Harry Turtledove

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Harry Turtledove (yes, that's his real last name) is an author of Alternative History - one of the most prolific and accessible. He has written many, many books and short stories, some of them set in Alternate Universes, some of them Fantasy diverging from recorded history.

He actually does historical research for his novels, and footnotes some of them.

Known for having a PHD in Byzantine history, some of his books feature this period while others, set in more modern times, sometimes Lampshade the fact that this area is considered extraordinarily obscure even among historians..

Notable works:
  • The Darkness Series: An analogy to World War II in a fantasy world. Dragons instead of aeroplanes. Magic instead of the atom bomb.
  • The Timeline-191 series: his most sweeping work so far, either ten or eleven books depending who's counting. Set in a world where the Union failed to intercept a message intended for a Confederate officer before Antietam, which resulted in an independent Confederate States of America, complete with slavery. The series proper starts around World War I, although the series is sometimes known by the title of its prequel book, How Few Remain, which takes place in the 1880s.
  • The Worldwar series, where a reptilian alien race invades Earth during World War II. Humanity has to reassess its priorities, and form new alliances fast.
  • The Atlantis series: Thanks to Alternate Universe Continental Drift, the Eastern seaboard of North America becomes a giant island continent that is discovered and settled by Englishmen and Bretons in the 15th Century.
  • The Pearl Harbor series: The Japanese succeed in invading Hawaii in 1941.
  • The Crosstime Traffic series: People from the future of our universe engage in clandestine trade with alternate timelines and change their destinies - sometimes by accident, sometimes not.
  • The Guns of the South: Robert E. Lee's division is met by time travelers from the future - South African white supremacists - who have just the thing for the Confederacy to win: AK-47s. Finagle's Law happens. This is the book that made Turtledove's reputation.
  • The Videssos series: Multiple series, all set in a fantasy world heavily inspired by the Byzantine Empire and other titbits of mediaeval history. His first published novel, The Misplaced Legion (in which a Roman legion is magically sent to this world) started out life as a teenage Fanfic in which they were sent to Gondor after The Lord of the Rings, and the villain was going to be a reborn Witch-king of Angmar. The Artifact of this is that he has the similar name "Avshar" and also never shows his face, albeit for different reasons.
  • The Two Georges: A collaboration with actor Richard Dreyfuss that was set in a modern-day North America formed by a modus vivendi between George III and George Washington. Features Zeppelins from Another World.
  • Ruled Britannia: The Spanish have taken over England during the time of Shakespeare. What to do about it? (We see a lot of Lope de Vega.)
  • The Man With the Iron Heart: Reinhard Heydrich survives assassination and is placed in charge of continuing World War II by guerilla and partisan warfare in case of a German loss.
  • Tales Of The Fox: Gerin the Fox, scholar turned reluctant baron, must deal with barbarians, monsters and petulant gods on his own after The Empire cuts off all access to the Northlands. Based in an original fantasy world, but with strong aspects of Roman history. Also Arthurian, in a sense: a leader in a province abandoned by the Empire fights to preserve civilization against barbarian invaders. Gerin's relationship with Fand and Van in much of the second book could, if distorted by future retellings in that world, come to be portrayed as similar to the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot triangle.
  • Between the Rivers, a version of Mesopotamia ruled by Physical Gods.
  • In the Presence of Mine Enemies, in which the US stayed out of World War II entirely, allowing the Axis to conquer Europe, Asia and ulitmately America itself. In 2010, a small group of Jews still survives, hidden in Germany, while an analogue of the Soviet Union's fall plays out in Berlin.
  • The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump: An alternate world story (Magic instead of Technology) about an Environmental Perfection Agency man, who's investigating an increase of magic-related birth defects due to the titular Spell Dump. Very punny, full stop.
  • The The War That Came Early series: A bit unusual in having two distinct points of departure: Jose Sanjurjo survives his fatal plane trip, and Konrad Heinlein is murdered by a Czech nationalist in 1938, giving the Nazis the moral high ground to start World War II with an invasion of Czechoslovakia. Neville Chamberlain is still in charge of England, and both sides are less prepared for full scale war.
  • He also has his own Wiki.

Works by Harry Turtledove with their own trope pages include:
Harry Turtledove provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Alien Sky: The world of Tales of the Fox, leading to were complications when four moons go full at the same time.
  • All the Myriad Ways
  • Alternate History
  • The American Civil War: Both directly and indirectly.
  • The American Revolution: With the same participants, only Our Continents Are Different.
  • Anonymous Ringer: In the Presence of My Enemies, an Alternate History set in 2009 Nazi Germany, has a sort of anonymous ringer -- the Fuhrer, "Kurt Haldweim", is a blatant stand-in for real-world Austrian president, and UN Secretary General, Kurt Waldheim, who in real life would die in 2007.
  • Anti-Hero
  • Anti-Villain: Some of Turtledove's Nazis, and at least one Nazi Captain Ersatz, qualify.
  • Anyone Can Die: Turtledove's war-themed novels stress this element quite heavily. Many characters, including long-lived favorites, die, sometimes in completely random incidents. He seems to have a quota of "At least one death per book."
  • As You Know: Turtledove has a tendency to fall into this trap in his multi-volume alternative history epics; he will often recap complicated alternative histories and the plots of two, three or more previous novels in the series by having characters engage in conversations or think to themselves about things that they would already know. His stand-alone and shorter works are generally better in this regard (largely because he usually has less to cover or recap), but it can still pop up from time to time.
  • Author On Board: Since 2001 or so, if the particular Alternate History setting allows for it, Turtledove will include some kind of analogy to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.
  • A Worldwide Punomenon:
    • The short story The Phantom Tolbukhin, about the real-life Soviet General Tolbukhin leading La Résistance as "The Phantom" in a Nazi-occupied USSR, is a title Shout-Out to The Phantom Tollbooth.
    • The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump is an entire book of this - from Demon Strations (Succubi protesting their zone restriction) and Spell Checkers (to check the quality of potions, of course) to Virtuous Reality and Djinnetic Engineering.
  • Badass Family: Generations of the Radcliffe family line, in the Atlantis series.
  • Big Boo's Haunt (In the Fox verse, the night is the time when ghosts come out, and only fire and fresh blood can keep them from driving you mad. In some parts of that world they're vampire ghosts.)
  • Black and Gray Morality or Grey and Gray Morality
  • Bland-Name Product: One of Turtledove's alternate history series has the most popular soft drink in the Confederate States of America being "Doctor Hopper". Also the popular Confederate comic book "Hyperman". In both cases, characters occasionally think about the "Damnyankee drink/hero with a similar name."
  • Boisterous Bruiser: In the Tales of the Fox series, Gerin's companion Van is a loud, lusty giant of a man who loves a good fight and sings joyful war songs in battle, has endless tall tales of his traveling days (some of them true, maybe), wears gilded armor that often gets him mistaken for a visiting war god, and of course he's also a player.
  • Book Ends: The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump begins with the narrator receiving a call from his boss in the middle of the night (and the boss blaming time zones). It ends with the narrator deliberately calling the boss at the same hour.
  • Call a Rabbit a Smeerp: He likes to do this to reflect the past divergence of his alternate history works. He's come up with about a dozen alternative names for 'nuclear bomb' for different settings, for instance.
  • Captain Ersatz
  • Clarke's Third Law: Turtledove wrote the short story "Death in Vesunna" as a rebuttal, in which a retired Roman soldier working as a police investigator figures out on his own that the perpetrator of an inexplicable murder was not a god or a demon, but a time traveller.
  • Compound Title: The Counting Up, Counting Down anthology features two stories at the beginning and end, "Counting Up..." and "...Counting Down." Both are actually the same story told from different perspectives.
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison: Turtledove likes this trope.
  • Creator Thumbprint: In several ways, but note the oddly high percentage of Jewish characters. In the same vein, a time traveller from ten thousand years in the future - past the fall of our civilisation, the rise and fall of the next one, and the rise of one after that - spots a menorah (the nine-branched candelabrum lit during the holiday of Hanukkah) in a contemporary character's house and says "If you had that in my time, I'd think you were Jewish."
    • Mind you, Turtledove doesn't always take it seriously: in the same short story collection (Departures) is a piece that he confesses was inspired by a quip he'd uttered at breakfast: "This bacon tastes so good, it ought to be kosher."
  • Dagwood Sandwich: Popular in Atlantis.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The majority of his characters, most notably Gerin the Fox (Fox novels) and Ulric Skakki (Opening of the World).
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In the Presence of Mine Enemies features a Nazi Empire being brought down by popular protests modelled on those in 1989-91 in the USSR in our world, but the protesters are no less anti-Semitic than the regime.
  • Deus Ex Machina: Deliberately invoked in The Wisdom of the Fox, wherin Gerin, when things are sufficiently screwed up will try and convince the Gods to solve the problem. Results vary. Also, divine spite is extremely helpful in motivating the deities.
  • Dolled-Up Installment
  • Doorstopper
  • Dramatis Personae
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him
  • Dungeon Punk
  • Eternal English: In "The Book, The Movie, And Other Unfortunately Not So Relevant Material" a man from ten thousand years in the future has little trouble communicating, but he's got the technology. He mentions that everything known about our time comes not from our records but those translated into the dominant language of the society before his own, then translated into his language.
  • Expy
  • Fan Disservice: The awkward sex scenes.
  • Fantastic Racism: His predilection for inserting "blonds" as the oppressed group when representing blacks under slavery or Jews in the holocaust in displaced fantasy settings.
    • Also, played with heavily in his Opening of the World trilogy: The Rulers believe themselves to be a Master Race. Turtledove appears to have combined influences from Mongols and the Japanese code of bushido to create their culture, while physically they're short, stocky, with brown skin, black hair, and big curly beards. The Glacier-folk in The Breath of God have blond or red hair, light eyes, and Old Germanic names: Marcovefa, Leudegisel, Dragolen. The most notable aspect of their culture seems to be mostly based on similarly subsistence-level Melanesian and/or Caribbean cultures. In other words, they're cannibals.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • The Fantastic Civil War series does this rather directly, but subverts it somewhat by mixing and matching cultures around.
    • The Roman Empire of Elabon in the Fox series, not to mention the Celtic Trokmoi Barbarian Tribe, and... well, everyone in the series, really.
    • Turtledove appears to have combined influences from Mongols and the Japanese code of bushido to create the culture of the Rulers in the Opening of the World Trilogy.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: And how!
  • Fantasy World Map
  • Flaming Sword: Deconstructed in one of the Gerin the Fox books, wherin the protagonist comes up with a charm that claims to be able to light a sword on fire. It works, but after holding it for perhaps five seconds his hands start to blister. (Fortunately, he had a bucket of water on hand).
  • Footnote Fever: Or rather, endnote fever.
    • Regular footnote fever appears in his translation of the obscure Chronicle of Theophanes, but it doesn't impair the quality of the work.
  • For Want of a Nail: Turtledove loves doing these.
  • Functional Magic
  • Get On With It Already
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly
    • In The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, this has become the province of bureaucracy; the EPA is responsible for creating artificial cults to sustain "endangered gods". In this setting, it's especially clear that only worship will sustain a god: merely being acknowledged to exist doesn't suffice to keep them around. Thus, a pantheon of Chumash native deities can be dying out from lack of sincere prayers directed towards them, even though plenty of non-worshipers in the EPA are aware of their existence and concerned for their welfare as "endangered gods".
    • It also appears to be the case in Between the Rivers that the gods depend on their worshipers, though part of the plot is that the gods have taken care to prevent any of their worshipers suspecting this.
  • Good People Have Good Sex
  • Half-Human Hybrid
  • Honest John's Dealership: In The Two Georges, Richard Nixon is a salesman for used steam cars.
  • Humans Are Special
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump is an entire book of this -- from Demon Strations (Succubi protesting their zone restriction) and Spell Checkers (to check the quality of potions, of course) to Virtuous Reality and Djinnetic Engineering.
  • Immortal Immaturity: In the Fox series, the gods are Spoiled Brats because, being nearly all-powerful, no one can discipline them. The only exception is the All-Seeing Ikos, and even he can be manipulated by his pride.
  • Inept Mage: Gerin the Fox had less than a year of wizard's training before being called home, yet desperation sometimes drives him to attempt magic anyway. But only when he's really desperate, as he knows full well just how dangerous an unskilled mage can be.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Turtledove does this in the Atlantis series just because he can.
  • Insufficiently Advanced Alien: The short story "The Road Not Taken". Hyperspace travel and contra-gravity ships are surprisingly easy to make if you know how; races that can barely smelt iron have discovered them, and are roaming the galaxy. The biggest and most advanced of them is the Roxolani, who are shocked to find that their muskets and cannon are somewhat outclassed when they invade mid-21st-Century Earth.
  • In the Past Everyone Will Be Famous
  • Invoked Trope: See Book Ends, above.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
  • Karma Houdini
  • Lampshade Hanging
  • Literary Allusion Title (routinely - he's writing alternate history)
  • Loads and Loads of Characters (and nowadays more often than not Loads and Loads of Viewpoint Characters)
  • The Lost Woods: The Tales of the Fox series has the forest around Ikos, where strange things live, which has a mind (or minds) of its own, which doesn't necessarily care for people, and roads only exist at the forest's sufferance. It can also make unwanted travelers vanish in unexplained but silently ominous ways. It's implied that the forest exists to protect the Oracle of Ikos, placed by the all-seeing god Biton.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Many of his series with Loads and Loads of Characters tend to have at least one horribly twisted and complicated group of love affairs.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: He likes this trope. All his fantasy settings, though otherwise unrelated, run on the same basic rules of magic--the "Law of Similarity" (two visually similar things are magically connected) and the "Law of Contagion" (two things that have touched are magically connected).
  • Magic From Technology: Subverted; Turtledove's short story Death in Vesunna was a direct Take That against Clarke's Law, in which a Roman "policeman" works out on his own that he's on the trail of a pair of time-travelling murderers, not magicians or demons.
  • Magitek:
    • The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump is set in a fantasy version of the United States with magitek equivalents of 20th-century technology.
    • In Every Inch A King, windworkers produce winds that allow ships to sail against the natural wind, items are cheaply mass produced using the law of sympathy, crystal balls replace telegraphy, etc.
  • Medieval Stasis
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump
  • Money, Dear Boy: Mike Resnick explained the reason for some of Turtledove's more...inflated series during a lecture at my university: "He had to put his three daughters through college, all within a few years of each other." Not surprisingly, Turtledove's recent books have (mostly) been more streamlined: 2007-2009's Opening of the World trilogy, and 2009's Give Me Back My Legions! were lean, mean, and lots of fun.
  • The Neidermeyer: General George Armstrong Custer in The Great War. Although he lacks the "You're all worthless and weak!!" part, he is still more then willing to send the unfortunate men under his command into needlessly costly and bloody offensives that end up gaining little. He constantly tries to seek glory wherever he can and also is more then willing to hog it all and push all the blame on others when something fails.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Shows up in the Fox novels, mostly in Werenight. Lots of different varieties of werebeast, including at least one who's hideously impaired by his transformation, and one enormous barbarian who turns out to be a bear when it isn't the full moons.
  • Pinkerton Detective: Pinkerton toughs occasionally appear as secondary characters throughout Turtledove's series of Great War and American Empire Alternate History novels. As the USA in those novels is much more "Europeanised", with a strong Socialist movement, they ultimately end up being defeated by the organised strikers and unions.
  • The Promise: In Between the Rivers, the protagonist in a grandstanding moment vows that he won't marry his sweetheart until the completion of the trading expedition he's about to embark on. It seems like a safe thing to do since it's a routine expedition and he wasn't planning to marry her until after he got back anyway. But then the nation they were going to trade with unexpectedly puts a trading embargo on the protagonist's city. And the god he swore by is real, interventionist, and quite willing to make the vow stick.
  • Prophecy Twist: "Counting Potsherds" uses the real-life story of Athens being saved from the invading Persians by a "wooden wall" (the wooden-hulled Athenian navy). It's set in a timeline where the Athenians all took the Oracle's prophecy rather more literally, and the Persians wiped them out.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: He originally wrote under the pseudonyms "Eric Iverson" and "H.N. Turteltaub" because his editor thought "Turtledove" sounded too much like a made-up name.
  • Recycled in Space: In the Presence of Mine Enemies is the fall of the Soviet Union IN NAZI GERMANY AND TWENTY MINUTES INTO THE FUTURE!
  • Religion Is Magic: In The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, all magic is ultimately based on applying to a relevant, which is one reason the EPA is so concerned about the keeping the divine ecosystem healthy. (If Hermes ever went, he'd take most of their telecommunications technology with him.)
  • Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman: The Two Georges is the Trope Namer.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: The USA in his Crosstime Traffic books has a hundred-dollar coin.
  • Royal Brat: In the Tales of the Fox series, most of the Gods are this way, since no one is powerful enough to discipline them. Ferdulf, the demimortal son of an extremely impulsive wine god, grows up with nearly-godlike power among ordinary mortals and is even brattier than his father.
  • Rule 34: A rare case where it's arguably self-applied. Seriously.
  • Science Cannot Comprehend Phlebotinum: in the short story "The Road Not Taken," this applies to anti-gravity and faster-than-light travel.
  • Shakespeare in Fiction: In "We Haven't Got There Yet".
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: In the Tales of the Fox series, werecreatures remain the same mass when they transform. This is illustrated in Werenight by a couple werehawks too heavy to fly -- and a barbarian chief who turns into quite a large sabre tooth because he's an immensely large man.
  • Shout-Out: The Crosstime Traffic series is at least partly inspired by H. Beam Piper's Paratime stories -- and to emphasize this, the names of the developers of the crosstime technique are clearly based on the names of the people who developed the paratime transposition.
  • Shown Their Work: Turtledove writes epilogues to explain how real history meshes with his alternate history. And his works themselves can go into great detail on everyday life.
  • Stealth Pun: His Fantastic Civil War series features a General Guildenstern, who fills the same role as the real-life U.S. General William Stark Rosecrans. This is, of course, a reference to Hamlet and/or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
    • From the same series, there's also the general "Doubting George," counterpart to General George Thomas, and General Bart, so named because he plays the role of Ulysses Simpson Grant.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: In the Fox series, Van's daughter becomes a Sweet Polly Oliver - Van is horrified at her "unwomanly" desire to fight, while the normally tricky Fox is dismayed at how easily he was fooled by a false beard and deepened voice.
  • Switching POV: Most of his series have at least 5 or 6 POV characters per book, covering various aspects of a large-scale event, like a war on multiple fronts as seen by generals and soldiers and civilians.
  • Totally Radical
  • Translation Convention
  • Tsundere: Fand in Tales of the Fox.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: "The Last Article" explores the effectiveness of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent protest in a timeline where the Nazis won World War II and took over all Britain's imperial holdings including India. Gandhi and Nehru, quickly captured, are taken out and shot.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes
  • The Unfair Sex
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: One of Turtledove's central themes - see "The Last Article".
    • Averted in In the Presence of Mine Enemies, where intelligent non-violent actions prove effective.
  • Virgin Power: Played with in "Honeymouth", in which a foul-mouthed and lecherous mercenary is somehow able to ride a unicorn without any problem. When asked how he can do it, usually while the unicorn is parked outside a brothel, he sarcastically replies that he's a virgin. He is. Technically.
    • An extreme version shows up with Selatre, who'll lose her prophetic powers if any man other than a eunuch so much as touches her -- and Gerin has to pick her up (she's unconscious) to rescue her from being devoured by monsters.
  • What If
  • World War II
  • World War I
  • Yiddish as a Second Language
  • You ALL Share My Story
  • You Have to Have Jews: Turtledove himself is Jewish, and while it makes sense for some of his books to have important Jewish characters considering they are set in World War 2, it's rare to see any book by him that doesn't have prominent Jewish characters regardless of setting.
    • There's a fun Lampshade Hanging in one short story where a time traveller from the distant future--so distant that he finds almost everything in our time incomprehensible--casually notes someone from our time is Jewish when he spots a menorah in his house.
    • The Opening of the World is in a world with no noticeable connection to our own -- until, in the last book, "Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin" from the Book of Daniel is quoted.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: The Two Georges is about an alternate world where the United States never left the British Empire. The first chapter is set on an airship, where the protagonist sees a Air Force biplane fly past and echoes the general view that while such speed is useful for the military, there's just no need for it in civilian life. (This is in fact based on the Imperial Airship Scheme, also known as the Burney Scheme, which proposed that Britain's colonies would be serviced by a fleet of airships.)