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Book Review: Alternate Presidents by Mike Resnick

Alternate Presidents is a collection of 28 short stories edited by Mike Resnick, speculating on what history might have been like if the outcome of 28 presidential elections would have been different. This anthology was released on February 15, 1992. I don't know why I waited so long to read it, it is a delight to read. Resnick, a Hugo Award winning science fiction writer, also contributes one of the stories (about what would have happened if Theodore Roosevelt had won the 1912 election) as does his daughter Laura (who pens one of my favorites in the book, a story told in a series of letters from Queen Victoria, complaining about the effects of a fictional administration and policies of President Victoria Woodhull).



Following is a summary of the 28 stories:


1. The Father of His Country by Jody Lynn Nye: What if the nation declined electing a soldier as its first president and turned to Benjamin Franklin instead? (Told in a series of letters between John and Abigail Adams)

2. The War of '07 by Jayge Carr: Aaron Burr is elected the third president in 1800 and creates an alliance with Napoleon Bonaparte, creating a dictatorship.

3. Black Earth and Destiny by Thomas Easton: Andrew Jackson is elected president over John Quincy Adams in 1824 four years earlier than in reality.

4. Chickasaw Slave by Judith Moffett: Andrew Jackson's image is tarnished by a land-dealing scandal, resulting in Davy Crockett being elected president over him in 1828. This results in the Civil War occurring over the Compromise of 1850.

5. How the South Preserved the Union by Ralph Roberts: David Rice Atchison becomes the 13th President in 1849 after Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore are killed in a carriage accident shortly into their terms as president and vice president. This results in the Northern states seceding from the country and forming the "New England Confederacy" with Daniel Webster as its president and John Brown as the Commander of Army.

6. Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night by Jack L. Chalker: Millard Fillmore on the Know Nothing Party is elected the 15th President in 1856 after James Buchanan suffers a stroke in October. This results in tensions in New England over fugitive slave laws and a different civil war.

7. Lincoln's Charge by Bill Fawcett: What if Abraham Lincoln was defeated by Stephen A. Douglas in 1860, and became a Union General instead?

8. We Are Not Amused by Laura Resnick: When a constitutional amendment allows President to serve only one term, Ulysses S. Grant is out of the race. Victoria Woodhull of the Equal Rights Party is elected the 19th President in 1872 and becomes the first woman to hold that office. The story is a series of letters from Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom to the new President.

9. Patriot's Dream by Tappan Wright King: Leila Morse agrees to marry Samuel J. Tilden, giving him added resources to secure his 1876 electoral college victory over Rutherford B. Hayes.

10. I Shall Have a Flight to Glory by Michael P. Kube-McDowell: Feeling that he was robbed of the presidency in 1876, Samuel Tilden uses underhanded tactics to win the 1880 presidential election against James Garfield. Garfield gets help from Charles J. Guiteau (his assassin in real history) to meet the challenge.

11. Love Our Lockwood by Janet Kagan: Belva Ann Lockwood of the National Equal Rights Party is elected in 1888 over Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland and Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison. The story is told of election day when she seeks re-election.

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12. Plowshare by Martha Soukup: William Jennings Bryan is elected in 1896 over William McKinley. The story is told as he reminisces in 1915 as America contemplates entering the Great War.

13. The Bull Moose at Bay by Mike Resnick: Theodore Roosevelt, the first President from the Bull Moose Party, awaits the results of the 1916 election and laments a nation not ready for his reforms, as he influences the next generation.

14. A Fireside Chat by Jack Nimersheim: James M. Cox is elected in 1920 after Republican candidate Warren G. Harding dies from a stroke. However, five weeks after the election, he is assassinated by an anti-League of Nations activist, leaving his elected Vice President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, to become the twenty-ninth President. Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany earlier than in real life and the two of them have a pivotal meeting.

15. Fighting Bob by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Robert M. La Follette is elected President in 1924 over Calvin Coolidge. However, he dies the next year on June 18, 1925 (the same date as he did in real life) and is succeeded by his vice president Burton K. Wheeler.

16. Truth, Justice, and the American Way by Lawrence Watt-Evans: Al Smith runs as a third party candidate in the 1932 election, splitting the Democratic Party vote and re-electing Herbert Hoover. How does the Munich Agreement change the world?

17. Kingfish by Barry N. Malzberg: Huey Long escapes assassination in 1935 and runs for President in 1936 as in Independent. He steals away Franklin Roosevelt's Vice President John Nance Garner and wins the election. Long invites Hitler to Washington in an attempt to prevent war.

18. No Other Choice by Barbara Delaplace: Thomas E. Dewey is elected President in 1944 and is pressured to end World War II by dropping the atomic bomb. What decision does he make?

19. The More Things Change by Glen E. Cox: What if the headline was correct and Dewey won the 1948 election against Harry S. Truman?

20. The Impeachment of Adlai Stevenson by David Gerrold: Adlai Stevenson is elected in 1952 when Dwight D. Eisenhower chooses Joseph McCarthy as his running mate instead of Richard Nixon. Events lead to Stevenson's impeachment. What happens then?

21. Heavy Metal by Barry N. Malzberg: A feud between John F. Kennedy and Richard J. Daley leads to Richard Nixon being elected President in 1960.

22. Fellow Americans by Eileen Gunn: Barry Goldwater wins the election in 1964 over Lyndon B. Johnson. How does he deal with the Vietnam War?

23. Dispatches From the Revolution by Pat Cadigan: What if Lyndon B. Johnson decided to run for a second full term in the 1968 presidential election? Frightening developments occur at the Democratic Convention in Chicago.

24. Suppose They Gave a Peace by Susan Shwartz: George McGovern is elected in 1972, and attempts a tricky immediate withdrawal from the Vietnam War.

25. Paper Trail by Brian M. Thomsen: A second tale about McGovern winning the 1972 election after the full extent of Watergate is discovered during the election campaign.

26. Demarche to Iran by Alexis A. Gilliland: Gerald Ford is reelected president in the 1976 presidential election over Jimmy Carter deals with the Iran hostage crisis in a different way.

27. Huddled Masses by Lawrence Person: Walter Mondale is elected President in 1984 against Ronald Reagan. As a result, the Sandinista movement expands, causing a civil war in Mexico.

28. Dukakis and the Aliens by Robert Sheckley: Michael Dukakis is elected President in 1988, but not without some alien assistance.

This book was a nice change from stuffy serious history. Some of the stories are told from the perspective of the president, some from those around him or her (yes, there are two female presidents) and some from the perspective of ordinary men and women who have to live with the decisions made by those presidents. Some of the stories are wonderful, while others are disappointing. For me, "Suppose They Gave a Peace", a story by Susan Shwartz about the withdrawal US troops from Vietnam told from the perspective of a soldier's family at home, was excellent, and I was very amused by Laura Resnick's "We Are Not Amused", told in the form of a series of letters from Queen Victoria who laments the social changes brought about by a Victoria Woodhull presidency and its scandalous consequences of free love and short skirts. Dukakis and the Aliens was a disappointment, especially since the story line had so much potential.

This is a terrific concept and the imagination and creative genius of many of the contributors makes this a great read, especially for those who are dually addicted to history and sci fi.
Tags: author: r, category: anthology, genre: alternate history, genre: fantasy, genre: historical fiction, genre: science fiction, review, subject: biography, subject: history
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