The one panel that I participated in at this WorldCon was called “Alternate Canadas”. The premise was that we were there to talk about alternate histories of Canada, or as it said in the program: “What would its jumping-off points be? How might Canadian history have gone differently?” I was participating with Mark Shainblum, S.M. Stirling, and Glenn Grant.
I am hardly an expert in Canadian history, though I am an enthusiastic dabbler, particularly the history of a certain period, and of a certain Victorian speculative fiction writer. But mostly, I think I was there for comic relief.
Both Mark Shainblum and S.M. Stirling are quite knowledgeable about Canadian history, and they did most of the talking, though the audience (the room was full), were also an important part of this session as many of the suggestions came from them.
Mark co-edited an anthology of alternate Canadian histories a few years ago called Arrowdreams and I’ll definitely have to get a copy so that I can read them all. This book covers some of the obvious ones.
The one alternate path that I suggested — at least, the only one which generated some real discussion — was what if Leif Erikson (Leif the Lucky) didn’t abandon his first colony in Newfoundland (circa 1005 AD or so)? What if there had been a Norse migration into Canada, settling in areas where there were few aboriginal populations, and a little more charitable towards the natives?
This is actually kind of a neat idea because if that did happen, the history of the colonization of North America would have gone quite differently. First, as Stirling suggested, the diseases which ravaged aboriginal societies in the 1500s would have had their run much earlier in history, giving the populations a chance to recover by the time the other Europeans arrived. And more importantly, giving those surviving populations immunity. It would have also undoubtedly led to more technological development in North and South America, as the Norse traded their metal-working and animal husbandry skills to their native neighbors. Who knows, the colonization might have been able to go the other way?
I think Stirling really liked this idea, so don’t be surprised if you see him do a book about it sometime, but remember, the notion came from me first!
I was much more prepared to talk about absurd ideas like how if Canada had lost the Summit Series, Canada would cease to exist. Nobody really wanted to talk about that, because the Summit Series is included in Mark’s anthology, but I think I’ve spotted the real divergences, and the absurd ones too. In fact, this panel inspired me to produce a little alternate history that I’m posting today at The Skwib, called: How Anne of Green Gables Destroyed the World.