A Confederacy of Dunces

 

I absolutely despise “alternative history” fiction. The distortion of real history is bad enough.

Enter David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and executives at HBO. Time-Warner’s pay channel has commissioned the creators of “Game of Thrones” to create “Confederate,” an alt-history series where the American Civil War ended in a stalemate and the Confederacy is now a 21st Century nation with institutionalized slavery. This is, as liberals would say, “problematic.”

The biggest hurdle the lead writers (the spousal African-American team of Malcolm and Nichelle Tramble Spellman) will have to overcome is the raison d’etre for slavery in the first place: large agricultural plantations needing vast numbers of cheap laborers to operate. At some point between 1865 and 2017 technology will overtake it. Will they suggest that slavery will be transferred out of the fields and into the factories? Will they be able to plausibly explain why white people will have no jobs in an industrialized South? And what about the rest of the world? Will there have been no world wars? No Great Depression? No Holocaust? Just 152 years of peaceful co-existence between the US and the Confederacy? No uprisings before 2017? It’s absurd.

What it will be is a Social Justice Warrior wet dream, a conglomeration of every hatred and prejudice in their own stone-cold hearts. It will lay bare exactly what they think. It will be the biggest “reelect the president” ad buy in history.

There are 157 comments.

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  1. Judge Mental Member

    I like alternate history, when it’s well done. Harry Turtledove addressed all of this extremely well in an 11 book series that starts with the south winning the Civil War, and runs through the end of WWII. In that, slavery ends shortly after the war, due to economic pressures and pressure from France and England, allies of the CSA.

    • #1
    • July 21, 2017, at 10:55 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  2. Steve C. Member

    Probably rip off plot lines from old Harry Turtledove novels.

    • #2
    • July 21, 2017, at 10:56 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. Hoyacon Member

    The only good thing to come of this will be your superb title for the post. And, of course, the post itself.

    Ignatius J. Reilly lives!

    • #3
    • July 21, 2017, at 10:59 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Steve C. Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    I like alternate history, when it’s well done. Harry Turtledove addressed all of this extremely well in an 11 book series that starts with the south winning the Civil War, and runs through the end of WWII. In that, slavery ends shortly after the war, due to economic pressures and pressure from France and England, allies of the CSA.

    Missed it by that much….

    • #4
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:00 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  5. Brian Watt Member

    Well, from an historical perspective, it’s actually a Democrat Party wet dream. Will an actor portraying the late Robert C. Byrd be made the President of the Confederate States during the series? Yes, I already know the answer. The distortions, perversions and outright lies about the Democrat Party involvement in the perpetuation of slavery will be rampant.

    • #5
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:04 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    EJHill: Just 152 years of peaceful co-existence between the US and the Confederacy? No uprisings before 2017? It’s absurd.

    Not at all likely to have happened. I write alternative history, and one of the issues is how quickly the changes add up.

    EJHill: What it will be is a Social Justice Warrior wet dream, a conglomeration of every hatred and prejudice in their own stone-cold hearts. It will lay bare exactly what they think. It will be the biggest Reelect the President ad buy in history.

    Yep.

    • #6
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:05 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Rick Poach Inactive

    Why am I picturing Ignatius Reilly wearing water skis and a leather jacket?

    “I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.” – Ignatius Reilly, A Confederacy of Dunces

    • #7
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:11 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Brian Watt Member

    The more impressive and daring alternative historical series concept would be to show how Soviet and Chinese Communism destroyed the West resulting in America, England, Australia, Canada becoming impoverished totalitarian police states with show trials, executions, widespread starvation and occasional pandemics, and their own Gulag Archipelago of prisons and reeducation camps. I realize that, of course, that there are Social Justice Warriors who would not view this as disturbing but rather something to cheer. So, it would be a risky venture. Besides, that’s already a television series playing in Venezuela.

    • #8
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:13 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  9. Steve C. Member

    Back in the 70s, there was quite a boomlet of alternate history novels. There was more than one where the plot was some version of the South surviving. The one I remember best involved a plot by the US to assassinate the President of the CSA who was some sort of Huey Long type nut case. Regardless, the lot of blacks in the South was very similar to blacks in South Africa.

    • #9
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:18 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Seawriter Member

    I am pretty well convinced if the Confederacy had gained independence it would have been at war with by Britain within 10 years of its founding over the issue of slavery. Britain was intent on containing slavery, while the Confederacy was intent on expanding it.

    One way or the other the Confederate states would not have had slavery by 1900. It would have either abolished it under international pressure or been reabsorbed into a free-soil United States.

    I have an outline for an alt-history novel where the US (at Britain’s instigation and with British support) does just that in 1869 under a re-elected Lincoln (who had lost to McClellan in 1864 and had left D.C. prior to attending any performance of Our American Cousin).

    Seawriter

    • #10
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:27 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  11. Judge Mental Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    I am pretty well convinced if the Confederacy had gained independence it would have been at war with by Britain within 10 years of its founding over the issue of slavery. Britain was intent on containing slavery, while the Confederacy was intent on expanding it.

    One way or the other the Confederate states would not have had slavery by 1900. It would have either abolished it under international pressure or been reabsorbed into a free-soil United States.

    I have an outline for an alt-history novel where the US (at Britain’s instigation and with British support) does just that in 1869 under a re-elected Lincoln (who had lost to McClellan in 1864 and had left D.C. prior to attending any performance of Our American Cousin).

    Seawriter

    There would have also been substantial internal pressure. The white working class was finding it increasingly difficult to make a living, competing against free labor.

    Seems familiar, somehow.

    • #11
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:33 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. Percival Thatcher

    With a premise this putrid, the resulting stink-fest will be epic. “My Mother the Car” had a firmer basis than this hot mess.

    • #12
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:35 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Arrrrgggghhhh!

    • #13
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:40 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Hang On Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    I am pretty well convinced if the Confederacy had gained independence it would have been at war with by Britain within 10 years of its founding over the issue of slavery. Britain was intent on containing slavery, while the Confederacy was intent on expanding it.

    Brazil was virtually a British protectorate and continued with slavery until 1888. The Confederacy’s cotton (even with Egypt) would have been the major source of the raw materials fueling the British textile industry. They would have been cutting off their nose to spite their face. So not sure at all I buy this.

    Slavery was doomed because of the steam engine. But it would continue to have niches to continue existing.

    • #14
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:45 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Arahant Member

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Slavery was doomed because of the steam engine. But it would continue to have niches to continue existing.

    It still does.

    • #15
    • July 21, 2017, at 11:49 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  16. I Walton Member

    Agree we get enough alternate history because liberals write so much of it pretending it’s real. It’s always a better read when historians poke at reality with deeper thrusts. It’s the difference between boring shallow super heroes and and the infinitely more interesting real life ones.

    • #16
    • July 21, 2017, at 12:00 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. Seawriter Member

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Brazil was virtually a British protectorate and continued with slavery until 1888.

    Which was why I said 1900.

    Hang On (View Comment):
    The Confederacy’s cotton (even with Egypt) would have been the major source of the raw materials fueling the British textile industry.

    True in 1861, but no longer true by 1865. Indian and Egyptian cotton had largely replaced Confederate cotton.

    Also the flash point would have been the Confederacy’s attempt to expand slavery, not merely slavery. Brazil did not have ambitions to expand slavery and it abided by Britain’s ban on the transatlantic slave trade. (Brazil did not ban importation of slaves, but did let Britain hang any slave traders caught, even Brazilian ones.) An independent Confederacy would have sought to expand slavery into Cuba or Central America and would have been hard over on restoring the transatlantic slave trade. Read Our Man In Charleston and Madness Rules the Hour and you will see what I mean.

    Seawriter

    • #17
    • July 21, 2017, at 12:00 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  18. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Half of what I see on the “History” Channel is bad history – let alone trying to come up with “The Man in the High Plantation.”

    • #18
    • July 21, 2017, at 12:07 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  19. Arahant Member

    EJHill (View Comment):
    Half of what I see on the “History” Channel is bad history – let alone trying to come up with “The Man in the High Plantation.”

    It’s aliens!

    • #19
    • July 21, 2017, at 12:15 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  20. Arahant Member

    The important question is, what flag number are they up to? I mean, in four years, they had gotten up to their third official flag.

    Of course, on TV, it won’t matter because they’ll just use that Naval Ensign everyone flies.

    • #20
    • July 21, 2017, at 12:22 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. Gary McVey Contributor

    Alternative history works best when, like Arahant’s two novels, it slyly illustrates something about actual history. “SS-GB” and “Fatherland” are two Eighties novels where the Germans won WWII. Neither one is great immortal literature, but each makes a useful point in a grimly entertaining way. In SS-GB, the supposedly noble, anti-fascist Soviets are enthusiastic collaborators with the Nazi regime occupying Britain; in Fatherland’s world of 1964, the Germans and Americans are locked in the same kind of nuclear stalemate that the Soviets and Americans had in real life, so the US disarmament and peace movements are objectively pro-Nazi.

    No, the author isn’t saying “Want peace? You must be a Nazi”. He’s saying that historical twists can expose political hypocrisy.

    Cheap, easy, stupid premises are crummy ones–no surprise there. The current TV version of “The Man in the High Castle” distorts the meaning of Philip K. Dick’s book into “Americans already have a lot of Nazi in us, so we would have been obedient sheep”. “The Handmaid’s Tale”–well, don’t get me started. “Confederacy” will be no different.

    • #21
    • July 21, 2017, at 12:36 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  22. John Walker Contributor

    I’m a fan of alternative history, but only when it’s done properly. There’s an unwritten rule of the genre to which I find that almost all of its best exemplars adhere, which is that only a single event in history is changed, and then the story works out the ramifications as they spread down the timeline from that moment. For example, in Bryce Zabel’s 2013 Surrounded by Enemies, JFK survives an assassination attempt in Dallas and returns to a Washington in which the president and a small group of trusted aides must sort out all of the possible forces who might have wanted him dead.

    From the description, this series seems to be not so much alternative history as a wholesale rewriting of history, ignoring the economic and geopolitical landscape which led up to the war and would have persisted regardless of its outcome. For example, a majority of households in the South owned no slaves (here are data from the 1860 census, by state). If the war had never happened or ended in an armistice preserving the Confederacy, there is nothing in those outcomes which would have likely inhibited or delayed the industrialisation and urbanisation of the North. The demand for labour in the North would likely have spurred a migration of rural whites from the South to the cities of the North, depopulating the Confederacy and increasing its dependence on the slave economy. Then comes the one-two punch of the British suppression of the slave trade and the mechanisation of agriculture and it’s game over. Abolitionists in the North would probably succeed in enacting an embargo or steep tariff against cotton and other crops from the Confederacy, restricting its markets. Britain might follow, especially as the India and Australia trade provided alternative sources from within the Empire.

    • #22
    • July 21, 2017, at 1:02 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  23. Gary McVey Contributor

    One of the things that hurt the adaptation of “Atlas Shrugged” was that kind of out-of-phase relationship between fiction and reality. The book had an anachronistic feel even in 1956, and in 2013 it needed excuses made up for why passenger railroads were still a big deal, or why the steel industry, almost an afterthought today, was supposedly the center of the economy.

    IMHO, a successful adaptation of a book like that would have to either:

    1. Switch industries and technologies with some understanding of the real economy; or
    2. Stick to Ayn’s details, but radically restructure society so there’s a plausible reason why our technology, romantic relationships, and economy resembles 1948’s.
    • #23
    • July 21, 2017, at 1:12 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  24. David Foster Member

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Slavery was doomed because of the steam engine. But it would continue to have niches to continue existing.

    Circa 1900, the great GE scientist Charles Steinmetz was asked by a young PR man if he had any ideas for a story angle on a new turbine the company had just sold. Steinmetz did some calculating and pointed out that this one machine could do as much work as the entire US slave population at the time of the Civil War.

    It was a great story hook, and also made an important point about technology versus slave labor. See my post Of Energy and Slavery for related thoughts.

    Although, of course, a steam engine or turbine, no matter how powerful, cannot pick cotton…

    • #24
    • July 21, 2017, at 1:13 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  25. Brian Watt Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    One of the things that hurt the adaptation of “Atlas Shrugged” was that kind of out-of-phase relationship between fiction and reality. The book had an anachronistic feel even in 1956, and in 2013 it needed excuses made up for why passenger railroads were still a big deal, or why the steel industry, almost an afterthought today, was supposedly the center of the economy.

    IMHO, a successful adaptation of a book like that would have to either:

    1. Switch industries and technologies with some understanding of the real economy; or
    2. Stick to Ayn’s details, but radically restructure society so there’s a plausible reason why our technology, romantic relationships, and economy resembles 1948’s.

    Or… 3. Produce the film as a period piece set in the early 1950s and shoot it in dark, oppressive grainy black and white. That said, there were many more problems with the recent Atlas Shrugged movies than just grappling with what happened with transportation and steel…like the amateurish, soap operatic script, the silly lines, the illogical situations. It was like a really, bad comic book version of the book.

    • #25
    • July 21, 2017, at 1:23 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Hang On Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    I have an outline for an alt-history novel where the US (at Britain’s instigation and with British support) does just that in 1869 under a re-elected Lincoln (who had lost to McClellan in 1864 and had left D.C. prior to attending any performance of Our American Cousin).

    Would Lincoln have lived that long? Marfan syndrome problems.

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    True in 1861, but no longer true by 1865. Indian and Egyptian cotton had largely replaced Confederate cotton.

    1862-1865 was a blockade. (My great-something grandfather ran the blockade twice making alot of money taking cotton selling for next to nothing in south and selling it on the dock in Liverpool.) The South’s cotton exports recovered quickly after 1865.
    I am being picky, but I do find the tale you are weaving very interesting.

    • #26
    • July 21, 2017, at 1:34 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Hang On Member

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Slavery was doomed because of the steam engine. But it would continue to have niches to continue existing.

    Circa 1900, the great GE scientist Charles Steinmetz was asked by a young PR man if he had any ideas for a story angle on a new turbine the company had just sold. Steinmetz did some calculating and pointed out that this one machine could do as much work as the entire US slave population at the time of the Civil War.

    It was a great story hook, and also made an important point about technology versus slave labor. See my post Of Energy and Slavery for related thoughts.

    Although, of course, a steam engine or turbine, no matter how powerful, cannot pick cotton…

    The Greeks in Alexandria had steam engines. They never developed it – they had slaves.

    And it’s true that a steam engine per se cannot pick cotton. However, it sets off basically a chain reaction leading to machinery that can pick cotton. You don’t get to that machinery prior to steam engines.

    • #27
    • July 21, 2017, at 1:41 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… Inactive

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    One of the things that hurt the adaptation of “Atlas Shrugged” was that kind of out-of-phase relationship between fiction and reality. The book had an anachronistic feel even in 1956, and in 2013 it needed excuses made up for why passenger railroads were still a big deal, or why the steel industry, almost an afterthought today, was supposedly the center of the economy.

    IMHO, a successful adaptation of a book like that would have to either:

    1. Switch industries and technologies with some understanding of the real economy; or
    2. Stick to Ayn’s details, but radically restructure society so there’s a plausible reason why our technology, romantic relationships, and economy resembles 1948’s.

    Steampunk brought forward, maybe? Or they’ve been snooping around at R>SRN?… (Referring to the recent “Atlas Shrugged” film’s writers; not the folks involved in this CSA mish-mosh.) [Edit for clarity.]

    • #28
    • July 21, 2017, at 1:44 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Profile Photo Member

    I’m assuming if the C.S.A. is depicted as a horrible slave state, I can only imagine that the U.S.A. ends up as a socialist utopia because the only thing that kept America from being perfect was the South.

    • #29
    • July 21, 2017, at 2:45 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  30. Gary McVey Contributor

    Ricochet Silent Radio, usually set in 1951-53, has a Judge Mental series that is supposed to be a Fifties science fiction radio series about a daring spaceman, mostly set from 1985 to 2016. So it isn’t a nostalgia series about the actual Eighties, but the kind of projected, world-of-the-future Eighties that the Fifties might have imagined. So there are household helicopters, kitchens with vending machines, and passenger flights to space stations, but on the other hand the Dodgers are still in Brooklyn, there are still only 48 states, everyone smokes, and mature women like being called girls.

    • #30
    • July 21, 2017, at 2:48 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
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