An alternate history book I’d love to see…
(TRIGGER WARNING: Racism.)
I was at Foolscap a few weeks ago, and an off-hand comment about an alternate universe has been running through my mind. I’ll post the comment in two halves.
The first half of the comment was along the lines of “I’m writing a book where the Native Americans weren’t around when the Europeans arrived—”
I consider this idea as the core of a brilliant alternate history. We would be vastly impoverished without the First Nations. If I were to write a story based on this idea, I would work with a historian to make sure that I didn’t accidentally slip in things that came from Native American cultures. Let their absence be an unstated element of the story, and why this alternate world is poorer than ours. (I’d also have a lot of fun renaming so many states, provinces, and cities.)
But the second half of the statement was along the lines of “—only because I didn’t want my colonizers to also commit genocide.”
That statement infuriated me, and it took me a while to state well why. It implies that the only thing that the First Nations did to modern society was to make Europeans “feel bad” about having to kill them.
It’s fine to write a story where the colonizers are the first ones in an area. Set the story on Mars.
It’s fine to write a story where the Europeans didn’t commit genocide on the Native American population. An alternate history where, for example, the Europeans settled North America based on trade instead of conquest, would be fascinating.
But it’s terrible world-building to think that eliminating millions of people and hundreds of cultures would have had no more effect than assuaging the guilt of some descendants.
Thanks for reading.