About / Call for Papers

Sideways in Time: Alternate History and Counterfactual Narratives:

March 30-31, 2015


Sideways in Time is an Alternate History Conference to be held at the University of Liverpool – in association with Lancaster University. This interdisciplinary conferences will bring together scholarship in science fiction, fantasy, historical and literary fictions, as well as historians and counterfactual thought-experiments, to discuss those fictional narratives that deals with alternate histories and parallel worlds.


We are pleased to announce Karen Hellekson, Adam Roberts, and Stephen Baxter as our keynote speakers. Karen Hellekson is a leading authority on alternate history fiction (The Alternate History: Refiguring Historical Time, 2001). Professor Adam Roberts is a leading science fiction critic and also an award-winning author who employs alternate history elements into some of his fiction (most notably Swiftly, shortlisted for the 2009 Sidewise Award). Stephen Baxter is currently a judge of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, as well as being one of the former winners (“Brigantia’s Angels”, Voyage).


Why Alternate History? 

Alternate History has a long and international pedigree. Whilst most cultures and literary traditions can trace their own heritage of alternate history, Alternate History arguments in the Western Canon can be traced into antiquity with Livy’s meditations on Alexander the Great. In their modern form, they emerged in France in the early 19th century before crossing into English at the latter half of the century. The form also become popular with historians and essayists, a notable early history collection being If It Had Happened Otherwise (1931) edited by John Squire which included counterfactual essays by, among others, Hilaire Belloc, Andre Maurois and Winston Churchill. It was not until H.G. Wells’s late novel Men Like Gods that the form crossed into the territory of science fiction, and was not truly popularised until Murray Leinster’s crucial story “Sidewise in Time” published in Astounding in 1934.


Since 1934, the form has become a staple of science fiction and fantasy story-telling, sometimes including time travel or magic as a means of explaining the cause of the alternate history. However, the form has also been adopted by the literary mainstream with writers who chose not to relate their alternate world to our own, instead taking the lead from conventions of historical fiction. As such, Alternate History has attracted such non-genre writers as Nabakov, Kingsley Amis, Robert Harris, Philip Roth, Michael Chabon and many more.


Despite a long and diverse history, alternate history has attracted surprisingly little scholarship. This conference will attempt to establish lines of communication which will rectify this deficit. It is hoped a selection of the essays presented at the conference will be made available as part of a published collection.


We are interested in papers analysing specific alternate history texts from all mediums including novels, cinema, comics and beyond. We also welcome broader papers on the various periods, subgenres, movements and modes of alternate history including steampunk, retro-futurism and more. Papers can be based on, amongst other things, theory, texts, cultural surveys, philosophy, and media studies.


Please submit a 300 word abstract to sidewaysconference@gmail.com along with a 50 word bionote by December 15, 2014.

https://sidewaysintime.wordpress.com/ or follow us on Facebook (“Sideways in Time” Page).

  1. Willow Arune says:

    The writer is an elderly Masters Candidate in History at the University of Northern British Columbia. I was not able to make a submission by the due date, but hope that material form the Conference will be available in time. I have proposed a course based on Alternative History to my Department; the proposal and proposed course outline may be of interest to you and I would be happy to sent it along to an e-mail address you select.
    I firmly believe that to write good later alternative history one must first know the history of the era you have selected and that a course for students would enable them (in a small campus such as ours) to explore areas outside of the department specialties and use their imaginations along with research skills. In my case, this dates back over 40 years to a very kind librarian who, upon hearing of my problem with history in school, deleted adult historical novels for me to read, a process that took me froth bottom of the class to the top.


  2. beckyspear says:

    Do you have any idea at all of a date when some of the work from the conference will be published? I am currently an English student and am writing my dissertation on the use of time travel narratives as a counter-factual, particularly referencing Stephen Kings book which I noticed was discussed at the conference, so would find anything from the talks incredibly useful! Many thanks for the help!


    • Hi,
      We’re aiming to submit the book proposal in September of this year, with papers due the following year – so it might take some time. As it will take more than a year, I would recommend finding the speakers of that paper via our Facebook page and contacting them directly.


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