
If this goes on …

“What if … ?” gives us change, a departure from our lives. (What if aliens landed tomorrow and gave us everything we wanted, but at a price?)

“If only …” lets us explore the glories and dangers of tomorrow. (If only dogs could talk. If 
only I was invisible.)

“If this goes on…” is the most predictive of the three, although it doesn’t try to predict an actual future with all its messy confusion. Instead, “If this goes on…” fiction takes an element of life today, something clear and obvious and normally something troubling, and asks what would happen if that thing, that one thing, became bigger, became all-pervasive, changed the way we thought and behaved. 

Queen In All But Name

By Annie Whitehead

Aethelflaed, who died on 12th June AD918 was not a Mercian. She was a West-Saxon, the daughter of Alfred the Great of Wessex. She was born around the year 869 - we don’t know where - and was the eldest child of Alfred and his wife, who was a Mercian princess of the Gaini tribe. Alfred’s sister was married to King Burgred of Mercia, so here, already, there was a double connection between the two royal houses, alliance cemented by marriage twice over.

There is evidence to suggest that Aethelflaed was fostered by her aunt and spent her early years in Mercia. At this time there were essentially four Anglo-Saxon kingdoms: Northumbria in the northeast and East Anglia in the east had already been overrun by the Danish Vikings and now those Danish invaders were pushing at the borders of Mercia in the midlands. Mercia could not hold them off, caught as it was in a succession dispute. Unable to stand united, the Mercians failed to arrest the advancing army. Wessex, in the southwest, was, as Bernard Cornwell called it, The Last Kingdom.

Read More....

Ferrari History

By Joanna Courtney

I’m thrilled to be a part of the writing team who will, this Autumn, be bringing 1066 Turned Upside Down to your e-readers. When I first dreamed up the idea of having a collection of ‘alternative 1066’ short stories I never imagined I would actually make it a reality, or that I would be lucky enough to do so with such a wonderful collection of authors. Huge credit has to go to the wonderful Helen Hollick for her energy and drive but everyone on the 1066 Turned Upside Down team has responded with such enthusiasm and imagination to the brief. But then, why wouldn’t they?

As historical fiction writers we are fascinated with getting to the truth of what happened in the past. That may not be a ‘truth’ in the way that academic historians would recognise it, substantiated by unassailable facts and backed up with sources, but an emotional truth – a narrative that makes sense of the past for us and, hopefully, for our readers. We are always, always aware that we are filling in gaps with fictional interpretation – so why not go one step further and fill in those gaps with pure fiction?

In writing stories for this project I have discovered that invented history, for me, is like driving a Ferrari, or hang-gliding off a cliff, or riding a roller coaster. It is not, perhaps, something I would like to do all the time but it’s wonderful to try every once in a while. I’ve found writing these alternative stories has been a challenge, a fascination and a pure joy – a giddy rush of almost illicit pleasure.

And what is truth anyway? We might be able to establish events but can we ever really pin down motivations? And what of belief – does that constitute truth? A question, perhaps, for more learned and philosophical minds than my own, but as a writer of fiction the nature of truth does fascinate me.

read more on Joanna's blog.....

The future of History and Historical Fiction.

You may think that I’m in strange company; that I’ve somehow wandered into the wrong group. After all, I’m a writer of Science Fiction, a dabbler in the future, in things to come. I base my work on things that have never happened and have to create not just the story, but also the setting. And to somehow make it all seem real.

In comparison; historical fiction writers have the ability to go and see the places where their stories are set, to read accounts by people who were there and to weave their magic around the tangible.

For me, the appeal of historical fiction lies in the fact that uncertainty about the past allows for so much freedom in the telling. There are so many possible outcomes to be imagined from one event. The fact is that the further you go back into history; there are fewer ‘facts.’ The accounts we have can be unsubstantiated and were after all written by the victors. They may not even have been written by observers of the events they describe; or at the time of the events when memories were fresh!

Everything is open to a wide range of interpretation. And the masters of the genre give their imaginations full rein, with stories that either stick to the recognised timeline or in some cases they create a whole new future in the past. And starting with what the reader knows, they take them on a journey.

Since I became involved with this project, I’ve been wondering how science fiction and historical fiction tie up. And I think I've got it. 

The question is, "how will the future see the past?" How will the great events that have yet to happen be recorded and written about by the historical fiction writers of the future?

To help me do just that, I’ve invented a magazine of the future and asked the editor to consider my problem. You can read the full story over on my website, richarddeescifi.co.uk

So, alternate history?

What if the Nazis had won the Second World War (Fatherland – Robert Harris, The Man in the High Castle – Philip K Dick) or England had remained Catholic (Pavane – Keith Roberts, The Alteration – Kingsley Amis)? Or perhaps if Roosevelt had lost the 1940 election and right-wing Charles Lindbergh had become US president (The Plot Against America – Philip Roth)? 

And the big one for 1066... Suppose William's ships had foundered, or Harold hadn't been forced to go north against Harald Hardrada, or a third party had intervened or William or Harold had died before the invasion? 

A new time line, diverging from the one we now live in, will have a opened up with new possibilities and consequences. Who knows what will happen next?

Called alternate, or alternative, history this type of fiction lets us explore these "what if" scenarios through our stories. Alison Morton writes exclusively in the alternative history framework and introduces us to the conventions of this genre. Read on...

Our Cover and the Helmet

Yes, we know that helmet on our cover isn't quite right for 1066. 
It probably - if you want to be picky-accurate - would date to about 150-200 years earlier.

The most famous Saxon helmet is the Sutton Hoo treasure:  a "crested" and masked helmet with  panels of tinned bronze and assembled mounts, the decoration is directly comparable to that found on helmets from the Vendel and Valsgärde cemeteries of eastern Sweden. The Sutton Hoo helmet differs from the Swedish examples in having an iron skull of a single vaulted shell and has a full face mask, a solid neck guard and deep cheekpieces. These features have suggested an English origin for the basic structure of the helmet; the deep cheekpieces have parallels in the Coppergate helmet, found in York. Although outwardly very like the Swedish examples, the Sutton Hoo helmet is a product of better craftsmanship. Helmets are extremely rare finds.

Sutton Hoo : Wikipedia :  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutton_Hoo

Headgear at the time of the Battle of Hastings (i.e 11th century) would have been more conical and with a band of metal extending down to protect the nose - as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry

so we know all this but ...

  • we wanted to use something eye-catching more than accurate on the cover
  • 1066 Turned Upside Down is a compilation of alternative stories, so most of the e-book isn't accurate anyway!
  • we wondered how many people would take note and complain (thus drawing attention!)
  • and well... one of our stories does involve time travel....

there's an interesting article here : Historic UK about armour from Ancient Britons through Roman to Norman

Have your say about how important is accuracy on a cover 
leave a comment and someone will answer as soon as possible 

Cover designed by Cathy Helms, www.avalongraphics.org
Original artwork ©wjarek - Fotolia