Reflections on the Analysis of Counterfactual Propositions and Alternative History Speculative Fiction about WWI

Péter Marton


This article offers a brief overview of the challenges of assessing counterfactual
statements in terms of plausibility, to then consider the reasons for the comparative scarcity of WWI alternative histories in published alternative history (AH) speculative fiction. The relative rarity of such fiction may be striking, given the popularity of the notion that the event of the nearly-botched assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the throne of Austria-Hungary, in 1914, in Sarajevo — in a sense a small, improbable event — was the decisive trigger of the conflict. Explaining the comparative lack of AH in the light of a systematic understanding of the difficulties of counterfactual analysis may be as interesting for literary theory as to political analysis. The article closes with a discussion of the few relevant pieces of genre literature that have been identified during the course of the research for this piece.

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