Uchronias, Alternate Histories, and Counterfactuals

Authored by: George Carstocea

The Routledge Companion to Imaginary Worlds

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138638914
eBook ISBN: 9781315637525
Adobe ISBN:


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Uchronias (also known as alternate histories, alternative histories, or allohistories) are works of fiction that emerge from the difference between an established narrative timeline and a “what-if” scenario: if a given event is assumed to have gone differently, then the change in that event has repercussions for the flow of time beyond the point of divergence. The term, a neologism formed through a parallel with the much more common “utopia,” highlights this narrative trope’s concern with the flow of time: just as a utopia presents itself as “no-place” while commenting on the possibilities of existing places and spaces, a uchronia reimagines and comments on causality and the temporal unfolding of events within a particular rendering of the world. In the structural view of world-building, counterfactual thinking crystallizes into what we might call the allohistorical conceit (hereafter AC), a recurring storytelling and world-building trope with wide-ranging implications for the entirety of the imagined world.

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